Top 10 Data-Driven MLB stories – 2020 season

In a season as disrupted as the 2020 Major League Baseball campaign, we wanted to look back at the intriguing stories that emerged despite the stop-start schedule. Here at Sportradar, we recently launched our new game-changing Insights data tool that, with the support of our established cutting-edge Radar360 data analytics platform, has been able to help us surface historical pitching performances, break out performances from many young players, a dramatic postseason, and much more.

Here are the top 10 data-driven baseball stories to emerge from the 2020 MLB season.

1) A rare World Series matchup

Historic data showed that it was far from inevitable that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays would reach the World Series, despite the teams entering the postseason as the top two seeds.

It was only the second time in 25 years that the two teams with the best regular-season records reached the campaign’s grand finale. Before the 2013 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, you have to go back to 1995, when the number-two-ranked Atlanta Braves overcame the top-seeded Cleveland Indians:

Season: World Series Team 1: World Series Team 2:
2020 Los Angeles Dodgers, 43-17 (1st) Tampa Bay Rays, 40-20 (2nd)
2013 Boston Red Sox, 97-65 (t-1st) St. Louis Cardinals, 97-65 (t-1st)
1995 Cleveland Indians, 100-44 (1st) Atlanta Braves, 90-54 (2nd)

2) Big game hitter

Corey Seager was a driving force behind the Dodgers’ 4-2 triumph against the Rays, with two doubles and five home runs securing him the World Series Most Valuable Player (MVP) accolade.

In fact, as illustrated by the Insights MLB data tool, Seager surpassed Sandy Alomar Jr., David Ortiz, and Scott Spiezio to take second place in the rankings for MLB single-season playoffs runs batted in (RBI) with a total of 20, one short of the record set by David Freese:

Player: Team: Year: RBI:
David Freese St. Louis Cardinals 2011 21
Corey Seager Los Angeles Dodgers 2020 20
Sandy Alomar Jr. Cleveland Indians 1997 19
David Ortiz Boston Red Sox 2004 19
Scott Spiezio Anaheim Angels 2002 19

3) Snell’s Game 6 hook debate

Many felt that the decision to pull in-form Blake Snell during the sixth inning of Game 6 was premature, especially when the Dodgers went on to win the game and the World Series.

However, Snell’s performance data in the 2020 postseason offered a vital clue as to why the starting pitcher may have been hooked. Snell’s record contrasted sharply between the first four innings and the fifth onwards in the playoffs, as shown by the Insights intelligence below:

  Innings 1-4: Innings 5 onwards:
Innings pitched: 20.0 4.1
Earned run average: 1.35 (3) 12.46 (6)
Batting average against: .167 .368
On-base percentage: .273 .478
Slugging percentage: .258 .895
Home runs: 2 3

 4) Born slugger

Superstar San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. enjoyed a stunning breakout year to rank alongside the very best ever.

‘El Niño’ finished the season with the fourth-highest slugging percentage (SLG) by any player before turning 22 years old:

Player: SLG:
Ted Williams .604
Albert Pujols .600
Hal Trosky .590
Fernando Tatis Jr. .586

5) Rising star Soto

Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto sits just four places below Tatis Jr. on the SLG list above – and it is little surprise given the youngster’s performance statistics.

In his third MLB season, Soto recorded the highest SLG by a 21-year-old player ever at .695, helping him to the National League batting title with an average of .351:

Year: Player: Team: SLG:
2020 Juan Soto Nationals .695
1959 Willie McCovey Giants .656
1953 Eddie Mathews Braves .627
1929 Jimmie Fox Athletics .625
2001 Albert Pujols Cardinals .610

6) Bieber’s Triple Crown

Cleveland Indians ace Shane Bieber earned an MLB Triple Crown, becoming the first pitcher since Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins in 2006 and the first Indians player ever to lead the league standings in wins, strikeouts, and earned run average (ERA).

Bieber was also the first Indians pitcher from the team to lead the league in strikeouts at the end of August in half a century:

Season: Pitcher: Games: Strikeouts:
2020 Shane Bieber 7 75
1970 Sam McDowell 33 265
1968 Sam McDowell 31 239
1957 Early Wynn 36 169
1956 Herb Score 29 210

7) Opposites attract for DJ

New York Yankee’s second baseman DJ LeMahieu is one of the hottest properties in MLB, having forged a reputation as an outstanding hitter, with a .364 average and 10 home runs in 2020.

One of the reasons why he is so highly rated is that his hitting direction is difficult for the defensive team to guard against. For the second season in a row, the right-hander was unrivaled in collecting hits to the opposite field across the league:

Player: Team: Right-handed hits to the opposite field in 2020:
DJ LeMahieu New York Yankees 39
Eloy Jimenez Chicago White Sox 25
David Fletcher Los Angeles Angels 24

8) Abreu’s interleague excellence

Chicago White Sox veteran José Abreu won the American League’s MVP award, with his interleague play has been especially impressive.

More than half of his 19 homers – the second-best tally across MLB – came in interleague games, as shown by the data intelligence below, while the White Sox’s first baseman also led the American League in hits (76), SLG (.617), RBIs (60), and total bases (148):

Player: Team: Home runs in 2020 interleague play:
José Abreu Chicago White Sox 10
Manny Machado San Diego Padres 9
Kole Calhoun Arizona Diamondbacks 8
Teoscar Hernández Toronto Blue Jays 8
Cody Bellinger Los Angeles Dodgers 7

9) Freeman’s monster season

Over in the National League, Atlanta Braves star Freddie Freeman picked up the MVP title after a sensational season.

Sportradar’s data-driven Insights tool shows that he became just the fifth player in the expansion era to rank among the top three hitters in terms of runs scored, RBIs, and batting average (BA):

Season: Player: Team: Runs: RBI: BA:
1962 Frank Robinson Cincinnati Reds 134 (1) 136 (3) .342 (2)
1994 Jeff Bagwell Houston Astros 104 (3) 116 (1) .368 (2)
2000 Todd Helton Colorado Rockies 138 (2) 147 (1) .372 (1)
2012 Miguel Cabrera Detroit Tigers 109 (2) 139 (1) .330 (2)
2020 Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 51 (1) 53 (3) .341 (3)

10) Trout’s place among the all-time greats

Some believe Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout will one day be considered as the best player ever. The baseball statistics show he is already well on the way to such a status, with a remarkable consistency that places him comfortably alongside the game’s all-time greats.

Trout wrapped up his ninth consecutive season with an on-base plus slugging (OPS) score of at least .900. Only the legendary Jimmie Foxx has had a longer streak of .900 OPS campaigns before his age-30 season:

Player: Streak: Start: End:
Jimmie Foxx 11 1927 1937
Hank Aaron 9 1955 1963
Albert Pujols 9 2001 2009
Mike Trout 9 2012 2020
Ty Cobb 8 1909 1916
Mickey Mantle 8 1954 1961
Frank Thomas 8 1990 1997

After 17 home runs in the shortened 2020 season, a repeat next year of his career-high 45 homers in 2019 would take Trout into the top 100 MLB career home run leaders. Through Insights, Sportradar’s media customers will have the chance to automatically alert their consumers when such a milestone is reached – illustrating the power of the data tool’s baseball storytelling capabilities.

Insights

Official MLB data provider Sportradar has created a real-time data tool that enables dynamic baseball stories to be told before, during, and after games, bringing fans closer to the action.

From enhancing excitement ahead of the pivotal pitches to providing timely reminders of milestone moments, Insights can offer a data-driven baseball narrative in real-time that boosts fan engagement.

Get in touch to learn more about how our game-changing data tools can enhance the experience for your audience.