Thursday, May 14, 2009

In the wake of Zimmerman's streak ending...

Which of these long long standing records in baseball will be the most difficult to break? Rank them 1-5, and then make your own options that I may not have put in here...

- Joe Dimaggio's 56-game hitting streak (set in 1941).
Most recent close calls: Rose 44 games in 1978, Molitor 37 games in 1987

- Ted Williams last man to hit .400 (hit .406 in 1941)
Most recent close calls: Gwynn hitting .393 in 1994, Bret hitting .390 in 1980)

- A non-steriod's tainted hitter connecting for 60 HRs (Ruth 60 in 1927, Maris 61 in 1961)
Most recent non-steroids close calls: Howard hitting 58 in 2006, Griffey hitting 56 in 1997-1998 back to back).

- Nolan Ryan's modern day record of 373 strikeouts in a season (set in 1973)
Recent Close calls: Randy Johnson 372 Ks in 2001, 364 Ks in 1999).

- Denny McLain's 30-win season (31-6 in 1968)
Recent "close" calls: RJohnson 24-5 in 2002, Smoltz 24-8 in 1996, bob Welch 27-6 in 1990, guidry's 25-3 in 1978, Steve Stone 25-7 in 1980. Steve Carlton 27-10 in 1972 for a 59-win Phillies team still stands out as one of the greatest single-season performances ever.

My guesses (from hardest to break to most likely broken):
1. The 30-win option is probably the most outlandish; i didn't realize this but NO pitcher had won 30 games in a season for 30-some years prior to McLain's season. The most recent were Lefty Grove (31-4 in 1931) and Dizzy Dean (30-7 in 1934). So perhaps ignore this one.
2. 373 strikeouts: A modern day pitcher in a 5-man rotation probably gets somewhere between 33-35 starts in a season, meaning they'd need to average 10-11 Ks per start to have a shot. With pitch count limits and specialized relievers, Its hard to see. Lincecum led the league with 264 Ks last year, putting him in 120th place for single season K's.
3. Batting 400. With today's hitters usually facing 3 different pitchers in a 5 atbat game, there's a lot of 1-4 and 1-5 days out there.
4. 56-game hitting streak; yes its stood for a while but imagine if a slap contact hitter like Ichiro really decided he wanted to make a run at that record. I think he could do it.
5. 61 HRs in a season. I think someone will broach this and pass it at some point, even given the decline in power and drug testing. With dinky stadiums like Cincinnati, Philly and Texas, its just a matter of time before it happens. A lefty power hitter in Camden Yards (318 down the line) would continue to rake for a long time.

(Note: i didn't put things in here like triples, complete games, etc because they don't make any sense in the modern game. But perhaps Rickey Henderson's season record of 130 SBs is now going to come back into play?)


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