Joe DiMaggio’s other unbreakable record

I'd love my bat too if I were him
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At some point in 2016, it's likely that the Yankees and MLB will acknowledge the 75th anniversary of Joe DiMaggio's 1941 season, in which he hit in a record 56 consecutive games. Despite the late Yogi Berra's proclamation that a record of his "would always stand until it was broken", this is one baseball record that will almost certainly stand the test of time (along with Cy Young's 511 career wins, Cal Ripken Jr.'s 2,632 consecutive games played, and Old Hoss Radbourn's single-season win total of 59 in 1884). What you may not know is that DiMaggio holds another record that also may not be broken anytime soon.

We all know what a tremendous hitter and overall player the Yankee Clipper was. In 13 seasons, the centerfielder slashed .325/.398/.579 with 361 career home runs, 1,537 RBI and over 2,200 hits. According to Baseball-Reference.com, his average 162-game season ("an attempt to condense each batter's career into a single season's worth of stats" by taking "their career games played and divide by 162, and then divide their career totals by that factor") produced the following line:

You may have noticed in his averages that DiMaggio only struck out on average of 34 times over the course of a 162-game season. While DiMaggio played in an era where seasons were still 154 games, this adjusted number is still very low, especially by today's standards. The man rarely struck out, and his high for strikeouts in a season (39) was set during his rookie year.

This brings us to the record that DiMaggio holds that, along with his famous streak, may be close to impossible to break: according to Baseball-Reference, the three-time A.L. Most Valuable Player holds the record for most seasons with more home runs than strikeouts in a single season (with a minimum of 20 home runs). He accomplished this feat an amazing seven times in his 13 big league seasons.

Here is the full list of players who have had seasons of more long balls than punch outs (again, with the minimum 20 home run plateau):

DiMaggio- 7 seasons

Yogi Berra- 5

Ted Kluszewski- 4

Bill Dickey- 3

Johnny Mize- 3

Lefty O'Doul- 3

Ted Williams- 3

Lou Gehrig-2

Ken Williams- 2

13 players with one such season (this includes players such as Barry Bonds, George Brett, Stan Musial, and Mel Ott)

So in the 45 instances where a player has met such conditions, DiMaggio is responsible for roughly 15.6% of those seasons alone. If that weren't enough, five of those seven seasons occurred consecutively from 1937-41. The other two seasons came in 1946 (in his first year back from serving three years of military service in World War II, no less) and in 1948.

Perhaps you think a 20 home run benchmark is too low, and that true power hitters hit 30 or more. Fine, then let's increase it to a 30 home run minimum. Even when we do that, the 13-time All-Star (yes he made the All-Star team in every season of his career) still stands tall:

DiMaggio- 6 seasons

Kluszewski- 4

Berra- 2

Gehrig- 2

Mize- 2

Nine players with one

As BR points out, of the 45 total seasons of more home runs than strikeouts by a batter who hit at least 20 home runs, only two of those seasons have occurred since 1956 (by Bonds in 2004 and Brett in 1980).

This makes it likely that, going forward, those such seasons are even less likely to happen. The top power hitters in the game today are striking out well over 125-150 times in a season. Check out the player pages for players such as Miguel Cabrera, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, and you'll see what I mean. You can even check the strikeout and home run totals of guys like Willie Mays, Jimmie Foxx, and Babe Ruth and you'll find just how hard it is to do what DiMaggio did once, let alone seven times. That's why he's one of the best to ever do it.

Comment and vote below and let us know which DiMaggio record you think is more impressive. Will anyone ever come close to breaking either record?

Comments

I voted for the streak

But now regret that. The streak is impressive, but it’s partially due to luck. The HR/K thing was a sustainable, and sustained, skill.

The hitting streak also gets impacted by the decisions of the official scorer, doesn’t it? I know I’ve heard stories that home scoring may have helped extend DiMaggio’s streak a bit by counting an error as a hit here or there.

Anyway, they’re both pretty damned impressive but I went with the K/HR one because of the fact that it’s only been done twice now in my lifetime.

true

I guess the strikeouts can be impacted by the umpires. I’ll bet DiMaggio got the benefit of a lot of close pitches over the years. But there isn’t the same spotlight on balls and strikes every day as there would be for an official scoring decision during a hitting streak.

And the umpires are less likely to show bias than a home town scorer, I’d think.

I vote for 274 days.

That’s how long he was married to Marilyn Monroe. I know I would have liked that streak.

it seems like being married to her made him miserable

And it made her miserable too. They didn’t have a whole lot in common beyond being famous. Although Joe apparently mourned her long after her death, and was miserable when she was gone. It’s kind of a sad story.

I realize your comment wasn’t meant to be an all-inclusive study of their relationship, though. I largely agree with the sentiment you expressed.

I voted for the streak, and I will 'splain you why--

The HR/K thing is unnoticed- as proven by the fact that this article is news to most readers. (I was aware of DiMaggio’s incredible HR/K ratio, but not how truly rare it is. I assumed that those ratios were more common in the eras with fewer strikeout pitchers). Nobody reads the headlines about how this record is under assault. It is a slow, drip, drip, of an accomplishment.

On the other hand, try amassing a 30 game hitting streak and see what happens. Every single day. There will be articles about whether you are aware that you are within a few weeks of DiMaggio’s Number. There will be articles about DiMaggio himself, how he went 2 for 5 (or whatever) in game 31 of his streak. Is the pressure getting to you? What happens next week when you face Kershaw and then Keuchel back to back? This is what makes the consecutive game hitting streak more of a monster.

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