List of Major League Baseball records considered unbreakable

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Johnny Vander Meer's elusive record of back-to-back no-hitters has been described as "the most unbreakable of all baseball records"[1] by LIFE.

The following Major League Baseball records are generally considered unlikely to ever be broken. It is compiled from various sources including sportswriters, players, and fans. Many of these were initially set by either freak occurrences of greatness or during the early decades of baseball when certain rules, techniques, and fundamentals were in place that have since drastically evolved, making it almost impossible to replicate such feats in today's game.

Pitching records[edit]

Cy Young holds records in career wins and complete games. Many sportswriters consider these records unbreakable.[2][3][4]

Most career wins – 511[edit]

Set by Cy Young, 1890–1911.[2][3][4] Highlights include five 30-win seasons and fifteen 20-win seasons.[5] The next closest player is Walter Johnson, with 94 fewer wins at 417; he was the only other player to have reached 400.[6] The most wins by a pitcher who played his entire career in the post-1920 live-ball era is Warren Spahn's 363.

For a player to accomplish this, he would have to average 25 wins in 20 seasons just to get to 500. In the past 33 years, only 3 pitchers (Ron Guidry in 1978, Bob Welch in 1990, and Steve Stone in 1980[7]) have had one season with 25 wins.[8] Between 2000 and 2009, the Major League leader finished each year with an average 21. As of the end of the 2014 season, the winningest active pitcher is the 39-year-old Tim Hudson with 214 wins.[9]

Most wins in a season – 59[edit]

Set by Old Hoss Radbourn, in 1884.[10] Most pitchers in today's game start 30–35 games per season, and thus do not start enough games to break the record. The most games started by a pitcher in the 2014 season was 34, accomplished by six pitchers.[11] This means that even if a pitcher were to win every game started in this scenario, he would still fall 25 wins short of tying Radbourn's record. Although relief pitchers often appear in more than the requisite number of games, they rarely record ten wins in a season. To put this record in further perspective, the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season was Denny McLain in 1968 and the last pitcher to win 25 games in a season was Bob Welch in 1990. Also, the most wins in a season by any pitcher in the 21st century is 24, by Randy Johnson in 2002 and Justin Verlander in 2011; no other pitcher in this era has had more than 22 in a season.[12]

Most career complete games – 749[edit]

Set by Cy Young, 1890–1911.[3] Highlights of this record include: nine 40-complete-game seasons, eighteen 30-complete-game seasons[5] and completing 92 percent of his total career starts (815).[3] The next closest player is Pud Galvin, who has 103 fewer complete games at 646. Among pitchers whose entire careers were in the live-ball era, the most is 382 by Warren Spahn.

For a player to accomplish this, he would have to average 30 complete games over 25 seasons to get to 750. Between 2000 and 2009, the Major League leaders in complete games averaged 8 per season, and only one pitcher in the 21st century has had 10 complete games in any season (James Shields, 11 CGs in 2011).[13] The closest active player is the 34-year-old CC Sabathia with 37 complete games.[14]

Walter Johnson has the most career shutouts, a record nobody is likely to break.[15]

Most complete games in a season – 75[edit]

All-time record of 75 set by Will White in 1879; modern-era record of 48 set by Jack Chesbro in 1904. Sports Illustrated has said about this record, "Even if the bar is lowered to begin with the Live Ball era (which began in 1920), the mark would still be untouchable." The most complete games recorded in a live-ball season is 33, achieved twice at the dawn of that era—by Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1920 and Burleigh Grimes in 1923. According to SI, modern starters can expect to start about 34 games in a season.[13]

Most career shutouts – 110[edit]

Set by Walter Johnson, 1907–27.[15] Highlights include: eleven 6-shutout seasons and leading the league in shutouts 7 times.[16] The next closest player is Grover Cleveland Alexander, who has 20 fewer shutouts at 90. As is the case for career wins and complete games, Warren Spahn holds the record among pitchers whose entire careers were in the live-ball era, with 63.

