The Yearly Reader

Leaders and Honors, 2015

Our list of baseball’s top 10 hitters and pitchers in both the American League and National League for the 2015 baseball season, as well as the awards and honors given to the game’s top achievers of the year.

The National League’s Top 10 Hitters, 2015

Bold type in brick red indicates league leader.

1. Bryce Harper, Washington

Key Numbers: .330 average, 118 runs, 172 hits, 38 doubles, 42 home runs, 99 RBIs, 124 walks, .460 on-base percentage, .649 slugging percentage.

The all-around baseball prodigy forever shed the stigma of being the game’s most overrated player (as opined by his peers) with a thunderous display at age 22.

2. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona

Key Numbers: .321 average, 103 runs, 182 hits, 38 doubles, 33 home runs, 110 RBIs, 118 walks, 29 intentional walks, 21 stolen bases.

Goldschmidt continued to be the gold standard in the Arizona lineup—and to prove that his numbers weren’t being kept toasty by the hot, hitter-happy desert air, 20 of his 33 homers were hit on the road.

3. Joey Votto, Cincinnati

Key Numbers: .314 average, 95 runs, 171 hits, 33 doubles, 29 home runs, 80 RBIs, 143 walks, 11 stolen bases, .459 on-base percentage.

The 64-98 Reds most certainly would have finished with 100-plus losses for only the second time in their long, long history were it not for the presence of Votto.

4. Nolan Arenado, Colorado

Key Numbers: .287 average, 97 runs, 177 hits, 43 doubles, 42 home runs, 130 RBIs, 11 sacrifice flies.

The young, fidgety but exceptional third baseman exploded onto the scene as the latest Coors Field-fueled star—though he clocked more home runs on the road than at home. He also became the first Rockie to go deep in six straight games.

5. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago

Key Numbers: 160 games, .278 average, 94 runs, 38 doubles, 31 home runs, 101 RBIs, 78 walks, 30 hit-by-pitches, 17 stolen bases.

The Cubs’ punctual first baseman became the first National Leaguer, perhaps ever, to sit out two contests and still lead the league in games played.

6. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh

Key Numbers: .292 average, 91 runs, 36 doubles, 23 home runs, 96 RBIs, 98 walks, 12 hit-by-pitches, 11 stolen bases.

The Pirates’ marquee guy failed to hit over .300 overall for the first time in three years—except at home (.327) and with runners in scoring position (.361).

7. A.J. Pollock, Arizona

Key Numbers: .315 average, 111 runs, 192 hits, 39 doubles, 6 triples, 20 home runs, 76 RBIs, 36 stolen bases.

The 27-year-old center fielder hit full stride with an energetically sharp year; the momentum toward full stardom will be crippled the following April when he broke his elbow in the Diamondbacks’ final spring training game.

8. Kris Bryant, Chicago

Key Numbers: .275 average, 87 runs, 31 doubles, 5 triples, 26 home runs, 99 RBIs, 77 walks, 199 strikeouts, 13 stolen bases.

The Cubs controversially kept Bryant in the minors for the season’s first two weeks to delay future free agency by a year—but once up, he set team rookie records for homers and RBIs.

9. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee

Key Numbers: .285 average, 87 runs, 27 doubles, 25 home runs, 84 RBIs, 24 stolen bases, 20 grounded into double plays.

Braun statistically lacked the bravado of his steroid days, but he was still better than any other Brewer—and held enough (natural) muscle to power out three homers on April 8 at Philadelphia.

10. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis

Key Numbers: .272 average, 101 runs, 44 doubles, 28 home runs, 84 RBIs, 81 walks.

Some continued to think that Carpenter was too slow to be a leadoff hitter—and after jumping his home run total from eight the year before to 28, they probably thought he was too powerful to boot.

The American League’s Top 10 Hitters, 2015

1. Josh Donaldson, Toronto

Key Numbers: .297 average, 122 runs, 184 hits, 41 doubles, 41 home runs, 123 RBIs, 10 sacrifice flies.

The Blue Jays got eventual AL MVP Donaldson—with four years of team control remaining—from Oakland for several less-notable players and a giant gift basket to be named later.

2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles of Anaheim

Key Numbers: .299 average, 104 runs, 172 hits, 32 doubles, 6 triples, 41 home runs, 90 RBIs, 92 walks, 10 hit-by-pitches, 11 stolen bases, .590 slugging percentage.

As the superstar went, so went the Angels; when he experienced a rare hiccup in August (.218, one home run), the team followed suit (10-19). It may have cost the Angels a postseason spot.

3. Chris Davis, Baltimore

Key Numbers: .262 average, 100 runs, 31 doubles, 47 home runs, 117 RBIs, 84 walks, 208 strikeouts.

Davis might have reached 50 home runs for the second time in three years, but four of his deep flies were stolen above the outfield wall.

4. Jose Bautista, Toronto

Key Numbers: .250 average, 108 runs, 29 doubles, 40 home runs, 114 RBIs, 110 walks.

