Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Cardboard History - 200 Hit Red Sox

Last night young star Mookie Betts crossed the 200-hit threshold for the 2016 season, an impressive feat by any measure.  It's not an achievement that you see every day from a player on your favorite team, so I began to wonder just how many times a Red Sox player has achieved this milestone.  Thanks to the wonders of the internet I found my answer in mere minutes; counting Mookie's 2016 season there have now been 27 times where a Red Sox player recorded 200 hits in a season (one of those with an asterisk).

I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to start a series that I've been meaning to get to on the blog for some time now...Cardboard History.  Now that I have my cards better organized, and a greater percentage of them scanned, I plan to use this feature to highlight interesting statistics and anomalies in the history of the game through cards.  So with that introduction out of the way, let's kick off the first installment and take a look at the 200-hit seasons in Boston Red Sox history to date...

1912 - Tris Speaker - 222 Hits

The first Red Sox player to achieve the mark was the legendary Tris Speaker back in 1912.  I most definitely do not have a Speaker card from the appropriate era to use here (though a T206 Speaker is very high on my white whale list), but this Gypsy Queen mini has always been a favorite of mine.  Unlike some of the other names on this list it was no surprise to me whatsoever to see Speaker's name come up while researching.  If anything I was surprised to see his name listed only once, though he came very close in again 1914 (193 hits), and would go on to have two more 200-hit seasons with Cleveland later in his career.

1934 - Billy Werber - 200 Hits

After Tris logged 200-plus hits in 1912, it would take over 20 years before fans of the franchise would see another player achieve that total.  One of the more obscure names on the list here, it took Billy Werber playing in all but two of the team's games in 1934 and pacing the league with over 700 plate appearances to land at 200 hits on the nose.  Must have felt pretty good.

1935 - Julius "Moose" Solters - 201 Hits*

The one asterisk on this list belongs to Moose Solters.  He tallied the first 19 hits of his 1935 season with Boston, but was dealt to the St. Louis Browns in late May.  He ended up with 182 hits over the balance of the season with St. Louis, putting him just a hair over the threshold.  I was going to leave him off the list entirely, but then I realized I had this sweet 1934 Goudey that I've somehow never managed to show on the blog previously!

Though Moose managed only this one 200-hit campaign, he was no slouch at the plate.  In the two seasons after the trade he had 183 and 190 hits respectively.  Seems like the Sox should have retained that bat.

1938 - Joe Vosmik - 201 Hits

Just a couple of years later outfielder Joe Vosmik's 201 hits were enough to pace the entire league.  Not a big surprise considering he did the very same thing in 1935 for the Cleveland Indians when he registered an impressive 216 hits.  Joe was a .307 career hitter who had 189 hits or more during three other seasons, and even earned some MVP votes in more than one season.

Side note, this is another card that I haven't had a chance to feature on the blog yet.  I always seem to have this "save the best for last" mentality, which plays out more like "the best never comes", so I'm trying to get better about that.

1940 - Doc Cramer - 200 Hits

Doc Cramer would just barely reach the 200 hit plateau for the third and final time in his career in 1940 with Boston (the previous two came with the Philadelphia Athletics).  Doc was a singles and doubles guy, and was 10th in career hits at the time when he retired in the late '40s.

1942 - Johnny Pesky - 205 Hits

All of the players on the list so far were one and done, at least in a Boston uniform, but that all changed in the 1940s when a young infielder named Johnny Pesky burst onto the scene and topped the 200-hit mark in each of his first three seasons!  He swatted 205 hits in his rookie season of 1942 (at the time a record for a rookie) and finished third in AL MVP voting.

1946 - Johnny Pesky - 208 Hits

In his second season, Pesky set a career high with 208 hits, good for top spot in the AL once again.  In case you're not aware, or didn't notice the dates, there was a three year gap there where Johnny didn't play baseball because he was serving in the Navy during World War II.  You have to admire a guy who could lead the league in hits, take a three year hiatus, and then lead the league in hits again immediately upon his return.

1947 - Johnny Pesky - 207 Hits

Pesky topped 200 hits for the third and final time in 1947.  The Red Sox stupidly moved him to third base from his native shortstop, which seemed for some reason to impact his ability at the plate negatively.  Still, you can't have a much better start to a career than that.  That right field foul pole at Fenway is deservedly named indeed.

1977 - Jim Rice - 206 Hits

The longest drought in the franchise's history as far as 200-hit seasons go was the thirty year period between Pesky's 207-hit 1947 season and Jim Rice's 206 hits in 1977.  Unlike some of the guys on this list Jim had some real power too, with 29 doubles, 39 home runs and 114 RBI in 1977.  This was the first of a three year stretch where Rice put up absolute monster numbers, collecting more than 200 hits in all three seasons.