For a player to tie Johnson's record, he would have to pitch 5 shutouts every season for 22 years.[15] Between 2000 and 2009 the Major League leader in shutouts finished each year with an average of 4. The closest active player is Tim Hudson, with 13.[17]

Most consecutive no-hitters – 2[edit]

Set by Johnny Vander Meer on June 11 and 15, 1938.[1] Despite holding this record, he finished his career with a 119–121 win–loss record.[1] The prospect of a pitcher breaking this record by hurling three consecutive no-hitters is so unimaginable that LIFE described this as "the most unbreakable of all baseball records."[1] Ewell Blackwell came the closest to matching Vander Meer after following up a no-hitter with eight no-hit innings in 1947.[18] In 1988, Dave Stieb of the Toronto Blue Jays had consecutive no-hitters going with two outs in the ninth; both were broken up by singles.[19] Between 2000 and 2009, 20 no-hitters were pitched, and the closest anyone came in the 21st century is R.A. Dickey, who in 2012 threw two consecutive one-hitters.[20][21]

Nolan Ryan holds records in career no-hitters, strikeouts and base on balls. Given the fact that he pitched a record 27 years in MLB, all three records are regarded by many sportswriters as unlikely to ever be surpassed.[3][22][23]

Most career no-hitters – 7[edit]

Set by Nolan Ryan, 1966–93. Sandy Koufax is second with 4 no-hitters.[3] No other pitcher has tossed more than three no hitters.[3] Between 2000 and 2009 there were 20 no-hitters.[21] Only 32 pitchers have thrown 2 or more no-hitters, and of the 18 active pitchers that have thrown a no-hitter, only four have pitched more than one (Homer Bailey, Mark Buehrle, Tim Lincecum, and Justin Verlander have each pitched two no-hitters).[21]

Most career strikeouts – 5,714[edit]

Set by Nolan Ryan, 1966–93.[23] Highlights include: six 300-strikeout seasons, fifteen 200-strikeout seasons, and leading the league in strikeouts 11 times.[24] To accomplish this record, Ryan played the most seasons (27) in MLB history.[6][22]

The next closest player is Randy Johnson, who has 839 fewer strikeouts at 4,875.[6] Johnson is also the last pitcher to have a 300-strikeout season (achieving this 4 straight seasons from 1999–2002).[3] For a player to approach this record, he would have to average 225 strikeouts over 25 seasons just to get to 5,625. Averaging 250 strikeouts over 23 seasons would enable him to surpass the record with 5,750. Between 2000 and 2009 the Major League leader in strikeouts finished each year with an average of 287, and even that average is skewed with large strikeout seasons by Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez early in the decade (only one pitcher has exceeded 270 strikeouts since 2004, Yu Darvish in 2013 with 277). The closest active player is Sabathia, with 2,437 strikeouts.[25]

Most career bases on balls – 2,795[edit]

Set by Nolan Ryan, 1966–93. Ryan ended up with 50 percent more bases on balls than any other pitcher in history.[23] The next closest is Steve Carlton with 1,833.[26]

Most career saves – 652[edit]

Set by Mariano Rivera, 1995–2013.[27] Highlights include 15 consecutive seasons with 25 or more saves,[28] 9 consecutive seasons with 30 or more saves and 15 seasons with 30 or more saves (all three are records). After Trevor Hoffman, who retired with 601 career saves, the next-closest pitcher in saves is Lee Smith, with 478.[29][30]

For a player to reach Rivera's record, he would have to earn an average of 35 saves for 17 consecutive seasons just to get to 595 saves[31] or 40 saves for 15 consecutive years to reach 600.[32] As of the end of the 2014 season, the closest active player is 40-year-old Joe Nathan, who has 375 saves and is 277 saves behind.[33][34]

Hitting records[edit]

Pete Rose's record of 4,256 hits is considered unsurpassable.[35]

Most career hits – 4,256[edit]

