On Wednesday night, the San Francisco Giants secured their third World Series title in five seasons, ending any debates about who the dominant franchise of the 2010s truly is. They won the Wild Card and played best in the highest stakes October moments. Whether that makes them the best team is up for debate, but they've won the crown and set the bar for other 29 clubs. But the 2014 season was much more that just The Giants' Year. The 2014 season was a rich story with many protagonists and plot twists. Because we're a site that likes numbers and stats and acronyms, we bring you the numbers that defined the year. Cue the montage with the Top 40 pop song, it's going to get dusty in here.
5. Phil Hughes' K/BB
Hughes was always one of those "what-if" players who had tons of prospect hype but never really found his way into the upper echelons of the game. After 2013, he got the heck out of Yankee Stadium and signed a three-year pact with the Twins. While the roomier park certainly helped his overall line, Hughes' move to simply stop throwing the ball outside the strike zone was one of the most mesmerizing aspects of the 2014 season.
In fact, while K/BB isn't our favorite way to display those two numbers, Hughes posted the best K/BB rate ever (11.63). Ever. We know that something like K%-BB% is a better representation of the two numbers, but that doesn't change the insane walk rate or the fact that Hughes filled the zone in way we haven't really season much in the last few years.
4. Victor Martinez's K% and SLG
Rick Osentoski/USA Today
In early 2013, Victor Martinez couldn't buy a hit to save his life, but around late June he started to find his balance and finished strong. That carried over into 2014, but something funny happened along the way. He started hitter for crazy power without sacrificing contact.
He led qualified hitters with a 6.6 K% (3rd in Contact%) and was second to Jose Abreu with a .565 SLG. Michael Brantley was the only hitter with a single digit strikeout rate to show up in the top 40 in slugging percentage and to find a hitter with such a low strikeout rate and high slugging percentage, you need to find your way back to peak Albert Pujols.
3. Josh Harrison's WAR
Charles LeClaire/USA Today
Josh Harrison made the All-Star team, which is cute because he looked like one of those first half rock stars who probably didn't belong but nobody wanted to leave out. But he didn't fall apart down the stretch and wound up being one of the most valuable players in the game when all was said and done.
He posted a 4.9 fWAR in 550 PA despite a career 1.2 fWAR in 575 prior. The increase was mostly BABIP driven but all of a sudden Steamer thinks he's a 3 win player next year after entering the year as a nice utility player. Is Harrison a star? Probably not. But did he have one of the most surprising and fun seasons? You bet.
2. Clayton Kershaw's K%
Clayton Kershaw was the best pitcher last year. And then, this year, he got better. Chief among those improvements was his strikeout rate spike. In his career, he was a 25-27 K% guy and then all of a sudden he struck out 32% of the batters he faced.
Kershaw is amazing at everything, but in what will likely prove to be the signature year of his potentially Hall of Fame resume, it was largely the story of a great pitcher getting even more outs that didn't require his defense.
1. Alex Gordon's UZR
Peter Aiken/USA Today
If you're looking for the statistic that most defined the 2014 season, it has to be Alex Gordon's UZR (or DRS). Defensive metrics were a hot topic this year because of Gordon's huge numbers in LF and their impact on his WAR total (he was ahead of Trout for a week), which led to a sabermetric dust-up of sorts.
But it wasn't just that battle, it was how important outfield defense was in general to the upstart Royals. They went on a deep postseason run because they got to everything in the outfield and Alex Gordon's mastery of left field. He put together a 25 UZR and 27 DRS in 2014 and while those numbers are probably not indicative of his true talent, it will be hard to think of this season without thinking about the Royals, their defense, and the conversations they started.
Only five, dark months until Opening Day.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.
Neil Weinberg is the Associate Managing Editor at Beyond The Box Score, the Site Educator at FanGraphs, and can also be found writing enthusiastically about the Detroit Tigers at New English D. Follow @NeilWeinberg44