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Pick a Barry Bonds season. Any Barry Bonds season.Associated Press
The last 20 seasons of Major League Baseball have been marked by too many dominant offensive seasons to count.
So, we settled for highlighting the absolute best of the best since 2000 for all 30 teams.
For this, we went looking for record-setting numbers and figures that generally hold up for era-adjusted stats such as OPS+. In most cases, the choices were obvious. In others, we had to use our judgment for which was the most impressive season out of multiple options.
Another important note is that we only considered regular-season performances.
We’ll go one by one, proceeding in alphabetical order by city.
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JEFF HAYNES/Getty Images
Key Stats: 162 G, 728 PA, .325 AVG, .429 OBP, .688 SLG, 174 OPS+, 57 HR, 1 SB
With respect to Paul Goldschmidt’s best years with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Luis Gonzalez’s 2001 campaign is undoubtedly the club’s offensive gold standard.
Though Gonzalez finished behind Barry Bonds (73) and Sammy Sosa (64) in National League home runs, his 57 long balls still stand as a Diamondbacks record. He also set team records for slugging percentage and OPS+ in ’01.
Otherwise, it shouldn’t be glossed over that Gonzalez played in all 162 games and led the NL with 728 plate appearances. And he was a genuinely tough out, walking 17 more times than he struck out.
Famously, Gonzalez’s ’01 season also resulted in a happy ending courtesy of his walk-off hit off Mariano Rivera and the New York Yankees in the World Series.
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Vince Bucci/Getty Images
Key Stats: 159 G, 677 PA, .330 AVG, .427 OBP, .605 SLG, 160 OPS+, 38 HR, 9 SB
This might seem like a simple question of which among Chipper Jones’ final 13 seasons with the Atlanta Braves was the best, but we actually strongly considered Gary Sheffield’s 2003 campaign for this spot.
In that one, Sheffield played in 155 games and finished with a 162 OPS+, 39 homers and 18 stolen bases. All three of those figures top what Jones had done two years earlier.
But in 2001, Jones bested Sheffield’s .419 on-base percentage from ’03 while also registering the same isolated power (.274).
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G Fiume/Getty Images
Key Stats: 160 G, 673 PA, .286 AVG, .370 OBP, .634 SLG, 168 OPS+, 53 HR, 4 SB
This is a rare chance to mention the awesome years that Miguel Tejada and Melvin Mora had for the Baltimore Orioles in 2004, but it’s ultimately hard to beat Chris Davis’ 2013 season.
To boot, he hit all those dingers in a tough environment for sluggers. Whereas home runs are commonplace in today’s MLB, there was fewer than one per game in 2013 (the 2019 average was nearly a half run more at 1.39).
Alas, Davis is best known today for his albatross contract. But even if it’s not much, it’s some consolation that he made a mockery of his $3.3 million salary in 2013.
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Winslow Townson/Associated Press
Key Stats: 136 G, 614 PA, .346 AVG, .438 OBP, .640 SLG, 186 OPS+, 32 HR, 30 SB
The Boston Red Sox employed David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez for a big chunk of the 21st century, during which they’ve also gotten superb seasons from guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Nomar Garciaparra.
We picked Mookie Betts’ 2018 campaign as Boston’s best, however, because such offensive dominance has so rarely been so well-rounded.
The 186 OPS+ he had in 2018 was the best for a Red Sox since Carl Yastrzemski’s Triple Crown-winning season in 1967. He also led the majors in average and slugging percentage, all while also authoring a 30-30 season.
Is Betts’ 2018 season an outlier relative to the rest of his career? Well, sure. But it still happened, and it’s going to be etched in Red Sox lore for a long time.
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STEPHEN J. CARRERA/Associated Press
Key Stats: 160 G, 711 PA, .328 AVG, .437 OBP, .737 SLG, 203 OPS+, 64 HR, 0 SB
If the circumstances were different, this would be a chance to look back on the monstrous year (174 OPS+ and 46 HR) that Derrek Lee had for the Chicago Cubs in 2005.
But when it comes down to it, Sammy Sosa’s 2001 season is perhaps the greatest in the history of the Cubs.
Though Sosa fell two home runs short of his personal high of 66 from 1998, his 64 homers in ’01 secured his place as the only hitter to top 60 homers in three seasons. He also set Cubs records for slugging and OPS+.
Of course, Sosa’s best seasons are clouded by alleged performance-enhancing drug use. But unless he retracts his denials or his numbers are stricken from the record, his fine work will always be there to gawk at.
