An ode to the 2017 Major League Baseball season: Year of the homers and juggernauts
Let's take a walk back through the 2017 season
The 2017 Major League Baseball regular season concluded on Sunday. Unfortunately, no races went down to the wire and instead we were caught watching individual milestones on the last day.
By no means is this an all-inclusive look, because far too much happens over the course of the 2,400-plus games in the regular season, but let's take a look back at some of the biggest stories of the season.
The month of Thames
It's easy to say something about how "time flies" and it seems like just yesterday that the season started. On the flip-side, this nugget here gives a good idea as to how much a marathon the MLB season is. Remember when Brewers first baseman Eric Thames did a Barry Bonds impression for about a month?
Upon return to the majors from South Korea, Thames hit .371/.482/.929 with 11 homers through the first 20 games of the season. He was still slashing .333/.439/.744 with nine doubles and 13 home runs through 32 games. There were no holes in his zone, either. If a pitcher missed a spot, the ball got crushed. He was so good that he was reportedly getting tested for PEDs on a regular basis..
Thames obviously cooled off significantly, but on the balance had a good season.
Still, his ridiculous start was one of the more memorable things about the early-going in 2017.
The juggernaut Astros
The Astros have won 100 games for just the second time in franchise history. They've also been on cruise control in the AL West for most of the season thanks to a historic start.
They were actually 4-4 through eight games and then it was on. The Astros would win 38 of their next 50 games. It was a stretch that included winning streaks of five, four, five, four and 11.
The. Only two other teams in the last 30 years got out to such a great start.
Also, those same Astros went 21-8 in September/October, too. Their work might not be done.
Court in session
Yankees rookie Aaron Judge electrified baseball for much of the season, notably the first half. The 6-foot-7 beast of a man was the toast of baseball heading into the All-Star break at .329/.448/.691 with 30 homers and 66 RBI. He has such easy power to all fields and due to having so much power, he can leave the yard without even totally "getting it" on a given pitch. For a stretch, it looked like Judge would lead the majors in homers and possibly top 60.
Then came the slump. Post-All-Star break, Judge was pretty bad through August.
He woke up in the last month, though, hitting .311/.463/.889 with 15 homers and 32 RBI in September, good for his best month of the season. He will win AL Rookie of the Year and possibly the MVP (though my bet is on Altuve). He's also set the rookie record for home runs in a season.
The juggernaut Dodgers
The Dodgers were mediocre for a stretch to open the season, starting 10-12. They would win 10 of their next 12, but were still not fully firing until after they lost three straight through June 6. They sat at 35-25, which is very good. Things just elevated to the next level after that, though.
The Dodgers would then win six in a row before a loss. Then they won 10 in a row. A bit later they won 11 in a row. Then after two losses, they won nine more in a row. They just kept winning. It was absurd. Between June 6 and Aug. 26, the Dodgers won like almost no other team ever has. They were 56-11. For context's sake, that's a 162-game pace of 135(!) wins. They didn't lose a single series in that stretch.
Though there was disappointment since, it doesn't really matter now. The Dodgers end the season with the most wins in baseball at 104.
What's remarkable during the stretch is that the Dodgers were dealing with injury adversity throughout. They still wound up getting huge production from people like NL Rookie of the Year to be Cody Bellinger. Kenley Jansen is the best closer in baseball. Clayton Kershaw missed time with injury, but he's still the best pitcher in baseball. Alex Wood was unbeatable for a bit. Rich Hill has looked like an ace at times. Yasiel Puig has become an outstanding defender. Justin Turner was hitting .390 heading into July. Chris Taylor has become a stud.
It's just an incredibly deep and talented roster. For a stretch, they were the baseball team version of The Terminator.
Stanton's smashing season
For years, we dreamed about what Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton could do in a full, injury-free season. We finally saw it happen and it kicked into overdrive after the All-Star break. He ends with 59 home runs and 132 RBI, leading the majors in both. He might win MVP.
Remarkably, Stanton "only" had 21 home runs through the first three months. He then clubbed 12 in July, 18 in August and eight in September. He tied the MLB record for home runs in August. We won't soon forget this season from Stanton, unless he tops it in the near future, which is entirely possible.
The year of the home run
It wasn't just Stanton, Bellinger and Judge crushing the ball this season. We saw J.D. Martinez get to 45 homers despite missing the first six weeks of the season. We could use so many more examples, but this was truly the year of the home run. The 2017 season set an MLB record for collective home runs with 12 days left in the season. The record has been obliterated, as the 2017 season saw 6,104 home runs. The previous high was 5,693 (2000).
Unfortunately, the six division winners were rather predictable. I can personally attest, as I correctly predicted all six and I didn't even think it was difficult.
There were, however, several surprise contenders. The Brewers hung around and weren't even eliminated from contention until the second-to-last day of the season. How about the Twins? They are the first team in MLB history to make the postseason one year after losing 100-plus games.
The Diamondbacks have won 93 games and will host the NL Wild Card Game one year after losing 93 games and making significant organizational changes. The Rockies are back in the postseason for the first time since 2009.
While it might not have happened at the top, there were definitely some pleasant surprises.
Mega trades, even in August
MLB teams weren't shy about making blockbuster trades this season, and some huge ones even happened in August, where waivers are involved.
Justin Verlander is pitching like an ace down the stretch for the ... Astros? Seeing him not in a Tigers uniform has been a shock to the system for sure. He was dealt on Aug. 31 at the last minute, too. That's amazing.
We've also seen big-time names like J.D. Martinez, Yu Darvish, David Robertson and Jose Quintana traded. Even going a little bit lower, there's Todd Frazier, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Jay Bruce, Neil Walker, Eduardo Nunez, Jaime Garcia (twice!) and several others. It's been a wild year for trades.
The juggernaut Indians
Only one team in baseball history has ever had a longer winning streak than the 2017 Cleveland Indians, who won 22 in a row.
In all, the Indians have won the second-most games in franchise history at 102, trailing only the 1954 Indians, who won 111 games.
The Indians carry the longest World Series championship drought in the sport, as they haven't won it all since 1948. This is one of their best teams since then. In fact, this team is far better than last year's version and that one went to extras in Game 7 of the World Series against the obvious best team in baseball.
The powerhouse playoffs
We've mentioned the Astros, Dodgers and Indians. All three have won 100 games this season, making 2017 just the sixth season ever with three 100-win teams. The Nationals are again stellar with 97 wins. The defending champion Cubs went 49-25 with a +127 run differential since the All-Star break. That record is the best in the NL by four games since the break. The Red Sox are the worst AL division winner, but they won one of the toughest divisions and are clearly a capable ballclub.
The Yankees and Diamondbacks are wild cards with talented enough rosters to win the World Series, too.
There weren't any great races down the stretch and that's due in part to how top-heavy the league has been this season. That means we're staring at some seriously heavyweight playoff series.
Already in the divisional series, we'll see the Nationals and Cubs face off along with the Astros and Red Sox. The Indians could be hosting the Yankees while the Dodgers face either the Rockies or D-Backs. All four series should be well played, competitive and dramatic.
Just imagine if the Dodgers, Indians, Astros, Nationals, Red Sox and Cubs are all playing at top capacity in the postseason. That's some serious talent.
The 2017 regular season was a fun one, but the best is yet to come. There are some true titans in this postseason.
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