The Yearly Reader
Leaders and Honors, 2016
Our list of baseball’s top 10 hitters and pitchers in both the American League and National League for the 2016 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, 2016
Bold type in brick red indicates league leader.
1. Nolan Arenado, Colorado
Key Numbers: 160 games, .294 average, 116 runs, 182 hits, 35 doubles, 6 triples, 41 home runs, 133 RBIs.
For the second straight year, Arenado collected over 40 home runs and 130 RBIs; only Jimmie Foxx and Chuck Klein had also previously done that before turning 26.
2. Kris Bryant, Chicago
Key Numbers: .292 average, 121 runs, 176 hits, 35 doubles, 39 home runs, 102 RBIs, 18 hit-by-pitches.
The second-year Bryant had two five-hit games with at least two least home runs included, something done by only one previous major leaguer (Joe Carter in 1986); he was the fourth MVP to earn the honors after winning the Rookie of the Year award one season earlier.
3. Joey Votto, Cincinnati
Key Numbers: .326 average, 101 runs, 181 hits, 34 doubles, 29 home runs, 97 RBIs, 108 walks, .434 on-base percentage.
After a miserable start to the year, the Reds were able to play .500 ball in the second half because Votto hit .400 during that same time.
4. Daniel Murphy, Washington
Key Numbers: .347 average, 88 runs, 184 hits, 47 doubles, 5 triples, 25 home runs, 104 RBIs, .595 slugging percentage.
Murphy earned every penny of his rich new contract with Washington, saving his best stuff for when he faced his former Mets mates. His chance to win the NL batting title failed when he flied out in a pinch-hit appearance on the season’s final day.
5. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta
Key Numbers: .302 average, 102 runs, 178 hits, 43 doubles, 6 triples, 34 home runs, 91 RBIs, 89 walks, 10 hit-by-pitches.
With the Braves at their low point with an 18-46 record on June 15, Freeman sparked the team with his lone career cycle—and fueled the revived Braves through to the end of the year with a 30-game hit streak.
6. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
Key Numbers: .297 average, 106 runs, 172 hits, 33 doubles, 24 home runs, 95 RBIs, 110 walks, 32 stolen bases, 5 caught stealing.
One would think that the bulky Arizona star slugger would collect more home runs than steals, but there you are.
7. Charlie Blackmon, Colorado
Key Numbers: .324 average, 111 runs, 187 hits, 35 doubles, 5 triples, 29 home runs, 82 RBIs, 13 hit-by-pitches, 17 stolen bases.
One of the more visible players leading the bushy-beard movement, Blackmon eased on the speed (with stolen base totals dropping from 43 the year before) while pressing on the power (from 17 to 29).
8. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago
Key Numbers: .292 average, 94 runs, 170 hits, 43 doubles, 32 home runs, 109 RBIs, 16 hit-by-pitches.
Rizzo was almost every bit as good as NL MVP Kris Bryant, with the same batting average, on-base percentage (.385) while he was just 10 points behind Bryant’s .554 slugging percentage.
9. Jean Segura, Arizona
Key Numbers: .319 average, 637 at-bats, 102 runs, 203 hits, 41 doubles, 7 triples, 20 home runs, 64 RBIs, 12 hit-by-pitches, 33 stolen bases.
In a year of bad trades instigated by the Diamondbacks, Segura proved that at least one worked in Arizona’s favor. The ex-Brewer was arguably the majors’ premier leadoff catalyst.
10. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
Key Numbers: 135 games, .305 average, 80 runs, 30 home runs, 91 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, 20 grounded into double plays.
It probably grated fans still upset with Braun that the former steroid abuser set post-Biogenesis marks for average, home runs, and RBIs.
The American League’s Top 10 Hitters, 2016
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles of Anaheim
Key Numbers: .315 average, 123 runs, 173 hits, 32 doubles, 5 triples, 29 home runs, 100 RBIs, 116 walks, 11 hit-by-pitches, 30 stolen bases, .441 on-base percentage.
The incomparable Trout continued to make life tolerant for Angels fans otherwise losing patience with the team’s backward direction.
2. Mookie Betts, Boston
Key Numbers: .318 average, 672 at-bats, 122 runs, 214 hits, 42 doubles, 5 triples, 31 home runs, 113 RBIs, 26 stolen bases.
As David Ortiz was successfully bowing out of his career, the pro bowling hobbyist was successfully at the beginnings of his; hidden within his MVP-level numbers were two three-homer games—the first two of many to come.
3. Jose Altuve, Houston
Key Numbers: .338 average, 640 at-bats, 108 runs, 216 hits, 42 doubles, 5 triples, 24 home runs, 96 RBIs, 30 stolen bases, 10 caught stealing.
