The Year in Strange But True: Judge! Ohtani! And MLB’s 20 most mind-blowing hitting, pitching feats

Hey! I know you’re about to join your friends and loved ones to sing a Champagne-drenched chorus of “Auld Lang Syne.” But first, did you know that the definition of Auld Lang Syne has something to do with “fondly remembering old times”? No kidding. So here’s an idea. Let’s all fondly remember the Strange But True baseball season of 2022. In which …

A guy taking his first swing in the big leagues hit a foul ball to his mother. … And another guy got called up and then debuted before he debuted. … And we learned that it really was possible to single into a triple play!

And fortunately for us fans of weirdness, there were so many more wacky phenomena just like that this year, we’re again splitting up the Strange But True Feats of the Year into three columns. Everyone out there cool with that? Thought so. So here we go, with Part 1.0 — our look at the hitters, the pitchers and two men named Judge and Ohtani.

Hitter of the Year: Here came the Judge

All rise! (Brad Penner / USA Today)

What will we remember most about 2022? That every day was Judgement Day, of course! Aaron Judge, man. He had One of Those Years we’ll remember for about the next 12 centuries. So here’s just some of the larger-than-real-life stuff the Judge pulled off:

IF YOU THREW IT, HE WOULD MASH — It didn’t matter who you were or where you played. If your path crossed with Judge in 2022, you saw his Babe Ruth act with your very own eyeballs.

This dude homered against 56 different pitchers … in 16 different ballparks … against 19 different teams … in every inning, from the first to the 10th. … and in every possible count except 3-and-0. … Oh, and also: Nobody hit more home runs against right-handers than he did (48). … And nobody hit more against left-handers than he did (14).

And one more thing. Please stuff that just a creature of Yankee Stadium baloney, OK? This guy launched more home runs away from The Stadium (32) than at The Stadium (30).

HE WAS THE MOST TERRIFYING LEADOFF MONSTER EVER — Hey, remember when all leadoff men used to look like Juan Pierre? So much for that!

Yep, Judge whomped 13 home runs as the most mammoth leadoff hitter in the history of leadoff hitters. … And another thing that came out of his part-time gig as 6-foot-7 leadoff hulk: He led off more games with a long ball (four) than Ronald Acuña Jr. (three). … Remember to file this away: Before the Judge entered the courtroom, no other 6-foot-7 human had ever led off any game with a home run. So much for that, too.

CATCH 22 — Have you checked that American League home run leaderboard lately? It’s pretty crazy, because Aaron Judge led his league by 22 home runs (Judge 62, Mike Trout 40). There were six teams that didn’t have anyone hit 22 home runs, in the whole season. But Judge led his league by 22 home runs.

And who in the history of baseball has ever led his league by that many? Who else do you think? George H. (Bambino) Ruth. And Aaron Judge. And that’s the whole freaking list.

HE ALSO LED HIS LEAGUE IN RUNS … BY 30! Are we allowed to look at other departments on that leaderboard besides homers? Look, it’s our column, so why the heck not. So if you peruse the AL leaders in runs scored, you’ll see something mind-blowing.

Aaron Judge — 133
Jose Altuve — 103

Now here comes your complete list of players who have led the National League or American League in runs scored by 30 in any year since the beginning of baseball time.

• Aaron Judge, 2022 (by 30)
• Rickey Henderson, 1985 (by 30)
• Babe Ruth, 1921 (by 45)
• Ross Barnes*, 1876 (by 54)

 (*-born 11 years before the Civil War)

So what Judge did is a thing that had been done only once, by anybody else, in the last 100 years. Holy Richie Ashburn. And you thought that 60-homer thing was kinda rare.

HE WAS PLAYING IN HIS OWN LEAGUE — But it wasn’t just homers. And it wasn’t just runs scored. Check out where else Judge ranked on that league-leader page:

He led in total bases … by 82! Did you know that in Judge’s lifetime (1992-2022), no other player has even come within 30 of a lead that large?

