Ranking the 20 Most Beatable Records in Major League Baseball History
In baseball, the record books are often rewritten as players from newer generations rise to great heights to make their own marks.
After all, as General Douglas MacArthur once said, records are made to be broken.
Well, kind of.
What MacArthur actually said was, "Rules are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind." It was eventually shortened and edited to reflect the new meaning.
Many MLB records are simply unbreakable, such as Cy Young’s all-time 511 wins or Old Hoss Radbourn’s 59 wins in 1884. Because of changes to the game over time, those records stand as about as untouchable as you can get.
However, other records currently in place could indeed be broken. Certain career marks could even fall within the next few years.
We will take a look at some at these records and rank them in order of easiest to fall.
20. Career WHIP
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Current Record-Holder: Addie Joss, 0.9678
Over his nine-year career with the Cleveland Naps early in the 20th century, Addie Joss did a great job in limiting baserunners, posting a career WHIP of 0.9678.
However, a current pitcher and future Hall of Famer is knocking on the door.
During his 18-year career, New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has posted a career 0.9978 WHIP. Even he if he were to successfully return from knee surgery next season, Rivera would have to put up a monster year to catch Joss.
It’s possible, but not probable.
19. Postseason Wins by Pitcher, Single Season
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Current Record-Holder: Randy Johnson and Francisco Rodriguez, 5
With the addition of the wild card in 1995, this record had been set at four wins for many years by a host of different pitchers.
Randy Johnson was the first player in MLB to record five victories in a single postseason in 2001, and the mark was tied by Anaheim Angels pitcher Francisco Rodriguez just one year later.
Now, with the addition of another wild-card team, it’s entirely possible this record could fall as well.
18. Single-Season K/9 by Pitcher
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Current Record-Holder: Randy Johnson, 13.4099 (2001)
Randy Johnson put together an amazing season in 2001, capturing his third of four straight Cy Young awards and striking out 372 batters. His K/9 rate broke the previous record held by Pedro Martinez (1999, 13.2047).
It might sound inconceivable that Johnson’s record could be topped, but based on the current record strikeout rates being put up by hitters throughout the league, combined with the number of pitchers now throwing upwards of 100 mph, it’s entirely possible.
17. Most Franchises Played For
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Current Record-Holder: Octavio Dotel, 13
When right-handed reliever Octavio Dotel stepped onto the field for the Detroit Tigers in April after signing a one-year contract last December, he set an all-time MLB record by suiting up for his 13th team.
It’s certainly possible that record could fall. Miguel Batista and Bruce Chen are the active leaders, having played for 10 franchises each.
16. Most Times Leading League in Triples
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Current Record-Holder: Sam Crawford, 6
In a career that spanned 19 seasons, Sam Crawford hit 309 triples, the all-time leader for three-baggers in MLB history. Six times he led the league in that department.
While the 309 career triples would be a difficult record to break, the mark for six times leading the league in triples could be broken, and soon.
Boston Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford has led the American League four times, while Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes have each led the senior circuit four times in that department as well.
At just 29 years of age, Reyes would likely have the best opportunity.
15. Career Extra-Base Hits
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Current Record-Holder: Hank Aaron, 1,477
During his 23-year career, slugger Hank Aaron hit 755 home runs, 624 doubles and 98 triples, accounting for a total of 1,477 extra-base hits.
It’s entirely possible that number could be threatened by none other than New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
Through 18-plus seasons, A-Rod has amassed 1,176 extra-base hits—642 homers, 505 doubles and 29 triples.
Maybe if he keeps undergoing plasma-rich platelet therapy treatments each offseason, he’ll have a chance to catch Aaron.
14. Career Pitching Win Percentage
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Current Record-Holder: Spud Chandler, .7171
Winning seven out of every 10 times out is certainly not the easiest thing in the world for a pitcher in Major League Baseball to accomplish.
A lot has to go right, especially in today’s game. Starting pitchers have less control over the outcome of the game, relying more and more on their bullpen to help them achieve a win.
