Eight biggest surprises from the 2016 MLB season

Eight biggest surprises from the 2016 MLB season

MLB

Eight biggest surprises from the 2016 MLB season

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Baseball fans didn’t see a stunning result in 2016 to the same extent that the political world experienced earlier this week, but MLB did have its share of pleasant and unpleasant surprises.

In terms of season-long individual performances, the following players either had years to remember…or years they just as soon would like to forget.

8. Bryce Harper

Just about any player in the league would kill for this end-of-season line: 24 homers, 24 doubles, 86 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. For Bryce Harper, coming off a spectacular NL MVP campaign (which included 42 round-trippers and 118 runs scored), more is expected.

Fortunately, he didn’t need to do as much to help his team succeed. While the 2015 Washington Nationals were supremely reliant on Harper, the 2016 version had a variety of key components.

So, as Daniel Murphy, Trea Turner and Max Scherzer helped lead the Nats to a division title, No. 34 was more in the shuffle than being an indispensable right fielder.

Just don’t expect that to continue next year.

7. Brian Dozier

Coming into 2016, Dozier was considered one of the best hitting second baseman. Exiting 2016, you might have to place him at the top.

However, it didn’t seem that was going to happen early on. Through May, he tallied just five home runs and was batting around .200. He improved steadily in June and July, only to turn it on significantly in August and September.

The last two months of the regular season saw Dozier compile 23 homers—bringing his final total to 42. Only Mark Trumbo and Nelson Cruz had more. On top of that, he drove in 99 runs and had 35 doubles. At least something good happened for Minnesota.

6. Kyle Hendricks

On Tuesday, he was the players’ choice as the National League Outstanding Pitcher. Soon, Hendricks could have a Cy Young Award to go with that, and a championship ring.

Hendricks, in his third big-league season, started solid and finished strong (much like Arrieta did in ’15). He ended the 2016 regular season with a career-high (and NL best) 2.13 ERA, 190 innings pitched, 170 strikeouts and 16 wins. His WHIP (0.98) was second in the league behind Max Scherzer.

What he accomplished over the course of the season, he carried over into the playoffs, posting outstanding performances in the NLCS clincher as well as two crucial World Series outings.

5. Jason Heyward

Sometimes performing far below expectations can be obscured when your club—blessed with so much talent in the lineup—does so well.

Despite being part of a 103-win team, Heyward’s struggles became well-known—especially because he inked an eight-year, $184 million deal when he joined the Chicago Cubs this past off-season following a season in St. Louis.

Seven homers, 49 RBIs and a .230 batting average equals money not well spent regardless of how good he is defensively.

The biggest impact he made in 2016 was the speech he gave to Cubs players during the World Series Game 7 rain delay. A talk that, many said, was vital in Chicago putting together the decisive two-run tenth inning.

4. Rick Porcello

Similar to Hendricks, the outstanding pitcher in the American League wasn’t even expected to be his own team’s No. 1 starter when the 2016 season began.

David Price garnered the majority of the headlines in Boston when he signed his mega-contract. Porcello, meanwhile, was coming off arguably his worst season – 15 losses and a 4.92 ERA.

So as the Red Sox brought home the AL East crown with a strong September push, they can credit much of their success to the 27-year-old right-hander who became MLB’s first pitcher to garner 20 victories, backed up by an ERA of 3.15, a league-leading WHIP of 1.009 and career-best 189 strikeouts.

3. Chris Archer

After a 2015 season in which he posted a 3.23 ERA, 252 strikeouts and made his first All-Star team, the signs pointed to Archer taking a major step forward in 2016.

Try two steps back, instead.

As the Rays sunk in the East, Archer was the victim of 19 defeats. No AL pitcher had more. His ERA rose to 4.02 and the amount of home runs hit against him went up 11 (19 to 30). The only positive sign? He improved his strikeout total, fanning 233.

Perhaps one way to turn things around for him in 2017 would be for the Tampa Bay Rays franchise to surround him with better talent—a topic Archer made readily clear on Thursday.

2. Adam Duvall

The Cincinnati Reds were devoid of much hope. Duvall was the lone exception.

He spent 2014 with the World Champion San Francisco Giants, yet only tallied three homers and five RBIs in 73 at-bats. The next year, he came to Cincinnati and (in 64 at-bats) only slugged five home runs and drove in nine.

Manager Bryan Price gave Duvall the chance to be a full-time player for a club willing to experiment. At age 27, all he did was knock 33 out of the park while tallying 103 RBIs—each of those totals among the top six in the National League.

We can safely say the experiment turned out to be a rousing success.

1. Shelby Miller

Perhaps he was better off in Atlanta.

Miller came to Arizona via trade with less fanfare than fellow incoming starter Zack Greinke. Eventually, the trade gained the lion’s share of the attention—but not in the way Miller or the D-backs would have liked.

By going 2-9 with a 7.14 ERA over the first three months, the pitcher who was expected to help carry a rotation was instead optioned to Triple-A Reno by mid-July. He returned to the majors, but it didn’t get much better: a record of 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and 11.3 hits per nine innings.

Oh, and about that trade? The D-backs sent 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, pitching prospect Aaron Blair and outfielder Ender Inciarte in exchange. For Arizona, the pain is just beginning.

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