1978 - Jim Rice - 213 Hits

1978 was the defining year of Jim Rice's career, very fitting that he appears to be having an absolute blast on his '78 Topps issue.  He crushed 213 hits to lead the AL, but it wasn't just hits that he paced the league in that season.  He also led the league in games (thanks to the game 163 tie-breaker), plate appearances, at-bats, triples, home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, OPS and total bases.  Pretty easy to see why he won the MVP that year!

1979 - Jim Rice - 201 Hits

Did anyone have more fun playing baseball than Jim Rice?  Well, if your measuring stick is late '70s Topps baseball cards then I'd answer with an emphatic no!  Jim tied Johnny Pesky for the franchise record with his third consecutive 200-hit season in '79.  That record was soon to be smashed, however...

1983 - Wade Boggs - 210 Hits

In 1983 Wade Boggs played his first full season with Boston, and in what would become a regular occurrence for the balance of the decade easily surpassed 200 hits.  Wade led the AL with an impressive .361 average, won his first Silver Slugger award and garnered a few MVP votes.

1984 Wade Boggs - 203 Hits

Wade hit a "measly" 203 hits in 1984.  His .325 average was the "worst" number he'd post across his first eight MLB seasons.  That's right, an average that would have won him an NL batting crown in 1983 or 2014 was his low-point in the '80s.

1985 - Wade Boggs - 240 Hits

Sick of Wade Boggs cards yet?  If not, you will be!  Wade's 240 hits in 1985 ties him for 13th on the all-time list for hits in a single season, and wound up being his career high.  To this day, that is the greatest number of hits in a season by a Red Sox player.  Not sure we'll see that team record broken anytime soon.  Wade led the league in both batting average and on-base percentage, and 1985 kicked off an amazing four year run during which he'd bat .357 or better each season.

1985 - Bill Buckner - 201 Hits

Wade actually had some company in 1985, as teammate Bill Buckner accumulated 201 hits for the second time in his career (reached the same number with the Cubs in 1982).  He also set a career high with 110 runs batted in.

1986 - Wade Boggs - 207 Hits

By 1986, the 200-hit plateau was starting to look like old hat for Wade Boggs.  Wade displayed an amazing batter's eye at the plate in 1986 as well, as it was the first of four straight seasons where he'd draw triple digits in walks.

1986 - Jim Rice - 200 Hits

For the second straight season the team had two players reach 200 hits, as Jim Rice just barely made it.  This was really Jim's last truly great season, though he'd play through 1989 before retiring.

1987 - Wade Boggs - 200 Hits

Wade just barely kept his 200-hit season streak alive in 1987.  When you factor in that he sat out 15 games over the course of the year this becomes all the more impressive.  This Classic release has to be one of my all-time favorite Boggs cards.  I tried using a card from the season that's being talked about throughout this post, at least where I had one, and this seemed more interesting than staring at his '87 Topps release for the 500th time.

1988 - Wade Boggs - 214 Hits

Wade played in all but 7 of the team's games in 1988, and eclipsed 200 hits with ease.  He finished 6th in AL MVP voting, the highest he'd place during his illustrious career.

1989 - Wade Boggs - 205 Hits

In 1989 Wade surpassed the 200 mark for the 7th consecutive season, and for the final time in his career.  I'll be shocked if I live to see another player match this, but who knows I guess.  Maybe Mookie Betts in another 6 years?  Highly doubtful.  With 205 hits in 1989, Wade cemented his legacy (alongside Tony Gwynn) as the premier contact hitters of the '80s.  Hard to argue against Wade being the best contact hitter in the history of the franchise, period.

1996 - Mo Vaughn - 207 Hits

Things cooled down a bit after Wade's run, but a few years later Mo Vaughn joined the club.  On the heels of his 1995 AL MVP season, Mo set a career high with 207 hits.  Much like Jim Rice in the late '70s, he brought some serious power as well clubbing 44 home runs, 143 RBI, and finishing the year with an OPS of 1.003!

1997 - Nomar Garciaparra - 209 Hits

Nomar's 209 hits in 1997 endeared him to Red Sox fans everywhere, and won him a well-deserved American League Rookie of the Year.  Aside from Rookie of the Year honors, Nomar was named a Silver Slugger at shortstop as well as an All-Star, and his name appeared on a few MVP ballots as well.

1998 - Mo Vaughn - 205 Hits

Mo Vaughn was the last player to reach 200 hits for the club in the 90s when he batted a career high .337 in 1998.  He played just four more seasons after this, with his average declining (sometimes sharply) with each successive year.  By 1999 he was moving on to the "back nine" as they say.

2008 - Dustin Pedroia - 213 Hits

Red Sox fans would have to wait a good two decades for another 200-hit season.  In 2008, up-and-coming second baseman Dustin Pedroia registered 213 hits on his way to an AL MVP award.  Dustin actually captured All-Star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger honors in 2008 as well.  One of the more solid and consistent contact hitters since Wade Boggs, Pedroia has just missed the 200-hit mark numerous other times.  He had 185 in 2009, 195 in 2011, and 193 in 2013.  He's right there on the precipice this season also, as he sits just 9 hits shy with 11 games to go.  He's been out of the lineup the past couple of games though, so we'll see what happens here.

