Johnson, Carl Hubbell, Walter Johnson, Red Ruffing and Ed Walsh were the only moundsmen to strike out 10 or more batters in their first World Series game, while Greg Maddux and Christy Mathewson were the only two to pitch a complete game without surrendering a walk.
There have been 54 Hall of Fame pitchers who have participated in a World Series game. Among those hurlers, 22 earned a win in their first Fall Classic appearance, 17 were credited with a loss and three earned a save. Only seven pitchers, who were elected to the Hall of Fame, threw a complete-game shutout in the first game they pitched in the World Series, including Chief Bender, Burleigh Grimes, Waite Hoyt, Randy Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Jim Palmer and Ed Walsh. Johnson was the last of this group to accomplish the feat when he blanked the Yankees on Oct. 28, 2001 in his first Series appearance.
Johnson, Carl Hubbell, Walter Johnson, Red Ruffing and Ed Walsh were the only moundsmen to strike out 10 or more batters in their first World Series game, while Greg Maddux and Christy Mathewson were the only two to pitch a complete game without surrendering a walk.
The 2015 World Series marks the 111th time pennant winners from the American League and National League have battled for bragging rights in major league baseball. Getting to the Fall Classic has become more difficult with the added playoff rounds, and when a player gets his opportunity to appear in a World Series game or have that first plate appearance, it is a memory he will never forget.
Sal Yvars was a backup catcher for eight years in the majors for the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, getting his shot at World Series history in 1951 when the Giants captured the pennant on Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ’round the world.”
As a player, Yvars had a volatile temper and a feisty personality that caused friction with Giants’ quick-tempered manager Leo Durocher.
“I had a fairly good year subbing for Wes Westrum. Wes was a great defensive catcher and I hit .317 in a limited amount of games, but I never got along with Leo because Leo had the most vulgar mouth and he treated guys like dirt and I didn’t like him,” Yvars recalled before his death at age 84 on December 10, 2008. “A few times during the years we were together, I got off the beam a little bit and I came back at him with a nasty remark.
“One time I threw shin guards at him and he embarrassed the hell out of me in spring training.
“I got into an argument with him a month or so before the World Series. And this was hard for me to believe after two reporters mentioned this particular story to me. It was the third game of the World Series, and normally I pinch-hit and was pretty good. I didn’t get into a game at that point when of couple of reporters questioned Leo why he didn’t use me, despite me being a contact hitter and wasn’t used in certain situations. ‘Let me just tell you one thing,’ Durocher said, ‘that kid is one kid who is not going to get into the World Series.’ The reporters relayed this story to me about how Leo was going to teach me a lesson and I was not going to get into the World Series,” Yvars said.
“It’s always an honor to get into a World Series whether you get up one time or fifty times,” he continued. “So I went up to Leo the next day and told him what I heard about him saying I wasn’t going to get into the World Series. Leo told me get the hell out of his office and go catch batting practice. I was nasty as hell and broke all my bats because I knew I wasn’t going to get in.”
With the Yankees ahead in the Series three games to two, Yvars was in the bullpen for Game 6 at Yankee Stadium on October 10, 1951.
“I was in the bullpen warming up Sal Maglie in the ninth inning when we were down, 4-1. We rallied to score two runs making it 4-3 with the tying run on second and two outs. Leo then starts signaling for a pinch-hitter and we had five guys down there who didn’t know who he was calling for because the phones weren’t working in the bullpen so that’s why guys were standing up and when they did, Leo would yell, ‘No, no, no.’ So then a batboy runs out to the bullpen telling us Leo wants Yvars to hit and up to that point, I was the only guy not used in the Series. Leo was keeping his word,” Yvars said.
“But the tying run was on second, we’re losing by a run and I trot in from the bullpen. I go by third base where Leo was coaching and he didn’t say a word, except to report to the umpire that I was batting for Hank Thompson.
“The batboy comes up to me and says, ‘Mr. Yvars you don’t have a bat.’ Believe me I broke them all, so I tell him to pick one out for me.
“In the meantime, Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin and pitcher Bob Kuzava are on the mound looking in to see who is going to pinch-hit. I played against Kuzava two years in Triple A, so I was familiar with him.
“Anyway, I am at home plate getting a bat and didn’t use the weight bat to loosen up and didn’t even have batting practice before that game. I just thought I would get up there and do the best I could. And I’ll never forget the umpire. He says, ‘Sal, good luck. Let’s see you swing that bat.’ I never heard that from any umpire.
“So now I made up in my mind with the tying run on second, Kuzava, a left-handed pitcher, was going to throw that fastball fading away. I used to be a pull hitter in the minors until I broke all my fingers and I started to get smart by just trying to meet the ball.
“I guessed right, Kuzava threw the fastball that tailed away from the outside corner and I was trying to hit it right through the middle but instead hit a line-drive over the second baseman where right fielder Hank Bauer, who was playing close in, made a diving catch, rolled over and came up with the ball. That ended the World Series.
“You think of these things now and what happened and the kind of people who were there and guys coming up and saying tough luck Sal. In the clubhouse, Leo came walking by and said, ‘Tough luck kid.’ And I said a few words, thinking I was through with this club.”
Yvars remained with the Giants midway through the 1953 campaign and retired after the ’54 season. His career was full of memorable events including his lone World Series at-bat.
For stars such as Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter, Stan Musial, Pete Rose and many more who were blessed with the opportunity to appear in several World Series and have several plate appearances, it becomes intriguing to look back on how they performed in their first time in the batter’s box during a Fall Classic match.
Asked if he recalls his first World Series at-bat, Rose smiled and said, “Jim Palmer was the pitcher and I grounded out to short. I hit my first World Series home run off Palmer in Game 4 and I didn’t get my first hit until Game 3 when I singled off Dave McNally. I went 2-for-5 in that game. But yeah, I remember that first time up. It was special.”