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Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press
Key Stats: 145 G, 622 PA, .317 AVG, .383 OBP, .581 SLG, 173 OPS+, 36 HR, 3 SB
This is where we could bow in honor of Hall of Famer Frank Thomas or perhaps for the criminally underrated Magglio Ordonez.
Albeit with a wealth of experience in the Cuban National Series in his background, Abreu did all this as a rookie (albeit as a 27-year-old). What’s more, the 2014 season was the worst one for hitters in terms of runs and homers since at least the 1980s.
Abreu has never been able to replicate the success of his 2014 season. But in fairness, once you’ve gone that high, down is really the only way to go.
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Al Behrman/Associated Press
Key Stats: 150 G, 648 PA, .324 AVG, .424 OBP, .600 SLG, 171 OPS+, 37 HR, 16 SB
“Which is the best Joey Votto season?” is a question that’s liable to baffle scientists and philosophers alike.
But if nothing else, 2010 was his coming-out year for the Cincinnati Reds. And even a decade later, we’re still thinking it’s still his best work.
The ’10 season marked Votto’s first campaign as the National League’s leader for OBP, and both his 37 homers and 16 stolen bases still loom as career highs. His 171 OPS+, meanwhile, checks in as the third-best mark of his career.
To be sure, Votto went on to have seasons in which he was a tougher out. But all things considered, his 2010 season is the most complete one out of his many masterpieces.
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Ron Vesely/Getty Images
Key Stats: 147 G, 613 PA, .304 AVG, .445 OBP, .677 SLG, 197 OPS+, 52 HR, 1 SB
Manny Ramirez’s final season with the Cleveland Indians in 2000, in which he had a 186 OPS+ with 38 home runs, would be a solid pick for the club’s best of the 21st century.
But in his own final year with the Tribe in 2002, Jim Thome achieved the absolute pinnacle of his Hall of Fame career.
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Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Key Stats: 160 G, 697 PA, .372 AVG, .463 OBP, .689 SLG, 163 OPS+, 42 HR, 5 SB
Todd Helton had a five-year run between 2000 and 2004 in which he slashed .349/.450/.643 with an average of 37 home runs. But even amid all that brilliance, his 2000 in particular still stands out.
Still, it says a lot that Helton never again dominated the National League like he did in 2000. After that year, his .445 OBP in 2005 would be his next and last league-leading mark.
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Paul Sancya/Associated Press
Key Stats: 148 G, 652 PA, .348 AVG, .442 OBP, .636 SLG, 190 OPS+, 44 HR, 3 SB
But even as great as that performance was, he went on to have a far superior season the following year.
In 2013, Cabrera led all of Major League Baseball in average, OBP, slugging, OPS and OPS+. The latter mark is also Cabrera’s personal high, not to mention that no Detroit Tiger had reached since Norm Cash’s 201 in 1961.
Even more astonishing is that Cabrera wasn’t even fully healthy for all of 2013. Had it not been for injuries that cooled him off in September, he would have had an even more dominant year.
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Patrick Semansky/Associated Press
Key Stats: 156 G, 690 PA, .296 AVG, .423 OBP, .592 SLG, 162 OPS+, 41 HR, 5 SB
Between Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, Jose Altuve and George Springer, the Houston Astros have enjoyed some outstanding offensive players during the 21st century.
Yet as his 2019 season can attest, Alex Bregman has a chance to be as good or better than any of them.
Even though he didn’t even hit .300, the 162 OPS+ and 41 homers that Bregman racked up in ’19 make for an easy comparison to Berkman’s stellar 2006 campaign.
For our money, what separates Bregman’s 2019 season is that he walked (119) significantly more often than he struck out (83). That frankly shouldn’t have been possible in a year in which strikeouts happened nearly three times as often as walks.
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Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Key Stats: 141 G, 602 PA, .307 AVG, .389 OBP, .522 SLG, 132 OPS+, 26 HR, 41 SB
Since 2000, no American League team has posted a lower OPS than the Kansas City Royals. That’s life when you play in a huge stadium and, well, generally lack elite hitters.
But the Royals sure had a good one back when they had Carlos Beltran, and 2003 was his masterpiece.
The 26 home runs that Beltran hit that year were actually a step down from his prior season, but his 41 stolen bases marked his first trip above the 40-steal plateau. And at the time, his average and on-base and slugging percentages were all career highs.
To be fair, this space could just as easily have been dedicated to Mike Sweeney’s 2002 season, which yielded a 148 OPS+, or Jorge Soler’s 2019 season, which yielded a club-record 48 homers.
