With all of the records in Major League Baseball, it can be hard to loose track of who makes them and who breaks them. Although there seems to be a record for just about everything, here is a list of hitting records that may just be unbreakable.
Most career hits – 4,256 Set by Pete Rose, who played from 1963–86. The active MLB leader in career hits is Alex Rodriguez, who had 3,084 as of May 4, 2016. To get within 6 hits of tying Rose, a player would have to collect 250 hits over 17 consecutive seasons, or more than 200 hits over the course of 21 seasons. In the past 81 years, only Ichiro Suzuki has topped 250 hits in a season (in 2004). As of July 29, 2016, Ichiro has 2,998 MLB hits and 1,278 hits in the Japanese major leagues for a combined, unofficial total of 4,257, one more than Rose’s record; however, Ichiro’s hits from Japan’s major leagues are not counted toward his MLB total. At the same time, Miguel Cabrera has 2,331 hits after 13 seasons and would have to average 193 hits over 10 additional seasons to break the record.
Most consecutive seasons with 200 hits – 10 Set by Ichiro Suzuki, who attained this record from 2001–10. The player who was the closest to obtaining this record is Willie Keeler, who had 8 consecutive seasons with 200 hits that occurred almost a century prior in the dead-ball era. Only José Altuve, with two consecutive 200-hit seasons, entered the 2016 season with a current streak of even two such seasons.
Most career triples – 309 Set by Sam Crawford from 1899–1916. The next closest player is Ty Cobb, who has 14 fewer triples at 295. Because of changes in playing styles and conditions that began around 1920 and have continued into the present from the dead-ball era to the live-ball era, the number of triples hit has declined noticeably since then. Among hitters whose entire careers were in the live-ball era, the leader in career triples is Stan Musial, with 177. For a player to threaten Crawford’s record, he would have to average 15 triples over 20 seasons just to get to 300. Between 2000 and 2009 the Major League leader in triples finished each year with an average of 17. The closest active player is Carl Crawford, with 122 career triples.
Most triples in a season – 36 Set by Chief Wilson in 1912. Only two other players have ever had 30 triples in a season (Dave Orr with 31 in 1886 and Heinie Reitz with 31 in 1894), while the closest anyone has come in the century since Wilson set the record is 26, shared by Sam Crawford (1914) and Kiki Cuyler (1925). Only six hitters have had 20 triples in the last 50 years: George Brett (20 in 1979), Willie Wilson (21 in 1985), Lance Johnson (21 in 1996), Cristian Guzmán (20 in 2000), Curtis Granderson (23 in 2007) and Jimmy Rollins (20 in 2007).
Most grand slams in a single inning – 2 Set by Fernando Tatís in 1999. Only twelve other players have ever hit two grand slams in a single game. However, breaking the record would require a player to hit three grand slams in a single inning. Over 50 players have hit two home runs in a single inning, but no MLB player has so much as hit three home runs in one inning. However, one minor league player, Gene Rye, has achieved the feat of hitting three home runs in a single inning.
Highest career batting average – .366 Set by Ty Cobb in 1928 after beginning his career in 1905. Cobb managed to hit .323 in his final season at age 41. The next closest player is Rogers Hornsby who had a batting average of .358; Hornsby’s career straddled the dead-ball and live-ball eras, with most of it being in the live-ball era. There are only 3 players with a career average over .350, and the highest batting average among those who played their entire careers in the live-ball era is Ted Williams’ .344. Since 1928, there have been only 46 seasons in which a hitter reached .366 and only Tony Gwynn attained that mark at least four times, finishing with a career .338 batting average.The active player with the highest batting average is Miguel Cabrera at .321.
Most RBI in a single season – 191 Set by Hack Wilson, who batted in 191 runs in 1930. Only Hank Greenberg and Lou Gehrig, at 183 and 184, ever came close and there have been no real challenges to the unbreakable record for over 75 years.
Highest career on-base percentage – .482 Set by Ted Williams from 1939 to 1960. Williams, the last man to hit .400 in a MLB season (.406 in 1941), won six American League batting titles, two Triple Crowns, and two MVP awards. He ended his career with 521 home runs and a .344 career batting average. Williams achieved these numbers and honors despite missing nearly five full seasons to military service and injuries. The next-closest player in career OBP is Babe Ruth at .474. Since Williams’ retirement, only four players have posted an OBP above .482 in a season, with Barry Bonds the only one to do so more than once. Bonds ended his career with an OBP of .444; the leader among active players is Joey Votto, at .423.
Longest hitting streak – 56 games Set by Joe DiMaggio, 1941. Probably the most unbreakable record of them all. Highlights include a .404 batting average and 91 hits. DiMaggio’s achievement is such a statistical aberration in its unlikelihood that sabermetrician Stephen Jay Gould called it “the most extraordinary thing that ever happened in American sports”. The next closest player is Willie Keeler, who had a hitting streak of 11 fewer games at 45 over 2 seasons. There have been only six 40-game hitting streaks, the most recent one occurring in 1978, when Pete Rose hit in 44 straight games. This also marked the only time since 1941 that a player has reached a 40-game hitting streak. Since 1900, no player other than DiMaggio has ever hit safely in 55 of 56 games and no active players (as of 2011) have their two longest career hit streaks even add up to 56 games. The improbability of DiMaggio’s hit streak ever being broken has been attributed to the increased use of the bullpen and specialist relievers. After his 56th game, DiMaggio was walked in the next game and then went another 16 games with a hit.
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