Set by Pete Rose, 1963–86.[35] With the retirement of Derek Jeter at the end of the 2014 season with 3,465 hits, the active MLB leader becomes the 39-year-old Alex Rodriguez, who had 2,939 hits at the end of the 2013 season before being suspended for the 2014 season due to his connections to the Biogenesis baseball scandal.[36] To get within 6 hits of tying Rose, a player would have to collect 250 hits over 17 consecutive seasons,[37] 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 (with 262 hits in 2004).[37] As of the end of the 2014 season, Ichiro has 2,844 major league hits[36] and 1,278 hits in the Japanese major leagues[38] for a combined, unofficial total of 4,122. At the same time, Miguel Cabrera has 2,186 hits after 12 seasons; he would have to average 183 hits over 11 additional seasons (or 201 hits over 10 additional seasons) to break the record.

Most consecutive seasons with 200 hits – 10[edit]

Set by Ichiro Suzuki, who attained this from 2001–10.[39][40][41] Ichiro's honors since joining the Seattle Mariners from Nippon Professional Baseball at age 27 include winning the 2001 AL Rookie of the Year and MVP awards, claiming the AL batting title in 2001 and 2004, leading the AL in hits in seven seasons (2001, 2004, 2006–10)[40] and breaking George Sisler's 84 year-old single-season hits record in 2004 with 262 hits.[42] The closest player is Willie Keeler who had 8 consecutive seasons with 200 hits that occurred almost a century prior in the dead-ball era.[43] Two players had 200 or more hits in 2014 (José Altuve and Michael Brantley), but no MLB player had 200 hits in 2013 (which had not happened in a non-strike-shortened season since 1990).[44]

Most career triples – 309[edit]

Set by Sam Crawford, 1899–1916. Highlights include: five 20-triple seasons and sixteen 10-triple seasons.[45] 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.

Ty Cobb's career batting average of .366 is viewed as unbreakable.[46]

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 120.[47]

Most triples in a season – 36[edit]

Set by Chief Wilson in 1912.[48][49] 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),[49] 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).[49] 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[edit]

Set by Fernando Tatís in 1999.[50] Only twelve other players have ever hit two grand slams in a single game.[51] 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,[52] 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.[53]

Highest career batting average – .366[edit]

Set by Ty Cobb in 1928 after beginning his career in 1905.[46] Highlights of this record include; three .400 seasons, nine .380 seasons, leading the league 11 times in batting average.[54] Cobb managed to hit .323 in his final season at age 41.[6] 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.[55] The active player with the highest batting average is Miguel Cabrera at .320.[56]

Highest career on-base percentage – .482[edit]

Set by Ted Williams from 1939 to 1960.[57] 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.[58] The next-closest player in career OBP is Babe Ruth at .474.[59]

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.[57][60] Bonds ended his career with an OBP of .444; the leader among active players is Joey Votto, at .417.[59]

Longest hitting streak – 56 games[edit]

"With pitching the way it is—specialty guys, closer and setup guys—you’re not going to have a chance to get four at-bats against one guy. On one night, you might face four different guys. I'm still amazed DiMaggio got to 56. I’m amazed now when somebody gets to 30."

Robin Ventura, who set the NCAA Division I record of hitting in 58 consecutive games[61]

Set by Joe DiMaggio, 1941.[2] Highlights include a .404 batting average and 91 hits.[62] 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".[63] The next closest player is Willie Keeler, who had a hitting streak of 11 fewer games at 45 over 2 seasons.[64] There have been only six 40-game hitting streaks, the most recent one occurring in 1978, when Pete Rose hit in 44 straight games.[64] This also marked the only time since 1941 that a player has reached a 40-game hitting streak.[65] 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.[66] The improbability of DiMaggio's hit streak ever being broken has been attributed to the increased use of the bullpen and specialist relievers.[67] After his 56th game, DiMaggio was walked in the next game and then went another 16 games with a hit.[68]

Other records[edit]

Most consecutive games played – 2,632[edit]

Set by Cal Ripken, Jr., 1982–98.[69] The next closest player is Lou Gehrig, who had a consecutive games streak of 502 fewer games at 2,130.[20][67][69] Third on the all-time list is Everett Scott, whose streak of 1,307 consecutive games is less than half of Ripken's total.[67] Only seven players have ever played more than 1,000 consecutive games.[67] For a player to approach the milestone, he would have to play all 162 games in a season for 16 years just to get to 2,592 games.