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Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
Key Stats: 140 G, 608 PA, .312 AVG, .460 OBP, .628 SLG, 198 OPS+, 39 HR, 24 SB
There’s little doubt that a Mike Trout season belongs HERE. The only question is: Which one?
There’s a case for his 2012 debut, in which he broke out with a 168 OPS+, 30 homers and 49 steals. One could also argue for his 2019 season, which contained a 185 OPS+ and career-high 45 homers in only 134 games.
Opposing teams were definitely frightened of Trout in 2018, as he became one of only 15 players to ever tally as many as 25 intentional walks in the American League.
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Chris Carlson/Associated Press
Key Stats: 161 G, 689 PA, .324 AVG, .399 OBP, .586 SLG, 172 OPS+, 39 HR, 40 SB
Gary Sheffield and Shawn Green had some standout years for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2000s, while Adrian Beltre and Cody Bellinger exploded for 48 homers in 2004 and 47 homers in 2019, respectively.
What Matt Kemp did for the Dodgers in 2011, however, stands alone.
That was the year in which Kemp set career marks pretty much across the board, including for on-base, slugging, OPS, OPS+, home runs, stolen bases and total bases. A handful of those same marks were also highs for the National League that year.
The following season is when Kemp first started battling the injuries that gradually dissolved the athleticism that made his 2011 breakout possible. In retrospect, it’s a shame that he doesn’t have an MVP award to remember it by (he finished second that season).
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Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press
Key Stats: 159 G, 692 PA, .281 AVG, .376 PA, .631 SLG, 169 OPS+, 59 HR, 2 SB
If there’s a forgotten run of brilliance from recent memory, it’s arguably Hanley Ramirez averaging a 145 OPS+, 29 homers and 38 steals per year between 2007 and 2009.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to side against Giancarlo Stanton’s 2017 season as the best the Miami Marlins have seen this century.
Stanton notched the second-highest OPS+ in the club’s history that year, and he took the top spots for home runs and slugging percentage. His homers, slugging and OPS+ also led the National League for 2017.
This proved to be Stanton’s final season in Miami. But unless the club starts keeping its homegrown stars in town for longer periods, his 267 homers may stand as a team record for a long time.
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Morry Gash/Associated Press
Key Stats: 130 G, 580 PA, .329 AVG, .429 OBP, .671 SLG, 179 OPS+, 44 HR, 30 SB
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, the Milwaukee Brewers offense ran off the dynamic duo of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun.
The former peaked with a 157 OPS+ and 50 homers in 2007, while the latter peaked four years later with a 166 OPS+ and 33 each of homers and steals in an MVP-winning season in 2011.
Nevertheless, this particular honor clearly belongs to Christian Yelich’s 2019 season. Despite a knee injury that cost him most of September, he still led the National League in all three triple slash categories (see here, here and here) and OPS+.
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Paul Battaglia/Associated Press
Key Stats: 138 G, 606 PA, .365 AVG, .444 OBP, .587 SLG, 171 OPS+, 28 HR, 4 SB
Joe Mauer had already won two batting titles by the time the 2009 season arrived. He went on to have one of the greatest years ever by a catcher.
In reaching a 171 OPS+, Mauer reached a mark that only two other catchers have hit before or since: Hall of Famer Mike Piazza and potential future Hall of Famer Buster Posey.
Though Mauer came back down to earth after 2009, he didn’t fall as far as some might think. His last nine seasons for the Minnesota Twins produced a .294 average and a solid 117 OPS+.
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Mark Cunningham/Getty Images
Key Stats: 160 G, 711 PA, .325 AVG, .416 OBP, .546 SLG, 149 OPS+, 30 HR, 34 SB
But for this century, at least, David Wright occupies a space unto himself among Mets greats. And his 2007 season was his magnum opus.
Though Wright didn’t lead the National League in any offensive categories, he did achieve quite a few career highs in ’07. Namely, for average, on-base, slugging and OPS. He also notched his one and only 30-30 season.
It was shortly after 2007 that injuries began chipping away at what might otherwise have been a Hall of Fame career. But if nothing else, Wright won’t soon be forgotten in Queens.
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Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
Key Stats: 158 G, 708 PA, .314 AVG, .422 OBP, .645 SLG, 176 OPS+, 54 HR, 24 SB
Despite the many controversies he attracted, Alex Rodriguez’s time with the New York Yankees between 2004 and 2016 was mostly a success.
