10 Random MLB Stats and Milestones from the Last 2 Decades

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2020

10 Random MLB Stats and Milestones from the Last 2 Decades

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Certain MLB numbers are etched in history.

    There are the classics: Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hit streak, Cal Ripken Jr.'s 2,632 consecutive games played, Nolan Ryan's 5,714 career strikeouts, etc.

    Then there are the controversial marks such as Barry Bonds' dual home run records73 in a season and 762 in his career.

    Other numbers are far more obscure. Many are hardly noted at all.

    Let's dip into the latter category and chronicle 10 random-yet-notable stats and milestones from the past 20 years, meaning the seasons between 2000 and 2019. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it provides an interesting run through two decades of largely forgotten achievements. 

    Some are impressive. Some are regrettable. Others are odd or singularly coincidental. But they all deserve to be remembered for one reason or another.

Mike Maroth, Only 20-Game Loser in 40 Years

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    Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images

    In 1980, Brian Kingman went 8-20 for the Oakland Athletics. For 23 years, he stood as the last 20-game loser in a single MLB season, until Detroit Tigers left-hander Mike Maroth took the "crown."

    In 33 starts in 2003, Maroth posted a 9-21 record.

    His 5.73 ERA and MLB-leading 123 runs allowed didn't boost his cause. The fact that the 25-year-old played for a team that lost 119 games and finished last in the American League with 591 runs scored didn't help either.

    Maroth pitched for four more mediocre seasons and finished his big league tenure with a 50-67 record and 5.05 ERA.

    Two other pitchers, Steve Rogers and Clyde Wright in '74, lost 22 games in the post-mound lowering era dating back to 1969. But until some unfortunate hurler joins him in the 20-loss club, Maroth will be remembered for an ignoble milestone.

Chicago White Sox's Record Lead Streak

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    MARK J. TERRILL/Associated Press

    On May 15, 2005, the Chicago White Sox lost 6-2 to the Baltimore Orioles. The game itself was unremarkable, other than the fact that it ended an unheralded streak by the ChiSox.

    Until then, the South Siders had reeled off 37 straight games in which they'd held a lead at one point (during that stretch, they went 27-10).

    That set a single-season record of consecutive games from the beginning of the season of having a lead and tied the third-longest span in a season with the 1934 New York Yankees and 1942 St. Louis Cardinals.

    The '05 White Sox finished with 99 regular-season wins and streaked to the franchise's first title since 1917. This particular record was understandably lost amid the champagne and confetti.

    Still, it's a testament to the dominance of that drought-busting club.

Jimmy Rollins' Hit Streak of the Century

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    We mentioned DiMaggio's all-time 56-game consecutive hit streak, which happened in 1941.

    No player has seriously challenged Joltin' Joe's mark, but no one has come closer in the 21st century than shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

    For 38 straight games spanning the 2005 and '06 seasons, Rollins notched at least one hit for the Philadelphia Phillies. His run ended April 6, when he went 0-for-4 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

    That puts Rollins eighth all-time on the hit-streak list, one behind Paul Molitor's 39-game streak in 1987. It also puts him ahead of his next-closest post-2000 competitors: Luis Castillo of the Florida Marlins and Chase Utley, Rollins' Phillies teammate. They recorded 35-game streaks in 2002 and 2006, respectively.

    Maybe it's because eighth place is eighth place or because his streak covered two campaigns instead of occurring in one. For whatever reason, the three-time All-Star and 2007 National League MVP isn't given enough credit for this impressive stab at a possibly never-to-be-broken record.

Jamie Moyer's Age-47 Shutout

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Jamie Moyer pitched until he was 49, tossing 4,074 innings over 23 seasons. In 2010, at age 47, he became the oldest player in major league history to throw a complete-game shutout.

    Pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies with a fastball that topped out in the low-80s, the ageless left-hander twirled nine scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves. He allowed two hits with no walks and struck out five.

    "I had fun," Moyer told reporters after the historic outing. "I probably had forgotten what that's like. It hasn't happened a whole lot in my career."

    He was being a tad modest. Moyer twirled 10 shutouts in his lengthy career, with the penultimate one coming in 2006. But his '10 effort stands alone in the annals of Father Time-eschewing gems.

The Molina Brothers' World Series Trifecta

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    In 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals won a title in a hard-fought seven games against the Texas Rangers.

    There were many compelling storylines, but here's one many may not be aware of: It was the third consecutive World Series to feature a Molina brother.

