2015 Regular Season Review – NL Edition

Following up from yesterday’s post on the AL, here’s an NL team-by-team rundown of statistical tidbits from the 2015 season.

More after the jump.

NL East

The Mets had 50 losses at the end of July and 90 wins at the end of the season, joining the Blue Jays as division winners with that same mid-season correction to the upside. Their four pitchers (Bartolo ColonJacob deGromMatt HarveyNoah Syndergaard) with 150 IP and BB/9 under 2.0 are tied for the most ever on one team, matching last season’s Dodgers and Nationals. Before that, you have to go back to the 1935 Pirates to find such a team.

For the third time in four years, the Nationals had four pitchers (Gio GonzalezMax ScherzerStephen StrasburgJordan Zimmermann) with 20+ starts, 10+ wins, a winning record and a 105 ERA+, yet still finished only four games above .500. Part of the reason why was having four batters (Ian DesmondDanny EspinosaWilson RamosMichael Taylor) with 100 strikeouts and OPS+ below 95, to follow the 2014 Astros and 2012 Blue Jays as the only such teams. Bryce Harper stayed healthy and turned in one of all-time great seasons by the 22-and-under crowd, placing 2nd in walks, OPS and OPS+, third in WAR, OBP and SLG, and fourth in home runs, among seasons by players so young.

The Marlins were without their best hitter and best pitcher for most of the season, and it showed. Giancarlos Stanton‘s 27 home runs were the most ever in as few PAs (318) and Jose Fernandez again showed the form of his debut campaign, posting a 6-1 record and allowing two runs or less in 8 of his 11 starts. But, when they weren’t available, Miami had to give 153 games to 41 year-old Ichiro Suzuki (only Pete Rose and Honus Wagner have more games that old), and could find just two pitchers able to exceed Fernandez’s win total in his abbreviated season (instead, the Marlins got 2 to 5 wins from 14 different hurlers, just one fewer than the all-time high of 15 by the 2003 Reds, 2012 Padres and 2014 Yankees).

The Braves finished the season on an upswing, going 10-5 over the final two weeks. Good thing, as they were coming off a 6-30 run for the six preceding weeks. But, those sorts of things happen when your team is the first ever to have 6 pitchers (Mike FoltynewiczShelby MillerWilliams PerezJulio TeheranMatt WislerAlex Wood) aged 24 or younger with 15 or more starts. It certainly didn’t help those young arms that this was the first Brave team since 1942 to have no players score or drive in 75 runs in a full-length season.

The Phillies underwent a long overdue overhaul and the results weren’t pretty. Last season, a major league record four players aged 34 or older logged over 600 PA. This year, only one player that old (Ryan Howard) had even 300 PA. Now they have to work on a pitching staff that was anchored this year by 37 year-old Aaron Harang, with his 6-15 record and 4.86 ERA. At the other end of the rotation were four younger arms (David BuchananAdam MorganAaron NolaSean O’Sullivan) who started 10+ games and allowed 10+ home runs in less than 85 IP, tied with the 1996 A’s and 2002 Blue Jays for the most such pitchers on one team, and twice as many as any previous Phillies squad.

NL Central

The Cardinals had 5 pitchers (Jaime GarciaJohn LackeyLance LynnCarlos MartinezMichael Wacha) make 20 starts and compile a winning record with double-digit wins. It was the third such Redbirds team since 2000, compared to only 10 other such teams over that period for everyone else. Add in a 115 ERA+ for each of those pitchers and these Cardinals become only the 3rd such team since 1901, following the 1944 Pirates and the WS champion 1907 Cubs.

The Pirates got 150 games and 30 doubles from each of their under-30 outfielders (Starling MarteAndrew McCutchenGregory Polanco) to become only the third such team since 1901, following the 2011 Royals and 1996 Indians. This was the Pirates 6th team (3rd since 2007) with no players aged 30 or older having 250 PA. Different story on the mound where 91 of the team’s starts went to pitchers older than 30, including 38 year-old A.J. Burnett who turned in a career best qualified 121 ERA+ to earn his first All-Star selection.

The Cubs won their last 8 games and 22 of their last 30 to reach 97 wins for the season, matching their total from 2008. Before that season, the Cubs last won 97 or more games as NL champions in 1945. Jake Arrieta‘s 1.77 ERA is the best of the live ball era by a Cub pitcher winning 20 games, while his 4.92 SO/BB ratio in a 20 win season trails only Clayton Kershaw and  Sandy Koufax. Eight Cubs had at least 90 strikeouts as Chicago and Seattle became the third and fourth such teams, following the 2013 Twins and last year’s Cubbies.