He led in OPS … by 92 points! The last man with zero performance-enhancing drug suspicions to blow away the AL competition by that many points? How about George Brett, more than four decades ago (in 1980)!

He led in pretty much everything! Now here comes everyone since 1900 who led the AL or NL in on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, homers, extra-base hits, walks, runs and most times on base in the same season: Babe Ruth, Ted Williams … and Aaron Judge!

HE WAS THE PLAYER OF THE MONTH — EVERY MONTH! April was a weird month, thanks to the lockout, so let’s ignore that one. But check out Judge’s home runs by month in every other month:

May — 12
June — 11
July — 13
August — 9
September — 10

So how many players in baseball outhomered him in any of those months? Yep. That answer is … none!

Aaron Judge hits his 62nd home run of the season. (Tim Heitman / USA Today)

HE WAS THE REAL TIGER KING — The Tigers are a real major-league team. Feel free to verify that if you’d like, but it’s totally true. So how ridiculous is this?

No member of the Tigers hit 18 home runs all season. … And Judge hit 18 before we even celebrated Memorial Day!

HE DOUBLE-TEAMED HIS OWN TEAM — Finally, there are a million different ways to measure how indispensable Judge was last season for the Yankees, who just decided there were 360 million reasons to keep him around until 2031. But I think this one pretty much sums it up.


Judge: 1.286
All other Yankees: .652

Can I help with that math? He came within 18 points of doubling the OPS of everyone in pinstripes who was not named Aaron Judge. C’mon. Really? Yeah, really. That. Happened. How lucky were we to be alive to see it?

My favorite Ohtani-isms of 2022

Second in the AL MVP voting, fourth in the AL CY Young voting, and one of a kind. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today)

Let’s raise our glasses for Shohei Ohtani. He has become the human Strange But True column. And does that seem like the highest praise this column could bestow on a player? Sure. Let’s go with that.

I don’t know how to adequately sum up the superhero greatness of Ohtani. But I definitely enjoy trying. So let’s aspire somehow to recap the magic of the Shoh Show, 2022 edition:

HE CAN’T BE A REAL PERSON! Is it honestly possible that an actual citizen of our planet could have done all this, without cloning himself:

• He had a better ERA+ as a pitcher (172) than Max Scherzer or Carlos Rodón!

• He had a better OPS+ as a hitter (145) than Mookie Betts or Vladdy Guerrero!

• Back on the mound, he had a better strikeout rate (33.2 percent) than Gerrit Cole or Corbin Burnes (who each led their league in strikeouts)!

• Back in the old batter’s box, he had a better rate of home runs per fly ball (21.0 percent) than Pete Alonso or Bryce Harper!

• Shohei the pitcher: Third-fewest extra-base hits allowed (39) of any starting pitcher in the AL (minimum: 600 opponent at-bats)!

• Shohei the hitter: Third-most extra-base hits (70) of anyone in the AL who stepped into a batter’s box!

• And Total Shohei was able to pitch so much and hit so much that he became the first player in history to qualify for the league leaders in pitching and hitting in the same season! Which doesn’t seem possible for actual humans, does it?

I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE OBSESSED WITH THIS GUY! Yeah, it isn’t just me. My amigos at Codify Baseball also keep me endlessly entertained by weighing in on him. Here are some of their favorite Ohtani-isms:

• AL hitters with more homers: 3

• AL pitchers with more strikeouts: 2

• AL starters who threw a faster pitch: 1

• AL hitters with a faster time to first base: 0

So now that you get the picture of what his superhuman season looked like in totality, let’s contemplate the magnitude of what he made possible every night of the year.

HE BROKE THE HISTORY BOOKS AND THE RULE BOOKS! On April 20 in Houston, Ohtani was scheduled to pitch. But first … he got to bat twice as a hitter before he ever threw a pitch. Who else had ever done that? Nobody else since 1900 had ever done that, because of course they hadn’t.

