Rewriting the (Baseball) Record Books

Going over the Major League Record books one finds a lot of catagories dominated by deadball or white-only era players. The game has changed so much in the last 100+ years, I though I’d take a look to see what the records would be if we only kept track from the modern era. For this I arbitrarily decided that I would list 1947 as the beginning of the “modern era”… that being the year that black players were finally allowed to participate in the Majors. Some people may argue that the modern era didn’t begin until transcontinenal play began (or perhaps another time)… they can feel free to adjust the stats accordingly, and post them.

Here’s what I came up with (I subtracted the pre-1947 stats for players active before that date & made no note where the leader in a catagory was unchanged):

Batting Average
NL Tony Gwynn .3938 1994
AL George Brett .3898 1980
Career Tony Gwynn .3382

NL Matty Alou 231 1969
AL Ichiro Suzuki 242 2001

NL Todd Helton 59 2000
AL Carlos Delgado 57 2000
Career Pete Rose 746

NL Lance Johnson 21 1996
AL Dale Mitchell 23 1949
Career Roberto Clemente 166

NL Sammy Sosa 160 2001
AL Manny Ramirez 165 1999

NL Robin Roberts 28 1952
AL Denny McLain 31 1968
Career Warren Spahn 355

NL Roger Craig 24 1962
AL Art Ditmar 22 1956
Denny McLain 22 1971
Career Nolan Ryan 292

NL Bob Gibson 1.123 1968
AL Luis Tiant 1.603 1968
Career Pedro Martinez 2.621

NL Bob Gibson 13 1968
AL Dean Chance 11 1964
Career Warren Spahn 63

Innings Pitched
NL Robin Roberts 346.70 1953
AL Wilbur Wood 376.70 1972
Career: Phil Niekro 5404.30

Complete Games
NL Robin Roberts 33 1953
AL Catfish Hunter 30 1975
Career Warren Spahn 373

Source: Here

Comments? Criticism?

An interesting exercise.

Thus, Pete Rose would have the consecutive game hitting streak, at 44, no?

You’re right that the game has changed drastically over the century-plus. Not to take anything away from the great Warren Spahn, either, but there’s a big big difference between 355 wins (good job subtracting his 8 pre-'47 wins, BTW) and Cy Young’s 511. Come to think of it, Young’s losses, IP, and complete games are mind-boggling, too. We’ll never see that kind of pitching career again.

Nice bit of research, nice premise, and I like the screen name. Give my regards to Pete Reiser.

At least 1947 has more standing as being the beginning of “modern” baseball than the arbitrary standard of 1900 that is used by many reference sources.

Officially, the only difference in official record books that is based on the calendar are pitching records set before 1893, the year that the present 60’ 6" distance was set.

Is it true that Pedro Martinez has the lowest lifetime ERA of anyone in the post 1947 period, at 2.62? I would have thought that someone such as Bob Gibson or Sandy Koufax had a lower lifetime ERA, but I could be wrong. If this stat is true, that makes Pedro’s career even more impressive.

Yeah, I thought Koufax’s ERA was lower, too. I assume that Pete Rose would be career hits leader (not listed above), as he’s #2 behind Cobb.


Sandy Koufax ERA_ 2.761
Bob Gibson ERA 2.91
Actually Hoyt Wilhem had a career ERA of 2.523, but I left him off because of all his relief appearances.
After Martinez, the next lowest ERA of a modern era pitcher would be Whitey Ford with an ERA of 2.745
Pete Rose is the all time hits leader with 4256 to Cobb’s_4189… after that there’s Hank Aaron with_3771

According to the Sabermetric Encyclopedia, the career leaders in ERA post-1947 are:
1 Hoyt Wilhelm 2.52
2 Pedro Martinez 2.62
3 Whitey Ford 2.74
4 John Franco (!) 2.75
5 Sandy Koufax 2.76
Based on 1000 IP. Gibson is 18th at 2.91. If you go to 1500, drop Franco and Maddux is 5th at 2.83.
Also, for average I get Ted Williams as tops, at .340.

I also like 1947 as a dividing point.

Some others… Pedro is #1 in winning percentage, at .707. He’s also tops in baserunners per 9 innings, and K/BB ratio.
In fact, looking at baserunners per 9 innings, the difference between him and the #2 on the list (Marichal) is greater than the difference between Marichal and the #15 on the list.
Ted Williams also leads in career OBP, at .480 and SLG, at .627. Bonds is third and fourth in those two stats.

On preview, I see vl_mungo’s post. I disagree with excluding Wilhelm - he actually pitched more innings after 1947 then Pedro has so far.

If you counted relief pitchers you would also have Dan Quisenberry at 2.70.

Hoyt Wilhelm is obviously the post-1947 ERA leader, not Pedro Martinez. Wilhelm was mostly a relief pitcher, but he did pitch over 2000 innings - more than Pedro Martinez. Pedro will not pass Wilhelm in innings pitched until late 2004, at the very earliest, so why should we count Martinez and not Wilhelm? An inning is an inning.

I guess Wilson beat me to the punch.