He was never better than in his MVP-winning seasons in 2005 and 2007, the latter of which was arguably the best of his 22-year career. To wit, he led the majors in home runs, slugging, OPS and OPS+ that season.
To his credit, Aaron Judge had a similar season a decade later in 2017. Though he hit “only” 52 homers with “only” a 171 OPS+, he matched A-Rod’s .422 OBP and actually hit for power at a higher rate.
But the separator in A-Rod’s favor is his baserunning. Whereas Judge was 9-for-13 stealing bases in 2017, Rodriguez was 24-for-28 in 2007.
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MONICA DAVEY/Getty Images
Key Stats: 154 G, 671 PA, .342 AVG, .477 OBP, .660 SLG, 199 OPS+, 38 HR, 2 SB
In 2000, Jason Giambi won the American League MVP for the Oakland Athletics on the strength of a 187 OPS+ and a career-high 43 home runs.
He then followed it up with an even better season in 2001.
That might seem counterintuitive given that he hit five fewer home runs, but he made up for that by nearly doubling his doubles from 29 to 47. He also led the AL with his on-base and slugging percentages, as well as in OPS and OPS+.
To boot, the last Athletics player to go as high as a 199 OPS+ before Giambi: Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx in 1932 and 1933.
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ALAN DIAZ/Associated Press
Key Stats: 159 G, 704 PA, .313 AVG, .425 OBP, .659 SLG, 167 OPS+, 58 HR, 0 SB
There’s never a bad time to appreciate former Philadelphia Phillies great Bobby Abreu, and his 2004 season is especially worthy of praise.
In that one, Abreu put up a 145 OPS+ with 30 home runs and a 40-for-45 performance with stolen bases. All told, it’s the most complete offensive season the Phillies have gotten this century.
Though he wasn’t as good with the stick, Jimmy Rollins deserves a shoutout for following Howard’s MVP win in 2006 with one of his own in 2007 on the strength of 38 doubles, 20 triples, 30 homers and 41 steals.
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DAVID MAXWELL/Getty Images
Key Stats: 153 G, 644 PA, .298 AVG, .450 OBP, .622 SLG, 177 OPS+, 38 HR, 15 SB
The most beloved player the Pittsburgh Pirates have had this century was surely Andrew McCutchen, and any of the seasons he had between 2012 and 2014 could be called the club’s best since 2000.
Before McCutchen, however, Brian Giles went on a hell of a run in his own right that culminated with his brilliant season in 2002.
In fact, the last Pirates hitter to do as well as a 177 OPS+ before Giles? None other than Bonds, who finished the 1992 season at 204.
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Chris Park/Associated Press
Key Stats: 160 G, 681 PA, .277 AVG, .407 OBP, .551 SLG, 162 OPS+, 40 HR, 1 SB
Squint hard enough, and you can see a case for Phil Nevin’s 2001 season as the best of the San Diego Padres for the 21st century.
Nevin hit .306 with a 158 OPS+ in ’01, and he also set a personal high with 41 home runs.
But eight years later, Adrian Gonzalez did just a little bit better. Beyond posting a superior OPS+, he also bettered Nevin’s .388 OBP with a .407 and hit for power at only a slightly inferior rate.
Gonzalez was a tough out in general that season, finishing with 10 more walks than strikeouts. And this was in a 2009 season that, though laughable by today’s standards, still set what was then a record for total strikeouts.
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Harry How/Getty Images
Key Stats: 153 G, 664 PA, .328 AVG, .515 OBP, .863 SLG, 259 OPS+, 73 HR, 13 SB
One could gravitate toward Barry Bonds’ 2002 season, in which he hit .370. There’s also his 2004 season, in which he was on base more than 60 percent of the time.
But, come on. There’s no greater offensive season to represent the San Francisco Giants in this roundup than Bonds’ history-making 2001 campaign.
Beyond setting a single-season record with 73 home runs, Bonds’ also broke Babe Ruth’s single-season mark for slugging percentage. He also joined Ruth as the only two players to post an OPS+ as high as 250, which he would do again in ’02 and ’04.
Were performance-enhancing drugs a factor? Whether Bonds took them knowingly or not, the answer is clearly yes. But his numbers still count, and they’ll never not be mind-boggling.
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HENNY RAY ABRAMS/Getty Images
Key Stats: 148 G, 672 PA, .316 AVG, .420 OBP, .606 SLG, 163 OPS+, 41 HR, 15 SB
Seattle Mariners fans are perhaps most fond of Ichiro Suzuki’s rookie explosion in 2001 or, even more so, the 2004 campaign in which he collected a single-season record 262 hits.
