Author: Craig Calcaterra

Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper (34) lines out to center during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Your 2015 batting and pitching leaders


Playoff statistics are fun, but they’re almost all ephemeral. We fixate on them in October and into November for a bit and call them back up when prodded to in later years, but very few people can simply recite any of them. The regular season is different, however. Almost any fan can recall some regular season stats of their favorite players or notable league leaders and certainly record holders. Regular season stats have a permanence and weight to them that postseason stats really don’t.

So, with the regular season over, lets look at the leaders for the statistics we’ll actually remember. And yes, I start with the Triple Crown stats because six years from now that drunk guy at the bar next to you with whom you’ll be arguing will too, and you need to be prepared:


Batting Average: AL: Miguel Cabrera (.338); NL: Dee Gordon (.333)

Miguel Cabrera just continues to build on his Hall of Fame resume. His calf injury in July sapped his homer and RBI totals, but he once again was among the top hitters in all of baseball. I’d say he could fall out of bed and hit like an All-Star, but that understates things. He could fall of bed, break seven bones and still rattle the ball off of walls.

As for Gordon, he led the National League in batting and stolen bases, and no one in the NL has done that since Jackie Robinson did in 1949.


Home Runs: AL: Chris Davis (47); NL: Bryce Harper and Nolan Arenado (42)

Davis finished strong, with two homers in the season’s final game and enters free agency with his elite power hitter credentials back intact after an off 2014 season.

Harper’s status as the inevitable MVP winner is only partially a function of his longballs, but he hit a ton. Arenado, after yet another fantastic season with the bat and the glove should no longer be praised as “the best player you haven’t heard of.” Rather, you should be slammed as “that person who claims to be a baseball fan yet somehow hasn’t heard of Nolan Arenado.”


RBI: AL: Josh Donaldson (123); NL: Nolan Arenado (130)

Donaldson will likely win the AL MVP, but it won’t be merely because he was an RBI machine. Partially because he wasn’t and partially because MVP voters are smarter than that now. Arenado: two-thirds winner of the Triple Crown. If he takes some more pitches and sees some bounces go in his direction a bit more in future years he could win the whole dang thing.


On-Base Percentage: AL: Miguel Cabrera (.440); NL: Bryce Harper (.460)

Harper drew 124 walks on the year to go with his .330 average. Cabrera walked 77 times — tied for sixth — despite missing a big chunk of the season. Next time you hear some commentator or fan denigrating guys who “look to walk, not to hit,” go back and look through the season-by-season and all-time walks leaders and count the guys in those groups who weren’t elite hitters. You may find the occasional rando Rob Deer-type, but good hitters walk. Period.


Slugging Percentage: AL: Mike Trout (.590); NL: Bryce Harper (.649)

They say power develops later. Trout just turned 24. Harper will turn 23 in 11 days. Major League pitchers are likely living in fear of what comes later.


Stolen Bases: AL: Jose Altuve (38); NL: Dee Gordon (58)

Altuve’s 38 is the lowest total for a stolen base leader since Luis Aparicio led the AL with 31 in 1962. That includes strike-shortened years. But please, tell me about how today’s game is all about speed and contact and stuff like that.



Wins: AL: Dallas Keuchel (20); NL: Jake Arrieta (22)

Like Josh Donaldson’s RBI totals if, as I suspect, Arrieta wins the Cy Young Award it will be because of his full resume, not just his win total, as he was only 37th in run support among qualified starters. He earned a ton of those wins. As many have noted, Keuchel likes to pitch at home, snagging 15 of his 20 wins in Minute Maid Park. Good luck in the road start in the wild card game on short rest, Dallas.


ERA: AL: David Price (2.45); NL: Zack Greinke (1.66)

Greinke’s ERA was the lowest since Greg Maddux’s 1.63 in 1995. He is also the fifth straight Dodger to win it. The other four were Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw was third this year. For Price’s part, he had a lower ERA after joining the Blue Jays (2.3o) than he had while pitching for the Tigers (2.53). And he had a lower ERA in hitter-friendly Rogers Centre than he did in pitcher-friendly Comerica Park. Of course, for many of those Rogers Centre starts he didn’t have to face the Blue Jays’ bats, and that helps.