As stated by LIFE, "no one else has ever come close, and no one ever will."[69] It is important to note, however, that before Gehrig's record was broken by Ripken in 1995, it was Gehrig's record that was considered unbreakable. In his 1988 edition of "The Baseball Abstract", author Bill James stated (page 203) that "...Gehrig's record is vulnerable precisely because human characteristics such as determination and the ability to play with pain can be applied to breaking it... I expect Gehrig's (2,130) record to be broken in my lifetime". At that time, Ripken was more than seven years away from the record.[70]

Most career stolen bases – 1,406[edit]

Set by Rickey Henderson, 1979–2003.[20][71] Highlights include: three 100-stolen-base seasons,[37] thirteen 50-stolen-base seasons, and leading the league in stolen bases 12 times.[72] The next closest player is Lou Brock, who has 468 fewer stolen bases at 938. According to LIFE, the stolen base record is probably unbreakable, as it is hard to imagine a player today "even attempt so many steals."[71] For a player to approach Henderson's milestone, he would have to average 70 stolen bases over 20 seasons just to get to 1,400.[37] Between 2000 and 2009, the Major League leader in stolen bases finished each year with an average of 64. The closest active player is Ichiro with 487 stolen bases.[37][73]

Most All-Star Games played – 25[edit]

Set by Hank Aaron, 1954–76. Aaron was an All-Star in all but two of the 23 seasons he played in the major leagues (his debut year in 1954 and last season in 1976). His record total was assisted by MLB's decision to hold two All-Star Games from 1959–1962;[74] Aaron played in all eight All-Star Games during that period. The only players whose careers began after 1976 to play in 25 MLB seasons were Rickey Henderson, who appeared on 10 Midsummer Classic rosters,[74] and Jamie Moyer, who appeared in one All-Star Game.[75] The active player with the most All-Star Game selections is Alex Rodriguez, who has been on 14 All-Star Game rosters after 20 seasons.[76]

Most wins, losses and games managed – 3,731, 3,948 and 7,755[edit]

Set by Connie Mack, who retired in 1950.[77] Mack managed the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years until the age of 87, partly aided by the fact that he owned the team as well.[77] The closest manager to Mack in games managed and losses is Tony La Russa (with 5,097 and 2,365, respectively). John McGraw is second in wins with 2,763.[78] No active manager is within the top 15 in any of these categories.[78] The closest active manager is Bruce Bochy (age 59) who has 1,618 wins, 1,604 losses and 3,222 games managed.[78]

References[edit]

Notes

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  63. ^ The Streak of Streaks, Stephen Jay Gould, New York Review of Books
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  69. ^ a b c "2. Cal Ripken, Jr.'s Consecutive-Games Streak – Unbreakable Baseball Records". LIFE.com. See Your World LLC. Archived from the original on May 5, 2010. 
  70. ^ "Cal Ripken's record breaking moment". Retrieved 2012-03-22. 
  71. ^ a b "17. Rickey Henderson's 1,406 Career Steals – Unbreakable Baseball Records". LIFE.com. See Your World LLC. Archived from the original on May 5, 2010. 
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  73. ^ "Active Leaders & Records for Stolen Bases". Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved September 28, 2014. 
  74. ^ a b "Most All-Star Games: 25 – Hank Aaron – Unbreakable Baseball Records". SI.com. Retrieved 2011-11-27. 
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  76. ^ "Most Seasons on All-Star Roster". Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved November 17, 2013. 
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Bibliography

External links[edit]