Altuve remained the best little ballplayer in the majors, with the expected (high average, many hits and steals) and the unexpected (career highs in home runs and RBIs).
4. David Ortiz, Boston
Key Numbers: .315 average, 48 doubles, 38 home runs, 127 RBIs, 80 walks, 15 intentional walks, 22 grounded into double plays, .620 slugging percentage.
No one hit more doubles, home runs and drove in more runs in his final season than the 40-year-old Big Papi; it was actually his most prodigious season since his peak years back between 2004-07.
5. Josh Donaldson, Toronto
Key Numbers: .284 average, 122 runs, 32 doubles, 5 triples, 37 home runs, 99 RBIs, 109 walks.
The AL East momentarily had the reigning AL MVP figured out—limiting him to a .240 average—but he batted .321 against the rest of baseball.
6. Brian Dozier, Minnesota
Key Numbers: .268 average, 104 runs, 35 doubles, 5 triples, 42 home runs, 99 RBIs, 18 stolen bases.
Dozier became the first player in nearly 40 years to hit 40 homers for a 100-loss team.
7. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Key Numbers: .316 average, 92 runs, 188 hits, 31 doubles, 38 home runs, 108 RBIs, 15 intentional walks, 26 grounded into double plays.
In his ninth year at Detroit, Cabrera began climbing high on varied all-time Tigers lists and became the second youngest player (after Hank Aaron) to reach 2,500 career hits.
8. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto
Key Numbers: .263 average, 99 runs, 34 doubles, 42 home runs, 127 RBIs, 87 walks, 22 grounded into double plays.
In his last year at Toronto before signing a rich pact with Cleveland, Encarnacion set a career mark for RBIs in the midst of a seven-year stretch in which he knocked in at least 100—except one season (2014) when he collected 98.
9. Manny Machado, Baltimore
Key Numbers: .294 average, 105 runs, 188 hits, 40 doubles, 37 home runs, 96 RBIs.
Known for his quick starts in games, Machado became only the second major leaguer to go deep in each of the first three innings of a single contest, on August 7 at Chicago against the White Sox.
10. Robinson Cano, Seattle
Key Numbers: .298 average, 107 runs, 195 hits, 33 doubles, 39 home runs, 103 RBIs.
Cano rediscovered his power touch and then some, smashing a career-high 39 homers after collecting 35 in his first two years combined at Seattle.
The National League’s Top 10 Pitchers, 2016
1. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco
Key Numbers: 2.79 ERA, 18 wins, 5 losses, .783 win percentage, 32 starts, 5 complete games, 219.2 innings, 45 walks, 4 stolen bases, 12 caught stealing/picked off.
Cueto led the league in complete games, meaning less chances for an AWOL Giants bullpen to blow more saves.
2. Kyle Hendricks, Chicago
Key Numbers: 2.13 ERA, 16 wins, 8 losses, 30 starts, 190 innings, 44 walks.
Hendricks channeled Greg Maddux with both his ability to baffle hitters, pitch economically, and to top the ERA charts.
3. Jon Lester, Chicago
Key Numbers: 3.44 ERA, 19 wins, 5 losses, .792 win percentage, 32 starts, 202.2 innings, 28 stolen bases allowed, 13 caught stealing/picked off.
The veteran southpaw gave up his runs at the right time; 18 of the 21 home runs he surrendered were solo, while opponents hit .173 against him with runners in scoring position.
4. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
Key Numbers: 1.69 ERA, 12 wins, 4 losses, .750 win percentage, 21 starts, 3 shutouts, 149 innings, 11 walks.
A midseason back injury—something that would become chronic in the years to follow—left Kershaw 13 innings shy of qualifying for a likely fifth ERA title in six seasons.
5. Jeurys Familia, New York
Key Numbers: 2.55 ERA, 3 wins, 4 losses, 51 saves, 5 blown saves, 78 appearances, 77.2 innings, 10 grounded into double plays.
The Mets’ closer set franchise marks for saves in a season and the most consecutive (52) opportunities without blowing one.
6. Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles
Key Numbers: 1.83 ERA, 3 wins, 2 losses, 47 saves, 6 blown saves, 71 appearances, 68.2 innings, 11 walks.
A catcher in his early minor league days, Jansen scored a career-high number of saves.
7. Max Scherzer, Washington
Key Numbers: 2.96 ERA, 20 wins, 7 losses, .741 win percentage, 34 starts, 228.1 innings, 31 home runs allowed, 284 strikeouts.
On his way to becoming the sixth pitcher to win Cy Young Awards in both leagues, Scherzer also put up a 20-strikeout performance in which 96 of his 119 pitches were strikes.
8. Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh-Washington
Key Numbers: 1.64 ERA, 2 wins, 2 losses, 47 saves, 4 blown saves, 75 appearances, 71.1 innings, 12 walks.
Strong and steady regardless of which uniform he wore, Melancon surged his way to free agency where he picked up a lucrative contract with the Giants; too bad he wouldn’t be able to live up to it.
9. Jose Fernandez, Miami
Key Numbers: 2.86 ERA, 16 wins, 8 losses, 29 starts, 182.1 innings, 253 strikeouts.
Greatness lost well before his prime; the 24-year-old Cuban native, bouncing back from Tommy John surgery, ran his career home record to a record-setting 17-0 and struck out a major league-high 12.5 batters per nine innings. And then, suddenly, he was gone.
10. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco
Key Numbers: 2.74 ERA, 15 wins, 9 losses, 34 starts, 226.2 innings.
The strong-armed lefty was again so ferocious while batting right-handed that he became the first pitcher in 40 years to tell the DH to sit down when given a start at Oakland on June 30; he also set a Giants franchise record for most the most K’s (241) by a southpaw.
The American League’s Top 10 Pitchers, 2016
1. Rick Porcello, Boston
Key Numbers: 3.15 ERA, 22 wins, 4 losses, .846 win percentage, 33 starts, 223 innings, 32 walks, 13 hit-by-pitches.
Porcello muted the volume on those who criticized Boston for giving him an annual $20 million salary. Getting 6.6 runs per start certainly didn’t hurt his prospects for winning AL Cy Young honors.
2. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
Key Numbers: 3.14 ERA, 18 wins, 9 losses, 32 starts, 2 shutouts, 215 innings.
A year after getting shafted by low-supportive teammates who pegged him with an AL-high 16 losses, Kluber return to higher winning terrain.
3. Aaron Sanchez, Toronto
Key Numbers: 3.00 ERA, 15 wins, 2 losses, .882 win percentage, 30 starts, 192 innings.
A fleeting high point for the soon-to-be oft-injured youngster, saving his best stuff for the year’s last start when he took a no-hitter into the seventh at Boston.
4. Justin Verlander, Detroit
Key Numbers: 3.04 ERA, 16 wins, 9 losses, 34 starts, 227.2 innings, 254 strikeouts.
Righting himself from a recent dry spell, Verlander finished a close second in the AL Cy Young Award vote despite garnering twice as many first-place nods as anyone else.
5. J.A. Happ, Toronto
Key Numbers: 3.18 ERA, 20 wins, 4 losses, .833 win percentage, 32 starts, 195 innings, 21 grounded into double plays.
Like teammate Jose Bautista before him, Happ found sudden success after years of living an infuriating, nomadic major league existence.
6. Zach Britton, Baltimore
Key Numbers: 0.54 ERA, 2 wins, 1 loss, 47 saves, 0 blown saves, 69 appearances, 67 innings, 10 wild pitches.
Britton didn’t suffer a single blown save and recorded the lowest-ever ERA by anyone throwing over 50 innings—but he’ll be remembered for the one game he didn’t play, the Orioles’ AL Wild Card loss at Toronto in which he never left the bullpen.
7. Chris Sale, Chicago
Key Numbers: 3.34 ERA, 17 wins, 10 losses, 6 complete games, 32 starts, 226.2 innings, 45 walks, 17 hit-by-pitches.
The White Sox learned a valuable lesson in attempting to tolerate and tame the tall, tense lefty: Never make him put on a throwback jersey. This, after Sale reacted violently to the team’s decision to wear collared uniforms from the 1970s—cutting them all to pieces before his teammates could put him on.
8. Michael Fulmer, Detroit
Key Numbers: 3.06 ERA, 11 wins, 7 losses, 26 starts, 159 innings.
Despite a fantastic first-year effort that included AL Rookie of the Year honors and a Tigers-record streak of 34 consecutive scoreless innings, Fulmer was content to keep working his offseason day job as a plumber’s assistant.
9. Masahiro Tanaka, New York
Key Numbers: 3.07 ERA, 14 wins, 4 losses, 31 starts, 199.2 innings, 36 walks.
The third-year Yankee ran his record of four years—including his last in Japan before moving to the States, when he finished 24-0—to 63-16.
10. Sam Dyson, Texas
Key Numbers: 2.43 ERA, 3 wins, 2 losses, 38 saves, 5 blown saves, 73 appearances, 70.1 innings, 12 grounded into double plays.
When Shawn Tolleson fell apart in May, Dyson took over as the closer and made sure that the Rangers wouldn’t skip a beat in the ninth, finishing third in the AL in saves.