Safest Baseball Records: Part II

In 1877, Jim Devlin of the Louisville Grays pitched 100% of the 559 innings in his club's 60-game season, a record that will never be broken.

In 1877, Jim Devlin of the Louisville Grays pitched 100% of the 559 innings in his club’s 60-game season, a record that will never be broken.

 

Some excellent points and suggestions were posted as reader comments on yesterday’s column, “Safest Serious Record in Major League Baseball.”

Gregory H. Wolf wrote:

I have two suggestions of records that are most likely to stand forever:

1. Nolan Ryan’s career strikeout total of 5,714. A pitcher would need to average 250 K’s for 23 seasons to break the record. As good as Clayton Kershaw is, he’s exceeded that average mark just once — last year with 301.

2. And what about the career walk total for the Express? 2,795. In the last six seasons (2010-2015) pitchers have issued at least 100 walks just twice. Tyson Ross led the majors with 84 in 2015. At that rate, you’d need to play just over 33 seasons.

StanfromTacoma wrote:

Some records won’t be broken simply because the game is no longer played the way it was. Cy Young’s career win total is unapproachable because pitchers don’t pitch as many innings as they once did. Some of Nolan Ryan’s records are safe for the same reason.

I’d pick Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak as the record most unlikely to be broken for reasons unrelated to the different way the game is played today. The two hitters in my lifetime who I would think had the best chance to challenge the 56 game hitting streak, Rod Carew and Ichiro, never really got close.

Greg Lucas wrote:

Can anyone pitch three consecutive no-hitters to break Johnny Vander Meer’s mark? (First you have to be able to pitch three consecutive complete games which would be quite a feat in itself these days!)

Wayne Chandler wrote:

The mental pressures that any of these would be record setters would go through, and the awareness that opponents would have now, would far exceed anything that the current record holders went through. – 24/7 news awareness has hit the sports world, too.

Cliff Blau wrote:

Since I don’t choose to ignore records set in the first 25 years of major league baseball, I’ll go with Jim Devlin’s record of pitching 100% of his team’s innings in 1877. No matter what happens, that record won’t be broken.

All these reader points are well taken: The improbability of breaking some records is simply improbable to impossible, due to StanFromTacoma’s point, “Some records won’t be broken simply because the game is no longer played the way it was.” As Gregory H. Wolf notes, “A pitcher would need to average 250 K’s for 23 seasons to break the record (of 5714 career K’s set by Nolan Ryan.)”. – As Greg Lucas suggests, it’s already improbable in today’s game that any pitcher will ever again pitch three consecutive complete games, let alone ever break Johnny Vander Meer’s consecutive no-hitter feat by make each of those complete games another no hit, no run job. Wayne Chandler points out that today’s record-chasers would have to do so in the light of a 24/7 media world putting pressure on them that no previous record holder, not even Roger Maris, ever had to endure. And the indomitable early history expert, Cliff Blau, nails the impossibility of breaking a record that is already statistically perfect is both impossible to surpass – and a record that speaks perfectly to the point made above by “Mr. Tacoma” when he writes that “(Jim Devlin pitched) 100% of his team’s innings in 1877. No matter what happens, that record won’t be broken.” – No, it won’t be broken, nor will it be attempted again by any 21st century MLB club with any expensive contemporary pitcher. With pitch counts and specializations in pitching, there no are no more superman rubber arm pitchers left in the game today.

I respect, and do not ignore, the truly incomparable records of the 19th century. Some will live forever, but in an exercise of this nature, even Cy Young’s 511 career wins comes either close or over the line for comparison to today’s much shorter, much lighter usage pitching careers.

The Eagle’s Favorite 19th century Unreachable Record

For this voice of The Eagle, it’s Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn’s 59 pitching wins in 1884. All the man had to do to get those 59 wins (or 60 wins, if you count differently and accept that one extra game the official scorer gave him the win credit for effort) was start and complete 73 games to get them, while also picking up a couple of saves in two relief appearances, 678.2 innings of work, and 448 strikeouts on the season.

Unlike Devlin’s unbreakable pitching record in 1877, Radbourn’s 59 season wins is a pitching feat that is mathematically still possible, but what are the odds of probability on that one ever happening in the 21st century?

Something like .00000000000000000000000000000000001 chances in a million – or maybe a little less.

____________________

Bottom Line

“Records are Made To Be Broken” may be the  adage, but over time, due to changes in the rules and the culture of the game, breaking certain records in baseball becomes either significantly improbable or flat-out impossible.

____________________

eagle-0rangeBill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

https://bill37mccurdy.com/

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3 Responses to “Safest Baseball Records: Part II”

  1. Larry Dierker Says:

    A little esoterica from the Baseball Library.

    Corsicana beat Texarkana, scoring over 50 runs and the Texarkana pitcher hurled a complete game. A record for runs allowed?

    Brakeman Jack Taylor completed finished something like 250 straight games in the 20th century.

    • stanfromtacoma Says:

      It’s probably a record for runs allowed, and it’s also probably a record for backing up third in one game. Larry, didn’t you pitch for Texarkana back in the day?

  2. Cliff Blau Says:

    Here’s a more recent one people probably never think of- Maury Wills’ record of playing 165 games in a season. Be tough for anyone to break that under current conditions.

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