Altuve and Stanton lead new wave of future MLB superstars

Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton ended the season on the disabled list after taking a pitch to the head, but still led the National League in homers with 37 (©GettyImages)

Nelson Cruz of the Baltimore Orioles led Major League Baseball with 40 home runs this year to become the American League leader in that category. Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins hit 37 homers to lead the National League. Both were first-time league champions.

In fact, that was one very noticeable and notable change in statistical categories this year: Just about all of the leaders in all of the major categories were first-timers. What this means is that we may be witnessing a very dramatic change in the star category, too. Fresh faces are taking over.

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Royals top A's in 12 innings

The Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez led the NL in runs batted in with 116. Mike Trout led the AL with 111. They are both first-time leaders, though Gonzalez has played at a high level for some time and the Angels’ Trout was already one of the games’ brightest young stars.

Houston’s Jose Altuve won a batting title nobody expected, topping the AL with a .341 average. Justin Morneau, whom some fans probably thought still played for Minnesota, won the NL batting crown at .319 while playing for the Colorado Rockies.

Dee Gordon of the Dodgers was tops in the NL in stolen bases with 64. Altuve led that category in the AL, too, with 56 thefts.

Rodney the save king

On the pitching side, Fernando Rodney of Seattle collected an AL high of 48 saves. No one in the AL won 20 games. The biggest winner was Corey Kluber of Cleveland with 18 in what might eventually be looked at as his breakthrough season. David Price was tops in strikeouts with 271 as he moved between the Rays and the Detroit Tigers.

The Mariners’ Felix Hernandez won his second earned run average title at 2.14, even if no one understands how. Upon further review from a game a few days earlier, Hernandez had earned runs taken away and replaced with unearned runs just when it seemed Chicago’s Chris Sale had the ERA title wrapped up.

The saves maven of the National League was Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel with 47. He would probably easily have broken 50 if the Braves hadn’t collapsed down the stretch and didn’t have any leads to turn over to him to protect.

Johnny Cueto (20-9), who had a brilliant season, and would likely have won 25 games if his Cincinnati Reds team could have scored much at all, tied for the strikeout lead with Washington’s Stephen Strasburg. Both fanned 242.

NL pitching dominance

The rest of the pitching story in the NL was written by the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, who is other-worldly. He led the league in wins with 21 and an ERA at 1.77. Poor Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals, who was as good or better than he has ever been in a first-rate career, finished with 20 wins and a 2.38 ERA, behind Kershaw in both categories.

Overall, hitting was pretty lousy, especially in the NL where there were only seven .300 hitters and only three batters drove in at least 100 runs. The hitting was barely more respectable in the AL with 10 .300 hitters. And that was in a league where there were only three 18-game winners and four more 16-game winners.

You’ve got to love those semi-anonymous middle relievers who overpowered everyone in sight.

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