Owners this morning have proposed a new 76-game plan to players, which is a bump from the previous 50-game plan that the players roundly rejected. Whether it’s 76 or 50, a shortened MLB season is just ridiculous. The variance of baseball needs growing room. Baseball simply needs a long season for the math to settle toward anything that we’re remotely used to seeing.
Regardless of what happens, this year will be a statistical outlier in the record books. It will be a historical anomaly in the records of future Hall-of-Fame players like Mike Trout, whose march on the record books will no doubt be unfairly impacted. The 2020 season could see some absolutely absurd ratio stats with the small sample size. I took a look through some of MLB’s historical greatest streaks to see what wild outliers can happen over a 50- or 76-game period.
Eight Amazing Streaks That Show Why a Shortened MLB Season is Stupid
Giancarlo Stanton‘s Home Run Summer – 2017
Giancarlo Stanton had an absolutely epic run at the home run records in 2017, eventually falling short with 59 total homers on the year. Stanton’s season was the first 50-homer season by a National League player since Prince Fielder hit 57 for the 2007 Brewers. During this season, in a span of 48 games from July through August, Stanton hit 30 home runs and drove in 60 over 216 plate appearances, homering in an absurd 13% of his trips to the plate. His 6.56 at-bats per home run would be on pace with Barry Bonds‘ chemically assisted best season ever.
Ichiro’s Run to the Hit Record – 2004
Ichiro Suzuki is one of the best hitters baseball has ever seen. Retiring with 3,089 hits in MLB and another 1,278 in Japan, the numbers are indisputable. If Ichiro had spent his entire career in MLB, I have serious doubts about whether Pete Rose would still have the all-time hits record. Ichiro was able to lay claim to the single-season hits record in 2004. Chasing the all-time record of 257, Ichiro strung together an August and September for the ages, banging out 104 hits in only 249 at bats. Batting average is a terrible flawed stat, but that’s a .418 batting average over a 58-game stretch.
Say Hey to May for Me, Willie
Willie Mays was one of the greatest ballplayers to ever put on a glove. Magic in the outfield, an absolute masher at the plate, and a first-ballot Hall-of-Fame player, the “Say Hey Kid” ranks fifth in career home runs with 660, 12th in RBI with 1903 and seventh in runs scored with 2062. In 1958, Mays went on a streak for the ages. In 27 games from May 9 through June 6, Mays hit 12 home runs and posted a slash line of .478/.516/.983, and a 1.498 OPS. The stretch included a ridiculous eight games from the ninth through the 17th, in which Mays hit a ridiculous 10 home runs and drove in 20 in only eight games.
Barry Bonds Breaks Baseball – 2001
Say what you will about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports. With genetic modifications and who knows what else on the horizon, in my opinion, PEDs are going to be a part of sports for a long time, and there will be a day where people look back at our current attitudes about enhancements as quaint and silly. Barry Bonds proved beyond a shadow of a doubt the effectiveness of PEDs with his four straight MVP seasons from 2001-2004, but he was never better than his outrageous stretch run to the record books in 2001. In 113 plate appearances from September 1 through the end of the season, Bonds smashed 15 home runs and drew a ridiculous 38 walks, eight of them intentional. The slugger finished September with an astronomical .403/.607/1.078 slash and an 1.685 OPS. He would smash through Mark McGwire‘s single-season home run record, ending the year at 73.
Disappointingly, neither FanGraphs nor Baseball-Reference seem to have the data tracking the increase in Bonds’ hat size due to PEDs over the course of the 2001 season.
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Ty Cobb‘s July to Remember
Ty Cobb was a notoriously racist asshole and a terrible garbage person. He was also one hell of a baseball player. In July of 1912, Cobb went on an epic run of base hits. In 133 July plate appearances over 30 games, Cobb racked up an unfathomable 68 hits. This equates to a .528 batting average for the month, and is to this day the most hits by a player in a single month, and no player has more than 60 hits in a month since 1938. Cobb would add 20 RBI and 14 stolen bases to the impressive July hits total, stringing together one of the most amazing 30 game runs in MLB history.
Todd Helton Destroys May Y2k
“In the yeaaaaaarrrrr 2000…” fans of the popular old Conan bit might think this was one of the made up absurd predictions from the show, but this was actually Todd Helton’s May in 2000. Over the month of May, Helton racked up 82 at bats and managed 42 hits for a .512 batting average for the month. Add to the impressive hits total the fact that 11 of those hits were home runs and that Helton walked 18 times, and you get to a monthly OPS of 1.588 over 102 plate appearances, the third-best month of all time in the category. This goes to show that it isn’t only Hall-of-Fame players who can go on absurd runs in a limited sample size.
Hack Wilson‘s Unbreakable RBI Record Had One Gargantuan Month
Hack Wilson was a Hall-of-Fame outfielder for the Cubs who was known as much for his prodigious power on the field as he was for his drinking and fighting off of it. An anonymous sportswriter of the time said: “For a brief span of a few years, this hammered down little strongman actually rivaled the mighty Ruth.”
In 1930, Wilson had what still stands as the greatest RBI season of all time, ending the year with 191(!). To put that number in perspective, Lou Gehrig is second on the list with seven fewer the following year, and no one has come closer than Manny Ramirez‘s 165 in 1999. A record that hasn’t been remotely approached in nearly 90 years might stand for all time. Wilson compiled his RBIs throughout the year, but his August was absolutely bonkers. In 29 August games, Wilson drove in 53 runs, just shy of two per game for the entire month. Bolstered by a .398 average and 13 home runs over the month, Wilson also added 29 runs to the total, in one of the greatest stretches of all time.
2017 Dodgers Prove the Point
Finally, we get to the lone team entry on the list. The case that absolutely proves the point of why a 50-, or even 76-game baseball season is pointless and absurd. In 2017, from June 7 through Aug. 5, the Dodgers went 43-7 over 50 games. This was the best 50-game stretch in MLB since 1912, a 105 year gap. The Dodgers crushed 96 home runs during the stretch, posting a team line of 269/.356/.508, and a ridiculous 5.50 runs per game.
So, if you want an outside shot at a team playing .860 ball over the course of an MLB season, go for it, play 50 games. For me, regardless of how long or short this season becomes, there’s going to be one gigantic asterisk on it in the record books.
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