Spud Chandler is the only pitcher in modern-day history* to eclipse that mark, winning 71.7 percent of his games during an 11-year career with the New York Yankees (1937-1947).
Currently, Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester sports a lifetime .675 winning percentage, Roy Halladay is next with a .664 winning percentage, Johan Santana of the Mets has won 65.6 percent of his decisions and Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels has now won 65.5 percent of his.
My money is on Weaver, who continues dealing with a 9-1 record this season.
* Al Spalding won 79.5 percent of his games in a seven-year career from 1871 to 1877.
13. Single-Season GIDP (Grounded into Double Plays)
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Record-Holder: Jim Rice, 36 (1984)
Hall of Fame slugger Jim Rice terrorized pitchers in the American League in the 1970s and 1980s, but he was not the fleetest of foot.
As a result, Rice grounded into 315 double plays during his career, 36 times alone in 1984. Rice nearly broke that mark the following year, grounding into another 35 double plays.
More recently, Billy Butler of the Kansas City Royals showed off his lack of speed on the basepaths, hitting into 32 double plays in 2010.
Butler likely won’t come close to breaking the mark this year—he has 10 GIDP heading into the midseason mark. However, Rice’s record is sure to be broken at some point by some lumbering hitter with a penchant for hitting hard ground balls.
12. Career GIDP
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Current Record-Holder: Cal Ripken Jr., 350
The career mark for grounding into double plays could be in jeopardy sometime in the next few years as well.
Baltimore Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr. may have been durable, but he wasn’t fast—his 350 career GIDP is the current standard-bearer.
Currently, Paul Konerko leads all active players with 258, followed closely by New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter with 257.
My money is on Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, who has grounded into 241 double plays thus far in 11-plus seasons. Considering he averages 21 GIDP per year, Ripken’s record probably isn’t safe.
11. Single-Season K/BB Rate
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Current Record-Holder: Bret Saberhagen, 11.0 (1994)
In 1994, while pitching for the New York Mets, Bret Saberhagen put together a masterful season, winning 14 games in a strike-shortened season while striking out 143 batters in 177.1 innings.
Even more remarkable was the fact that Saberhagen walked only 13 batters all season. His 11.0 K/BB rate shattered the old mark of 7.1081 set by Ferguson Jenkins of the Chicago Cubs in 1971*.
Since that time, several pitchers have come close, most notably Cliff Lee in 2010 with a 10.2778 K/BB rate.
It’s all about control.
* Several players registered K/BB rates of 8.0 or higher before the 20th century.
10. Career K/BB Rate
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Current Record-Holder: Curt Schilling, 4.3826
During a 20-year career that ended in 2007, Curt Schilling was all about control.
Schilling could deal, striking out 300 batters in a season three times during his career. But he was also always around the strike zone, posting a career 1.137 WHIP and averaging only slightly above 35 free passes a season.
However, that record certainly isn’t unapproachable. Ten current players have a career K/BB rate of 3.40 or higher, with Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Dan Haren perhaps having the best shot with a 4.0131 K/BB mark through nine-plus seasons.
9. Postseason Hits, Single Season
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Current Record-Holders: Darin Erstad (2002), David Freese (2011), Marquis Grissom (1995)—25
Last season during their magical run to a World Series championship, the St. Louis Cardinals received timely hits from third baseman David Freese. Freese totaled 25 hits in all, tying the postseason mark for a single season previously shared by Darin Erstad and Marquis Grissom.
With the addition of a wild-card playoff round, that mark may not last very long.
8. Career Postseason Shutouts
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Current Record-Holder: Christy Mathewson, 4
One of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball, Christy Mathewson proved he was pretty clutch in the postseason as well.
Mathewson threw four shutouts in his postseason career with the New York Giants, a mark that has stood for 99 seasons and counting.
However, with the additional playoff rounds in place, Mathewson’s mark may not be all that safe for much longer.
Currently, Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett is the closest with three career postseason shutouts.
