Tuesday, August 9, 2011

They'll Never be Broken

When Icharo Suzuki broke George Sisler's record of 257 hits set in 1920 he broke a record that I thought was going to be pretty tough to beat. Of course it had really been something when Rose beat Cobb's 4,197 hits lifetime. And no one ever thought Gehrig's 2,130 consecutive games record would ever be equaled until Ripken Jr. smashed the heck out of it.

What records will NEVER be broken? I often read that Dimaggio's 56-game hitting streak can never be matched. Maybe not, 44 is as close as anybody's got. But I think it could be. There are some, however, that really never will be broken. Here they are and why.

Most triples, 309 by Sam Crawford. Among active players Carl Crawford (29 years old) leads with 110. He's a third of the way there. Explanation: Current centre field fences range from 380 to 435 feet (Houston's Minute Maid Park). There used to be several major league parks with center field fences 500 feet deep. Even if you hit a ball into the power alleys in parks like the old Yankee Stadium you could round a lot of bases.

Most inside the park home runs, 55 by Jesse Burkett. Explanation: See above.

Most stolen bases, 1,406 by Rickey Henderson. 33-year old Juan Pierre of the White Sox has 545 – again, he's a third of the way there. (Crawford's next with 422.) Explanation: Henderson was not only talented, but extraordinary like Hank Aaron, Rose and Ripken Jr. – in that he played for a long time. Otherwise he wouldn't have passed guys like Cobb and Brock. It's pretty doubtful anyone else will be that fast for that long.

Most steals of home, 54 by Ty Cobb. I remember watching Rod Carew pull this off once in a while (he did it 17 times). And we've all seen pictures of Jackie Robinson doing it. You almost never see one attempted anymore. I believe three (by B.J. Upton, Tori Hunter, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Omar Vizquel) is the most among active players. A ways to go here. Explanation: It's a different game today. Fellow blogger Rick laments the loss of the triple as an exciting play to watch, well here's another one that has virtually disappeared. Back in the day there were guys who stole home twice in a game, not a career.

Highest batting average .440, by Hugh Duffy in 1894. Explanation: Seeing as even Suzuki can't hit .400 (and Carew, Brett and Gywnn couldn't either) it's tough to think anyone will reach .440.

Fewest strikeouts in a season, 4 by Joe Sewell (see photo). Explanation: The game sure has changed. Nobody chokes up on the bat and tries to poke the ball through holes anymore (except maybe Suzuki). Babe Ruth, who swung for the fences like no other player never struck out 100 times in a season. Now lots of guys do. Dimaggio struck out just 13 times in 541 at bats in '41 (the streak year). This year Nationals' catcher Jesus Flores has 13 strikeouts – in 34 at bats! Jeff Keppinger of the Giants is doin' okay though, just 12 strikeouts in 231 at bats.

Most wins, 511 by Cy Young. Number two is Walter Johnson and he fell almost 100 short (417). Explanation: The four- and five-man rotation has ended any chance of this one being matched, unless somebody pitches into his eighties. In baseball's early days a team would have two starters. (And they were also finishers.) Among recent pitchers Greg Maddux (355) and Roger Clemens (354) came closest. Jamie Moyer, who is today's Phil Niekro, leads active pitchers with 267. Then it's Roy Halladay (184), Tim Hudson (176), C.C. Sabathia (173), and Livian Hernandez (172). Lotta work to do.

Most shutouts, 110 by Walter Johnson. Warren Spahn had 63. Nolan Ryan topped 50. Roy Halladay leads current pitchers with 19. Again, a ways to go. Explanation: See above.

Most complete games, 749 by Cy Young. Halladay has 64, Livian Hernandez has 50. I don't think they'll reach 749. Explanation: Sure modern owners are often corporations with shareholders who don't want their valuable young arms overused as Billy Martin did with the Athletics thirty years ago, so there is a pitch counter on every bench now, but there is more to it than that.

Back before Ruth made the home run so popular and profitable pitchers could pace themselves, especially when they got near the bottom of the order. You didn't have to throw hard all the time. So what if the sixth and seventh hitters walked or got hits? Even if one of them was for extra bases you're still only down a run. Walter Johnson didn't have to throw his 100 mile an hour (probable not verified) fastball on every pitch so he could go nine or twelve or fourteen innings and still pitch three days later.

Now almost every hitter except the pitcher could hit a ball out. You can't really let up for long. You walk a guy, another guy gets a scratch single and the next guy could cost you three runs with one swing.

I know other analysts have suggested other records, but for me, these are the ones that'll last forever.


Larry Toman said...

Great read Will. Breaking or not breaking records is a fascinating part of the best game on the planet.I agree that there are some records that will stand the test of time, maybe because of the evolution of the game as we see today. A 56 game hitting streak is quite remarkable indeed. Dan Uggla is certainly making a run, heading for 30 tonight, but that would have to be extended for another 26 games. Tall order indeed. When he started the run on July 5, he was batting .173. Go figure.Cheers.

Rick Blechta said...

I'm with Larry on this. Fascinatin' stuff. I had no idea Cy Young's numbers were that gaudy! Wow!