It was a special time for every player coming to bat for the first time in a World Series game. “It was so long ago,” said Stan Musial several years ago about his first Fall Classic appearance. “I remember being very young and wanting to do well. You work hard to help get your team to the World Series, so when you get that opportunity to play in one, you remember how you got there and who helped you along the way. I recall my first time up in the ’42 Series against Red Ruffing, who was a big, strong right-hander with a heavy fastball. I remember hitting a fly ball to right fielder Roy Cullenbine in my first at-bat. I didn’t get a hit in my first World Series game, which we lost to the Yankees, 7-4. I got my first hit in Game 2, a single off Tiny Bonham.”
First plate appearances in such a meaningful game are great memories for the players involved and for fans to reminisce about the top players on the game’s biggest stage.
Here are some first plate appearance accomplishments in World Series competition for some of the more popular names in the game.
Johnny Cueto led the Kansas City Royals to a two games to nothing lead in the 2015 World Series with a complete-game, 7-1, victory over the New York Mets.
Since 1969 when divisional play began and the save rule became an official statistic, Cueto pitched the 50th complete game in World Series play. During that 47-year span, the Kansas City right-hander is the 35th pitcher to go the distance in a Fall Classic contest and the first American League hurler to toss a complete game since Jack Morris of the Twins worked 10 innings in his Game 7 victory over the Braves.
The pitchers to have multiple complete-games in World Series competition since 1969 include Dave McNally, Jack Morris and Tom Glavine with three and Mike Cuellar, Steve Blass, Luis Tiant, Mike Torrez, Ron Guidry, Scott McGregor, Bret Saberhagen, Orel Hershiser and Dave Stewart with two.
Among the 50 complete games, five ended in defeat—McNally, Catfish Hunter, Stewart and Glavine (2). Blass, Saberhagen and Morris are the only pitchers since 1969 to be credited with a complete-game victory in a Game 7 match with 13 of the 50 complete games being shutouts.
Here’s a look—from number 1 through 100—at some facts and figures from the 2015 major league season.
• Blue Jays reliever LaTroy Hawkins became the 13th pitcher to record at least one save against each active franchise. The other 12 include Rick Aguilera, Armando Benitez, Brian Fuentes, Kevin Gregg, Jason Isringhausen, Jose Mesa, Jonathan Papelbon, Rafael Soriano, Huston Street, Ugueth Urbina, Jose Valverde and Bob Wickman.
• Kris Bryant of the Cubs became the second rookie in big league history to hit two walk-off homers and two grand slams. The only other first-year player to match this feat was Wally Westlake of the Pirates in 1947.
• Max Scherzer of the Nationals became the sixth pitcher in big league history to throw two no-hitters in one season. The other pitchers with two no-hit games in the same year are Johnny Vander Meer (1938), Allie Reynolds (1951), Virgil Trucks (1952), Nolan Ryan (1973) and Roy Halladay (2010).
• When Jake Arrieta of the Cubs tossed his no-hitter against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 30, he became only the second pitcher (since 1900) to strike out the final three batters of the game in order to end a no-hit game. The other pitcher to do it was Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers against the Cubs at Dodger Stadium—almost 50 years to the day (Sept. 9, 1965) since Arrieta duplicated the feat.
• By leading the American League with 122 runs scored and 123 RBI, Toronto’s Josh Donaldson became only the fourth third baseman in big league history—since 1900—to pace the league in both categories.
• With a .338 batting average, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera captured his fourth league batting title to make him 13th player to win four or more batting titles, joining Ty Cobb (11), Honus Wagner (8), Tony Gwynn (8), Rogers Hornsby (7), Stan Musial (7), Rod Carew (7), Ted Williams (6), Nap Lajoie (5), Wade Boggs (5), Harry Heilmann (4), Roberto Clemente (4) and Bill Madlock (4).
• With 32 starts, Mark Buehrle became only the fourth pitcher to start 30 or more games in 15 consecutive seasons. The others are Hall of Famers Cy Young (19), Warren Spahn (17) and Gaylord Perry (15).
• With 205 hits, 58 stolen bases and only 88 runs scored, Dee Gordon of the Marlins became just the fifth player in history to score fewer than 100 runs while totaling 200 hits and 50 steals. The others to match this are Ty Cobb (1907), Sam Rice (1920), Juan Pierre (2006) and Jose Altuve (2014).
• There were 33 catcher interference calls in 2015 with the Yankees benefitting from the rule the most, having six batters reach base from catcher’s interference.
• The seven no-hitters thrown in 2015 were the most in one season in the major leagues, tying the mark set in 1990 and equaled in 1991 and 2012.
• Albert Pujols is now one of seven players to have a 40-homer season in both the A.L. and N.L. after he clubbed 40 for the Angels in 2015. He previously had 40-HR campaigns with the Cardinals in the N.L. The other sluggers to accomplish this include Adam Dunn, Darrell Evans, Shawn Green, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire and Jim Thome.
• Carlos Correa became the seventh rookie shortstop to hit 20 or more home runs when he belted 22 for the Houston Astros. The other SS to accomplish this are Tom Tresh, Ron Hansen, Bobby Crosby, Troy Tulowitzki, Cal Ripken and Nomar Garciaparra.
• Seattle’s Nelson Cruz became the seventh player to have back-to-back 40-homer seasons while playing for different teams. He belted 44 this year with the Mariners and 40 in 2014 with the Orioles. The other players to do this include Greg Vaughan (1998 Padres/1999 Reds), Jim Thome (2002 Indians/2003 Phillies), Alex Rodriguez (2000 Mariners/2001 Rangers), Rafael Palmeiro (1998 Orioles/1999 Rangers), Ken Griffey Jr. (1999 Mariners/2000 Reds) and Andres Galarraga (1997 Rockies/1998 Braves).
• Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon became the eighth player in history to lead his league in batting average (.333) and stolen bases (58) in the same season. The others to accomplish this are Jackie Robinson (1949) and Honus Wagner (1904, 1907, 1908) in the National League and Ty Cobb (1907, 1909, 1911, 1915, 1917), George Sisler (1922), Snuffy Stirnweiss (1945), Ichiro Suzuki (2001) and Jose Altuve (2014) in the A.L.
• There were eight players who clubbed 40 or more homers in the majors, the most in one season since 2006 when there were 11.
• Chris Sale of the White Sox fanned 10 or more batters in eight consecutive starts, tying the major league record set by Pedro Martinez in 1999.
• Max Scherzer fanned nine batters in a row during his Oct. 3 no-hitter, becoming the sixth pitcher since 1900 to strikeout nine batters in succession. The others are Tom Seaver (10), Jake Peavy, Ricky Nolasco, Aaron Harang and Doug Fister all with nine.
• In 229 innings pitched, Jake Arrieta surrendered only 10 home runs, the fewest allowed by any hurler with 200-plus innings pitched in 2015.
• Chris Carter of the Astros became the 10th player in MLB history to hit 20 or more homers in a season while posting a batting average below .200 when he clubbed 24 HR and hit .199.
• The Cleveland Indians pitching staff led the major leagues with 11 complete games. The average complete game total per club was 3.5.
• Matt Duffy of Giants stole the most bases in the majors last season without being thrown out attempting to steal. The rookie third baseman swiped 12 bases without being caught.
• The Chicago Cubs led the majors with 13 walk-off wins.
• The most home runs in one month by a player was 13, by Bryce Harper of the Nationals in May and Albert Pujols of the Angels in June.
• On Aug. 1, Mark Teixeira of the Yankees hit a home run from each side of the plate in one game for a major league record 14th time. Three weeks later on Aug. 22, Nick Swisher of the Braves equaled Teixeira’s mark when he hit homers from both sides of the plate for the 14th time in his career.
• Ending the season with 47 homers and zero triples, Chris Davis of the Orioles became the 14th player in big league history to club 45 or more homers in a season without getting credit for a triple.
• Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers became the 15th pitcher since 1900 to strike out 300 or more batters in a season when he fanned a MLB high 301. He is also the eighth left-hander to accomplish the feat.
• When Orioles slugger Manny Machado hit two home runs and stole two bases in a game on Oct. 1, he became the 16th player, since 1900 to have multiple homers and stolen bases in one game. The others to match this feat are Braggo Roth (1919), Jack Fournier (1921), Don Koloway (1941), Tommie Agee (1971), Joe Morgan (1973), Howard Johnson (1987), Dante Bichette (1994), Kirk Gibson (1995), Gary Sheffield (1995), Chipper Jones (1999), Carlos Beltran (2004), Rafael Furcal (2005), Chris Duffy (2006), Ryan Spilborghs (2009) and Brandon Phillips (2015).
• Max Scherzer registered 17 strikeouts in his Oct. 3 no-hitter against the Mets. The 17 whiffs tied Nolan Ryan’s mark of most strikeouts in a no-hitter—Ryan fanned 17 in his July 15, 1973 no-hit gem for the Angels against the Tigers.
• Zack Greinke is one of 18 pitchers, since 1900, to finish a season with exactly 200 strikeouts. The pitchers to accomplish this include Greinke (2012, 2015), Yovani Gallardo (2010), Javier Vazquez (2008), Al Leiter (1996, 2000), Chuck Finley (1999), Alex Fernandez (1996), Tim Belcher (1989), Dwight Gooden (1986), Sid Fernandez (1986), Nolan Ryan (1980), Jerry Koosman (1976), Dennis Eckersley (1976), Don Sutton (1973), Tom Griffin (1969), Earl Wilson (1966), Dazzy Vance (1928), Grover Alexander (1917) and Cy Young (1904).
• There were 18 pitchers who finished the year with 200 or more strikeouts—11 in the National League and seven in the American League.
• Greinke, Gerrit Cole of the Pirates and Collin McHugh of the Astros all finished the year with 19 wins.
• Madison Bumgarner of the Giants led all pitchers with 19 hits last season. He hit five homers and two doubles to go with his nine RBI, .247 BA, .275 OBP and .468 slugging percentage.
• Four players reached the 20-homer, 20-stolen base club in 2015—A.J. Pollock, D’backs (20 HR, 39 SB), Manny Machado, Orioles (35 HR, 20 SB), Paul Goldschmidt, D’backs (33 HR, 21 SB) and Ryan Braun, Brewers (25 HR, 24 SB).
• By scoring 21 runs in Houston’s 21-5 victory over the Diamondbacks on Oct. 2, the Astros tallied the most runs in a game that earned a pitcher—Dallas Keuchel—his 20th win of the season in baseball history dating back to 1900.
• Jake Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, the most since 2011 when Justin Verlander won 24 for Detroit. It’s the most in the N.L. since 2008 when Brandon Webb won 22 with the Diamondbacks.
• The Yankees have had a winning record in each of the last 23 seasons, the longest active winning streak among teams in the majors. The last time the Bronx Bombers finished with a losing record was in 1992 when they went 76-86 under manager Buck Schowalter.
• From May 23 through Sept. 27, Braves right-hander Shelby Miller went 24 consecutive starts without a victory. During that streak, he was 0-16 with 3.83 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 143 innings. The Braves were outscored by their opponents 120 to 48 during Miller’s winless streak.
• Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies hit 25 home runs over a 47-game stretch from July 10 through Sept. 4. If he kept that pace in the 153 games he appeared in during the 2015 campaign, he would have clubbed 81 homers.
• Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion’s 26-game hitting steak was the longest in the majors in 2015. During his skein (July 6 – Aug. 31) he hit .412 with 12 doubles, 11 homers and 35 RBI.
• David Ortiz of the Red Sox became the 27th player in MLB history with 500 career home runs, finishing the year with a lifetime total of 503.
• Orioles slugger Chris Davis entered the All-Star break with 19 home runs, sixth most in the American League. He belted a major league high 28 homers after the break to capture his second A.L. home run crown with 47.
• Yoenis Cespedes became the 28th player to hit 30 or more home runs in a season while splitting the year with two teams and hitting at least one HR for each club. Cespedes finished with 35 homers—18 for the Tigers and 17 for the Mets.
• Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks topped all major league batters with 29 intentional walks—the 27th highest single-season total in history.
• On June 19, Alex Rodriguez became the 29th player to collect 3,000 or more lifetime hits. In the process of A-Rod’s historic hit, he became the third player to hit a home run for his milestone hit—the two other players to homer for hit No. 3,000 are Wade Boggs and Derek Jeter.
• Eddie Rosario of the Twins became the 29th player in baseball history to hit a home run on the first pitch he faced in the majors leagues on May 6, 2015.
• Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs led the majors with 30 hit by pitch at-bats, making him the second player in MLB history to complete a season with 30 or more HBP and 30-plus homers. The only other player to match this was Don Baylor who did it with the Red Sox in 1986.
• Zack Greinke topped all starting pitchers with 30 quality starts.
• Mark Teixeira and Anthony Rizzo ended the year with 31 home runs, bringing the total of players who have completed a major league season with 31 homers to 137 times. The only players to lead the league with 31 HR are National Leaguers Mike Schmidt (1981), Joe Medwick/Mel Ott (1937), Chuck Klein (1931) and Jim Bottomley/Hack Wilson (1928).
• The lowest difference between homers and strikeouts by a player with 20 or more HR was 32 by Albert Pujols of the Angels. He hit 40 home runs and struck out 72 times.
• The Philadelphia Phillies finished in last place for the 32nd time in franchise history since 1900.
• James Shields (13-7, 3.91) of the Padres and Kyle Kendrick (7-13, 6.32) of the Rockies surrendered 33 home runs last season, the most in the majors.
• The New York Yankees used 33 different pitchers during the season, more than any other club. When the Yankees won 114 games in 1998, they used only 19 pitchers and in 1927 when the club won 110 games, only 10 pitchers were used during the course of the season.
• Albert Pujols became the 33rd player to hit 100 or more career home runs in each league. He ended the year with 445 lifetime homers in the N.L. with the Cardinals and 115 in the A.L. with the Angels.
• Cubs pitcher Jon Lester wore uniform No. 31 during his tenure with the Red Sox, but that number is retired for Cubs Hall of Famer pitchers Ferguson Jenkins and Greg Maddux so Lester chose number 34 in honor of Chicago’s greatest No. 34, NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton, Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan and Cubs fan-favorite Kerry Wood.
• Chris Archer of the Rays led all major league pitchers with 34 starts.
• A player driving home six or more runs in one game last season occurred 35 times by 33 different players—Yoenis Cespedes and Carlos Gonzalez each had two games with six or more RBI. The single-game high mark was nine by Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays and Mike Moustakas of the Royals.
• A’s shortstop Marcus Semien led the majors with 35 errors.
• With 36 saves, Andrew Miller became the sixth closer in Yankees history to save 36 or more games in a season. The others are Mariano Rivera, Dave Righetti, John Wetteland, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano.
• Last season Boston’s David Ortiz clubbed 37 home runs, the ninth time he has hit 30 or more homers with the Red Sox. Only 12 other players have had nine or more 30-homer seasons with one franchise—Hank Aaron (15-Braves), Babe Ruth (13-Yankees), Mike Schmidt (13-Phillies), Barry Bonds (12-Giants), Willie Mays (11-Giants), Albert Pujols (11-Cardinals), Sammy Sosa (11-Cubs), Lou Gehrig (10-Yankees), Eddie Mathews (10-Braves), Harmon Killebrew (10-Senators/Twins), Mickey Mantle (9-Yankees) and Jeff Bagwell (9-Astros).
• Jose Altuve’s 38 stolen bases led the American league, that’s the lowest total to lead the A.L. since 1962 when Luis Aparicio’s 31 steals paced the junior circuit.
• The Washington Nationals threw 39 wild pitches, the lowest of any major league team. The most was 81 by the Tampa Bay Rays and the major league average per club was 58.
• From 1920 through 2014, a player hitting 40 or more homers with fewer than 100 RBI was accomplished 16 times by 13 different players. In 2015, five players hit 40-plus homers with fewer than 100 RBI—Nelson Cruz (Mariners 44 HR, 93 RBI), Bryce Harper (Nationals 42, 99), Mike Trout (Angels 41, 90), Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies 40, 97) and Albert Pujols (Angels 40, 95).
• Dee Gordon of the Marlins became the 40th player in MLB history to have 50 or more steals (58) and 20 or more caught stealing (20) since 1900.
• Pirates left-handed setup man Tony Watson paced all major league relievers with 41 holds.
• Washington’s Bryce Harper and Colorado’s Nolan Arenado tied for the N.L. lead with 42 home runs. It was the 12th time in N.L. history, since 1920 when the live ball era began, that players tied for the league home run title.
• Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis clubbed 43 doubles to become the 35th player in Indians franchise history to hit 40 or more doubles in a season.
• Padres catcher Derek Norris topped all major league catchers by throwing out 44 runners attempting to steal—12 more than runner up in that defensive category, Russell Martin, who threw out 32.
• Zack Greinke went 45 — actually 45.2 — consecutive innings without allowing a run, a streak that began on June 18 and ended on July 16. It is the fourth longest skein in baseball history.
