Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Baseball's Unbreakable Records

In this edition of Wild-Card Wednesdays, we examine the most unbreakable baseball records:

With Barry Bonds closing in on Hank Aaron (yes, I still believe he is going to get there), another of baseball’s cherished records is on the verge of being broken. All this record-chasing has got us thinking: which of baseball’s famous records are in no danger of being broken anytime soon? Without further ado, here are, in one columnist’s opinion, the top 5 baseball records that will never be broken:

5) Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games
Many usually list this one near the top, despite the fact that Ripken relatively recently set the record. They say “the game has changed” and another player will never get the opportunity. Well, I say, what makes you think the game won’t change again? Still, this one will be tough to top. The current active leader, Miguel Tejada, will break 1000 consecutive games some time in early July. When you consider he would still need to play over 10 more seasons to catch Ripken, the difficulty of Ripken’s feat really stands out.

4) Ty Cobb’s .366 career batting average
Wow. .366. It is not too often that the batting champ even bats that high. Ichiro Suzuki, who basically entered the majors in his prime and thus avoided the typical early career slumps, “only” had a .332 average entering the season. Many pundits often discuss if anyone will ever bat .400 again. I think it will happen eventually. But for someone to end their career with a .366 average again? Not anytime soon.

3) Nolan Ryan's 7 no-hitters
Nolan Ryan was a freak of nature. For another pitcher to break Ryan’s record and get to 8 no-hitters, he would need to be a freak as well. You would need there be an overpowering hurler with the ability to stay healthy and pitch effectively for a really, really long time. Roger Clemens anyone? Well, guess how many he has? Got your guess yet? The answer is…zero. None. Zippo. Actually, Clemens has never thrown a no-hitter at any level: majors, minors, college, high school, amateur or little league. Ryan’s got this record for quite awhile.

2) Cy Young's 511 wins
I know I responded early to the “game has changed” theory by arguing that it is possible for the game to change again. I guess, but I can’t see it changing enough for someone to approach this record. Say an average pitcher nowadays gets 33 starts a year. Say he is the second coming of Sidd Finch and wins all 33. Every year. For 15 years. That is basically what it would take. Think that is happening anytime soon? If we take away the Sidd Finch scenario, a pitcher would need to average 25 wins for 21 years. That’s nearly impossible. Actually, the Cy Young record that is even tougher is his 749 complete games. Think about that for a second. The complete game leaders in 2005 had 7. If they keep that pace up, they’ll break that record in a mere…107 years. That record really would be #1 on this list, but I wanted to stick to the more famous records.

1) Johnny Vander Meer’s Back-to-Back No-Hitters
You basically would need to be Sidd Finch to break this record...or at least an incredibly lucky pitcher. Why luck? Because a big component of no-hitters is exactly that: luck. A little bloop here, a squibber there, bye-bye no-no. Let me break out my statistics ability to demonstrate the impossibility of breaking this record and getting 3 straight. Let’s take the all-time leader, Nolan Ryan. He got to 7 in 773 career starts, or by averaging a no-no about one every 110 starts. Assuming the chance of him pitching a no-no remained constant and independent during his career, the odds of him pitching 3 in a row are approximately .0000007426. There is a better chance of the sun rising in the West tomorrow.

Wild Card Wednesdays appear every Wednesday


Anonymous Wazriggo said...

What about DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006  
Blogger Doug Silversten said...

I considered that for the list, but I actually think DiMaggios's streak is more likely to be broken than any other one on this list. Let's call it #6.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006  
Blogger Alan Eliot said...

Great list. Definitely things to ponder here.

It would be tough to argue with the most of these records being included here. I disagree, though, with including the back-to-back no-hitters as the hardest record to break.

Using the same argument, one could easily argue that Fernando Tatis' "record" of two grand slams in an inning is the most "unbreakable" record. No one will ever hit three.

The inclusion of this sort of category is misleading in my opinion. It differentiates between "unbreakable" and "untouchable" when it shouldn't. Of course someone could touch the "record" (i.e. duplicate it), in either Van Der Meer's or Tatis' cases, it would just take an incredible amount of luck- just like when they did it. That's because to get from one (no-hitter, grand slam in an inning) to two is pretty much total LUCK, but to go from two to three (ie "break" them) would extend beyond luck to virtually impossible.

Impressive feats, both of them, but I would consider these feats in a separate category than 2-5 on your list.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006  
Blogger Doug Silversten said...

Since it is not famous enough, I left it off this list, but you are right that the Tatis record would make the top 5 in terms of difficulty of breaking it. However it is much more likely someone will match the Tatis record than the Van Deer Mer record. Using the same method in the column, the odds of Ryan throwing two in a row are .000082. Since many more grand slams are hit and lineups batted around each season than no hitters thrown, the odds of Tatis' record being matched must be a lot higher.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006  
Blogger the cincinnati kid said...

i hate to be a homer, and i don't particularly like the guy, but no one is ever going to surpass 4256. ryan's 7 no-no's will go by the wayside sooner or later (i.e. in the next pitcher's era)

Thursday, May 04, 2006  
Blogger Total BS said...

It's hard to say that any record is more unbreakable than others, because in my opinion, there are several records that will never be broken. Ty Cobb's average and Cy Young's wins are the best examples from the list. I would also include Walter Johnson's 110 shutouts, Babe Ruth's career slugging percentage (.690), as well as several lesser known pitching records. Complete games, both career and season; shutouts in a season; and wins in one season. Most of these records were set in the 1800s when pitchers threw over 60 starts on a regular basis. While DiMaggio's streak, Ripken's streak, and Ryan's no-hitters are impressive, and certainly will be difficult to reach, they are not unreachable.

Thursday, May 04, 2006  

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