34 crazy MLB statistical coincidences that are almost too unbelievable to be true
Stan Musial rapped out 3,630 hits during his 22 glorious seasons with the Cardinals, the fourth-highest total in MLB history.
Musial, a model of sustained, consistent excellence during his Hall of Fame career, had exactly 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road. And though he obviously wasn’t much of a stolen-base threat, he also had exactly 39 stolen bases at home and 39 on the road.
But maybe the most amazing coincidence about Musial wasn’t even about on-field performance. He was born on Nov. 21, 1920, in Donora, Pa. Know what other Hall of Famer was born in Donora, Pa., and has a Nov. 21 birthday? It’s one of baseball’s most well-known “wait, what?” factoids, so you probably know where this is going.
Ken Griffey Jr., is the “other” left-handed hitting Hall of Fame outfielder from the town of fewer than 5,000 people nestled into a nook of the Monongahela River, just 27 miles south of the heart of Pittsburgh. It’s almost impossible to believe.
Maybe the best part, though? Musial’s nickname is Stan The Man, and Griffey’s is The Kid.
Seriously, you could not script this stuff. But baseball is full of these statistical oddities and factual coincidences. With the lockout in full force, we thought we’d take the opportunity to compile a list of the most mind-blowing statistical/factual baseball coincidences we could find.
Huge, massive, enormous thanks to those of you on Twitter who helped make this possible with your overwhelming responses to a random Sunday afternoon crowdsourcing tweet. I’ve tried to link to as many tweets as possible to give credit where credit it due.
Without further ado, here’s baseball’s “wait, what?!?” list.
♦ Cecil Fielder made his MLB debut at 21 years old in 1985, but struggled to find consistent at-bats or production with the Blue Jays and spent the 1989 season playing in Japan, where he slugged 38 homers in 106 games. The Tigers brought him back to the majors for 1990, and he spent the next seven years as one of the most feared power hitters in the bigs.
His son, Prince, made his MLB debut at 21 years old in 2005. Unlike his dad, he was an immediate star in the big leagues, but his career ended at 32 years old when a neck injury that required spinal fusion surgery left him unable to play baseball.
Both Cecil and Prince finished with exactly 319 career home runs.
Both had one season with a home run total in the 50s, one season with a home run total in the 40s and four seasons with a home run total in the 30s.
Oh, and for both father and son, exactly 40 percent of their hits in their career went for extra bases, and exactly 22 percent of the balls they put in play were line drives. And then, there’s this bit of jaw-dropping info …
Yeah. That’s the kind of stuff we’re going to talk about today. Buckle up.
♦ Jim Perry pitched 17 years in the big leagues, finishing second in the 1959 Rookie of the Year race and winning the 1970 AL Cy Young, after a third-place finish the previous season.
The last decision of his career came on July 29, 1975; he gave up five earned runs in a game his A’s lost, 6-1, to the Rangers. That left his career W/L record at 215-174. He made two more relief appearances and then, with a 5.38 ERA on the season, Oakland released the 39-year-old right-hander, and he retired to become a scout with the A’s.
His younger brother, Gaylord, was still in the prime of his career in 1975. He’d been traded from Cleveland to Texas in June and caught fire for the Rangers down the stretch. In 13 starts from mid-June to mid-September, he posted a 9-3 record and 1.69 ERA. The right-hander was brilliant again on Sept. 21 — six days after his 37th birthday — allowing just two runs in a complete-game win in Chicago against the White Sox.
The decision gave him a 215-174 career record, the same as his brother’s.
It didn’t last long, unfortunately. Gaylord won his final start of the season — his 25th complete game effort of the season — to improve to 216-174. He would pitch another eight years in the bigs, retiring at 44 with 314 career wins.
♦ Brothers B.J. and Justin Upton both hit their 99th career home runs on the same day, July 20, 2012: B.J. for the Rays at home vs. the Mariners and Justin for the Diamondbacks at home vs. the Astros.
And they both hit their 100th career homers on the same day, too!
Those came on Aug. 3: B.J. at home vs. the Orioles and Justin on the road against the Phillies. In the 10 games between those two home runs, each brother had seven hits: six singles and an extra-base hit (double for B.J., triple for Justin).
♦ Joe DiMaggio owns the longest hitting streak in Yankees history (MLB history, too), with his epic 56-game streak in 1941. Everyone knows this, of course. But who owns the longest hitting streak in the history of the Red Sox, the Yankees’ arch-rival?
