Despite a long lockout that threatened the season, Major League Baseball was incredibly special in 2022. Trying to narrow down the notable moments to just 10 was difficult. There are many more storylines that are worth talking about but did not make this list, so please don’t fret if I didn’t include your favorite player or team.
If I could, I’d also like to recognize a bonus storyline from the 2022 MLB Season: Pitcher List’s player pages got Statcast data! I’m so proud of all my colleagues here at PL who’ve worked incredibly hard to produce the best baseball site on the internet. I’m honored to work alongside them and hope you’ve enjoyed our work this season.
Without further ado, here are the top ten storylines of the 2022 MLB season!
Top Ten Storylines of the 2022 MLB Season
1. Aaron Judge sets AL single-season home run record.
Before a pitch was thrown on Opening Day, there was drama swirling around the New York Yankees. The team’s general manager announced that slugger Aaron Judge rejected the team’s extension offer of 7 years, $213.5 million, negotiations were ending, and Judge would become a free agent at the end of the season. Attempting to rile up the fanbase by casting blame on the face of your franchise felt like a petty move, especially considering the timing. Nevertheless, there was a game to be played. Aaron Judge collected two hits and the Yankees won in extra innings.
The slugger would be in a “prove it” year, and he did just that. It took him six games to hit his first home run, but once he got going he didn’t stop. On October 4, 2022, in the second game of a double-header on the last day of the season, Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season. That swing capped off a historic season for the slugger and helped him pass Roger Maris for the most home runs in a single American League season.
SIXTY-TWO! BASEBALL HISTORY! @TheJudge44 is the American League home run King! pic.twitter.com/QKrcuOvZMU
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) October 5, 2022
2. Miguel Cabrera gets his 3,000th career hit.
Fans love round numbers. They serve as reference points, sure, but that’s not why we get romantic when a player creeps up to 3,000 hits or 700 home runs. We’re nearing 23,000 players to debut in Major League Baseball, but only 33 have reached 3,000 hits. Round numbers, and this one specifically, signify the combination of brilliance and longevity that almost always hand the athlete their key to Cooperstown.
Miguel Cabrera’s 3,000th career hit came on April 23, 2022. It was a single through the right side, a swing we’ve loved for two decades, that made him the 33rd player in MLB history to join the 3,000 hit club.
The 7th player in Major League history with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. pic.twitter.com/7RtGWyl3Xv
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) April 23, 2022
3. Albert Pujols gets his 700th career home run.
When news broke that Pujols would return to St. Louis for a farewell tour, this wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. After how the last few years had gone for Pujols, 21 home runs to reach 700 seemed like a long shot. But all of a sudden he was playing the best we’d seen since those last years with the Cardinals, so by the end of the season it almost felt inevitable.
Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on September 23, 2022. After a two-run shot for his 699th earlier in the game, a three-run homer a few innings later made him the ninth player in baseball history to reach 700 home runs.
Mr. 700, #AlbertPujols! pic.twitter.com/ccQ4DQcXV0
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 24, 2022
4. Juan Soto and the blockbuster trade of the century.
In his recap of the 2022 trade deadline, Pitcher List’s Steve Drumwright’s opening line summed it up: This MLB trade deadline shook baseball’s foundation. The San Diego Padres pulled off the unthinkable, going all in and trading for one of the best young stars in the game. Right fielder Juan Soto and first baseman Josh Bell were headed to the San Diego Padres. In return, the Washington Nationals received veteran DH Luke Voit, LHP MacKenzie Gore, SS CJ Abrams, and a trio of top-15 prospects. OF Robert Hassell III was the Padres’ No. 1, OF James Wood the No. 3, and RHP Jarlin Susana the No. 14.
The #Padres have acquired outfielder Juan Soto and first baseman Josh Bell from the Washington Nationals.
Details: https://t.co/orhwRJEWLh pic.twitter.com/B1CLnNL704
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) August 2, 2022
5. Welcome to the J-Rod Show!
Seattle Mariners‘ outfielder Julio Rodríguez introduced himself on the national stage in the 2022 Home Run Derby. He hit 32 home runs in the first round, a number Corey Seager (24) had no chance of beating. Rodríguez would then face the favorite, defending back-to-back champ Pete Alonso, in the second round. His second round total of 31 long balls was equally impressive and would deny Pete Alonso (23) another victory.
Rodríguez’s 18 home runs in the final round weren’t enough to fend off Juan Soto, but it didn’t matter. In total, his 81 home runs were the second-most ever in a Home Run Derby. The baseball world fell in love with Rodríguez, who locked up the AL Rookie of the Year Award on Monday.
6. The NL East is really, really good.
If you had a friend wake up from a year long slumber and told them the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets each won 101 games in 2022 but another 87-win team in the division won the National League pennant, there’s no chance they’d believe you. It wouldn’t be possible in any other year, but the expanded playoffs helped the Philadelphia Phillies sneak into the playoffs and make a run for it.
The Phillies swept the three-game Wild Card series against the Cardinals on the road, ensuring playoff baseball in Philadelphia for the first time since 2011. They faced the 101-win Braves in the divisional series, while the Padres battled the 101-win Mets in theirs. Both the Phillies and Padres toppled the giants in 3 games to 1, sending the NL East titans packing. The Phillies’ postseason run was even more improbable when you consider the way they started: they were 22-29 on June 3, had just fired their manager, and turned it over to bench coach turned interim manager Rob Thomson. And the rest, as you know, is history.
