A decade of baseball in 101 useless stats

On Sunday 4 April 2010, Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Josh Beckett induced weak contact from New York Yankees Derek Jeter in the first MLB play of the decade.

Here are 100 more useless snippets of information for you. Unless otherwise stated, all ratio stats are based on a minimum of 1,000 plate appearances or 500 innings pitched.

Nelson Cruz hit more home runs than anyone else. Edwin Encarnacion and Giancarlo Stanton were the only other players with at least 300 dingers. Albert Pujols was fourth, and with 285 home runs, Mike Trout and Jose Bautista tied for fifth. Nolan Arenado, David Ortiz, Bryce Harper and Josh Donaldson didn’t even make it into the top-20.

With 2,168 home runs, the New York Yankees were the home run kings of MLB. The fewest home runs (1,319) were hit by the San Francisco Giants … the only team to win the World Series three times.

The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers both appeared in the World Series twice, but neither team emerged as victors. The Dodgers World Series drought stretches back to 1988, whereas the Rangers have never won the ultimate prize. Perhaps the 2020s will prove more successful.

Only four franchises (Miami Marlins, Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres) failed to sample postseason action. The New York Yankees, St Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers all played October baseball in seven of the ten seasons.

Boston Red Sox were the on-base masters of the decade (.335 OBP) and the Colorado Rockies the top sluggers (.435 SLG). The San Diego Padres ranked 31st with .682 OPS. Thirty-first!

Jonathan Villar’s 2019 season represented the only time a Baltimore Orioles player swiped more than 30 bags. They were easily the least active team on the base paths during the decade with just 598 stolen bases, a figure more than doubled by the speediest team, the Kansas City Royals. No wonder the Orioles were so keen to move Villar. He was making them look good.

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Dodgers pitchers struck out more than any other team, incredibly notching up 2,800 more Ks than the least potent team, the Minnesota Twins.

Clayton Kershaw was one of only four pitchers to accumulate more than 2,000 strikeouts, but it is Max Scherzer who was the K-king of the decade with 2,452 strikeouts.

Having seen the Yasiel Puig brawl and then the Amir Garrett scrap, both provoked by Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers, the least surprising stat of the decade is that the Pirates hit the most batsmen.

What is more surprising is that all-round nice guy Charlie Morton was the only pitcher in the game to drill more than 100 batters. Chris Sale was second with 98.

Adam Jones played the most games (1,499), but Nick Markakis had the most plate appearances (6,520). Robinson Cano had the most hits (1,695), Elvis Andrus the most singles (1,207), Cano the most doubles (363) and Dexter Fowler the most triples (72).

Despite playing 300 games fewer than players like Markakis and Jones, Chris Davis led the league with 1,597 strikeouts. Although Keon Broxton (38.6%) had the worst strikeout rate, just ahead of Joey Gallo (38.0%) and Miguel Sano (36.3%).

The streak for the number of consecutive games with at least one strikeout belongs to Aaron Judge with 37 games. Judge also owns the longest streak for at least two strikeouts in a game (which he shares with Noah Syndergaard). Both are all-time MLB records

There is little argument that Mike Trout was the Player of the Decade, so it is appropriate that he scored the most runs; 903 runs compared to 879 for Ian Kinsler and 868 for Andrew McCutchen.

According to WAR, Trout owns four of the six best seasons of the decade, and seven of the top 15. Only eight players enjoyed one season better than Trout’s seventh-best.

Even if you take Mike Trout’s defensive skills out of the calculation, with 172 wRC+, he was still clearly the most productive player of the decade. Joey Votto and Miguel Cabrera (both 153 wRC+) and Aaron Judge (152 wRC+) round out a dominant quartet of hitters.

If Trout is the Player of the Decade, then maybe Albert Pujols is the Player of the Century. Despite his decline in production, he drove in more runs (963 RBI) than anyone else in the 2010s, although to be fair, Nelson Cruz was only two RBI behind.

Joey Votto was the king of walks, taking more than 100 free passes more than second-place Carlos Santana. However, it was Miguel Cabrera who was intentionally walked more than anyone else.

For pitchers, Gio Gonzalez issued the most walks (715), significantly ahead of Francisco Liriano (680), but Tyler Chatwood had the highest walk rate (12.0 BB%), ahead of, and nomination for the most surprising stat of the decade, Aroldis Chapman (11.5 BB%).

Dee Gordon topped the list of speedsters with eight more stolen bases than Rajai (sometimes known as Rajani) Davis. Billy Hamilton was in third place with 299 bags.

Of players with at least 20 stolen base attempts, catcher Nick Hundley had the worst success rate (17 failures in 27 attempts), although Nick Castellanos wasn’t much better with 14 failures in 25 attempts.

Outfielder Tim Locastro was the only player with 100% success (22 out of 22), while among true speedsters, the success rate of Shane Victorino (87%) and Jarrod Dyson (85%) stand out.

