The time has come to look at the year in review and so, to cap off a brilliant regular season, here is a shortlist of the best and the worst hitters from 2019.
Best of the Best
With wRC+ as our measuring stick, these five hitters rose above the rest in the leaderboards (we’ve included a few other statistics for good measure). Well, look at that — a Mike Trout sighting. How weird, right? The only bummer about Trout’s 2019 season is that it was shortened in September by a trip to the injured list, which was noticed by those who had the bet365 NJ promo code. Other than that, he was up to his normal wizardry. His 11 stolen bases are the fewest he’s collected since 2015 (also 11), but he set a career high in home runs (45) while compiling 100-plus RBI (104) and runs scored (110) for just the third time.
One of the beautiful things to look at is Trout’s batted-ball profile — his 49.2% fly-ball rate is career high (while keeping his infield-fly rate below 10.0%) and his line-drive rate (26.6%) ended up being higher than his ground-ball rate (24.3%). Although we already talked more in depth about how great Christian Yelich was for the Milwaukee Brewers this year, his performance deserves another shoutout. He was extraordinary in all situations, but the reigning NL MVP went to another level at Miller Park.
Of his 44 homers, 27 came at home, and his home wRC+ (197) was substantially better than it was on the road (152). In yet another season of 100-plus wins for the Houston Astros, Alex Bregman was once again the anchor of an incredible lineup. Since becoming a full-time player in 2017, he’s improved each year in homers (19 to 31 to 41), RBI (71 to 103 to 112), walk rate (8.8% to 13.6% to 17.2%), strikeout rate (15.5% to 12.1% to 12.0%), wRC+ (123 to 156 to 168), and fWAR (3.5 to 7.6 to 8.5). So, yea, the future is bright for a dude that’s just 25 years old.
All Nelson Cruz does is hit dingers, which was the theme of the Minnesota Twins’ regular season. He led his new squad with 41 homers, which was the fourth time he’s reach at least 40 since 2014, and the first time since 2016. The 1.031 OPS Cruz posted is actually a single-season career-high mark, as was his absurd 52.5% hard-hit rate, which also led the league. The slugger’s performance on fly balls jumped from a 262 wRC+ in 2018 to 350 this past year, mostly because his soft-hit rate went from 17.5% to 12.2% while his hard-hit rate improved from 42.9% to 51.9%.
This list wouldn’t be complete without Cody Bellinger. His 7.8-fWAR performance in 660 plate appearances is more than what he did in the previous two years combined (7.6 fWAR in 1,180 plate appearances). It’d be just about impossible to keep up the 248 wRC+ and 1.398 OPS pace he had in March/April, but the worst month he produced in both categories came in September, when they settled in at 127 and .891, respectively.
And, the Worst
With wRC+ as our measuring stick, these five hitters separated themselves from the pack in the worst way possible (we’ve included a few other statistics for good measure).
Orlando Arcia has appeared in the big leagues for the Milwaukee Brewers in four different seasons (three full years). He’s produced a wRC+ higher than 65 and a positive fWAR just once, both of which came in the same year (86 wRC+ and 1.4 fWAR in 2017). His power did return after disappearing in 2018 by tying his career high with 15 homers. Arcia likely made this possible by posting career-best marks in ground-ball rate (51.4%), soft-hit rate (19.6%), and hard-hit rate (33.1%).
After proving to be a difference maker for the Tampa Bay Rays last year with a 118 wRC+ and 3.5 fWAR, Mallex Smithstruggled mightily in Seattle with marks of 74 and 0.0, respectively. And it’s not that his first-half performance was particularly great (81 wRC+ with a 24.5% soft-hit rate and 30.1% hard-hit rate), but his second-half performance was that much worse (65 wRC+ with a 25.6% soft-hit rate and 21.2% hard-hit rate).
Brandon Crawford‘s career arc is looking like someone who is approaching their mid-30s. Here are his yearly fWAR numbers since debuting in 2011: 0.4, 1.9, 2.2, 2.7, 4.3, 5.2, 2.2, 2.0, 0.4. His wRC+ progression almost mirrors that, with the 74 he ended up with in 2019 being his worst since becoming a full-time player in 2012. The struggle of hitting by the Bay is real, too — his road wRC+ (92) and OPS (.748), while not extraordinary, are much better than what he produced at home this past year (56 and .561, respectively).
The Chicago White Sox saw a handful of their players take a step forward in on-field development, but Yolmer Sanchezwasn’t one of them. His .069 ISO (nice) is actually the lowest it’s been since he posted a .050 mark through 104 plate appearances as a rookie in 2014. When looking at pitch splits, Sanchez had a tough time with four-seamers. Between 2015 and 2018, he produced at least a 130 wRC+ and a .120 ISO against that pitch three times. This year, those numbers settled in at 78 and .075, respectively.
Elvis Andrus‘ 31 stolen bases were the most he’s collected since 2013 when he swiped 42 bags, but it was the getting on base part that was a problem. He finished with a 76 wRC+ for the second straight year, which is unfortunate for many reasons, but also because he started the year so hot. After one month of play, he owned a 159 wRC+ and 1.008 OPS. His monthly wRC+ numbers from May to the end of the regular season were as follows, though: 37, 89, 15, 67, and 63.