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Baseball gives us good action … and stats, lots of stats

I spent the better part of an hour Sunday morning just looking at the Major League Baseball stats for this season, both pitching and batting, and noticing some kind of (to me) interesting stuff.

As most people who read my column have probably figured out, I am a real baseball fan and I particularly enjoy looking at stats and finding obscure things most people wouldn’t (or probably care about).

One stat I was looking for the all-time record for after I saw something in this year’s stats is the most combined walks and strikeouts by a player in a season. I’m sure there is a place you can find what I’m looking for, but the main reason I’m wondering is because of Kyle Schwarber of the Philadelphia Phillies. He has been in the headlines recently because he has more than 40 home runs and a batting average under .200, which is not something you see every day. He’s raised his average to .196 in the past few days, so he might still crack the Mendoza Line.

The Mendoza Line, by the way, is a reference to a very light-hitting middle infielder from the 1970s and 1980s named Mario Mendoza. George Brett (who was definitely not a light-hitting infielder) said once he checked the paper every day to see who was below the Mendoza Line or a .200 average. Mario actually ended his career with a .215 batting average, so the Mendoza Line is a bit of a misnomer.

Getting back to Kyle Schwarber, what I noticed was he had (as of Sunday) 114 walks and 182 strikeouts this season, which meant he had 296 plate appearances where he didn’t hit the ball. I have no idea if this is a record or even close to it, but it’s the sort of thing I tend to look for.

On the pitching side of things, I started wondering a while ago if the larger bases this year and the restrictions on how often pitchers could throw to a base to try to pick off a runner would have an effect on stolen bases.

Well, stolen bases are up across the Majors this year, helped to some extent by Noah Syndergaard of the Cleveland Guardians. As of Sunday, he had allowed 34 stolen bases when he was on the mound, with just one runner being thrown out attempting to steal.

You might wonder if these numbers are a reflection of the Cleveland catchers having a bad year, and to some extent, they are. Cleveland has allowed .96 stolen bases per game this year, third-worst in the majors, with the Chicago White Sox ‘leading’ the way with 1.06.

One of my favourite stats I found out about recently via a  Facebook post was that in 1927, Lou Gehrig of the Yankees drove in 173 runs, the fifth-highest total in history.

What makes Gehrig’s total more incredible was that he hit behind Babe Ruth in the Yankee batting order, and 1927 was the year Ruth hit 60 home runs. That meant 60 times that year, Gehrig came to the plate with nobody on – and he still drove in 173 runs himself.

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