But then, after he’d finished spinning six innings of 12-whiff, one-hit magic against a team that would go on to win the World Series, he was able to get another at-bat (this time as a DH). And who else had ever done that? Nobody else had ever been permitted by the proper authorities to do that, because this was the year baseball changed the rules of the whole sport just for him.

WHO MAKES AN ENTRANCE LIKE THIS GUY MAKES AN ENTRANCE?! Here’s another thing in the running for the most Shohei-ish thing ever. … April 14 in Texas: Threw the Angels’ first pitch of the night….Then April 15 in Texas: Hit a home run on the first pitch the next night. And who else had ever performed that trick? Nobody else in the modern era, naturally, because pitchers who bat leadoff don’t exist in our lifetimes — except for guess who?

Ohtani celebrates with Mike Trout after hitting a home run. (Nick Turchiaro / USA Today)

HE PITCHED IN THE FIRST INNING, WAS STILL BATTING IN THE 10TH! If they’re going to change the freaking rules just for one man, it’s always cool when that man then uses those rules to break every barrier in sight. So on May 18 against the Rangers, Ohtani started his evening as a pitcher … and then batted in extra innings.

Do we take this stuff for granted yet? I hope not — because as my friend Ryan (The Ace of) Spaeder so astutely pointed out, no one else had started any game as a pitcher and then came to bat in extra innings since Pedro Martinez did it … on June 3, 1995, in the fabled game in which Pedro lost a perfect game in extra innings. … Ah, but no American League pitcher had done that in 50 years, since Gaylord Perry on Oct. 1, 1972, in his final start (and at-bat) before the DH era nearly ruined all the notes like this.

HE’S THE KING OF THE HUNDRED-AIRES! According to Statcast, only six starting pitchers in the whole sport threw more pitches at 100 mph or faster than the 40 Ohtani unleashed. Only seven hitters in the whole sport hit more baseballs at 100 mph than the 164 Ohtani pounded. So we know he had this in him. But it was still dazzling to see him do both of those things on the same day at the office.

Which brings us to the quintessential Ohtani performance of June 11. On the way to stopping a 14-game Angels losing streak that was, shall we say, taking its toll … he threw a pitch in the third inning at 101.0 mph … and then, in the fifth inning, he squashed a gargantuan home run at 104.4 mph.

Who else does this? Only one human walking this planet can possibly do this. Goosebumps.

HE’S THE BEST IN SHOH! If it’s not one thing, it’s another thing. Oh, wait. It’s actually both things. So how about the highlights of The Shoh from July 13, with the Astros stopping by the Big A.

Pitching Ohtani: Strikes out 12 of the 24 Astros he faces. … Hitting Ohtani: Fires a triple, off the unhittable Cristian Javier, a man who allowed no other triples all season. … So who was the last AL pitcher to triple in the midst of piling up that many strikeouts? That would be Denny McLain, who did that (while winning his 29th game of the season) way, way, way back on Sept. 10, 1968.

HE FOUNDED THE 8-13 CLUB! It feels as if only a Marvel creation should be able to spin off the sort of back-to-back nights of sorcery spun by Shohei the Ohtanic on June 21 and June 22.

June 21: Ohtani the bat wizard goes off for two homers and eight RBIs.

June 22: Alternate-universe pitching Ohtani fires eight shutout innings, with 13 strikeouts.

So … who has ever presented the world with eight RBIs and 13 K’s on back-to-back days? Hohohohoho. Nobody else has ever even done that in a career. But then again … want a quick list of some of the hitters who never drove in eight runs in any game? It’s probably no one you’ve ever heard of, except maybe Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Barry Bonds, Stan Musial and that megastar across the room, Mike Trout.

But it’s just another day in the life of Shohei Ohtani. So this is that time when I ask again: Are we positive he’s an actual person from our planet? I’m prepared to believe that. But if a spaceship from the planet Ohtanus were to land in my backyard someday and claim otherwise, we sure wouldn’t spend much time debating that.

