Mains: Records that will never be broken

From SABR member Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus on May 15, 2018:

OK, I’ll admit, that title’s misleading. There are lots of baseball records that I think we can confidently say will never be broken. Cy Young’s 511 pitcher “wins.” Old Hoss Radbourn’s 1884 season, when he pitched 678 2/3 innings in 73 complete games (both the most since 1880) and won 59 (most ever). Grover Cleveland Alexander’s 16 shutouts in 1916. The 1904 Boston Americans using just five pitchers over a 154-game season.

And it’s not just pitching. Ray Chapman had 67 sacrifice hits in 1917, and Eddie Collins—a Hall of Famer with the 70th-highest OPS+ of all time!—had 512 sacrifices during his career. Nobody’s had more than 26 triples in a season since Chief Wilson hit 36 in 1912. Joe Sewell struck out in 0.5 percent of his plate appearances in 1932. Our former editor-in-chief Sam Miller illustrated why it appears impossible for a batter to hit .400 anymore.

But I’m not talking about any of those. The reasons these records won’t be broken are that the game has evolved. Pitchers don’t pitch as many innings. Position player bunts have been shown to be a bad strategy. Baserunners aren’t stretching doubles into triples. Strikeouts are up, contact is down.

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Originally published: May 15, 2018. Last Updated: May 15, 2018.