The Brewers had no players with 150 hits in a full-length season for the first time since the franchise’s inaugural 1969 campaign as the Seattle Pilots. Newcomer Adam Lind led the team in games, doubles, RBI and walks, while grounding into only 7 double plays. The last result, representing less than 1.5% of ABs, gave Lind the first such 3 WAR season by a Brewer first baseman since Cecil Cooper grounded into just 4 double plays (0.6% of ABs) for the 1982 AL champs.

The Reds won just once in their last 15 contests to reach 98 losses for the season, a total surpassed in Cincinnati only in 1934 and 1982. Joey Votto‘s 135 strikeouts were the third highest total for a player with more walks than whiffs. Fifteen of his free passes were intentional for the fourth time in Votto’s career, one time less than Frank Robinson‘s franchise record 5 seasons.

NL West

The Dodgers had two pitchers (Zack GreinkeClayton Kershaw) with 200 strikeouts, H/9 under 7.0 and BB/9 under 2.0, to become the first such team in major league history. Kershaw’s 300 strikeout season was the first by a Dodger since Sandy Koufax in 1966. Joc Pederson‘s TTOs (walks, strikeouts or home runs) in 49.2% of PAs was the highest result ever in a qualified (modern definition) rookie season, edging out Kris Bryant with his 46.5% score for the Cubs.

The Giants got more than 40 RBI from none of their outfielders for the first time in franchise history, and only the twelfth time (including three in the past two seasons) in a live ball era full-length season.  Madison Bumgarner became the third pitcher in Giant history (following Christy Mathewson and Juan Marichal) to post a 6.0 SO/BB ratio in a qualified season.

The Diamondbacks got a qualified .300 BA from each of their outfielders (Ender InciarteDavid PeraltaA.J. Pollock), a franchise first. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt are also the first pair of D-Backs to bat .300 with 100 runs scored, 20 home runs and 75 RBI. Less promising was second baseman Chris Owings whose SO to OPS+ ratio of just under 2.5 was the highest in a qualifying season (modern definition) with fewer than 5 home runs since Jim Levey‘s 68 whiffs and 24 OPS+ for the 1933 Browns. The pitching staff is still a work in progress with only one qualifying starter (Rubby De La Rosa), whose 14-9 record was the best W-L% in the rotation even though his 87 ERA+ was the worst. Conversely, Robbie Ray‘s .294 W-L% (5-12 record) was the worst of the starters, despite having the best ERA+ (Ray’s 116 ERA+ ranks in the top 10 by live ball era starters with W-L% under .300 in 100+ IP seasons. Shelby Miller‘s 124 ERA+ for the Braves is second on that list).

The Padres got 100 RBI from newcomer Matt Kemp, the first Friar to walk less than 40 times in such a season. Two San Diego pitchers (Andrew CashnerIan Kennedy) started 30 games and lost 15 times with an ERA+ of 85 or less, only the second time that has happened and the first since 1974.

The Rockies got 600 PA from four players (Nolan ArenadoCharlie BlackmonCarlos GonzalezDJ LeMahieu) under 30 years old. It was only the second time for Colorado with that apparently positive result, but the bad news was all of them struck out 100 times and none had more than 50 walks, making these Rox the first team ever with four such players on its roster. Colorado had no pitchers with 30 starts or with 10 wins, the third time that has happened in the franchise’s 23 seasons. Only three other franchises (Phillies, Cubs and Padres) have more such seasons.

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Richard Chester
Richard Chester
5 years ago

The Phillies were the first team ever to not have a pitcher with more than 6 wins. That includes all shortened years.

oneblankspace
oneblankspace
5 years ago

Cole Hamels had 6 wins in 20 starts for the Phillies when they sent him to Texas. He then got 7 wins in 12 starts for the Rangers.

Ed Herzog
Ed Herzog
5 years ago

Greinke and Arrieta were the first pair of National League pitchers to post ERA’s under 2.00 in the same season since Gooden and Tudor in 1985.