Incidentally, I’m thrilled a Blue Jay holds a record under this system.

Quisenberry is at 2.76, he came up sixth on my list.

I had to figure out why Baseball Reference shows Quisenberry with a slightly better ERA than Koufax, but the Sabermetric Encyclopedia had it the other way…
Turns out the SE doesn’t always have partial innings, but BR does. So Quisenberry is fifth.

Very interesting exercise. It certainly puts some perspective on some more modern accomplishments. Nice work.

I would include relief pitchers in the career ERA title based on their importance to the modern game, so my vote’s with Wilhelm as well.

I would, however, suggest that there have been a number of important moments in baseball history that forever changed the complexion of the game. The several changes to the strike zone, outlawing “doctored” balls, lowering the mound, integrating the majors, etc… Personally, I don’t think I could bring myself to break Major League history into only two pieces if I were to start selecting eras. I’d wind up with a new set of standards for every generation (I’d call the current “modern era” the years beginning in '95 after the last strike).

I’ll just settle for the old record book and continue to try to wrap my brain around Ruth hitting more dingers in a season than some teams did that year.

My personal prejudices aside, I commend you on your job, vl_mungo. It’s a nice piece of work and very thought provoking.

Relievers by and large,will always show a lower ERA than starters,by their nature.Starters don’t come into a game with runners on and not get charged for those runs thay may have let in.Matter of fact their penalized for it if the reliever comes out shaky.Koofoo’s carrer ERA was also slanted by the 3 or 4 wild man years he had before getiing his control down-then ending somewhat prematurely.

Same could be said for a few of them in their early years coupled by a fallof at the end.Pedro’s sill in his prime.Let’s see hw his future playsout-he doesn’t strike me as someone that will go out gracefully.Innings seem to take their toll on his somewhat slight frame,ala the Gator.

Relievers have the advantage of not having to pace themselves. You see someone like Smoltz throwing harder than he has for years - he only goes 1 now.


It almost happened again about 20 years ago. IIRC Kingman, playing for the Cubs, hit 48 and the Astros hit like 51. (and Kingman hit more HR on the road that year, it wasn't just Wrigley.)

Koufax had really 2 careers. His first 6 years he had a LOSING record - for a team with 2 WS championships and another WS appearance. He stunk. He did a reverse-Blass, found the strike zone, and had 6 magnificent years.

Bear in mind, though, that while it was white-only in Ruth’s day, there were only 16 teams, and baseball was THE sport. There was no NBA, the NFL had started, but still was probably playing in Massillion and Canton, and there were only a couple of US hockey teams, and they were almost all Canadians on them anyway. The talent pool per MLB slot may have been bigger then than the 50s and early 60s, before so many foreign players got into the pool.

just checked it - 1979 NL - Kingman 48, Astros 49.

Wilhelm’s IP should count in any lifetime rankings regardless of how they were accumulated.

In Wilhelm’s day (which there were a lot of), relievers threw many more innings than they do today. Wilhelm would enter games in the middle innings and pitch 3-4 innings. He could relieve in the 1st or 2nd if the starter were getting shelled.

It wasn’t until the very end of his career, when he was in his late 40s, that Wilhelm started pitching only 1 or 2 innings at a time. And there weren’t any one-out lefty specialists at that time.

FTR, in 1927 it shook down like this:

NY Giants: 109
NY Yankees (minus Ruth): 98
StL Cardinals: 84
Chi Cubs: 74
Phi Phillies: 57
Phi A’s: 56
StL Browns: 55
Pgh Pirates: 54
Det Tigers: 51
Brk Robins: 39
Bos Braves: 37
Chi White Sox: 36
Cin Reds: 29
Wsh Senators: 29
Bos Red Sox: 28
Cle Indians: 26

So although Kingman almost turned the trick, I don’t consider it all that impressive by comparison. An individual finishing fifth in team home runs, now that’s impressive.

Anyway, that’s getting away from the OP…

actually, drop Gehrig and he beats the rest of the Yankees, too.

Forget about 1927, check out 1920:

Phi Phillies: 64
NY Yankees (without Ruth): 61
Babe Ruth: 54
StL Browns: 50
NY Giants: 46
Phi Athletics: 44
Chi White Sox: 37
Wsh Senators: 36
Cle Indians: 35
Chi Cubs: 34
StL Cardinals: 32
Det Tigers: 30
Brk Robins: 28
Bos Braves: 23
Bos Red Sox: 22
Cin Reds: 18
Pit Pirates: 16

Ruth’s third by himself.

Damn… missed Teddy Ballgame :smack:

Wilhelm had 2254.3 IP in 21 years. In only two of those years would he have been eligible for the season ERA title (by today’s rule of 1 IP per team game played). Regardless of the quantity of innings, I agree that he should not be eligible for the career title.

But it’s an interesting argument. By any reasonable standard, Wilhelm certainly had as many or more career IP than many full time starters who would be considered.

And it is also a very interesting OP. I’d also agree with an earlier post that this could be done with different eras. For example, the change from 4 man to 5 man rotations ensures that many pitching records are now unbreakable.