My 10 favorite Strange But True Hitting Feats of 2022

Albert Pujols watches No. 700. (Gary A. Vasquez / USA Today)

STRANGE BUT TRUE LIVING LEGEND OF THE YEAR — I believe I mentioned earlier that this Aaron Judge guy was basically the 21st-century version of Babe Ruth, right? So it should pretty much fry every brain cell in your head to learn that a 42-year-old legend named Albert Pujols somehow out-Judged the Judge on his way down the exit ramp.

• OPS versus left-handed pitchers in 2022: Pujols (1.146), Judge (1.010).

Slugging pct. versus LHP in 2022: Pujols (.746), Judge (.622).

So think about this. Judge just had a season that felt like a “30 for 30” waiting to happen … and Albert obliterated him in OPS by 136 points versus left-handers, and in slugging by 124 points against lefties? Who writes these scripts!

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST CYCLIST OF THE YEAR — What made Nolan Arenado’s July 1 cycle one of the Strangest But Truest ever? Oh, possibly the fact that he hit for a cycle … but he was never on first base. And how’d that happen? You need to check out the single.

Whaddaya mean, it looked like an E-5? Hey, luckily for the Cardinals’ ever-inventive third baseman, the official scorer threw in an infield single, at no extra charge. And that’s how Arenado joined just César Cedeño (nearly 50 years ago) as the only cyclists who ever completed a cycle with a single that never involved hanging out at first base. Baseball is so weird.

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST “NORMAL” CYCLES OF THE YEAR — Hey, I’m glad we got that out of the way, because it was a year with so much bizarre cycling, even Lance Armstrong was ready to grab a bat.

Austin Hays: Have I written lately that baseball is so weird? Just ask Orioles cyclist Austin Hays. Hays on June 22: Hit for the cycle. … Hays on June 21: 0 for 4, with four strikeouts! … And how many other batsmiths in the modern era have ever hung a cycle and a Golden Sombrero in back-to-back games? C’mon. That would be none. Obviously!

Christian Yelich: I’m not sure why Yelich still takes an airplane when the Brewers visit Cincinnati. They should just let him cycle! Because on May 11, Yelich really did hit for the cycle against the Reds for the third time, just since 2018. And why would that make the Strange But True column? Hahahahaha. Possibly because … Cycles by all other players in baseball against the Reds since 2018: Zero. … Cycles by all other Brewers against anybody since 2018: Zero. … Cycles by all Reds combined in the history of Great American Ballpark: Zero. So that’s why!

 STRANGEST BUT TRUEST MOTHER’S DAY PRESENT OF THE YEAR — Some people give their mothers flowers. Some people give their mothers a lovely necklace. Not Rockies rookie Brian Serven. He gave his mother a foul ball — on the first swing he ever took in the big leagues, too, on May 18.

So do we care that she didn’t actually catch it, or that a fan sitting near her did and gave it to her? The official position of the Strange But True column is: No! We definitely do not!

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST TRIPLE PLAY OF THE YEAR — Does it seem Strange But True at all to hear that a guy actually singled into a triple play? Trick question! Because if it doesn’t, I have no idea why you’re even reading this column.

The Great Lakes Loons, of the always entertaining Midwest League, were responsible for this wackiness on June 13. And I think it’s safe to say it goes immediately into the Strange But True Hall of Fame (still under construction at a secretly strange location). You should watch!

If you’re thinking that you’ve never seen that before, that might be related to the fact that no living human has ever seen that before — other than maybe at a tee-ball game. That’s because, according to the Society of American Baseball Research’s brilliant Jacob Pomrenke, there hadn’t been a major-league triple play that started with a hit to the outfield since … April 29, 1886! But for some reason, nobody tweeted out the video that day, for reasons that apparently were unrelated to Elon Musk.

MORE STRANGE BUT TRUE HITS-THAT-DIDN’T-END-WELL OF THE YEAR — Just to prove that it’s never safe to hit a single anywhere in the outfield, even when the Great Lakes Loons are nowhere to be found, here come two more classics kinda like that one.