Miguel Cabrera was the batting champion of the decade with .317 AVG, ahead of Jose Altuve’s (.315  AVG.), Adrian Beltre (.307 AVG), Joey Votto (.306 AVG) and Mike Trout (.305 AVG).

At the opposite end, Jeff Mathis was the only one of the 554 players with at least 1,000 plate appearances to hit below .200 AVG. The lowest rate from a non-catcher was Carlos Pena with .204 AVG in 564 games.

And I know we all love a Madison Bumgarner home run, but the long-time Giants icon hit even less than Mathis, with a .177 batting average over 600 plate appearances.

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On-base percentage is one of the most extraordinary stats of the decade. Despite 6,150 plate appearances (the seventh-highest), Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto posted .428 OBP, ahead of second-place Mike Trout’s .419 OBP. The level of consistency of these two players is mind-blowing. In third place was Washington Nationals’ Juan Soto (.403 OBP). It will be interesting to see if he can maintain this skill of getting on-base through the 2020s.

One of the least surprising stats was that Albert Pujols led the league after grounding into a double-play 215 times. In the most useless of useless stats, Martin Prado is the only player to have grounded into three double plays in a game on two occasions. Curtis Granderson holds the record for 204 consecutive games without grounding into a double-play.

Having seen Vlad Guerrero (senior) reach for balls way outside of the strike zone, it is unsurprising that he had the highest swing rate (45.3%) of the decade, just ahead of Pablo Sandoval

Marco Scutaro made the most contact (95%), but Michael Brantley, sixth on the list, was easily the most productive player of the sextet.

Sir Derek Jeter (63.2%) had the highest ground ball rate, while Rod Barajas (60.5%) had the highest flyball rate.

Aaron Judge converted at a fantastic 32.5% home run to flyball rate. Yoan Moncada enjoyed the highest BABIP (.369) with Rod Barajas (.235) the lowest. Seriously, who knew I would type his name twice in this article?

We all know pitcher wins is a stupid stat, but Max Scherzer with 161 wins edging out Justin Verlander with 160 wins is a cool way to end the decade.

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And while we’re on the subject of meaningless stats, Craig Kimbrel led the league with 346 saves, 45 more than second-place Kenley Jansen.

Kimbrel takes the accolade of Closer of the Decade. Not only did he secure the most saves, but (tied with Jose Valverde) his completion rate of 90.3% was the best league for anyone with at least 25 opportunities.

At the opposite end, Bryan Shaw only converted 26% of his save opportunities (12 saves to 32 blown saves) and Nationals’ new signee David Hernandez, blew 32 of his 56 save chances.

Tyler Clippard made the most appearances by a pitcher (702), ahead of everyone’s favourite pantomime villain, Fernando Rodney (643).

Clippard and Rodney also finished one-two in the most blown saves with 52 and 51 respectively.

Tony Watson secured the most holds (217) with Clippard was the only other pitcher to reach the 200 holds mark.

Clayton Kershaw baulked more than anyone else (18),  and Felix Hernandez threw the most wild pitches (110).

Justin Verlander (2,142 innings) and Max Scherzer (2,063⅓ innings) were the only two pitchers to break 2,000, although Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke were not far behind.

Kershaw finished the decade with an awe-inspiring 2.31 ERA, with Jacob deGrom (2.62 ERA) in second place. The only other two starters with sub-3:00 ERA were Cliff Lee and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

If you’re more a FIP person, then it’s still Kershaw, DeGrom and Lee leading the way.

Jose Fernandez failed to reach our 500 innings threshold by just 28 innings. His 2.44 FIP was the best of the bunch, and his ERA was second only to Kershaw. It is a reminder of the tragic loss.

Matt Boyd’s 4.92 ERA in 645 innings was the highest among starters, although Ricky Nolasco posted 4.62 ERA in over 1,300 innings.

Josh Tomlin and Angels new acquisition Dylan Bundy gave up homers for fun (1.67 HR/ 9).  Although in true numbers, James Shields was the only pitcher taken deep more than 250 times.

Among starters, Yu Darvish had the best strikeout rate of 11.12 K/9 just ahead of Robbie Ray, Chris Sale, Rich Hill and Max Scherzer. Factor relievers into the discussion (and keeping the same 500 inning minimum), and Aroldis Chapman is top with 14.84 K/9 with Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, Andrew Miller and David Robertson trailing closely behind.

Darvish not only has the highest strikeout rate of the decade, but it is the highest all-time career strikeout rate – that’s gold ink on Baseball Reference – ahead of Sale and Randy Johnson. Although if you want to confuse matters, Chris Sale has a slightly better strikeout percentage of 30.7 K% to Darvish’s 29.8 K%.

