New York Yankees Dominate Top Hitters Seasons' on MLB Network

Perry ArnoldSenior Analyst IJanuary 20, 2009

Yesterday, I wrote a piece about the "100 Most Mind Blowing Moments in Sports" on The Best Damn Sports Show Period—the Yankees were included in at least 10 percent of the spots.

Last night, being the sports junkie that I am, I tuned into MLB Network. On their series, Prime 9, they had the nine greatest seasons for hitters. Perhaps I should not have been, but I was amazed that three of the nine seasons chosen featured Yankees. 

So I went back and studied the stats of the three Yankees who were chosen.

Lou Gehrig was chosen for seventh place—the was 1927. I am a super Yankee fan, have always loved Lou Gehrig, knew about Murderer's Row in 1927, and also remembered, of course, that 1927 was the year that Babe Ruth set the season record with 60 home runs.

But I didn't realize what a year Larrupin' Lou had in '27. Despite Babe's feats, Gehrig was the MVP that year—looking at his numbers makes it easy to see why.

Gehrig was at-bat 584 times that year and he was walked 109 times. But of his official times at-bat, he had 218 hits—52 were doubles, 18 were triples, and 47 were home runs. He only struck out 84 times and drove in 175 runs.  He also scored an amazing 149 runs. 

Lou's Slugging Percentage in 1927 was .756.  He led the league in total bases (447), RBI (175), doubles (52), extra base hits (117), and times on base (330). 

Nobody talked about OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) back then. That year...Lou's was 1.239. 

A new statistic is OPS+ which measures the OPS against the entire league while taking the fields played on into account. A score of 100 is average—anything above is better.  Lou's OPS+ in 1927 was 221!

One statistic has to stand out and needs more discussion. 

When you consider that Babe Ruth batted third, Gehrig batted fourth, and that Ruth cleared the bases 60 times that year—leaving Lou batting with the bases empty—it is almost impossible to imagine that Gehrig could drive in 175 runs.

Gehrig had years when he hit for higher averages and even one year when he had more RBI, but 1927 was his best year utilizing all of his hitting skills.

Mickey Mantle was sixth on the list of great hitter's seasons—the year was 1956. Everybody knows Mantle won the Triple Crown that year—not just the American League Triple Crown but the Major League Triple Crown. He led both leagues in home runs, RBI, and batting average.

Mantle was only 24 years old during the '56 season, but he had a year that few have ever had. 

In 150 games, Mantle was at-bat 533 times in addition to the 112 base on balls that did not count as at-bat times. He scored 132 runs, 188 hits, 22 doubles, five triples, and 52 home runs. 

Mickey drove in 130 runs. His on-base percentage was .464 and his slugging percentage was .705. Therefore, he had an OPS of 1.169. His OPS+ was a staggering 210.

Mickey led the league in average, home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, OPS, runs, extra base hits, times on base, and total bases.

Obviously, Babe Ruth was chosen by MLB Network as the player with the best hitting season of all time. But the year may be somewhat surprising. The year chosen was 1921—only Babe's second season in New York.

That year Babe played in 152 games, came to the plate 540 times, and was walked 145 times. He struck out 81 times but had 204 hits, 177 runs, 44 doubles, 16 triples, and 59 home runs. He also drove in 171 runs.

Babe finished the year with a .378 average and a slugging percentage of .846. He had an on-base percentage of .512 giving him an OPS of 1.358. His OPS+ was 239.

He led the league in runs scored, home runs, RBI, base-on-balls, extra base hits, and times-on-base.

Lest anyone think that much of his home run and RBI production was due to the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium, remember that this was 1921. Yankee Stadium was still two years away from opening.

At this time the Yankees were still playing in the Polo Grounds—the Giants' huge field in Harlem. That Stadium was massive and may explain why Babe was able to get 16 triples. But it also means that he had to really cream the ball to amass 59 home runs.

How great it is to be a Yankee fan and be able to realize how great the players for this team have been—setting amazing records over the years.