But in his final year with the Mariners in 2000, Alex Rodriguez had a season that still hasn’t been topped by any other Mariner this century.
Both his OBP and OPS+ from 2000 stood as personal bests until 2005. The latter is also a high mark for the Mariners since 2000, and only Edgar Martinez (2001) and Nelson Cruz (2015) have come close to it.
Mariners fans were none too happy when A-Rod left to take a $252 million payday with the Texas Rangers. But given that his 2000 season arguably wasn’t even his best as a Mariner, he certainly deserved that money.
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Morry Gash/Associated Press
Key Stats: 160 G, 700 PA, .327 AVG, .443 OBP, .658 SLG, 189 OPS+, 47 HR, 16 SB
Albert Pujols’ time with the St. Louis Cardinals between 2001 and 2011 wasn’t so much a collection of great seasons as it was a continuous run of excellence.
But if we must pick out a point when it peaked, we’ll side with Pujols’ 2009 campaign over the ones he had in 2003, 2006 and 2008.
Though Pujols fell shy of his career high of 49, his 47 homers in ’09 won him his first (and to date, only) major league home run title. Likewise, he led at least the National League in OBP, slugging, OPS, OPS+ and total bases.
Factor in how Pujols also equaled his personal best for stolen bases, and he was clearly never a bigger menace for the opposition than he was in 2009.
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Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
Key Stats: 148 G, 612 PA, .282 AVG, .411 OBP, .627 SLG, 172 OPS+, 46 HR, 1 SB
Since their inception in 1998, the Tampa Bay Rays have known such offensive greats as Carl Crawford, Melvin Upton Jr., Evan Longoria and, most recently, Austin Meadows.
But just when he seemed to be on his way out of the majors, the Rays took a chance on Carlos Pena in 2007 and found themselves reaping rewards unlike any they’ve seen before or since.
Pena went on to prove he was no one-hit wonder, as his 172 homers between 2007 and 2011 were the sixth-most in baseball during that span.
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Al Bello/Getty Images
Key Stats: 162 G, 732 PA, .318 AVG, .399 OBP, .622 SLG, 160 OPS+, 52 HR, 18 SB
Alex Rodriguez sure got around, and he made an impression everywhere he stopped.
That includes Texas, where his stint with the Rangers was short-lived but about as impressive as his $252 million contract required. His 2002 season, in which he hit a career-high 57 homers with a 158 OPS+, was arguably his best as a Ranger.
Granted, A-Rod later admitted to taking PEDs during his Texas years. If that’s a dealbreaker for anyone, surely the next-best choice HERE is Josh Hamilton’s MVP-winning season in 2010, which featured a 170 OPS+ and 32 homers.
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Al Behrman/Associated Press
Key Stats: 149 G, 655 PA, .302 AVG, .447 OBP, .608 SLG, 182 OPS+, 43 HR, 9 SB
The Toronto Blue Jays began this century by getting an utterly dominant season out of Carlos Delgado. He finished 2000 with a 181 OPS+ and 41 homers out of 99 total extra-base hits.
This conversation should arguably end right there, but there’s simply no talking 21st-century Blue Jays without also mentioning Jose Bautista.
He came out of nowhere with his 54-homer season in 2010, and he got even better in 2011 despite sinking to 43 homers. To wit, he blew away his .260 average and .378 OBP from the prior season, and he led the majors in slugging, OPS and OPS+.
And while we still maintain that Delgado’s 2000 season was amazing, we’ll also note that it happened in a much more hitter-friendly environment than Bautista’s 2011 season.
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Alex Brandon/Associated Press
Key Stats: 153 G, 654 PA, .330 AVG, .460 OBP, .649 SLG, 198 OPS+, 42 HR, 6 SB
Let us not forget that before the Washington Nationals came the Montreal Expos, who had a brilliant player in the late 1990s and early 2000s named Vladimir Guerrero.
However, even Guerrero’s near-40/40 season in 2002 looks mundane next to what Bryce Harper did in 2015.
After merely teasing superstardom between 2012 and 2014, Harper finally realized it in ’15 by leading the co-leading the National League in homers and grabbing the top spots for the majors in on-base, slugging, OPS and OPS+. His marks for OBP, OPS and OPS+ are also Nationals records.
Harper’s 2015 season is unfortunately a massive outlier relative to his other seven seasons in the majors. All the same, it’s a reminder of how great he can be.