    Jose Molina, the middle sibling, got three plate appearances as the New York Yankees' backup catcher and earned his second ring in 2009.

    In 2010, oldest sibling Bengie Molina went 2-for-11 as the primary catcher for the Texas Rangers in a five-game World Series loss to the San Francisco Giants, the club that traded him midseason to make room for rookie backstop Buster Posey.

    Yadier Molina, the baby of the trio, went 8-for-24 as the Cards catcher in the '11 Series, which St. Louis won. 

    (Each brother also earned a previous ring: Jose and Bengie with the Anaheim Angels in 2002 and Yadier with the Cardinals in 2006.)

    As far as we can tell, they were the first trio of brothers to play in three straight Fall Classics, all in the squat no less.

Philip Humber, Perfectly Imperfect

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    On April 21, 2012, Philip Humber threw a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox against the Seattle Mariners.

    He was the first of three pitchers to achieve the feat that season, along with the San Francisco Giants' Matt Cain and Seattle's Felix Hernandez, and one of only 23 hurlers to officially do so in MLB history.

    Yet Humber stands out for a reason he'd probably prefer we didn't mention: He finished that season with a 6.44 ERA, the highest-ever for a pitcher in the same season he authored a perfecto and threw at least 100 innings.

    Humber posted a sub-4.00 ERA just twice in his eight big league seasons and was non-tendered by the ChiSox after his '12 campaign.

    But he'll always have that fateful April day.

Madison Bumgarner's Grand Showing

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    On April 11, 2014, San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner hit a grand slam against the Colorado Rockies. Then, on July 13, he hit another bases-loaded bomb against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    With that, he became just the second big league pitcher in history to hit two grand salamis in one season, matching Atlanta Braves right-hander Tony Cloninger. 

    In a neat coincidence, Cloninger hit both of his bases-clearing taters in 1966 in a single game against—you guessed it—the Giants.

    Bumgarner launched four home runs that season to go along with a more-than-respectable .258 average and .755 OPS. He authored one of the greatest postseason pitching performances in baseball history in an World Series MVP performance and helped San Francisco win its third championship in an even-numbered year over that five-season span.

Prince Ties Cecil in the Fielders' 319-Homer Club

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Coming into the 2016 season, Prince Fielder needed just eight home runs to tie his father, Cecil, with 319 career bombs. Entering his age-32 campaign, it seemed inevitable the younger Fielder would vault past pops in the fence-clearing department.

    Fate had other plans.

    In 89 games that season, Prince hit exactly eight home runs. Then, a neck injury put him on the disabled list and forced him to retire without taking another big league at-bat.

    And so the two Fielders finished tied for 122nd on the all-time homer list.

    They are also only the second father-son duo to each eclipse 300 home runs, joining Barry and Bobby Bonds. But it's the number 319 that will always bind them in baseball history as much or more than a shared family name.

World Series, Road Rules Edition

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    In 2019, the Washington Nationals won the first title in franchise history, defeating the Houston Astros, who would soon be embroiled in a headline-grabbing sign-stealing scandal.

    But the '19 World Series featured another, less-talked-about twist: The road team won every game.

    It began with Washington taking Games 1 and 2 in Houston. It continued when the 'Stros roared back to win Games 3, 4 and 5 in D.C. And it culminated with the never-say-die Nats winning Game 6 and the decisive Game 7 at Minute Maid Park to hoist the Commissioner's Trophy.

    According to MLB.com's Andrew Simon, Matt Kelly and David Adler, that was a first in 1,420 best-of-seven postseason seriesnot merely in MLB but also the NBA and the NHL.

    So much for home-field advantage.

Whiffs Outpace Hits

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    In 2018, major league hitters tallied 41,018 hits and struck out 41,207 times. And so, for the first time in MLB history, whiffs outpaced knocks.

    That record stood for exactly one season. In 2019, MLB hitters (or, perhaps more accurately, MLB batters) notched 42,039 hits and 42,823 strikeouts.

    Guys haven't forgotten how to put the bat on the ball. Rather, the leaguewide hitting philosophy has shifted in recent years, placing an increased emphasis on long balls and shrugging off some of the stigma from high strikeout totals.

    It's no coincidence that 2019 also featured a record 6,776 home runs, eclipsing the previous mark of 6,105 launched in 2017.

    Like it or not, this all-or-nothing approach is the new normal, and 2020 (assuming the season happens at all) should bring more of the same.

                   

    All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.

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