• Over the last 84 MLB seasons (1932-2015), the New York Yankees have qualified for the postseason in 46 of those years, and captured the World Series title 24 times in that span.
• Chris Davis of the Orioles led the major leagues with 47 home runs. It is the 23rd time in baseball history a player finished a season with 47 homers, a feat accomplished by 22 players. Rafael Palmeiro is the only player to have two 47-HR seasons. Among the 23 times a player hit 47 homers, it was the league-leading total 12 times.
• Reds first baseman Joey Votto put together the longest consecutive game streak of reaching base safely in 2015 when he got on base through hit, walk or hit by pitch in 48 games in a row from Aug. 11 through Oct. 2. The 48-game streak is tied for the 50th longest in MLB history since 1914.
• The Cubs won the most games away from home with a 48-33 won-lost record on the road.
• The Detroit Tigers and Colorado Rockies hit the most team triples with 49. The Rockies team leader was Charlie Blackmon with nine and Detroit’s was Rajai Davis with 11.
• There were 50 games in the majors during the 2015 campaign in which a pitcher struck out 10 or more batters without issuing a walk. The leader in that category was Clayton Kershaw, who had five games with 10 or more strikeouts and no walks.
• With his major league-leading 51 saves, Pirates closer Mark Melancon became the 12th reliever to record 50 or more saves in a season. He joined Francisco Rodriguez, Bobby Thigpen, Dennis Eckersley, Randy Myers, Rod Beck, Eric Gagne, Mariano Rivera, John Smoltz, Trevor Hoffman, Jim Johnson and Craig Kimbrel.
• Jason Kipnis of the Indians collected 51 hits in the month of May to become the 30th player over the last 50 seasons (1965-2015) to collect 50 hits in one month, a feat accomplished 35 times over that span.
• Red Sox starter Wade Miley yielded 51 doubles, the most among pitchers in the majors in 2015. The major league record was set by Rick Helling of the Rangers in 2001 when he surrendered 68.
• Chris Davis of the Orioles led the majors with 47 home runs in 2015, but the total could easily have been 52. Davis was robbed of five home runs by outfielders who leaped with their gloves extended past the outfield wall to steal home runs away from Davis. The outfield culprits were Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, Avisail Garcia of the White Sox, J.B. Shuck of the White Sox, J.D. Martinez of the Tigers and Billy Burns of the A’s.
• The team average for hit by pitch was 53 in the major leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates leading the majors with 89 HBP and the Diamondbacks and Rockies having the fewest with 33.
• Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris threw the most pitches in a single inning in 2015 with 54 on Sept. 29. In the first inning, Norris allowed five runs on three hits and a walk and threw 33 strikes and 21 balls. He was pulled after 17 pitches and two outs in the second inning.
• The Cardinals and Dodgers tied for the major league lead with 55 wins at home. Both clubs posted a home record of 55-26 for a .679 winning percentage.
• St. Louis led the majors with 56 wins at the All-Star break, going 56-33 (.629). After the Midsummer Classic, the Cards went 44-29 (.603).
• Julio Franco, who played 23 years in the major leagues, continued his 32-year playing career at age 57 as player/manager of the Ishikawa Million Stars—a semi-pro team in Japan.
• Dee Gordon of the Marlins became the 15th player to finish a season with exactly 58 stolen bases. Among those 15, six captured a league stolen base title with those 58 steals—Gordon (2015 N.L.), Carl Crawford (2006 A.L.), Tony Womack (1998 N.L.), Chuck Carr (1993 N.L.), Rickey Henderson (1991 A.L.) and Max Carey (1918 N.L.)
• Dating back to 1900, a pitcher striking out 200 more batters than he walked during a season has been accomplished 59 times. The feat was achieved by four pitchers in 2015, including Clayton Kershaw (301 strikeouts/42 walks), Max Scherzer (276 SO/34 BB), Chris Sale (274 SO/ 42 BB) and Corey Kluber (245 SO/45 BB).
• The Atlanta Braves used 60 different players as fielders, the most in the major leagues. The Chicago White Sox employed the fewest with 38 and the major league average was 44.
• Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler led the major leagues with the most multi-hit games in 2015 with 61.
• There were 156 different players who had a multi-homer game and among those sluggers, 61 of them had more than one multi-homer contest during the 2015 season. Baltimore had the most multi-homers games with 18 and the O’s first baseman Chris Davis had the most among players with eight.
• The Toronto Blue Jays were credited with 62 sacrifice flies, the most in the majors. The big league average per club in 2015 was 41.
• Among the 206 walk-off wins in the major leagues in 2015, there were 63 game-ending home runs, with eight players having multiple walk-off homers—Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays belted three and Chris Davis (Orioles) James McCann (Tigers), Ian Kinsler (Tigers), Jason Castro (Astros), Brian Dozier (Twins), Kris Bryant (Cubs) and Starling Marte (Pirates) all with two.
• There were 64 players in the major league who clubbed 20 or more homers—35 in the A.L., 27 in the N.L. and two who split the season in both leagues.
• Mets closer Jeurys Familia led all major league pitchers with 65 games finished. Among those games he closed out, the right-hander saved 43 games—tied for most in team history with Armando Benitez, who saved 43 games for the Mets in 2001.
• Over the past two seasons (2014-2015), starters Johnny Cueto, Chris Archer, Corey Kluber, Max Scherzer, Julio Teheran and David Price all started 66 games and fanned at least one batter in each of those starting assignments.
• Giancarlo Stanton had 27 homers and 67 RBI before he was lost for the season with a broken hand that he suffered on June 26. Stanton was on pace for a 58-homer, 146-RBI year.
• Yankees reliever Dellin Betances wears uniform No. 68 to reflect his height of 6-foot-8.
• Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros became the 69th player in the major league history, since 1900, to have back-to-back 200-hit seasons. He totaled 225 hits in 2014 and 200 safties in 2015.
• With two 3-run homers in 2015, Alex Rodriguez now as 70 three-run homers in his career, most among active players and tied for 14th all time with Jeff Bagwell and Gary Sheffield. The career leader is Babe Ruth with 98.
• Torii Hunter was credited with five sacrifice flies last season to bring his career total to 71, ninth highest among active players.
• The Chicago Cubs’ 97-65 won-lost record was the 72nd time, since 1878, that a team in franchise history finished with a .500 or higher winning percentage.
• Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday played in only 73 games, the fewest number of games he has appeared in during a season since he entered the major leagues in 2004. During those 73 appearances, he reached base in 60 of them, including 46 consecutive games to start the season.
• A.J. Pollock of the Diamondbacks became the 74th player in MLB history to hit 20 or more homers and steal 30 or more bases in the same season when he clubbed 20 homers and swiped 39 bases.
• The Los Angeles Dodgers committed the fewest errors with 75. The major league average was 94 and the team with the most miscues was the Oakland A’s with 126.
• Russell Martin of the Blue Jays led all major league catchers with 76 runs scored—the most by a backstop since 2012 when Joe Mauer of the Twins scored 81 and Buster Posey of the Giants tallied 78.
• It was 77 years ago (1938) that for the first time in big league history, two players hit 50 or more homers in the same season when Hank Greenberg led the American League with 58 homers and Jimmie Foxx of the Red Sox finished second with 50. The feat has been accomplished eight other seasons since (1947, 1961, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2006).
• Skip Schumaker of the Reds led the majors in both pinch hit at-bats (78) and pinch hits (19). He hit .244 with six doubles and seven RBI in that role.
• Only a few players have worn uniform No. 79 in a major league game, with the most notable player being Jose Abreu of the White Sox who won A.L. Rookie of the Year honors in 2014 and clubbed 30 HR with 101 RBI last season. He first wore No. 79 in Cuba after his mother told him it was an unusual uniform number and it would standout so fans would remember him by it.
• There were 80 players who scored 70 or more runs in the big leagues, with the Blue Jays and Royals leading the majors with five players with 70-plus runs scored.
• Cardinals left-hander Kevin Siegrist led all pitchers with 81 appearances while posting a 7-1 record with six saves, 90 strikeouts and a 2.17 ERA in 74.2 innings.
• The most extra-base hits surrendered by one pitcher in 2015 was 82 by Wei-Yin Chen of the Orioles in the A.L. and James Shields of the Padres in the N.L. Chen gave up 50 doubles, four triples and 28 home runs while Shields was tabbed for 43 doubles, 33 homers and six triples.
• There were 2,505 stolen bases combined among the 30 major leagues teams in 2015 for an average of 83 per club. Going back 30 years to 1985, the combined total among 26 teams was 3,097 with an average of 119.
• Padres right-hander Tyson Ross, who had a solid season with a 10-12 record, 3.26 ERA and 212 strikeouts, led all big league pitchers by issuing 84 walks.
• Albert Pujols became the 15th player in history to hit 40 or more homers in a season while scoring 85 or fewer runs when he finished with 40 HR and 85 runs scored. The other players to match this feat include Harmon Killebrew, Frank Howard, Matt Williams, Juan Gonzalez, Davey Johnson, Dick Stuart, Gus Zernial, Paul Konerko, Todd Hundley, Rocky Colavito, Adam Dunn, Sammy Sosa, Darrell Evans and Hank Aaron.
• Alex Rodriguez ended his 21st big league season with 2,220 career strikeouts, leaving him 86 shy of tying Sammy Sosa (2,306) for the most lifetime whiffs by a right-handed batter. Reggie Jackson is the all time record-holder with 2,597 lifetime whiffs
• Kris Bryant of the Cubs paced all rookies with 87 runs scored, four more than Rangers first-year player Delino DeShields, who led American League rookies with 83.
• The Tampa Bay Rays led the majors with 87 save opportunities, but converted only 60 of those chances.
• Right-hander Jeff Samardzija of the White Sox had the fewest pitches thrown in nine-inning complete-game in 2015 with 88. On Sept. 21, he threw a one-hit shutout against the Detroit Tigers while allowing no walks and striking out six batters. Among his 88 pitches, 60 were strikes and 28 were balls.
• Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado led the major leagues with 89 extra-base hits by finishing the year with 43 doubles, four triples and 42 home runs.
• Mike Trout of the Angels finished the year with 41 homers and 90 RBI, tying the mark for the lowest RBI output for a 40-homer guy in history. The players he tied were Ken Griffey Jr., who clubbed 40 homers in 1994 and Barry Bonds, who belted 45 HR in 2003.
• Among the 13 pitchers who won 15 or more games, Toronto’s Mark Buehrle (15-8) struck out the fewest batters with 91.
• Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce had the most at-bats with runners in scoring position and two outs with 92. He hit only .152 by collecting 14 hits and 22 RBI.
• Eric Hosmer of the Royals finished the year with 93 RBI while hitting 18 home runs to be one of only two players with 90 or more RBI and less than 20 homers. The other was Giants catcher Buster Posey (19 HR, 95 RBI). Hosmer also became the seventh player in Royals history to have a season with 90 or more RBI and fewer than 20 homers.
• Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo scored 94 runs, the second most in a single-season by a Korean-born major leaguer . . . the record is 107 by Choo in 2013 with the Cincinnati Reds.
• Since making his major league debut in 2003, Miguel Cabrera has averaged 95 runs scored per season during his 13-year career.
• During the regular season, there were 96-player ejections and 100-manager ejections.
• The 97 wins by the Chicago Cubs set a record for most victories by a third-place team since divisional play began in 1969.
