These were the best players during the recent half-decade
Nobody noticed, but Nolan Arenado recently won two-thirds of the Triple Crown.
No, not this year for the St. Louis Cardinals. Or last year for the Colorado Rockies. I’m talking about a longer timeframe, the half-decade that led up to this season.
Arenado hit 165 home runs for the Rockies between 2016 and 2020, which was 20 more than anybody else in the National League. And he drove in 517 runs, topping his closest competitor by 80.
Arenado’s only shortcoming was his five-year batting average of .300 — a highly respectable number, to be sure, though only fifth-best in the NL behind Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu, Daniel Murphy, and Freddie Freeman.
The rarefied air of Coors Field definitely played a role in Arenado’s success. Consider his splits for 2016-2020: .331 BA, 95 HR, 308 RBI at home; .269, 70, 209 on the road. Blackmon and LeMahieu, for that matter, also benefited greatly from playing in Denver. These were their National League batting-average splits for the half-decade: Blackmon, .355 at home, .276 on the road; LeMahieu, .349 and .290.
Those are massive differences, of course, but they don’t matter in the final analysis. Baseball’s statistics are based solely on competitive results, no matter where the competition might take place. And that’s also the principle behind the five-year leaders for both leagues, as listed below.
A couple of points must be made:
Stats cover only a player’s tenure in a given league. LeMahieu’s National League numbers, for example, deal solely with his time with the Rockies. His subsequent stint with the Yankees obviously falls into the American League category.
Leaders in rates, such as batting or earned run averages, must exceed thresholds of two plate appearances or two-thirds of an inning pitched per team game. (Those averages translate to 1,416 PA or 472 IP for the full five years.)
These lists generally pinpoint the players who cruised into the current season with the greatest momentum. I say “generally” because I have also appended a couple of negative categories in keeping with the name of this blog, Baseball’s Best (and Worst).
Yes, it’s amazing to think that Mike Trout was able to maintain a .440 on-base percentage and a .609 slugging average for five full years. Or that Nelson Cruz blasted 176 home runs over the same span. Or that Max Scherzer piled up 1,187 strikeouts from 2016 to 2020.
The top (or bottom) three players in each category are shown below.
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American League batting leaders (2016-2020)
Hits: Jose Altuve, 780; Francisco Lindor, 774; Jose Abreu, 760
Doubles: Jose Ramirez, 189; Mookie Betts, 175; Xander Bogaerts, 171
Home runs: Nelson Cruz, 176; Mike Trout, 163; Khris Davis, 158
Runs batted in: Jose Abreu, 463; Nelson Cruz, 462; Edwin Encarnacion, 446
Walks: Mike Trout, 477; Carlos Santana, 342; Edwin Encarnacion, 328
Strikeouts: Chris Davis, 762; Miguel Sano, 715; Khris Davis, 708
Batting average: Jose Altuve, .318; Mookie Betts and Michael Brantley, .305
Slugging average: Mike Trout, .609; Nelson Cruz, .563; J.D. Martinez, .562
National League batting leaders (2016-2020)
Runs scored: Charlie Blackmon, 510; Paul Goldschmidt, 446; Nolan Arenado, 445
Hits: Charlie Blackmon, 831; Nolan Arenado, 775; Freddie Freeman, 753
Home runs: Nolan Arenado, 165; Eugenio Suarez, 145; Freddie Freeman, 136
Runs batted in: Nolan Arenado, 517; Anthony Rizzo, 437; Freddie Freeman, 434
Strikeouts: Trevor Story, 726; Eugenio Suarez, 700; Paul Goldschmidt, 679
Batting average: Charlie Blackmon, .314; DJ LeMahieu, .312; Daniel Murphy, .310
On-base percentage: Joey Votto, .413; Freddie Freeman, .400; Paul Goldschmidt and Christian Yelich, .390
Slugging average: Nolan Arenado, .565; Freddie Freeman, .557; Charlie Blackmon, .549
American League pitching leaders (2016-2020)
Wins: Justin Verlander, 69; Rick Porcello, 64; J.A. Happ, 61
Strikeouts: Justin Verlander, 1,070; Chris Sale, 996; Carlos Carrasco, 785
Earned run average: Gerrit Cole, 2.71; Justin Verlander, 2.87; Corey Kluber, 2.93
Batting average against: Gerrit Cole, .193; Justin Verlander, .200; Chris Sale, .211
National League pitching leaders (2016-2020)
Wins: Max Scherzer, 70; Jon Lester, 66; Clayton Kershaw, 61
Strikeouts: Max Scherzer, 1,187; Jacob deGrom, 1,010; Robbie Ray, 879
Walks: Robbie Ray, 327; Tyler Chatwood, 288; Julio Teheran, 280
Earned run average: Clayton Kershaw, 2.44; Jacob deGrom, 2.61; Max Scherzer, 2.80
Batting average against: Max Scherzer, .201; Clayton Kershaw, .211; Stephen Strasburg, .218