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:
|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:|
|Earned run average:||1.35 (3)||12.46 (6)|
|Batting average against:||.167||.368|
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:
|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:
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:
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):
|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:
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.
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.