In a 60-game baseball season, could any of MLB’s records fall?
Recognizing MLB stats as legitimate this year was going to be tricky after months of negotiations between the Players Union and owners erased 102 baseball games from the schedule. Batting average? Go ahead and rule that out now (even though it’s fair to assume that most of those inflated averages will still belong to the league’s best hitters). ERA? Forget about it.
The 2020 MLB season will always have an asterisk, but with 60 games there are least a few records that could technically be eclipsed. And with the help of 710 ESPN Seattle producer and sports trivia expert Curtis Rogers, here are those few major records that have a chance at being snapped.
In play: Consecutive hits record (56)
Joe DiMaggio’s famous 56-game hitting streak was set in 1941 and, as any fan will be happy to remind you, stands to this day. Former Oriole Willie Keeler is the next-closest at 45 consecutive games, though that was set in 1896. Pete Rose (who hit for 44 games in 1978) and Paul Molitor (who hit for 39 games in) have come closest since 1941.
Even though it’s technically possible, as with every season you should expect that record will continue to stand. The specialization of relievers and infinitely better defenses have made it nearly impossible for anyone to get close to DiMaggio’s famous streak.
The longest streaks of the last decade are owned by Whit Merrifield (31; a streak that coincidentally ended against the Seattle Mariners in April of last year), Freddie Freeman (30 in 2016), Dan Uggla (33 in 2011), and Andre Ethier (30 in 2011).
Our ruling: That hitting streak is still, technically, possible in a 60-game baseball season. But getting anywhere near 30 will still be really, really impressive.
Not in play: Saves record (62)
Francisco Rodriguez set the current single-season saves record in 2008 when he recorded 62 for the Angels. Ex-Mariners closer Edwin Diaz tied Bobby Thigpin for second place (57) in 2018. Outside of Diaz, no player has surpassed 56 saves since 1990. And it’s not going to happen this year.
In play (we guess…): Most doubles (67)
Nobody has come close to touching Earl Webb’s triples record (36) since the early 1900s, which makes sense since some ballparks didn’t have fencing to keep balls from continuing to roll and bounce further into the outfield. His single-season record for doubles (67) still stands but Nicholas Castellanos hit 58 last season and José Ramírez reached 56 in 2017.
Good luck hitting at least one double in every game, though.
In play: Consecutive games with a home run to start the season (20)
Well, this is awkward. Time for a trip down memory lane for Mariners fans, who saw Seattle get off to the hottest start in baseball last year before falling to the bottom of the AL West. But they did accomplish something really rare: the team set a new record for consecutive games with a home run to start the season.
In play: Consecutive wins to start the season (13)
The 1982 Braves and 1987 Brewers got off to the hottest starts in baseball history. Both clubs racked up 13 consecutive wins to start the season, a total that hasn’t been matched since.
In play: Home run record (73)
We’ll start by saying that yes, we suppose that technically Barry Bonds’ 2001 home run record (73) can be broken. But it’s not going to happen.
In play: Most home runs in 60 games (24)
Matt Olson hit 24 home runs in 59 games for Oakland in 2017.
In play: Most team wins through 60 games (48)
The 1912 Giants had a 48-11 record (one tie) through the first 60 games of the season and went on to lose the World Series.
Opening Day is magical not just because it’s the beginning of the baseball season, but because of the endless possibilities it brings. Every team starts the year with World Series dreams, and many of those title runs have their origins in the earliest days of the regular season.
Mariners fans can probably already tell you the next-closest team: the 2001 Mariners were the most recent team to get close to that record (47 wins through 60 games).