May 31, 2006

511 (via Brad S.):

Baseball's top 10 'records' ... without the home runs (Jayson Stark, 5/30/06,

When Barry Bonds and his cohorts in the Asterisk Generation can perform radical surgery to remove all the romance from one of the most romantic numbers in any sport -- 714 -- it's time to reevaluate.

It's time to reevaluate the home run and what it means in our culture. And it's time, especially, to reevaluate what we've always looked on as our favorite records in the record book.

If numbers like 714 are going to cease to mean anything, then what do any home run records mean? And if the home run records are no longer the coolest, most celebrated records in baseball, what replaces them?

We've asked this question recently to a bunch of baseball people -- players, ex-players, executives, historians, writers and great statistical minds:

"If we take all home run records out of the argument, what are the 10 best records in baseball?" That's the question.

Certainly the best, and the only unbreakable one listed, is Cy Young's 511 wins (and very close to 200 wins over .500). It's just not possible to imagine a starting pitcher going ever third or fourth day for twenty years again, even though it would be a very good idea for the game to revert back to four man rotations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 31, 2006 8:57 AM

Not this this means anything to anyone but numerologists, but 714 was also Joe Friday's badge number on Dragnet.

Posted by: Bryan at May 31, 2006 9:19 AM


In order for someone to approach Denny McClain's 30 win year in 1968, that person would have to win 30 of, at most, 33 starts in a 5-man rotation. Considering that with the unbalanced sked a division team gets to see that same pitcher up to 4 times, that becomes even more of a tall order.

And let's not even discuss the ballpark changes that would have to be implemented for someone to even have a shot at Bob Gibson's ERA.

Posted by: Brad S at May 31, 2006 10:31 AM

It's easy to imagine a team going with a four man rotation for a year or two or a dominant pitcher being put on one.

Felix Hernandez throwing half his games at the Kingdome could break it--heck, John Tudor had a sub-2.00 one year.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2006 10:39 AM

Yeah, but in this era of pitcher specialization, do you know of one team that will attempt such a thing? Even Ozzie Guillen has a 5-man rotation.

Posted by: Brad S at May 31, 2006 10:46 AM

The Cubs did it for awhile a few years ago--when they had Mike Harkey. Some manager will try it again. One of the things it does is both force starters to throw more strikes and enable them to.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2006 10:54 AM

I was at the game in Cincinnati when Mike Harkey ruined his arm. Terrible thing to watch. In a day when 3rd & 4th starters made $10K it was OK to handle them as cannon fodder, it costs too much to do it today.

Bill James rates the breakability of records on the basis "years of top performance". He averages the top performance in a category over the prior three years and divides that number into the record. According to James the most unbreakable career record in baseball is Cy Young's 749 complete games, which would require over 50 years of current top performance to beat.

By the way Jason Starks pointed out the other night that Pedro and Babe Ruth are tied right now in career complete games.

Posted by: Jeff at May 31, 2006 11:10 AM

One amazing thing is that Nolan Ryan came darn close to breaking Cy Young's loss record...

Posted by: b at May 31, 2006 11:28 AM


Actually, pitching them every fourth day and reducing their pitch counts would be better for their arms. Damage comes from throwing too much on the day you pitch, not from pitching too much.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2006 11:35 AM

A four-man rotation sounds pretty good for the Red Sox right now... if they could find four.

Posted by: Mike Earl at May 31, 2006 11:49 AM

The Sox could easily go to four when Wells is healthy. It would especially help Beckett and Schilling.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2006 11:52 AM

I also think Cy Young's record is impossible these days; heck, after Maddux I didn't think anyone would get 300 in the next 20 years. Now I do think Glavine will get there, he is around 280+ now.

Posted by: pchuck at May 31, 2006 12:14 PM

If this list had been done five years ago, where would Hack Wilson's 256 hits in a season stand? Does the fact that a long standing record gets broken recently and so is demoted mean it was never all that great to begin with?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 31, 2006 12:45 PM

johnny vander meers back to back no hitters,

Posted by: tigersfan at June 1, 2006 2:49 AM

Owen Wilson hit 36 triples in 1912 - has anyone hit over 25 since? I don't think so.

George Sisler had the 257 hits - Hack Wilson the 190 RBIs. People thought that was unbreakable until Manny got around 175 a few seasons ago.

Has any outfielder ever played an entire season (120+ games) and not made an error?

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 1, 2006 11:03 AM

Cristian Guzman, a terrible hitter, had 20 a couple years ago. Some fast guy who isn't using steroids so can't reach the fence will break that one.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 11:08 AM

Another record that won't fall is the 5 Series in a row the Yankees won (49-53). The A's won 3 in row (72-74) and might conceivably have won in 1975, but that was it. The recent Yankee teams didn't do it, with all their money and stars (and feeble opposition in the Series), so nobody else is going to come close, either.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 1, 2006 10:26 PM