Major League Baseball has a lot of seemingly unbreakable records. Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak comes to mind. Once again, for the 73rd consecutive season, no player even came close to breaking that record. Orel Hershiser's 59 consecutive shutout innings streak also comes to mind. For what it's worth, a pair of Dodgers came within two complete games of tying that. Relatively speaking, that's still pretty distant.
While hitting streaks and shutout streaks are impressive, there are less 'legendary' plateaus that could be met this season. In 2015, a few players that the fans have watched all season long are remarkably close to setting amazing records of their own. Let's take a look at a couple.
The UZR/150 Title
Perhaps we need to rename this one to make it more marketable. Ultimate Player of the Year? Whatever you want to call it, Kevin Kiermaier currently sits second all-time in single-season UZR/150 with a minimum of 1000 innings in the same position. It is worth noting that if we remove the 1000 inning threshold Brett Gardner's 2010 campaign in right field still reigns supreme. Gardner had a UZR/150 that season of 45.8 while Kiermaier's is a pedestrian 41.4. Sarcasm aside, that is otherworldly.
Unfortunately though, Kiermaier is not on pace to eclipse the UZR title. With 26.3 runs saved, Kiermaier currently sits fifth and will almost definitely take fourth place in the coming days. Alfonso Soriano's 2007, Manny Machado's 2013, and Franklin Gutierrez's 2009 campaigns will be the difficult ones to beat. If Kiermaier's pace stays static and he plays all remaining innings for the Rays, he will finish with a UZR of 31.3. That would get Kiermaier just barely ahead of Machado's 31.2 but still behind Soriano's first-place mark of 32.0.
If UZR/150 were around prior to 2002, one has to wonder where other great outfielders like Willie Mays would fit. Wondering this is an exercise in futility. Don't let anything turn your focus away from perhaps the best defensive season you will ever see in your lifetime... until Kiermaier takes the field again in 2016.
The wRC+ Title
Tommy Gilligan - USA Today
Again, the Run Creation Title? Or could we please just make this statistic the governing one for the Batting Title? Clown question bro. Bryce Harper is finishing up his MVP-caliber season and will almost assuredly finish with the best wRC+ of the past decade. Of course, Barry Bonds' 2001-2004 are all better but -- and I don't mean to dismiss anything the best player ever to play baseball did -- that was a different era. In 2015, pitching has been dominant and one batter is more than 100% better than the mean at generating runs. Harper currently has a wRC+ of 203, which puts him 28th all-time. That will certainly fluctuate a bit -- 20 players sit between 198 and 208 for instance -- but Harper is having an historic season nonetheless.
Let's try to put it in better context. In Mark McGwire's 70 home run season he had a wRC+ of 205. In Barry Bonds' last season with the Pirates -- the one with the .313 ISO -- he had a wRC+ of 198. As of this writing, Bryce Harper's 203 wRC+ is sandwiched between another 203 and a 205. One is 1919 Babe Ruth. The other is 1930 Babe Ruth. For recency's sake, Miguel Cabrera's 2013, everyone would agree, was amazingly impressive. Harper will almost definitely eclipse that mark of 192 wRC+. So, yeah, he's in pretty good company.
Since the designated hitter was introduced, Harper currently sits eighth in single season wRC+ and behind only four players. It is well within the realm of possibility that he finishes fifth and behind only one player (the four Barry Bonds seasons). Harper would need to beat the mean by an extra 3 runs to pass Jeff Bagwell's 1994. The electorate would be crazy to overlook the amazing season Harper has put together on the field just because his team might not make the playoffs.
The FIP/xFIP Title
Richard Mackson - USA Today
I think I'm starting to understand why people think sabermetrics isn't palatable or marketable. Of course, we may as well name this the Kershaw Title. Since xFIP immemorial, only one other player has had a better season than Clayton Kershaw's 2015 campaign. That player is Clayton Kershaw last season. His ability to embarrass hitters by not allowing walks or home runs or really much contact at all over his last two seasons has never, ever been bested. Is that sinking in yet? By FIP -- the non-HR/FB-adjusted twin which can go back a lot further -- only 1999 Pedro Martinez, 1984 Dwight Gooden, 2013 Matt Harvey, and 1995 Randy Johnson stand in the way of first place. Clayton Kershaw's 2014 campaign sits third.
While he could most likely yawn his way to another NL Cy Young, he will have to work a bit harder to maintain his best-ever career FIP. Oh wait, no he won't, he holds that record too (career numbers since 1973). Perhaps it's a tad unfair to crown someone the victor of that title before he actually goes through the twilight of his career, but Kershaw is only 27. Pedro Martinez's 1.61 FIP season didn't happen until he was 30. There is the possibility that Kershaw could actually get better before his abilities begin to wane. That's scary.
Fans routinely want to see the impossible, never mind the improbable. They want to see absolute bests. Sometimes their imagination promises that to them in April. What's really crazy is not only did fans get rewarded in 2015, but that the headlines won't even need to be manufactured. Appreciate 2015, fans. It's not every season that we see this many noteworthy performances.
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Michael Bradburn is a Featured Writer for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @mwbii or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.