The good news for the Angels’ Taylor Ward, on July 3, was he also lined a “routine” single to the outfield. The bad news? That would be everything that happened to him after that ball landed. Especially the part where he somehow got tagged out at first by the catcher (Houston’s sneaky Martín Maldonado).

But hey, it could have been worse. At least that was only one out. On Sept. 9, the Pirates’ Rodolfo Castro found a way to single into a double play. And that wasn’t even the Strangest But Truest part — because this was also a double play started and ended by the right fielder! Ever seen a 9-2-5-2-9 double play? We can help with that!

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST SLAM FEST OF THE YEAR — It was the Yankee Stadium classic in which Aaron Judge hit home run No. 60 … and that wasn’t even the part of this Sept. 20 Yankees-Pirates game that made it classic … or propelled it into the Strange But True column for that matter. Here we go:

• Yankees roll into the ninth, trailing 8-4. Then Judge leads off the ninth with No. 60 — and everyone can go home, right?

• Oops! I hope you didn’t jump on that No. 4 train like 20,000 other people — because the next four hitters went: Double … walk … single … Giancarlo Stanton ultimate grand slam (down by three, walk-off slam) … and the Yankees win, 9-8. So …

Strange But True bulletin No. 1: Before that inning, no pitcher had ever given up anybody’s 60th homer and anybody’s walk-off slam at any point in his career. Then Pirates reliever Wil Crowe did it in the same inning.

Strange But True tidbit No. 2: Before that inning, no team had ever had any player hit a 60th home run and then had any other player mash a game-ending slam in the same season. But then the Yankees did both in the same inning.

Strange But True tidbit No. 3: Then what happened in the first inning the next day? The Yankees hit another grand slam. And it was somehow the second time this season they’d gone slamming against the Pirates in back-to-back innings. OK, so here it comes, the Strangest But Truest part: Before that, no team in history had ever hit slams in two straight innings against the same team twice in the history of their franchise. And then the Yankees did that to the Pirates twice in two consecutive series. Because baseball is just amazing.

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST SWITCH-HIT MASHER OF THE YEAR — Did you know that before Baltimore’s Anthony Santander came along, nobody in the grand history of the American League had ever bopped home runs from each side of the plate in four different games in the same season? Not Mickey Mantle. Not Eddie Murray. Not Mark Teixeira. Not anyone. Unbelievable, right? But it’s not the Strange But True part of this note.

Nope, the Strange But True part is, while Santander was becoming the first AL hitter ever to do that … the Orioles went 0-4 in those four games … because Orioles!

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST WRIGLEY TOURIST OF THE YEAR — Ernie Banks seemed to think Wrigley Field was a sweet place to swing a bat, didn’t he? So did Anthony Rizzo, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace and many, many other ivy lovers everywhere. But you know what the Cardinals’ Corey Dickerson did this year that they never did? Get at least 10 straight hits at Wrigley — four on Aug. 23, four more on Aug. 24 and three more on Aug. 25.

Now here comes the Strange But True part. How many four-hit games did Corey Dickerson have in St. Louis this year? Yep, none. How many three-hit games? Also none. But he had three games in a row like that at Wrigley … because baseball!

My 10 favorite Strange But True Pitching Feats of 2022

Richard Bleier, who had never been called for a balk, made up for lost time on Sept. 27. (Brad Penner / USA Today)

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST BALK TRIFECTA OF THE YEAR — Anybody mind if I start this item by mentioning that the balk is right up there with the most gimmicky rules in sports? Thank you. Now let’s also mention that anybody can hit for the cycle. But on Sept. 27, Marlins reliever Richard Bleier balked for the cycle against the Mets.

Does that seem hard? Not when John Tumpane is umping first base, it’s not! So how did Jeff McNeil manage to score after a two-out single in the eighth? Balk-a-palooza! Three balks in five pitches later, McNeil was crossing the plate and Bleier had just become the first pitcher since 1900 to balk three times in one at-bat. So how absurd was that? Thanks for asking.