That title belongs to a DiMaggio, too. Joe’s younger brother, Dom, had a 34-game hitting streak for the Red Sox in 1949. In case you were wondering, oldest brother Vince DiMaggio’s longest streak of games with at least one hit was 12, for the Pirates in 1941.
Here’s a fun DiMaggio brothers fact: Joe struck out only 369 times in his entire career, spanning 4,313 plate appearances, and never more than the 39 times he struck out in his rookie season of 1936. Vince, on the other hand, was more of a free swinger. He led the NL in strikeouts six times — once when he only played 109 of the 154 games — and if you add the strikeout totals of his three worst seasons (1937, 1938 and 1943), you get a total of 371 strikeouts in 1,801 PAs. Yep, more than Joe’s entire career. On the other hand, you would need Joe’s four “worst” seasons to top Vince’s single-season high of 134.
Dom, by the way, was more Joe than Vince — he played 10 full seasons in the bigs, with a low of 46 and a high of 68.
♦ Knuckleball pitcher Joe Niekro came to the plate 1,165 times in his 22-year career. He hit exactly one home run, in a game his Astros won 4-3 against the Braves on May 29, 1976.
The home run came off his brother, Phil.
Phil didn’t hit any homers off Joe in his career, but he did bat .316 against his younger brother in 20 PAs. Joe had the long ball, but batted just .111 in 19 PAs against Joe. The Niekros, by the way, edged out the Perrys for most wins by brothers, 539 to 529.
♦ Catcher Mike Tresh played 12 years in the big majors, 11 of those with the White Sox. He finished his career in 1949 with an on-base percentage of .335.
His son, Tom, played nine seasons in the majors. He was a much better power hitter, popping 153 over his career compared to the two his dad hit.
But his career on-base percentage? You already know it, an identical .335.
Same name similarities
♦ Only three players with the first name Aurelio have played in the majors, and all three died in car accidents. It’s incredibly sad.
Aurelio Monteagudo played in the majors from 1963 to 1973 and died in 1990 at 46 years old, when the truck he was driving drifted into the other lane and ran head-on into a trailer. Aurelio Rodríguez played from 1967 to 1983 and died in 2000 at 52, when a car hopped the curb and struck Rodríguez, who was a pedestrian in Detroit for an autograph session. Aurelio López played from 1974 to 1987 and died in 1992 at 44, one day after his birthday, when he was thrown from his car and the vehicle rolled over him.
I wrote a longer story about these three players in 2020.
♦ There have been 22 players in the bigs with the last name Howard. Only two hit more than 167 homers in their career: unrelated sluggers Ryan Howard and Frank Howard.
They both finished with exactly 382.
That’s also the record for any MLB player whose last name starts with the letter H.
♦ This feels like a low number, but it’s true: There have only been two pitchers in MLB history with the last name Moyer.
Ed Moyer, who pitched in six games for the Senators in 1910, died on Nov. 18, 1962.
Jamie Moyer, who pitched 25 years in the majors, was born on Nov. 18, 1962.
Yeah. They were not related.
♦ Oakland slugger Khris Davis batted .247 four consecutive seasons. The years before and after the streak: .244 and .220.
♦ Rockies slugger Vinny Castilla, in 1996 and 1997 …
1996: .304 average, 40 home runs, 113 RBIs, 4 sacrifice flies
1997: .304 average, 40 home runs, 113 RBIs, 4 sacrifice flies
♦ Braves slugger Dale Murphy, from 1982 to 1985 …
1982: 162 games, 36 homers
1983: 162 games, 36 homers
1984: 162 games, 36 homers
1985: 162 games, 37 homers
♦ Reds/Diamondbacks/Nationals slugger Adam Dunn …
2005: 40 homers
2006: 40 homers
2007: 40 homers
2008: 40 homers
2009: 38 homers
2010: 38 homers
♦ Cubs slugger Keith Moreland, from 1982 to 1986 …
1982: 17 doubles
1983: 30 doubles
1984: 17 doubles
1985: 30 doubles
1986: 30 doubles
♦ This isn’t quite Musial’s 1,815 hits at home and on the road, but check out Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk’s home/road home run splits.