• The 98 losses by the Cincinnati Reds tied the 1937 team for the third most in the franchises 134-year history. The only Reds teams to lose more were 1982 (101) and 1934 (99).
• The Pittsburgh Pirates set a National League record for the most wins by a wild card team with 98.
• Kris Bryant of the Cubs finished his first year in the majors one RBI shy of 100, becoming the fourth MLB player to end his rookie season with 99 RBI. The others are Pinky Higgins, 1933 A’s; Willie Montanez, 1971 Phillies and Garrett Atkins, 2007 Rockies.
• The St. Louis Cardinals led the major leagues with 100 wins this year, the ninth time in franchise history that the club finished the regular season with 100 or more victories. The Yankees (19) and the A’s (10) are the only major league franchises with more 100-victory campaigns.
During the 2015 season, there were 219 occasions—a major league record—in which a pitcher struck out 10 or more batters in a game, including eight with 15 or more. The single-game high mark was 18 by Corey Kluber of the Indians against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 13.
There were 89 pitchers who received credited for a 10-K game, with Chris Sale of the White Sox and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers having the most with 13 followed by Washington’s Max Scherzer with 11.
The Colorado Rockies were the only team not to have a pitcher with a 10-strikeout performance, while the Seattle Mariners had the most different hurlers to record 10 or more whiffs in a game with six—Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker, Jisashi Iwakuma, Vidal Nuno, Mike Montgomery and Roenis Elias.
Three pitchers fanned 10 or more batters in a game with different teams last season—Cole Hamels (Phillies and Rangers), David Price (Tigers and Blue Jays) and Mike Fiers (Brewers and Astros).
Among the 219 games in which a pitcher struck out 10 or more batters, there were 50 that the 10-K pitcher did not issue a walk. Kluber registered the most strikeouts in a game without a walk with 18, followed by Scherzer with 17, Michael Pineda of the Yankees with 16 and Chris Archer of the Rays with 15. Kluber became only the fifth pitcher in baseball history to fan 18 or more batters in a game without allowing a base on balls, a feat accomplished by Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood, Roger Clemens and Luis Tiant.
The League Championship Series has been around for 47 years with the 2015 matchups bringing the total to 94 series showdowns to determine pennant winners. Among the 92 previous series since 1969 when divisional play began, only five teams have comeback from a two-games-to-none deficit to win a LCS.
The teams to distinguish themselves with comeback heroics are:
• 1982 Milwaukee Brewers fell behind the California Angels by losing the first two games of the best-of-five series before capturing three straight victories.
• 1984 San Diego Padres lost the first two games of the NLCS at Wrigley Field to the Chicago Cubs before sweeping them on their return home for the final three contests in San Diego.
• 1985 St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games despite falling behind two-games-to-none in the first year the LCS was a seven game series.
• 1985 Kansas City Royals overcame a two-games-to-none and a three-games-to-one shortfall to the Toronto Blue Jays to win the A.L. pennant.
• 2004 Boston Red Sox may have put together the greatest comeback in MLB postseason history when the “idiots” swept the New York Yankees in four straight games after losing the first three games of the ALCS.
So there is hope for the Blue Jays and Cubs and both franchises have been on the short end of the five mentioned comebacks. The odds become greater for both clubs to turn their fate around since only once in history have two teams won the pennant after losing the first two games of the LCS in the same year. That was accomplished in 1985 when the Cardinals and Royals battled to a pennant victory before clashing in one of the more exciting World Series in recent history.
Both Toronto and Chicago have the ability to make dramatic comebacks with their offensive firepower, and the fact that both teams play three games on their home turf. It won’t be easy and it is not impossible, but as Joe Maddon likes to preach to his Cubs, play one game at a time and put together some one-game winning streaks.
Winning the pennant after trailing two games to none has proven to be a colossal task through the last 46 years, but for the Cubs and Blue Jays, there is hope.
Mets pitching is getting its due respect with dominating performances in the postseason. With their advancement into the League Championship Series against the Cubs, much of the talk has been about Chicago’s youth and power, not to mention the arms of Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta taking the mound in the first two games of the series.
Lester was outdueled by Matt Harvey as the Mets right-hander allowed only two runs in 7.2 innings while fanning nine and surrendering only four hits in New York’s 4-2 win in Game 1. “I wanted to put to rest the talk that has been surrounding me over the last month or so,” Harvey said regarding his pitch count and number of innings pitched following his Tommy John surgery that shelved him for the 2014 season. “I felt strong. I had good command of all my pitches and I wanted to go deep into the game.”
Harvey’s solid outing brought his season total of innings pitched to 202 and he looked as good as he has all year, which will bode well for manager Terry Collins and the Mets to have a reenergized Harvey in New York's rotation for the remainder of the postseason.
In Game 2 of the series, right-handed flame thrower Noah Syndergaard took center stage among rookies by going 5.2 innings and allowing only one run and striking out nine batters in the Mets’ 4-1 victory—holding opposing first-year Cubs players to a 2-for-8 performance with five strikeouts. Syndergaard fanned Kyle Schwarber all three times he faced him and Javier Baez in both of his at-bats. Kris Bryant was the only Chicago rookie who had success against the hard throwing righty (known to Mets fans as Thor) by going 2-for-3 with an RBI double.
Syndergaard suffered his first big league loss to the Cubs last May 12 when Chicago collected six hits, four walks and three runs while going down on strike six times. But Syndergaard is not the same pitcher he was in his debut five months ago.
“We made a lot of improvements,” he said since his first major league start. “We implemented a secondary changeup grip, which has allowed huge strides for my career. My mechanics are completely different. My mentality is a lot different. I have a lot more confidence in myself and getting myself out of certain situations.”