"It's the most resilient club I've ever been around." ❤️ pic.twitter.com/JSdyCFjwkS
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) October 24, 2022
7. Seattle Mariners snap the longest playoff drought in professional sports.
The Mariners nearly made the playoffs in 2021, but ultimately found themselves in a familiar spot: on the outside looking in. With the help of a budding rookie superstar in Julio Rodríguez, a solid pitching staff that got a huge upgrade at the deadline with Luis Castillo, and a storybook dinger from Big Dumper, the 2022 season was different from each of the last 21 years.
Seattle, who hadn’t made the postseason since 2001, held the longest active playoff drought in any of the four major professional sports. The last time they’d played meaningful October baseball, Ichiro was a rookie and Julio Rodríguez was less than a year old. None of that mattered, however, when Cal Raleigh buried a walk-off home run in the right-field seats to send the Mariners to the postseason.
“THE DREAM LIVES! THEY’RE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS! THE DROUGHT IS OVER!” @TheDaveSimsShow just doesn’t miss. pic.twitter.com/DmbJRvsbJW
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) October 1, 2022
8. The Guardians proved everyone wrong and the Orioles are ahead of schedule.
The Cleveland Guardians and Baltimore Orioles both put up incredible seasons in 2022. It’s hard to say a team that won 92 games and their division snuck up on us, but that’s kind of what it feels like to me. Prior to the season, FanGraphs projected a third place AL Central finish at 77-85 record for the Guardians. The youngest team in baseball played with an old-school, offensive approach. The contact-focused team hit the second-fewest home runs and had the fewest strikeouts in baseball. They put the ball in play, stole bases, and played phenomenal defense. They proved in 2022 that they belonged, but the postseason exposed some of their weaknesses on offense. The good news? The Guardians are in a prime position to upgrade at catcher and inject some power into their lineup. They won’t be sneaking up on anyone next year.
A team that flew completely under the radar in 2022 was the Baltimore Orioles. They lost 110 games in 2021 and came into 2022 looking like they were still in the middle of their rebuild. The Orioles were eight games below .500 when they announced they were calling up Adley Rutschman, the No. 1 prospect in baseball. He got off to a slow start, but got hot and helped the Orioles win 10 straight games right before the All-Star Break. They continued to play well and found themselves making tough decisions at the trade deadline. Despite still being in contention for the AL Wild Card, they seemingly waved the white flag by trading 1B/DH Trey Mancini and closer Jorge López. Much like the Guardians, the Orioles are in a good spot heading into 2023. Rutschman’s season earned him an AL Rookie of the Year Award nomination, and the O’s have other youngsters poised to make an impact. They’re also rumored to be active on the free agent market this offseason, looking specifically to make a splash by signing a big-name starting pitcher.
The 2022 script was something special: the youngest team in baseball, a division title, and a 92-win season while peppering in some gritty come from behind wins and the emergence of some bright, young stars.
This chapter closes, but the story of this group is far from over. pic.twitter.com/3rtlE4zQiy
— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) October 18, 2022
9. Sandy Alcantara is a workhorse.
The Miami Marlins right-hander solidified himself into one of the game’s aces in 2022, and he’s doing it in a way that no one else is. His 228.2 innings pitched led by a wide margin, with the second-place finisher Aaron Nola pitching “only” 205 innings. In 22 starts, Alcantara pitched at least seven innings; no other pitcher in baseball had more than 15 starts of 7+ innings pitched.
Not only does he pitch deep into games, but Alcantara gets stronger as the game goes on. He’ll routinely touch triple digits for the first time late in games, and the third time through the order means nothing for Sandy. Opposing batters collectively slashed .239/.279/.359 against him in their third plate appearance of the game, while the MLB average is .264/.325/.445. Although his six complete games led all pitchers, he’d probably tell you that total is too small. He truly expects to finish every game he starts, and he isn’t afraid to tell his manager so.
Sandy Alcantara convinces Don Mattingly to let him keep going…
2 on, 1 out, 1 run lead in the 9th…@Marlins | #MakeItMiami pic.twitter.com/ptL8jSEhrB
— Bally Sports Florida & Bally Sports Sun (@BallySportsFL) June 30, 2022
10. Shohei Ohtani is Shohei Ohtani.
Every time Shohei Ohtani steps on the field, there’s a good chance he’s going to do something incredible, yet make it look so easy. His 2021 season was great and rightfully earned him unanimous AL MVP honors. Ohtani’s 2022 season, however, was even better.
One of his biggest hurdles on the mound had been his propensity to walk batters. He cut down on his free passes in 2022, his 6.7% walk rate was a career best. Ohtani ranked at the top of leaderboards with a 33.2% strikeout rate (5th), 32.8% CSW%, and 2.33 ERA (10th). He also debuted a new pitch in the middle of the season, a 97 mph sinker.
Ohtani dazzled at the plate too. He slashed .273/.356/.519 with a 142 wRC+. As he did on the mound, Ohtani was also at the top of hitting leaderboards. He had 34 home runs (4th), 304 total bases (5th), and an .875 OPS (6th).
In 2022, Ohtani became the first player in Major League Baseball history to record 10+ wins and hit 30+ home runs in a single season. I don’t like calling him a unicorn but I get the appeal — Ohtani is doing something so rare and magnificent, we might never see anyone like him again. For that reason, despite the dominant season Aaron Judge had at the plate, it’s Ohtani > Judge for me.
good morning to our AL MVP finalist 🦄 pic.twitter.com/klGOOC6wZB
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) November 8, 2022
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)