Home: 188 home runs
Road: 188 home runs
And these aren’t exactly the same, but while we’re talking about Pudge Fisk, let’s bring Pudge Rodriguez — another Hall of Fame catcher — into the chat:
Pudge F: 68.4 bWAR, 1,330 RBI, .797 OPS, 128 SB
Pudge R: 68.7 bWAR, 1,332 RBI, .798 OPS, 127 SB
♦ Babe Ruth was the long-time MLB career home run leader, with 714.
Nolan Ryan is the MLB career strikeout leader, with 5,714.
Oh, and Ruth’s 1927 Yankees had a .714 winning percentage (110-44). And while we’re talking about Ruth, it’s fun to point out that the Sultan of Swat hit 162 home runs before legendary actress Betty White was born and 552 after her birth.
♦ Remember the infamous Jay Buhner-for-Ken Phelps trade on July 21, 1988? Of course you do. The Seinfeld scene where Frank Costanza yells “What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for?” is downright iconic.
Well, check out what they both did after the trade the rest of the 1988 season …
Buhner, for the Mariners: .224 average, 10 homers, 25 RBI
Phelps, for the Yankees: .224 average, 10 homers, 22 RBI
♦ Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn, in his career …
Pitching: 363 wins — 356 with Braves, 4 with Mets, 3 with Giants
Batting: 363 hits — 356 with Braves, 4 with Mets, 3 with Giants
Playoff pitching: 4 wins
Playoff batting: 4 hits
Spahn’s streak of consecutive seasons with at least one home run is actually longer than his streak of seasons with at least one shutout, which is a bit surprising. He hit homers in 17 consecutive seasons (1948-1964), but only had shutouts in 15 consecutive seasons (1947-61).
♦ How about this for Lou Gehrig?
Gehrig hit his first career home run on Sept. 27, 1923.
Gehrig hit his final career home run on Sept. 27, 1938.
In total, Gehrig hit five home runs on Sept. 27. Two of those — 1931 and 1933 — were hit off Hall of Famer Lefty Grove.
♦ Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio played from 1936 to 1951 and finished with 2,214 hits; Red Sox second baseman Bobby Doerr played from 1937 to 1951 and finished with 2,042 hits. Both spent time in the military during World War II and both are in the Hall of Fame.
So why are they here? Those totals aren’t identical.
But if you add them up, you get 4,256 hits — the exact total Pete Rose had when he retired as MLB’s all-time hits leader.
♦ Mike Schmidt finished his Hall of Fame career with 548 homers. The round-number breakdown of that? He hit home runs in exactly 500 MLB games.
He had one four-homer game, two three-homer games, 41 two-homer games and 456 games with one homer.
♦ April 13, 2009, was a brisk day in Detroit, with the game-time temperature checking in at 37 degrees and the winds blowing in from left field at 19 mph.
That didn’t bother Jermaine Dye, though. He smacked a 2-1 pitch from Tigers starter Zack Miner over the wall in left field for his second homer of the season and the 300th of his career. Paul Konerko was up next, and he worked the count to 3-2, then fouled off a pair of pitches. Miner missed his spot and Konerko smacked it just over the wall in left field.
It was Konerko’s second homer of the season and the 300th of his career.
Back-to-back 300th homers. Pretty cool.
♦ Let’s stick with that brisk day in Detroit. A.J. Pierzynski was the catcher for the White Sox, batting right behind Konerko in the Chicago lineup. Pierzynski was in the prime of his career but had gotten off to a slow start in 2009; he went 1-for-4 that day — he singled to follow Dye and Konerko’s back-to-back homers — and his season average was sitting at .182.
His bat rebounded, and Pierzynski finished the season with a .300 batting average and 49 RBIs. It was the second time he’d finished with those exact numbers (first was 2002 for the Twins). He would bat exactly .300 with 49 RBIs again in 2015 for the Braves. All three years, he had exactly three sacrifice flies, too.
Here’s the crazy thing: In the history of the AL and NL, those are the only three seasons — ever — when a player finished with those exact numbers in those three stat categories. It’s not an incredible feat like Sammy Sosa hitting 60-plus homers three times (and not leading the NL any of those seasons) but it’s a bit bizarre that, in the history of baseball, he’s the only one to do so, and he did it three times. Kudos to Jim Passon for this gem.
It’s worth pointing out, probably, that Lorenzo Cain, Danny Heep and Nellie Fox all hit the .300/49 numbers but barely missed the sacrifice fly stat, recording two, four and five, respectively.
