The 2019 MLB season is technically far from over because the playoffs are just getting underway. But in reality, the majority of big-league organizations have already fully turned the page to the offseason and are gearing up for the next few months.
Some players are happy the regular season is in the rearview mirror, many of them already looking forward to march madness betting and other off-season extra curriculars, but there are also plenty that will look back on the past six months fondly, hoping they can carry that momentum into 2020.
For the hitters, we’re going to evaluate and rank their performances by wRC+, while we’ll be using fWAR as an all-encompassing stat to do the same thing for the starting pitchers. To be eligible for this list, the hitters needed to qualify for the batting title and the starting pitchers had to qualify for the ERA title.
Five Best Hitters of 2019
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. 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.