Richard Bleier balks in his previous seven seasons, 305 games and 1,235 batters faced? Zero!

Richard Bleier balks in that at-bat? Three in five pitches!

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST NON-NO-HITTERS OF THE YEAR — How is it possible for two teams to give up no hits in nine innings but somehow not get any no-hitters out of it? It’s the most baseball thing ever. So let’s tell you how.

We had one team (the Rays, on April 23) allow no hits through nine innings — but not get credit for a no-hitter because the game went too long (and they allowed a couple of hits in the 10th). … And then we had a second team (the Reds, on May 14) allow no hits, period, but not get credit for a no-hitter because their half of the game went too short (also because they forgot to score in Pittsburgh and gave up a run on three walks and a groundball).

As a longtime friend of this column — the late, great, irreplaceable Doug (Kernels) Kern — was the first to inform us, no one had ever seen both of those things happen in the same season before. But not anymore, because … Baseball! It. Makes. No. Sense.

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST NO-HITTER OF THE YEAR — All right, now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s worth pointing out that the Strangeness But Trueness doesn’t necessarily end when the no-hitters actually count. Did you know there were 20 games this year in which a starting pitcher allowed no hits (and went at least five innings) — but there was only one of those starts in which that pitcher made it to the finish line. And naturally, that pitcher was …

Reid Detmers!

I’m guessing he wouldn’t even have been your first pick in the Angels rotation to throw the season’s only “he-pitched-nine-whole innings” no-hitter. But that’s why this column exists. And also because he threw a no-hitter even though he allowed … 25 balls in play … which hadn’t happened in any no-hitter in over 40 years (since Jerry Reuss in 1980). Except also because … in this game, while their pitcher was busy giving up no hits, everybody in the Angels lineup got a hit … which had happened in no other no-hitter since 1900! … Because baseball was clearly invented with these Strange But True columns in mind.

On May 10, the Rays had 11 groundballs and 14 fly balls but no hits against Reid Detmers. (Kirby Lee / USA Today)

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST TIME-TRAVELING DEBUT OF THE YEAR — Here in my house, we lose track of what day it is all the time. But that was a bigger issue for Twins rookie Yennier Cano in May, because it caused him to make the Strangest But Truest debut ever. How exactly? Here’s how:

He debuted the day before he debuted.

OK, not really. It’s all thanks to the miracle of suspended games. So here’s what really happened: Cano got waved to the mound on May 11 … was announced as the Twins’ new pitcher … and even warmed up. But then the Strange But True part occurred … and 12 billion raindrops later, this game got suspended …. and resumed the next day … whereupon Cano still pitched .. a thing the box scores will always say that he did on May 11 … even though he never delivered a pitch until May 12. Got all that? Fantastic. God, I love baseball.

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST BASE-LOADER OF THE YEAR — It was quite the old Strange But True season in the life of Aroldis Chapman. Maybe we should have seen that coming back in April, as signs emerged that even his manager, Aaron Boone, would have no idea what to make of him, when …

In back-to-back appearances, he walked the bases loaded (16 pitches, four strikes) and then, the very next day … his manager brought him in with the bases already loaded. And how many times had that happened to any other pitchers on back-to-back days in the half-century of reliable public play-by-play data? That would be none — until Aroldis Chapman entered the building.

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST DOUBLE-DIGIT SPECIAL OF THE YEAR — Speaking of back-to-back adventures in Strange But Trueness, I’m guessing Jerad Eickhoff’s spectacular career as a Pirate went whooshing past most of you, since it consisted of 4 1/3 messy innings on the same day, on June 22. But the Strange But True column sure didn’t miss it. And here’s why.

Runs allowed by Eickhoff in that game: 10.

Runs allowed by Eickhoff in his previous appearance in the big leagues — 11 months earlier, for the Mets: Also 10!