♦ 1906 Cubs pitchers Jack Taylor and Orval Overall
Taylor: 12-3 record, 116 hits, 30 earned runs, 1 home run
Overall: 12-3 record, 116 hits, 30 earned runs, 1 home run
Taylor pitched 3 1/3 more innings, so he had the better ERA (1.83 to 1.88). Overall, Orval had the better name, tho.
♦ Even if you take away all 755 of Hank Aaron’s home runs, he still tops the 3,000-hit plateau, with 3,016. That’s six more than Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.
♦ Let’s play “Even if …” with Nolan Ryan and his 5,714 career strikeouts.
Even if you take away his MLB-record 215 games with at least 10 strikeouts, he still has 3,167 strikeouts, which would be 13th all time.
Even if you cut his career strikeouts in half, his 2,857 strikeouts would rank 20th all time.
Even if you throw away every strikeout before his 30th birthday — remember, he made his debut at 19 years old — he still has 3,629 strikeouts, which would be seventh all-time.
Even if you throw away every strikeout after his 30th birthday, he still has 2,085 strikeouts, which would be 71st all time.
Even if you pick the WORST 10-year span of his career, he has 2,037 strikeouts, which would be 79th all-time.
In his career, Ryan faced the last three sluggers to own the single-season home-run record: Roger Maris, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. Those three combined to go 5-for-28 (.179) with zero home runs — zero extra-base hits, actually — and 11 strikeouts against Ryan.
♦ Mark Lemke, often an October hero for the Braves, had 3,664 career regular-season plate appearances and was never hit by a pitch.
“I have no explanation for it,” Lemke told Sporting News in a 2021 interview.
No, really. It’s easily the MLB record. Second-place is Bill Bergen, at 3,234.
Lemke did say there were times when he’s pretty sure he was hit, but the home plate umpire ruled, for example, that the ball hit the dirt instead of his foot. And, he said, there were plenty of times he was hit with a rapidly moving baseball, either on foul balls off his ankles or on bad hops in the field. “At the end of a season, you felt like you’ve been hit 1,000 times,” he said.
Oh, and in Lemke’s 257 career postseason PAs? Also not even one HBP.
♦ Hall of Famers Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell were both born on May 27, 1968.
♦ The first nine players to win back-to-back MVPs fill up the nine positions on the field (well, kinda; Mantle and Murphy were both primarily center fielders. Maris played right).
C: Yogi Berra, Yankees, 1954-55
1B: Jimmie Foxx, A’s 1932-32
2B: Joe Morgan, Reds, 1975-76
SS: Ernie Banks, Cubs, 1958-59
3B: Mike Schmidt, Phillies, 1980-81
OF: Mickey Mantle, Yankees, 1956-57
OF: Roger Maris, Yankees, 1960-61
OF: Dale Murphy, Braves, 1982-83
SP: Hal Newhouser, Tigers, 1944-45
♦ CC Sabathia threw 96.4 percent of his career innings for the Yankees (1,918) and Indians (1,528 2/3), but his career ERA (3.74) is lower than either his ERA for the Yankees (3.81) or for the Indians (3.83).
That’s how good he was in 2008 for Milwaukee, when he posted a 1.65 ERA for the Brewers in 130 2/3 innings after the trade from Cleveland.
Oh, and that year he tied for the NL lead with three shutouts and tied for the AL lead with two shutouts.
♦ Placido Polanco is the all-time leader in fielding percentage at second base (.993, 8,462 innings) and the all-time leader in fielding percentage at third base (.983, 6,061 innings).
♦ In 2004, Barry Bonds had 120 intentional walks. Eric Chavez led the entire AL with 95 walks, total.
♦ There were eight games played in Minnesota’s Metrodome — aka The Homer Dome — and Terry Pendelton’s teams lost all eight: four in the 1987 World Series and four in the 1991 World Series.
♦ And let’s end this where the 2021 baseball season ended.
Hank Aaron, the legendary slugger who wore No. 44 in 20 of his 21 unforgettable seasons with the Braves — 12 in Milwaukee and nine after the move to Atlanta — died last January, at 86 years old. His was a life so very well lived.
In the first season after his death, his Braves won 44 games before the All-Star break, 44 games after the All-Star break and then won the World Series in the 44th week of the year.
Come back soon, baseball.
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