Syndergaard didn't allow the Cubs many scoring opportunities in Game 2 of the N.L. Championship Series and his dominance gave New York a two games to none lead before they head to Wrigley Field for the middle three games of the best-of-seven match.
The Mets are in the driver’s seat and are anticipating another strong outing from their most consistent starter during the regular season in Jacob deGrom. Good news for the Mets, bad news for the Cubs.
There are several players who had a fine showing in their major league rookie campaign in 2015. The future of major league baseball looks promising with such up-and-coming stars as Kris Bryant, Matt Duffy, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Stephen Piscotty, Joc Pederson, Addison Russell, Miguel Sano, Noah Syndergaard, Carlos Rodon, Chris Heston, Roberto Osuna, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler and Lance McCullers to name a few.
But the league Rookie of the Year awards should be given to Bryant of the Cubs in the N.L. and Correa of the Astros in the A.L.
Bryant led or tied all major league rookies in games (151), runs (87), doubles (31), home runs (26), and RBI (99). He also became only the second rookie in big league history to hit two grand slams and two walk-off home runs, matching the mark set by Wally Westlake of the Pirates in 1947.
Bryant is a star in the making who will blend in nicely as the face of MLB—with such stars as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper—with his impressive all-around play on the field and a personality that displays pure class.
The A.L. recipient for top rookie honors should go to Houston shortstop Carlos Correa, who at age 20 played like a veteran and displayed promise to become one of the game’s best players. In the 99 regular season games he played, the 6-4, 210-pound right-handed batter hit .279 with a .512 slugging percentage, 22 doubles, 22 home runs, 52 runs and 68 RBI. He is one of only six players to finish his rookie season in the majors with 20 or more homers before reaching the age of 21. The others to match this include Willie Mays, Eddie Mathews, Tony Conigliaro, Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton.
Correa’s defensive work is another promising tool as he displays the maturity to play such a demanding position with a strong arm, great range, quick hands and outstanding instincts.
Bryant and Correa should be easy choices for the league Rookie of the Year honors because they have the numbers to back it and the future to be two of the top all-around players in baseball.
The beauty of the game of baseball is its unpredictability and with the Chicago Cubs, few foresaw the club’s future as a powerhouse in the National League come so quickly. The Cubs not only ranked third among all major league clubs with 97 victories during the regular season, but they ousted the 98-game winning Pittsburgh Pirates in the N.L. Wild Card game before taking down the St. Louis Cardinals, who won 100 games during the year, in the N.L. Division Series three games to one.
The performance of the Cubs’ youthful core of players and its veteran leadership has Wrigleyville in a state of euphoria.
“Pretty impressive,” said manager Joe Maddon during a postgame interview after the Cubs blasted six home runs in Game 3—including three by rookies Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler—in the 8-6 victory. “You know, I know the wind was blowing out. We’ll concede that. But most of them were properly struck. We are definitely capable of that.”
Catcher Miguel Montero, 32, is the grandfather bear of this young Cubs lineup, Center fielder Dexter Fowler is next in line of seniority at age 29 followed by first baseman Anthony Rizzo, 26; second baseman Starlin Castro, 25; third baseman Kris Bryant, 23; shortstops Addison Russell, 21 and Javier Baez, 22; left fielder Kyle Schwarber, 22; and right fielder Jorge Soler, 23.
The play by these men is inspiring and certainly paints a bright future for ability to compete for the World Series title now and in years to come.
There have been moments, with a few defensive miscues by Chicago that have shown their greenness in the pressures of postseason play. But Maddon doesn’t worry about his player’s errors or the stress of playoff baseball as long as his players work hard and win.
“Only because we’ve been doing well,” Maddon said after asked it it’s an advantage to have young guys in their first playoff round so they don’t realize, get stressed out or worry about postseason pressure. “If we had not been doing well then this lack of experience would be working against us. That’s pretty much what’s happening right now. Whatever is happening right now, that’s going to read their impact or their reaction to the moment. I think obviously to this point our young guys; they’ve reacted to the whole season pretty well. Middle of the year we called up Kyle Schwarber, and he’s been like you saw in this series, he’s been like that all year.”
During his rookie campaign, Schwarber played 69 games and scored 52 runs with 16 homers and 43 RBI. He became 10th player in major league history to hit as many as 15 home runs in his first 51 big league games. In the postseason, he crushed a clutch home run to seal the Wild Card game and in the NLDS, he hit .500 (5-for-10) with two home runs that were instrumental in both Chicago victories at Wrigley Field. His homer in Game 3 gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the second inning. The blast he hit in the series clincher was moon shot that got lost over the right field scoreboard.
“It’s not how far the ball goes,” Schwarber said as he smiled in recalling his home run, “I’m just up there trying to make things happen, get a pitch and drive it. I got a pitch and put a good swing on it. It’s great to contribute; I mean we have so many guys on this club that can do so many things to help us win. This is a great team and we have so many good players who get along that it’s fun to come to the park every game to play baseball.”
The excitement the Cubs display during the game and in the dugout is refreshing. Young men showing how to play the game and have so much fun with the success they are having. Hats off to the many veteran players—pitchers Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, utilityman Chris Coghlan, catchers Montero and David Ross—who have guided Rizzo into a leadership role and have helped the focus of rookies Schwarber, Bryant, Russell, Baez and Soler to flourish in the light of big expectations and have fun doing it.
The winning atmosphere that has been created by president Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer and Maddon and his coaching staff has taken its second step—advancing to the N.L. Championship Series. Now the opportunity to win a pennant is next and with the leadership of Maddon and the use of a deep roster, the Cubs are certainly up to the task.
The unity on this team is tremendous and the desire to win is evident—the Cubs are a force to be reckoned with now and in the future.
Bob Kuenster is editor of Baseball Digest and has worked for the publication since 1987 and is a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.