Which made him … the first pitcher to spin off back-to-back big-league starts with double-digit runs since the legendary Chubby Dean — in 1940. … But even Stranger But Truer, how about doing it for two different teams, in two different seasons! … You think anyone else ever did that at any point in the modern era? Of course not! Baseball is hard, isn’t it?

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST BOX-SCORE FOOTNOTE OF THE YEAR — Does anybody out there still read box scores every day? The Strange But True column does! Which is how we stumbled upon this historic addendum to all the unfortunate numbers in Dallas Keuchel’s action-packed start for the White Sox, on April 20 in Cleveland:

Dallas Keuchel faced 11 batters in the second inning!

By that, they mean this guy faced 11 batters in the second inning and forgot to get any of them out. And let’s just say you could have been reading box scores every day for the last half-century and found that one exceptionally Strange But True, for one simple reason: In all that time, nobody has ever done that before — thankfully!

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST TICKET TO GETTING DFA’D OF THE YEAR — As long as we’re on this box-score-line roll, ready for one more all-timer? The Rangers rolled out Kohei Arihara to start against the Blue Jays on Sept. 10. That went smoothly:

 3 IP, 12 H, 11 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, 99 pitches in 3 IP

That’s 12 hits! And five walks! But only nine outs! And how many pitchers in the modern era have ever crammed that many base runners into an outing with that few outs? Exactly one. Kohei Arihara!

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST STREAK BUSTERS OF THE YEAR — Here’s the thing that all baseball streaks have in common: They all end sometime. But the key is how they end, because that’s what gets them a prestigious mention in the Strange But True Feats of the Year column. For instance:

Sept. 17: Zac Gallen’s 46-inning homerless streak ends, on a home run by … a guy with no career big-league homers (Luis Campusano).

Aug. 28: The Nationals end their own historic streak — of 43 straight games without a win by any starting pitcher, thanks to a win by … the starting pitcher with the most losses in baseball (Patrick Corbin).

Jacob deGrom’s worst start of the last three years came when no one expected it. (Brett Davis / USA Today)

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST deGROMIAN ADVENTURE OF THE YEAR — I can’t explain baseball. You can’t explain baseball. Because it makes no sense. And here was one more day at the old ball yard that made no sense: Sept. 24. The Mets visited Oakland that day. Jacob deGrom was heading for the mound. We all knew what was going to happen.

It wasn’t what actually happened.

Jacob deGrom has made 38 starts for the Mets over the last three seasons. In only one of them has he given up as many as five earned runs, or even four if we’re being precise here. Guess which one. Yep, it was that start (five runs, four innings) … against the A’s, who were about to assume the mantle of … worst offensive team of the last 100 years … which we would define as being the first team to hit .216 or worse, have an OBP of .280 or worse and score fewer than 600 runs in any season since Bruno Block’s 1910 Chicago White Stockings! What the heck!

STRANGEST BUT TRUEST WP/LP TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR — What most Americans will remember about April 28 was that it was NFL Draft Day. But for the Strange But True fans of this sport, you should know it was also one of the most momentous days in the history of the baseball draft. By which we mean …

The 2004 baseball draft.

What? How? Well, it all had to do with the pitchers of record in the Astros’ 3-2 win over the Rangers that day …

WP — Justin Verlander
LP — Matt Bush

So here comes the Strange But Trueness. Back in 2004, Verlander was the second player picked in the draft … behind only a guy named … Matt Bush! … So that means this was, somehow or other, the first game in history in which the winning and losing pitcher were the first two picks in any draft. … But hold on. This gets weirder.

Even stranger, it took 18 years after that draft for that to happen. … And even Stranger But Truer than that, one of those two guys wasn’t even drafted as a pitcher. That wasn’t Verlander, naturally. It was Bush, who was drafted by the Padres as a shortstop … but then life had other plans … for which the Strange But True Feats of the Year column is exceptionally grateful!

(Top photo of Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)


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