2011 - Adrian Gonzalez - 213 Hits

2011 was a great year for team hits, as a pair of Red Sox teammates surpassed 200 hits for the first time since Wade Boggs and Jim Rice in 1986.  Adrian Gonzalez led the team (and the entire league) with 213 hits.  His .338 average was a career high to date.  I was pretty crushed when Boston dealt him the following year, but it looks like they may have made the right call.  He hasn't batted above .300 in a season since.

2011 - Jacoby Ellsbury - 212 Hits

Finishing just one hit behind Adrian was outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.  Jacoby's 2011 season was incredible, and at the time it looked like he was poised to become one of the game's top hitters.  A few years later however, and this looks more like a statistical anomaly than anything.  He's never recorded more than half of the 32 home runs he hit that year during any other season, and despite the fact that he's still just in his early 30s it doesn't appear as though he will again.  Looks like another player that Boston made the right call in moving on from.

2016 - Mookie Betts - 200+ Hits & Counting!

Finally, we have Mookie Betts!  After last night's multi-hit performance he's sitting at 201 hits and counting here in 2016.  I'd imagine we'll be seeing Mookie make this list again sometime in the future, but you never know.  In any event, it's been a lot of fun watching his 2016 season, and the team seems to be getting hot at just the right time.

So there you have it, the first edition of Cardboard History.  I'd love to hear any feedback on this, even if the feedback is that this post was way too long and wordy.

I'll leave you with a pretty mind-blowing statistic (at least to me).  The most amazing thing I learned while researching this post had nothing to do with which players have recorded 200-hit seasons, but rather which players never did.  Can you believe that neither of the two greatest hitters in franchise history (Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski) ever recorded 200 hits in a season?!?!  Over 6,000 hits between the two of them, and not a 200-hit season to be found.

So yeah, last night Mookie Betts accomplished something that neither The Splendid Splinter or Yaz ever did.  Pretty amazing...


Tim B. said...

Great concept for a post and it was executed really well. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this history. Thanks Shane!

Chris said...

Great post! It wasn't too long for me, since you broke up the text with some great cards. Those Pesky PSA's are killer!

I really enjoyed reading up on all the 200-hit seasons in Red Sox history (no Yaz or Ted? really? that is odd!) Hope you keep up this Cardboard History series!

Hackenbush said...

Great post. Love all the vintage. Takes a lot less time for us to read your words than for you to write them. Ok by me. Love history. I think my hunch on Williams is part of the answer. It was part of the knock on Ted. He prided himself so much on not swinging at bad pitches that he perhaps took too many walks. He's 4th all-time.

Metallattorney said...

You forgot Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury in 2011. Gonzalez had 213, Ellsbury 212.

Billy Kingsley said...

Uh, You do know the name Cardboard History is taken, I hope...almost two years now...not that I cover baseball or hockey very often and I know you've never commented so maybe you didn't know.

The concept is great, the long form history stuff is always interesting to me, even in sports I don't know much about.

Mark Hoyle said...

Great post Shane

Unknown said...

Great post and it's amazing that Teddy Ballgame and Yaz fail to make this list!! Have the Solters card but need the Werber and have been eyeing a couple of the Vosmiks on eBay.

Anonymous said...

It took me a few seconds to realize that Wade Boggs is holding a rubber chicken on that Classic card...

The post was very interesting, but the fact that Teddy Ballgame, someone who hit over .400, never had 200 hits? As Mr. Spock would say, "Faaaaaaaaascinating."

I looked up his stats and was astounded by the number of walks he drew. Eight seasons leading the league, including three seasons which rank among the 10 highest walk totals in MLB history.

THEN you get to the OBP: NINE seasons where his OBP was .490 or higher, including three where it was over .500... That's just insane, jaw-dropping and other clickbait-y words!

For comparison's sake, Mike Trout currently leads the Majors with a .437 OBP and Bryce Harper lead with a .460 last year.

shoeboxlegends said...

Thanks for the comments guys!

Metallattorney, I can't believe I left those two off! The list I found must not have been updated in recent years. I've gone back and corrected the post, thanks for the heads up.

Billy, I can't believe I never found your blog. Sorry for "stealing" that name for this post series. I've added you to my blogroll which serves as my reading list, so I'll be reading all your posts from this point forward.

Joe, great info and a perfect example of how focusing on any one stat (like hit count) is faulty, and you really need the whole picture...

BobWalkthePlank said...

Great stuff. I forgot how good of a hitter Mo Vaughn was in his peak.

Pro Set Cards said...

Fantastic post! 200 hits has always been my personal benchmark of great hitting because regardless of the number of at bats, if you had 200 you were hitting very well that season. Fantastic cardboard to support each milestone season too.

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