Some players are happy the regular season is in the rearview mirror, but there are also plenty that will look back on the past six months fondly, hoping they can carry that momentum into 2019.
Baseball is a game defined by peaks and valleys, with the goal always being to maximize the peaks while minimizing the valleys as much as humanly possible. Plenty had an opportunity to make an impact this year, but some took more advantage of it than others. The following 10 players — five hitters and five starting pitchers — have managed to separate themselves from the pack in the best way possible throughout their respective 162-game schedules.
Five Best Hitters of 2018
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).
Mike Trout finds himself on top of yet another impressive list. The sky is also blue, just in case you were wondering. Back on Opening Day, we wondered if the young outfielder could keep improving his plate discipline. While his 20.4% strikeout rate increased for the first time since 2014, his 20.1% walk rate improved for the fourth consecutive season, and it also led the league among qualified hitters.
Trout won the wRC+ war, but Mookie Betts won the fWAR…war. After flirting with it in 2016 and 2017, the Boston Red Sox outfielder finally joined the 30-30 club thanks to his 32 dingers and 30 stolen bases. A chunk of this success can be attributed to career-best marks in line-drive rate (21.2%), pull rate (47.2%), soft-hit rate (12.2%), and hard-hit rate (44.5%).
Making these lists is always better with a teammate, right? J.D. Martinez was a massive hit during his first year in Beantown. With a second consecutive 40-homer campaign under his belt, he’s now slugged 88 homers in 1,138 plate appearances since the start of 2017. His .655 slugging percentage during that time leads all of baseball. Trout comes in second at .629, but they’re the only two with a mark over .600.
Christian Yelich doesn’t only appear to be the National League MVP front runner, but he automatically gets extra dap for being the only player here from the Senior Circuit. His 36 homers stand out for obvious reasons — he did that in just 655 plate appearances, but needed 1,354 trips to the plate between 2016-17 to hit 39 dingers for the Miami Marlins. Miller Park has been good to him. It’s also worth noting that the only month in which Yelich posted a hard-hit rate below 45.0% was May (and it was still 38.8%).
If the American League wasn’t so crowded at the top, Alex Bregman would get more love for MVP. Whatever love he does get, though, is well deserved. Among pitches he saw at least 200 times this year (four-seamer, two-seamer, slider, changeup, cutter, curveball, sinker), his lowest wRC+ was 123, which came against the cutter. None of the others fell below 150.