7. Most Times Leading League in Saves
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Current Record-Holder: Firpo Marberry: 5, Dan Quisenberry: 5, Bruce Sutter: 5, Ed Walsh: 5
Closers in baseball have become important components to every single team, that go-to guy that can shut down the opposition and ensure victory.
Four pitchers did it so successfully that they led the league in saves five times during their careers.
That record could someday be in jeopardy.
Francisco Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera and Jose Valverde have all done it three times during their careers. Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel led the National League last season and is already at the top this season as well. Considering Kimbrel is only 24 years of age, I’d give him a pretty fair shot.
6. Postseason Career Home Runs
Current Record-Holder: Manny Ramirez, 29
It seems doubtful at this point that slugger Manny Ramirez will extend his current MLB record of 29 postseason home runs.
However, two other current players could.
Albert Pujols has 18 postseason long balls to his credit, and if he can get his Los Angeles Angels to the postseason on a regular basis during his time in Anaheim, he could threaten Ramirez’s mark.
So too could Texas Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz, who has developed a penchant for the long ball in the month of October. Cruz has 14 homers in just two years of postseason play.
5. Career Home Runs
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Current Record-Holder: Barry Bonds, 762
When San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds broke the all-time home run record in 2007, many people were in awe of the number.
However, that number could be topped.
In his 11-plus years thus far, Albert Pujols has gone yard 458 times. If he averages around 30 home runs per year under his current contract with the Los Angeles Angels, he’ll topple Bonds’ mark.
New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is certainly within reach. Currently at 642 homers, A-Rod is just 120 homers shy of Bonds’ mark as well.
4. Career RBI
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Current Record-Holder: Hank Aaron, 2,297
Another fabled career production mark could fall sometime in the next few years.
Hank Aaron drove in 2,297 runners during his 23-year career, a mark that has stood for over 35 years. It may have a chance to last a little longer, but not much longer.
New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is closing in on Aaron’s mark as well, with 1,928 RBI through July 2.
Albert Pujols is another who clearly has a shot at breaking the mark. With 1,378 RBI through July 3, Pujols is in a tie for 75th on the all-time list. However, if Pujols can stay anywhere close to his yearly average of 120 RBI, he’ll be closing in Aaron’s record by 2020.
3. Career Strikeouts
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Current Record-Holder: Reggie Jackson, 2,597
Reggie Jackson carried a big stick during his 21-year career, walloping 563 home runs along the way. However, Jackson also struck out 2,597 times, far surpassing Mickey Mantle, who whiffed 1,710 times during his career.
Many sluggers have passed Mantle since that time, but none of them have matched Jackson. However, that won’t be the case for long.
New Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Jim Thome is only 86 strikeouts behind Jackson entering play on July 3. If he puts up a regular amount of playing time for the rest of the season, that mark could surely fall.
Alex Rodriguez is the next closest current player with 1,986 whiffs, and Chicago White Sox DH Adam Dunn is fast climbing the charts with 1,935 strikeouts in 11-plus seasons.
2. Most Strikeouts in a Single Season
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Current Record-Holder: Mark Reynolds, 223 (2009)
This is a record that could easily fall this season, and it won’t be topped by the current standard-bearer, Mark Reynolds.
Adam Dunn has already whiffed 126 times after 80 games, and assuming he stays healthy, he could easily eclipse Reynolds’ mark for futility in a single season.
1. Single-Season Team Strikeout Record
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American League: 2010 Tampa Bay Rays, 1,292
National League: 2010 Arizona Diamondbacks, 1,529
The 2010 season was indeed a year of futility for both the Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks, with both teams setting new league standards for team strikeouts in a single season.
With the uptick in strikeouts league-wide, those records could easily be in jeopardy. While the D-Backs’ NL record might not currently be threatened, at least four teams are currently on pace to break Tampa Bay’s AL record.
With just under a half-season in the books, the Oakland A’s, Baltimore Orioles, Rays and Seattle Mariners are all on pace to shatter Tampa Bay’s 2010 mark.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.