Home runs, strikeouts hit highs; no hurler wins more than 18
NEW YORK (AP) — In a season of record-high home runs and strikeouts along with record-low complete games, there were some constants in Major League Baseball: Houston’s Jose Altuve and a Colorado Rockies player won batting titles.
There were 6,105 home runs hit in the season that ended Sunday, topping the 5,963 in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era.
Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton hit 59, the most in the majors since Barry Bonds set the record with 73 in 2001 and Sammy Sosa hit 64. Drug testing with penalties began three years later.
Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees led the AL with 52, breaking the rookie record of 49 set by Oakland’s Mark McGwire in 1987. There were 117 players with 20 or more, up from 111 last year, and 41 with at least 30, up from 38.
Along with the round-trippers came quick returns to the dugout. Strikeouts set a record for the 10th straight season at 40,104, topping last year’s 38,982.
Four pitchers tied for the MLB lead with 18 wins — the fewest ever to top the majors in a non-shortened season and just the fourth year with no 20-game winners, after 1871, 2006 and 2009. The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber, and Kansas City’s Jason Vargas tied for the high.
“You make 32 starts and you’re on a really good team and you’re pitching OK, you’ve got a chance.” Kershaw said.
With managers going to the bullpen earlier and more often, complete games dropped to 59 and set a record low for the third straight season, down from 83 last year and 104 in 2015. There were 302 as recently as 1998. Among those complete games were 27 individual shutouts, the fewest since 25 in 1878, when there were just six teams.
“I think it’s reflective of how bullpens are being used and how good the bullpens are,” San Diego pitcher Clayton Richard said. “They’re so specialized and the numbers are so detailed that managers are able to match up earlier in the game.”
Boston’s Chris Sale led pitchers with 308 strikeouts, the first to reach 300 since Arizona’s Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2002. Washington’s Max Scherzer topped the NL for the second straight year at 268.
In an era when analytical departments tell managers not to give away outs, sacrifice bunts dropped to 925, down from 1,025 last year and the fewest since 806 in 1900, when there were just eight teams. Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield’s 34 stolen bases were the fewest for an AL leader since Luis Aparicio of the Chicago White Sox had 31 in 1961. Miami’s Dee Gordon led the NL with 60.
The average runs per team per game rose from 4.48 to 4.65, the highest since 2008. It had dropped to 4.28 in 2014, its lowest since 1992.
Batting titles were decided long before the final day, with Altuve leading the major leagues at .346 to win for the AL for the second straight season and third time in four years.
“A little more special,” Altuve said. “This is the first time I won a batting title and the team is going to the playoffs.”
Charlie Blackmon led the NL at .331, the second straight Colorado player to win and the 10th in 20 years. He was toasted in the clubhouse by manager Bud Black.
“Really cool,” Blackmon said. “I’m not a big stand-up-in-front-of-everybody kind of guy, but any time you can get such a collection of great men to pause and take a moment it’s pretty special.”
Helped by the thin air at Coors Field, other Rockies batting champions in the last two decades include Larry Walker (1998, ’99, ’01), Todd Helton (’00), Matt Holliday (’07), Carlos Gonzalez (’10), Michael Cuddyer (’13), Justin Morneau (’14) and DJ LeMahieu (’16).
Stanton led the major leagues with 132 RBIs, and Seattle’s Nelson Cruz was first in the AL with 119.
Kluber led the major leagues in ERA at 2.25, and Kershaw at 2.31 was lowest in the NL for the fifth time and first since 2014.
Tampa Bay’s Alex Colome led the major leagues with 47 saves, and Colorado’s Greg Holland and the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen shared the NL lead with 41 — the fewest for an NL leader since 1999.
At 104-58, the Los Angeles Dodgers had the best record in the major leagues for the first time since 1974. Cleveland (102-60) and Houston (101-61) combined with the Dodgers for MLB’s sixth season with three 100-win teams, the first since 2003.
Minnesota won the second AL wild card at 85-77 and became the first team to make the playoffs following a 100-loss season. The Twins were 59-103 last year.
San Diego’s Luis Perdomo became the first pitcher to hit four triples in a season since Robin Roberts in 1955.
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley, AP Sports Writers Jimmy Golen and Pat Graham, and AP freelance writer Brent New contributed to this report.
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