Strikeouts: AL: Chis Sale (274); NL: Clayton Kershaw (301)

Kershaw is the first pitcher to strike out 300 batters in a season since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling each did it in 2002. Kershaw’s K/9 ratio, however was 11.6, which is the same as The Big Unit’s in 2002. Schilling’s was 11.0.


Innings Pitched: AL: Dallas Keuchel (232); NL: Clayton Kershaw (232.2)

Keuchel’s 230 IP is the third lowest innings total for a league leader in a non-strike year in baseball history. The only ones lower: James Shields in 2013 (228.2) and David Wells in 1999 (231.2). Kershaw’s is the fourth lowest. It’s a different game now, you guys.


Complete Games: AL:  Mark Buehrle, Corey Kluber (4); NL: Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Max Scherzer, Jake Arrieta (4)

All of these guys are now tied — with many other pitchers in the past couple of years — for the all-time record of the lowest total number of complete games which still led the league in complete games. The others who led the league with 4: David Price and Chris Sale in 2013, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum in 2009 and Brandon Webb in 2007.


Shutouts: AL: Felix Hernandez (2); NL: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Jake Arrieta (3)

Given the way innings and complete games have gone I would’ve guessed that leading the league with two shutouts like King Felix did is really uncommon, but many, many times two has been enough in the last decade or so. Before that is when you start seeing the numbers climb.

Marlins granted permission to interview Larry Bowa

Larry Bowa

The Miami Marlins, despite not having technically fired Dan Jennings, are actively interviewing for a new manager. Their latest target is a familiar name: Larry Bowa.

Jim Salisbury of reports on the coaching staff shakeup with the Phillies and, in the course of it, notes that the Marlins have asked and have been granted permission to interview Bowa, who is currently the Phillies’ bench coach. He has been offered a contract for 2016 by the Phillies, but he has never made a secret of his desire to manage again and has interviewed a few times over the years. Bowa, of course, managed the Padres in 1987 and 1988 and managed the Phillies from 2001 into the 2004 season.

As recently as a year ago it seemed unlikely that Bowa would get another look for a top job anyplace, what with baseball’s seeming eschewing of the crusty and feisty old managerial types in favor of young, inexperienced managers who had just recently retired from playing. But given how poorly that’s gone for most clubs — the Marlins included with Mike Redmond — this could be a winter in which we see a bunch of those old salty types returning.

Champagne after a loss? Why not?

Astros Wild Card

There was some hockey person last week arguing about how it was silly or untoward for baseball teams to celebrate clinching wild cards or other, less-than-championship-level accomplishments. Calling it bush league or lacking in act-like-you’ve-been-thereness or what have you. I can only imagine what he’d say about the Astros celebrating with champagne following (a) winning a wild card; and (b) losing the game which immediately preceded the celebration.

But screw him. Seriously.

I used to think that way. Indeed, if you search the HBT archives I’m sure there’s a post or two in which I disapprove of teams engaging in multiple champagne celebrations. But I was wrong about that and I’ve changed my mind on the matter over the past year or too. And on some other matters as well, all for the same reason: athletes are people just like us, not some avatars for our machismo and our fantasies. They’re people who have spent their entire lives devoted to their calling and do it under a lot of pressure and in the face of a lot of criticism and expectations from others. Why on Earth would anyone deny them their happiness upon the realization of an accomplishment?

This is even more true if you’re one of those misguided souls who erroneously believe that sports actually is separate from real life and believe them to be supremely and impossibly important. Even if you’re right — and you’re not — wouldn’t that give the athletes an even greater incentive to celebrate accomplishments? Funny how those people who who act as if sports is life and death would deny athletes their joy for defying death, as it were.

My view on the matter now is that if a guy hits a homer he should be able to celebrate it. If a pitcher strikes a guy out, he should be able to celebrate it. If a team makes the playoffs, no matter how low their seed and no matter the manner in which the accomplishment is achieved short of their competitors going down in a plane crash, they should be able to celebrate if they so choose.

So enjoy your hangovers this morning, Houston Astros.