Mark
Mark
5 years ago

Ack, you guys seem to have dropped off of RSS feed updating! Maybe it’s just me, but even after re-adding in my own reader (Feedly), the last post appears to be the Circle of Greats 1885 Balloting (a ha, even going up there and clicking on “Subscribe to: RSS feed” it shows the same), and I came to the main site itself to see a handful of posts since. I know there aren’t constant posts these days, but the point is I’m such a fan of the site that I don’t want to miss any content!

Doug
Doug
5 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Glad to have you here on the main site, Mark.

We’ll try to get the RSS feed working again.

Kahuna Tuna
Kahuna Tuna
5 years ago

The 2015 Cardinals’ 135 team ERA+ ties the 1942 Cardinals for the best NL team ERA+ of the live-ball era (the 1926 Athletics were at 139, which is the AL record). No team has posted a season ERA+ of 140 or higher since the 1905-09 Cubs. Of the 16 teams that have registered a team ERA+ above 130, only six have won the World Series: the 1907 Cubs, 1910 Athletics, 1939 Yankees, 1942 Cardinals, 1944 Cardinals, and 1954 Giants. Five of the 16 didn’t make it to the Series: 1905 and 1909 Cubs, 1926 Athletics, and the Braves of 1997… Read more »

Kahuna Tuna
Kahuna Tuna
5 years ago
Reply to  Doug

So the 2015 World Series will either be the first one ever to match up two expansion teams, which would be merely historic, or one involving the Cubs, which would be sensational if not actually cataclysmic.

Got my comfy chair—let’s go.

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
5 years ago

Too many big swings?

Finalists in the Home Run Derby, before and after:

Joc
.230 / .364 / .487 / .851
.178 / .317 / .300 / .617

20HR / 40 RBI
6 HR / 14 RBI

Todd
.284 / .337 / .585 / .922
.220 / .274 / .390 / .664

25 HR / 57 RBI
10 HR / 32 RBI

brp
brp
5 years ago

The Reds’ finish might be somewhat attributed by them running nothing but rookie pitchers out there the last 50+ games, or whatever it wound up being:

http://m.mlb.com/news/article/148766880/reds-gets-record-42nd-straight-start-by-rookie

But if you’re not going to win anyway, why not?

Paul E
Paul E
5 years ago

I believe Greinke’s 225 ERA+ is the greatest ever in a qualified age 31 season. His last three years with the Dodgers have netted a 156 ERA+. That’s good for 11th all-time for starters age 29-31 with 600 IP.
I believe he has the right to opt-out of his contract. The Dodgers will probably offer him 7 years at 30M / season to keep him put. Good for them

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
5 years ago
Reply to  Paul E

It is. Previous record holder is Lefty Grove with 217 in 1931.

brp
brp
5 years ago
Reply to  Paul E
Kahuna Tuna
Kahuna Tuna
5 years ago
Reply to  brp

I lift this appeal on high: May it never make literal sense to say “Greinke the Yankee.”

mosc
mosc
5 years ago

musings that amuse only me: Consecutive years as a “winning” team (above .500): TOR 2013 2 NYY 1992 23 BAL 2015 0 TBR 2015 0 BOS 2015 0 KCR 2012 3 MIN 2014 1 CLE 2012 3 CHW 2015 0 DET 2015 0 TEX 2014 1 HOU 2014 1 LAA 2013 2 SEA 2015 0 OAK 2015 0 NYM 2014 1 WSN 2011 4 MIA 2015 0 ATL 2015 0 PHI 2015 0 STL 2007 8 PIT 2012 3 CHC 2014 1 MIL 2015 0 CIN 2015 0 LAD 2010 5 SFG 2013 2 ARI 2015 0 SDP 2015 0… Read more »

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
5 years ago
Reply to  mosc

The first line is Zack Greinke’s slash line as a batter and the second is his opponents’ slash line against him.

mosc
mosc
5 years ago

I find the BB/9 particularly interesting. As a pitcher, Greinke draws more walks than his opponents do per AB.

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
5 years ago

Here’s Kershaw:

.195 / .238 / .283 / .521
.161 / .213 / .209 / .422
_________________________

And here are the Pitcher OPS leaders over the last 3 years
(min 100 PA):

.657 … Zack
.617 … Bumgarner
.584 … Travis Wood
.551 … Henderson Alvarez
.495 … Tyson Ross
.458 … Jacob deGrom
.452 … Mike Leake
.451 … Hyun-jin Ryu

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
5 years ago
Reply to  Voomo Zanzibar

I listed Kershaw backwards.
That 2nd line is what he hit.