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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Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published multiple times weekly focusing on stats that go beyond the numbers.
Teen phenom Bryce Harper made his major league debut on April 28 with Washington going one-for-three with a double. There has been a lot of speculation about whether or not Harper will stay with the Nationals for the entire season, but if he does and continues to play as well as he has in his first eight MLB games, he would have a legitimate shot at establishing some new batting records for players in their teen years.
Harper does not turn 20 until October 16, so if he stays with the parent club and stays in the starting lineup, he may join Phil Cavarretta, Robin Yount, Mickey Mantle, and Ken Griffey, Jr., as one of the most successful teenagers in MLB history. Which hitting records for teenagers could Harper challenge? Following is a look a few stats that may have to make room for Harper at the end of this season.
Players that rank in the Top Ten for most hits before their 20th birthday
1. Phil Cavarretta, 295
2. Robin Yount, 235
3. Mel Ott, 209
4. Buddy Lewis, 178
5. Ed Kranepool, 166
6. Sibby Sisti, 164
7. Bob Kennedy, 155
8. Paul Hines, 151
9. Ty Cobb, 149
10. Al Kaline, 146
Although Harper has yet to hit a home run, here are the five teenagers with the most home runs in MLB history
1. Tony Conigliaro, 24; 2. Mel Ott, 19; 3. Phil Cavarretta, 18; 4. Ken Griffey, 16; 5. Mickey Mantle, 13.
Here are the five teenagers with the most RBI
1. Phil Cavarretta, 144; 2. Met Ott, 100; 3. Jimmy Sheckard, 78; 4. Robin Yount, 78; 5. George Davis, 73.
The one category where Harper may challenge a teenager record is doubles. Through Harper’s first eight games and 28 at-bats, he has five doubles. Should he stay with the Nationals for the entire season and get 300 or more at-bats, he could make a run at Phil Cavarretta’s teenage record of 46 doubles in his MLB career before he turned 20.
Did you know? Harper has a .308 batting average as of May 6. The best career batting average of any player before turning 20 was Mel Ott who had a .318 career batting average before he turned 20. Could Harper challenge Ott’s .318 average?
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Jim Thome became the eighth member of the majors’ 600-HR Club with a pair of homers tonight (August 15). He also becomes the first member of that club who won only one HR crown in his career. Thome led the National League in home runs when he hit 47 for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2003. That was the only year he won an HR crown in his career. All other members of the 600-HR Club led their league in HRs in two or more seasons.
In looking at the 25 members of the 500-HR Club, we discover that three players hit 500 or more home runs in their career yet never led the league in home runs. The three: Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield and Frank Thomas.
Here’s a look at the 25 members of the 500-HR Club and the number of times they led the league in home runs in a season in their career.
League HR crowns, Player (career HRs)
0: Rafael Palmeiro (569), Gary Sheffield (509), Frank Thomas (521)
1: Eddie Murray (504), Manny Ramirez (555), Frank Robinson (586), Jim Thome (600)
2: Ernie Banks (512), Barry Bonds (762), Eddie Mathews (512), Sammy Sosa (609)
3: Willie McCovey (521)
5: Alex Rodriquez (626)
6: Harmon Killebrew (573), Mel Ott (511)
8: Mike Schmidt (548), Babe Ruth (714)
(WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG FOR A TRIVIA QUESTION: Can you name the five members of the 500-HR club who hit all of their home runs with only one team? Answer below.)
Did you know? Hank Aaron wore uniform number 44 and hit 44 home runs in a season four times!
TRIVIA ANSWER: Mel Ott (NY Giants), Ernie Banks (Chicago Cubs), Ted Williams (Boston), Mickey Mantle (NY Yankees) and Mike Schmidt (Philadelphia)
Did you know? Gary Sheffield hit 509 career HRs yet did not hit more than 130 for one team. He hit 129 for the LA Dodgers, most with one team in his career.
Did you know? Alex Rodriquez is the only player to hit 150 or more HRs for three different teams. Rodriquez hit 156 for Texas, 189 for Seattle and has hit 281 for the Yankees.