Angrier than ever, the don’t-mess-with-me Bautista achieved 40-100-100-100—40 or more homers and 100+ runs, RBIs and walks each—for the third time in his career.

5. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto

Key Numbers: .277 average, 94 runs, 31 doubles, 39 home runs, 111 RBIs, 10 sacrifice flies.

A year full of notable achievements for the veteran slugger; he commanded the year’s longest hit streak (26 games) and powered a three-homer game with a career-high nine RBIs.

6. Nelson Cruz, Seattle

Key Numbers: .302 average, 90 runs, 178 hits, 44 home runs, 93 RBIs.

New team, same results: After a season in Baltimore, Cruz traveled cross-country to Seattle and delivered another 40-plus home runs—with 27 of them on the road despite cozier conditions at Safeco Field.

7. Manny Machado, Baltimore

Key Numbers: 162 games, .286 average, 102 runs, 181 hits, 30 doubles, 35 home runs, 86 RBIs, 20 stolen bases.

In a breakout year, the gifted 23-year-old third baseman was the only major leaguer to play every game in 2015; among his 35 homers were solo shots to begin both the first and second innings on June 16 against the Phillies—a circumstance achieved by only two other players over the previous 50 years.

8. J.D. Martinez, Detroit

Key Numbers: .282 average, 93 runs, 33 doubles, 38 home runs, 102 RBIs, 178 strikeouts.

When one Martinez fails, we’ve got another; as DH Victor Martinez’s average slipped 90 points to the lower .200s, J.D. rose with (easily) a team-leading 38 jacks—providing a sneak preview for prodigious output that lay ahead.

9. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit

Key Numbers: 119 games, .338 average, 28 doubles, 18 home runs, 76 RBIs, 77 walks, .440 on-base percentage.

Despite a breakdown in his once-eternal durability, Cabrera reminded many of his complete hitting abilities by winning his fourth AL batting title in five years.

10. David Ortiz, Boston

Key Numbers: .273 average, 37 doubles, 37 home runs, 108 RBIs, 77 walks, 16 intentional walks.

Big Papi continued to prove that he was bigger than life in Boston, flourishing late (.325, 22 homers, 65 RBIs in 66 post-All-Star games), reaching 500 on the all-time home run list, and continuing to weaken the arguments of those suggesting that he wasn’t Cooperstown-worthy.

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The National League’s Top 10 Pitchers, 2015

1. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles

Key Numbers: 1.66 ERA, 19 wins, 3 losses, .864 win percentage, 32 starts, 222.2 innings, 40 walks.

Greinke was the game’s most stifling pitcher from start to finish—producing the lowest ERA seen in 20 years while tossing 46 straight shutout innings at one stage.

2. Jake Arrieta, Chicago

Key Numbers: 1.77 ERA, 22 wins, 6 losses, .786 win percentage, 33 starts, 4 complete games, 3 shutouts, 229 innings, 48 walks, 27 stolen bases allowed.

Even with Greinke’s brilliance, Cy Young Award voters gave the NL honors to Arrieta perhaps because his blazing (0.75 ERA) second-half performance was fresh in their minds.

3. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles

Key Numbers: 2.16 ERA, 16 wins, 7 losses, .696 win percentage, 33 starts, 4 complete games, 3 shutouts, 232.2 innings, 42 walks, 301 strikeouts, 7 stolen bases allowed, 18 caught stealing/picked off.

Kershaw became the first pitcher in 13 years to strike out 300 batters; only Pedro Martinez reached the milestone in fewer innings.

4. Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh

Key Numbers: 2.60 ERA, 19 wins, 8 losses, .704 win percentage, 32 starts, 208 innings, 44 walks, 10 hit-by-pitches, 25 stolen bases, 22 grounded into double plays.

Cole blossomed into a genuine ace, something Pirates fans had not witnessed in generations. It’s too bad he wouldn’t stick around long enough to make a lasting impression.

5. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco

Key Numbers: 2.93 ERA, 18 wins, 9 losses, 32 starts, 4 complete games, 218.1 innings, 39 walks.

MadBum recovered well from the 270 innings (including his memorable postseason) thrown the year before; besides the continued great pitching, he was #1 in jersey sales and became the first pitcher to go deep off of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

6. Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh

Key Numbers: 2.23 ERA, 3 wins, 2 losses, 51 saves, 2 blown saves, 78 appearances, 76.2 innings, 14 walks, 10 grounded into double plays.

Putting more cut into his fastball to complement his curve, Melancon set a Pirates record for saves, with 15 of them preserving wins for Gerrit Cole; that’s the highest number of win/save combinations between starter and closer since Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersley in 1990.

7. Jacob deGrom, New York

Key Numbers: 2.54 ERA, 14 wins, 8 losses, 30 starts, 191 innings, 38 walks, 205 strikeouts.

The reigning NL Rookie of the Year, with the long locks and a blazing (95-MPH average) fastball took his K magic to his first All-Star Game appearance—striking out all three batters he faced in an inning of work.

8. Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis

Key Numbers: 2.10 ERA, 2 wins, 4 losses, 48 saves, 3 blown saves, 68 appearances, 68.2 innings.

Before a prolonged breakdown that would result in a number of lost, injury-riddled seasons, Rosenthal set the Cardinals mark for season saves.

9. Matt Harvey, New York

Key Numbers: 2.71 ERA, 13 wins, 8 losses, 29 starts, 189.1 innings, 37 walks.

As Harvey bounced back from Tommy John surgery, the experts became alarmed that he was violating his doctor’s “hard” 180-inning limit—but the truth was in the number of pitches, not innings, thrown. And on that, Harvey was economical. Other curious fact: This was the only season Harvey reached double-figures in wins.

10. Max Scherzer, Washington

Key Numbers: 2.79 ERA, 14 wins, 12 losses, 33 starts, 4 complete games, 3 shutouts, 228.2 innings, 34 walks, 276 strikeouts, 10 wild pitches.

Besides his two no-hitters, Scherzer also came close to a third, giving up only a leadoff single in the seventh at Milwaukee on June 14. But his Washington teammates greeted the former Detroit ace with terrible support—thus, a rare bland collection of wins and losses.

The American League’s Top 10 Pitchers, 2015

1. Dallas Keuchel, Houston

Key Numbers: 2.48 ERA, 20 wins, 8 losses, .714 win percentage, 33 starts, 2 shutouts, 232 innings, 51 walks, 21 grounded into double plays.

A really bad start (4.2 innings, nine runs allowed) on September 16 at Texas likely cost Keuchel the ERA title—but he won his next (and last) three starts of the season to reach 20 victories.

2. David Price, Detroit-Toronto

Key Numbers: 2.45 ERA, 18 wins, 5 losses, .783 win percentage, 32 starts, 220.1 innings, 47 walks.

For the second straight year, Price had his campaign split between two cities—but he remained dominant no matter what uniform he wore.

3. Sonny Gray, Oakland

Key Numbers: 2.73 ERA, 14 wins, 7 losses, 31 starts, 2 shutouts, 208 innings.

The ironically-named Gray salvaged a terrible Oakland pitching staff, and produced one of the more eye-opening pitching lines of the year on May 3 at Texas when he threw 6.2 shutout innings, allowed two hits…along with seven walks, a hit batsman, a wild pitch and 10 strikeouts.

4. Zach Britton, Baltimore

Key Numbers: 1.92 ERA, 4 wins, 1 loss, 36 saves, 4 blown saves, 64 appearances, 65.2 innings, 8 grounded into double plays.

Fronting a terrific Orioles bullpen, Britton proved his breakout closer effort of the year before was no fluke.

5. Chris Archer, Tampa Bay

Key Numbers: 3.23 ERA, 12 wins, 13 losses, 34 starts, 212 innings, 252 strikeouts, 13 wild pitches.

Underrated pitcher during the season, announcer-in-training for ESPN during the playoffs, Archer became the first modern-era pitcher to strike out at least 10 batters while walking none in three straight starts.

6. Shawn Tolleson, Texas

Key Numbers: 2.99 ERA, 6 wins, 4 losses, 35 saves, 2 blown saves, 73 appearances, 72.1 innings.

When Neftali Feliz simply didn’t have it any longer as closer, the anonymous Tolleson took over and, although he wasn’t dominant, held the line well enough to save 35 of 37 opportunities.

7. Andrew Miller, New York

Key Numbers: 2.04 ERA, 3 wins, 2 losses, 36 saves, 2 blown saves, 60 appearances, 61.2 innings, 100 strikeouts.

The tall reliever performed well in his audition to become Mariano Rivera’s heir apparent at Yankee Stadium, but he’d be force to make room after the season for Aroldis Chapman; ironically, both would be facing off against one another on two totally different teams a year later.

8. Erasmo Ramirez, Tampa Bay

Key Numbers: 3.75 ERA, 11 wins, 6 losses, 34 appearances, 27 starts, 163.1 innings.

A terrible start led to a brief demotion to Triple-A Durham; apparently, whatever advice or adjustment he received paid off, as the Nicaraguan native thrived in the second half and, in one late start, came within four outs of no-hitting the Yankees.

9. Chris Sale, Chicago

Key Numbers: 3.41 ERA, 13 wins, 11 losses, 31 starts, 208.2 innings, 42 walks, 274 strikeouts, 13 hit-by-pitches.

Sale’s strikeout total broke the all-time White Sox season record held for 107 years by Ed Walsh.

10. Wade Davis, Kansas City

Key Numbers: 0.94 ERA, 8 wins, 1 loss, 17 saves, 1 blown save, 69 appearances, 67.1 innings, 12 grounded into double plays.

The southpaw continued to shine—first as a set-up man, then closer after Greg Holland collapsed to injury down the stretch. He became the first pitcher ever to produce a sub-1.00 ERA over a two-year period.

2015 Baseball History
The 2010s: A Call to Arms
TGG Lists: The 10 Best Pitchers of the 2010s
TGG Lists: The 10 Best Hitters of the 2010s