Homers flying, strikeouts piling up so far in 2016 season
By Matt Kelly
The 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard is officially in the books, with the American League's 4-2 victory adding another chapter to the storied history of the Midsummer Classic. The All-Star break gives players and fans alike a brief moment of rest before the dog days of summer and the ensuing stretch run into October. It also gives us a chance to reflect on all the amazing moments and accomplishments that have taken place in a wild season thus far.
Here are 10 stats and figures you should know about the first half of the 2016 season:
• In his farewell season, David Ortiz is doing things we've never seen a man his age do before. He is the oldest player to lead the Majors in extra-base hits at the All-Star break, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Ortiz's 72 RBIs, the second most in the Majors behind only Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion, are the most recorded by a player age 40 or older at the break. His 22 home runs make him the second oldest player to have at least 20 in the first half, behind 41-year-old Raul Ibanez's 24 for Seattle in 2013. And finally, Ortiz's 34 doubles are the most hit by any Red Sox player, regardless of age, in the first half of a season.
• So far, 2016 has seen the return of the home run in historic fashion. A total of 3,082 homers were hit in the first half this season, the second-highest total in history, behind only the first half of the 2000 season that saw 3,312 four-baggers hit. Furthermore, teams are averaging 1.16 home runs per game this year, just narrowly behind the pace set by that 2000 season (1.17) for the highest rate in Major League history, dating back to 1913.
• At the plate, the Baltimore Orioles are leading the loop with 137 homers, including a record 56 roundtrippers in June. If the O's maintain their homer-happy pace in the second half, they would be in range to surpass the 1997 Mariners' record of 264 home runs in a season. At its current pace, Baltimore would finish with 255, which would be the fifth-highest single-season total of all time.
For what it's worth, the Mariners (132 home runs) and Blue Jays (131) are right behind the O's, making this just the fourth time that at least three teams have tallied at least 130 homers before the All-Star break. The last occurrence came back in 2003.
• While Major League hitters are slugging balls out of the park, pitchers are evening the score with dramatic strikeout rates. Major League staffs have averaged 8.01 strikeouts per game so far in 2016, which would set a new single-season record for the ninth year in a row if teams maintain their current pace.
Leading the charge is Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who is striking out 36.6 percent of batters. That would be the third-highest strikeout rate by a qualified starter in MLB history, behind only Pedro Martinez in 1999 (37.5 percent) and Randy Johnson in 2001 (37.4 percent).
• Speaking of strikeouts, All-Star selection Max Scherzer made the trip to San Diego as the Majors' leader in strikeouts with 164. He's the first National League starter to tally at least that many strikeouts by the break since Arizona's Curt Schilling and Johnson notched 186 and 171 punchouts, respectively, in the first half of the 2002 season.
Scherzer's 164 whiffs are the most in the first half by any pitcher in Nationals and Expos franchise history, dating back to 1969.
• Dellin Betances led all relievers with 78 strikeouts in the first half of 2016, tying Brad Lidge ('04) and Carlos Marmol ('10) for the most strikeouts by a pitcher with less than 50 innings pitched by the break.
• Washington has a six-game lead in the NL East. That's the biggest divisional lead in franchise history, dating back to the Expos' first season in 1969. The Nationals' success against their rivals has been keyed by second baseman Daniel Murphy, who is hitting an incredible .423 against the team with whom he spent the first seven seasons of his career. According to Elias, Murphy's seven homers and 21 RBIs against the Mets are both the most by a player at the All-Star break against a team for which he played in the previous season.
• A total of four triple plays were turned in the first half of 2016 -- three of them by the Chicago White Sox. In just 86 games, the White Sox became the first team since 1979 to pull off three triple plays in an entire season. The 1979 Athletics equaled the White Sox in turning all three of their triple plays before the All-Star break; the '79 Red Sox waited until July 28 to complete their trio.
• Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager went to the All-Star Game in his first full Major League season, but that's not the only impressive thing the Los Angeles rookie has accomplished thus far in 2016. Seager, who turned 22 in April, leads the Dodgers with 105 hits, 17 home runs and a .297 batting average. According to Elias, he is the first rookie player to lead his team in those three categories at the All-Star break since 24-year-old Wally Joyner led the 1986 Angels with 109 hits, 20 homers and a .313 average.
• No examination of this year's first half would be complete without an acknowledgement of what Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw put together. Though he's currently recuperating from a sore back, his first-half WHIP of 0.73 is the lowest of any pitcher with at least 15 starts dating back to 1913. Kershaw's strikeout-to-walk ratio is also a ridiculous 16.11-to-1, the highest first-half rate of any starter in modern history -- and almost a full two punchouts higher than second-place Schilling's 14.31 ratio in 2002.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.