Khris Davis’s eerily consistent batting average is just the tip of the iceberg.
The beautiful thing about baseball—at least in theory—is that the sport’s daily nature smooths out any irregularities in the data. This year, for example, the Mariners got out to a hot start by winning a lot of close games. When the luck ran out and the M’s win-loss record began to mirror their run differential more closely, they faded from the playoff race.
That makes statistical quirks so much more fun when they actually do occur, and this season had no shortage of them. Here are a few of our favorites.
There were more strikeouts than hits
The 30 teams in Major League Baseball combined for 40,993 hits and 41,177 strikeouts this season. It’s the first time in baseball history that batters struck out more frequently than they got hits.
No Padres regular batted better than .260
The Padres had the second-most strikeouts in baseball, so perhaps this isn’t surprising. No San Diego batter who got more than a half-season’s worth of plate appearances batted better than .260. Removing all plate appearance minimums, the best Padres hitter was Franmil Reyes, who batted .280 in 285 plate appearances. Reyes, Hunter Renfroe, Christian Villanueva and Wil Myers were the only San Diego batters (with a minimum of 200 plate appearances) to post an OPS+ better than league average.
Khris Davis batted .247—for the fourth consecutive season
Oakland DH Khris Davis just turned in his best season of his career, leading the majors with 48 homers and posting an .874 OPS, his best in a full season. But in one way his 2018 season was a lot like his previous three. For the fourth year in a row, Davis’s batting average was .247.
If you round out to four decimal places, Davis’s averages since 2015 go like this: .2474, .2468, .2473, .2465. The difference between a .247 average and .246 or .248 is literally one hit in 1,000 at-bats, and Davis has hit safely at exactly the same rate for the past 575 games.
The other strange part about this is that Davis has now hit .247 in four out of his five full MLB seasons, and yet that mark is below his career average. He posted a .279 average in 53 games as a rookie in 2013, then hit .244 in 144 games in 2014, so his career average is .248.
“That is just tough to comprehend,” manager Bob Melvin said after the game. “That’s almost impossible to do. The power numbers have gone up and he’s a better hitter, but I can’t explain that. The baseball gods obviously want him to hit .247.”
Jacob deGrom went 10–9 with a WAR of 10.1
Jacob deGrom’s 2018 is a case study in the importance of new-school stats. Ten or maybe even five years ago, the idea of deGrom winning the Cy Young award with a 10–9 record would have been a tough sell to many, even with his absurdly low 1.70 ERA. But now he’s being viewed as a worthy candidate not only for the Cy but also for the MVP.
That’s because advanced stats like WAR do a better job of encapsulating a player’s value to their team. They also do a good job illustrating how much deGrom was screwed by being on the Mets. Old-school wins are a lot easier to pick up than wins above replacement (just ask Rays starter Ian Snell, who led the majors with 21 wins but was worth 7.4 WAR), and yet deGrom recorded a high WAR total (10.1) than old-school wins (10). He’s only the second player in MLB history to do that, joining Eddie Smith of the 1937 Philadelphia A’s (4–17, 4.1 WAR).
Matt Carpenter didn’t ground into a double play
Matt Carpenter made it the entire season without hitting into a double play.— Dayn Perry (@daynperry) October 1, 2018
Matt Carpenter’s season makes a convincing argument for lifting the ball in the air. A whopping 46.9% of his batted balls were flyballs, compared to just 26.4% groundballs. Not only did that allow him to go the entire season without grounding into a double play, it was also part of the reason why he hit a career-high 36 home runs.
The Phillies were historically bad in the best hitter’s count
Gabe Kapler might think twice about giving his hitters the green light in 2019.
Shohei Ohtani had a week where he was worth 1.0 WAR
Small sample sizes can be fun too, like Shohei Ohtani’s first full week in the major leagues. He homered in three straight games at the plate and then pitched seven scoreless innings, with 12 strikeouts, against the A’s.
Willians Astudillo was the best hitter in baseball (in a very small sample)
at .355, Willians Astudillo will finish with the highest batting average in baseball out of everyone with at least 90 plate appearances— Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) October 1, 2018
Here at SI.com we’re big fans of Twins utilityman Willians Astudillo, who made his MLB debut this season after nine years in the minors and, despite standing 5'9" and weighing 225 pounds, played centerfield in his first game. There’s plenty to love about Astudillo, whether it’s his jovial nature or his hustling from first to third to prove “chubby people can also run.” But he’s also a truly fascinating player, with his defensive versatility and highly unusual batting stats.
Astudillo had 97 plate appearances this season and accumulated just two walks and three strikeouts. He made contact with 91.6% of his swings, despite swinging at 40% of pitches that were thrown outside the zone. For reference, in the nine years that data is available, Vladimir Guerrero swung at 38.9% of pitches out of the zone and made contact with 80.6% of all swings.