The baseball season is over. You can put 2022 in the books for MLB, and it was a good one. Well, it had its moments. It was fun despite some issues. I mean, the DH thing is a horror show and Commissioner Manfred keeps dicking around with things he should leave alone, and there was that whole lockout thing, and hoo-boy were there a lot of strikeouts, but yeah. Good time.
For one thing, Your Seattle Mariners are still playing. Game 162 has come and gone—a dramatic one, at that, so far as a game with no bearing on the standings can be dramatic—and the M's are still in the mix for a title. As fellow baseball aficionado Craig Calcaterra put it, "For the first time in forever the Mariners' season is not ending on the final day of the regular season. Crazy." They'll play at least two more games, in Toronto against the Blue Jays this weekend, and maybe even more than that. Boggles the mind.
Other notables from 2022:
- The Los Angeles Dodgers won more games than any other National League team save the 1908 Chicago Cubs, who share the record of 116 with the American League record-holder, the 2001 Seattle Mariners. LA's 111 victories were fairly evenly split across home and road games, night and day games, first and second halves, in-division and not. The only category they didn't stand out in is tight games: the Dodgers were 16-15 in one-run decisions and 6-9 in extra innings. Which really just means that they were so good they had breathing room for more wins than 25 other teams had in total. They'll open the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday evening against either the Mets or the Padres.
- Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees hit 62 home runs, besting the previous American League record of 61 held by Roger Maris of the New York Yankees (set in 1961), which bested the prior record of 60 held by Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees (1927). Record hogs. Roger Maris Junior has opined that Judge's new record of 62 should be the official Major League record and the National League feats of 73 (Barry Bonds, 2001), 70 (Mark McGwire, 1998), 66 (Sammy Sosa, 1998), 65 (McGwire, 1999), 64 (Sosa, 2001), and 63 (Sosa again, 1999) homers should be dismissed as unofficial because Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa all cheated with performance-enhancing drugs. OK, I see his point, but I have to point out that tons of people back in 1961 said Maris Senior's record shouldn't count because the season schedule had the modern standard 162 games in it whereas Ruth played in 154-game seasons. So, not the same issue but still...irony.
- The Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets finished the year tied for first place in the National League East, and while in years past that would mean an exciting Game 163 tiebreaker would be played for the division crown, we now have Commissioner Manfred's lame Wild Card playoff round that simply declares Atlanta the division champ based on the fact that they beat the Mets ten times, while the Mets beat them only nine times. Now, the Mets won 50 games overall against the NL East while Atlanta only won 48 intradivision contests, which seems to me like a better way to break a tie for first place in the division, but then I am not commissioner of baseball. (If I were, there would be no "Wild Card round" of playoffs in the first place and there would be Game 163, but as we say on Earth, c'est la vie.) The Metropolitans will thus have to play the Wild Card round against the San Diego Padres while Atlanta can sit back and cool their heels until the NLDS starts.
- Minnesota Twins infielder Luis Arraez won the American League batting title with a paltry .316 batting average, lowest top figure since Carl Yastrzemski's .301 in "the year of the pitcher," 1968. Perhaps most impressively, Arraez did it while striking out only 43 times, which is nigh-unheard of in today's Major Leagues. The only other guy with at least 600 plate appearances and fewer than 70 Ks was Cleveland rookie Steve Kwan (who is a really fun player to watch and perhaps the only reason I'll watch the Cleveland/Tampa Bay WC series), who had 60. Also, Arraez's .316 prevented Aaron Judge's .311 from being the top spot which would have given Judge a Triple Crown. So I'm now a Luis Arraez fan.
Good seats still available! Until 2027, after which the Rays are out of here.
- The Oakland A's, who play in one of the worst facilities in the game, and the Miami Marlins, who play in a modern retractable-roof park with all the amenities, both had season attendance totals under a million. They're both terrible teams this year, so OK, I guess. The Tampa Bay Rays, who made the postseason thanks to the new participation-trophy Wild Card setup and who have been good for years now, barely topped 1,000,000. If not for Miami's relatively new and expensive stadium, all three would be looking for new hometowns as soon as possible; as it is, the A's and Rays will surely skip out as soon as their respective leases allow. (Weirdly, the Cleveland Guardians also had lousy attendance this year, shy of 1.3M, despite winning their division and having a splendid ballpark. The downstate Reds outdrew them, and the Reds are bad.)
- Lowest-payroll playoff team? The Guardians, roughly $66M (the Mariners are next at $78M, then the Rays at $86M). Highest-payroll playoff team? The Dodgers at $289.3M. (Yankees, Mets, and Phillies follow close behind at $239M, $237.5M, and 209.5M, respectively.) Bit of a spread.
- The average Major League batter (using a benchmark of 600 PAs) struck out 136 times in 2022. In 2001, the last time Seattle made a postseason, the average figure was 105. Two decades before that, it was 79. Not a good trend.
Personally, I saw just 16 games in person this year, all here in Seattle. The Mariners won 11 of them. I saw six Marco Gonzales-started games (1-4, 2.35 ERA when I went; the guy just couldn't catch a break this season), four Robbie Ray starts (1-2, 3.70), two Logan Gilbert starts (2-0, 0.00), two Chris Flexen starts (1-0, 3.27), a George Kirby (0-0, 4.15), and a Justus Sheffield (1-0, 9.00). Mitch Haniger was the best Seattle hitter when I attended (.469), Julio Rodríguez hit .311. Worst with me in the seats, Jarred Kelenic (.150) and, weirdly, Ty France (.161). Best game might have been the home opener, when Marco beat the hated Astros 11-0, though Logan Gilbert's seven shutout frames in a 6-0 win on May 28, also against Houston, is up there. Worst was definitely September 27th, Seattle lost 5-0 to nobody pitchers for Texas in a snoozer (had great seats for it, though).
Of course, it ain't over yet, there's still a remote possibility I could add one more in-person game for ’22. Fingers crossed. We'll see.
Playoffs start in about 12 hours.