Seven years without hitting the baseball
I came across this quote a couple of weeks ago. It is attributed to Yankees great Mickey Mantle. According to the “Mick”:
“During my 18 years (in the majors) I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and I walked maybe 1,800 times. You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at-bats a season. That means I played seven seasons without hitting the ball.”
Think about that for a second…. seven years without hitting the ball.
It got me thinking about whether or not Mantle was the only player who might fall into this category. To establish the standard, I looked to see how many players, like Mantle, had more than 1,500 strikeouts and 1,500 walks in their careers. There are six players on this list:
Barry Bonds (1,539 strikeouts, 2,558 walks)
Jim Thome (2,548 strikeouts, 1,747 walks)
Harmon Killebrew (1,699 strikeouts, 1,559 walks)
Mike Schmidt (1,883 strikeouts, 1,507 walks)
Mickey Mantle (1,719 strikeouts, 1,733 walks)
Rickey Henderson (1,694 strikeouts, 2,190 walks)
(Note: Tally up Thome’s strikeout and walk numbers and it adds up to 4,295. Using Mantle’s example, that’s eight and a half seasons without hitting the ball!)
I also wondered how many players had seasons “without hitting the ball,” specifically, how many players had a season where they had more than 150 strikeouts and 150 walks. There is only one player that fits into this category: In 1998, Mark McGwire ended that season with 155 strikeouts and 162 walks, just about a strikeout and a walk each game that season.
If we drop the numbers down to 125 strikeouts and 125 walks in a season, there have been a dozen players who have reached the 125-125 milestone in a season. Three did it in two seasons… Jack Clark, Joey Votto, and McGwire. The other nine players who have done it once: Aaron Judge, Adam Dunn, Bryce Harper, Frank Howard, Jeff Bagwell, Jim Thome, Jim Wynn, Mike Schmidt, and Tony Phillips.
For the record, only one Brewers player ever had a season with 100 or more strikeouts and 100 or more walks in the same campaign, and he did it in three consecutive seasons; Prince Fielder in 2009 had 138 strikeouts and 110 walks, in 2010 he had 138 strikeouts and 114 walks, and in 2011 he had 106 strikeouts and 107 walks.
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