Take a moment to enjoy the fact that Clayton Kershaw is the only starter with a sub-1:00 WHIP (and that’s over 1,996 innings). Mike Pelfrey has the highest WHIP on the list of 1.52.

Noah Syndergaard had the quickest average fastball among starters at 97.6 mph just ahead of Luis Severino, with only Kelvin Herrera and Aroldis Chapman averaging faster when you add in relievers with at least 500 innings.

No starter threw their fastball more often than Bartolo Colon (84.4%). Chris Archer was the most reliant on his slider (37.6%). Rich Hill’s threw his curveball 40.6% of the time. No-one used their changeup as frequently as Jason Vargas (29.8%), and the much-missed Roy Halladay threw his cutter at a league-leading rate of 39%.

And the single best pitch of the decade? Out of over seven million pitches, Brian Wilson’s cutter against Ryan Howard gets the nod.

Kershaw owned the best fastball, Scherzer the best slider, with Corey Kluber having the best cutter and curveball, and Cole Hamels rounds this section off with the best changeup.

Among starters, Blake Snell produced the best swinging strike rate, Phil Hughes threw the most first-ball strikes, Colon allowed the most contact and Snell the least. Masahiro Tanaka encouraged the most swings at pitches outside the strike zone, and Scherzer allowed the least contact on pitches in the zone.

According to Fangraphs’ defensive ratings, Yadier Molina was the most valuable player ahead of Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey.

Given the presence of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco in their outfield, the Pirates were surprisingly the most error-prone team of the decade, with the Cincinnati Reds as the least.

Elvis Andrus made the most fielding errors, and Josh Donaldson committed the most throwing errors, but much of that is down to their workload.

Aaron Rowand, Vernon Wells, Nori Aoki, Hyun Soo Kim and Allen Craig were the only five players without an error (minimum 1,000 innings in the field).

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Using Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), Andrelton Simmons was far and away the best fielder – 18% better than then next best player, Jason Heyward.

Do you remember August 8, 2016? Brandon Crawford does. That was the day he had the only seven-hit game of the decade in an 8-7 win over the Marlins.

While with the Braves in 2011, Dan Uggla owned the longest hitting streak of the decade (33 games). Ivan Nova also had a 33-game streak, but that was the longest hitless stretch when he went 0-for-62.

Not surprisingly, Joey Votto had the longest on-base streak of 58 games.

While playing for the Nationals, Mark Reynolds and Anthony Rendon both enjoyed 10-RBI games, with the only player with double-digit RBI was Scooter Gennett during his four-homer game for the Reds.

No-one scored six times in a game, but 22 players scored five runs in a game. Houston Astros George Springer did it twice.

Only the most feared hitters are walked three times in a game. It happened 16 times during the decade, to players like Pujols, Trout, Cabrera, Bellinger and Harper. Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart and his .231 AVG look out of place on the list.

Bryce Harper was the only player to walk six times in a game when he got on base seven times (1 HBP, 3 BB & 3 IBB) against the Chicago Cubs in 2016.

Although one of the most bizarre games involving walks was in August 2018 when Rougned Odor walked five times. His career 5.7 BB% did not suggest this was likely.

James Shields in 2010 and Michael Blazek in 2017 were the only pitchers to give up six home runs in a game. 31 players were taken deep five times in a game, my favourite being Mat Latos’s outing against the Colorado Rockies in 2012 when he allowed five hits in 7⅓ innings with no walks. All five hits went for solo homers.

A 20-strikeout game was only achieved once in the decade when Max Scherzer punished his previous employers in a 3-2 win over the Detroit Tigers. However, the best start of the decade was Scherzer’s 17-strikeout, no-hitter when he shutout the Mets in 2015.

At 149 pitches, Edwin Jackson’s no-hitter against the Rays in 2010 was the longest start of the decade. Tim Lincecum’s 13-strikeout, no-hitter against the Padres in 2013 took one pitch fewer.

Honourable mentions

By dropping the minimum plate appearances threshold, we get a couple of interesting names who will be fun to watch this decade.

Houston Astros Yordan Alvarez owned the highest wRC+ of the decade and is the only player with a greater than 50% hard-hit rate. He also finished third in OBP behind Trout and Votto.

With 815 plate appearances, Mets’ Jeff McNeil fell below our 1,000 inning threshold, but his batting average of .321 AVG was even higher than Miguel Cabrera’s decade-leading .317 AVG.

And finally, if I want Tom Pringle to hit publish on this article, I guess I should mention that the San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. finished the decade joint second with Miggy on .317 AVG and joint fifth with Votto with 152 OPS+.

I won’t mention that Tatis Jr’s .410 BABIP was the highest of the decade.

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Here’s to a decade of baseball in the 2020s that is as good as the one we have just enjoyed.

Congratulations if you reached the end of this article. As always, remember to follow @Batflips_nerds to keep up-to-date with all of the latest baseball news, interviews and podcasts, all with a British twist.

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