By the numbers baseball will look different this season

Jim Naveau - Staff Columnist

Baseball and numbers go together probably more than in any other sport.

Things like 20 wins by a pitcher or 50 or more home runs by a hitter are widely recognized indicators of very good, maybe great seasons by baseball players.

Ask a random group of sports fans who holds the major league baseball record for most home runs in a season or in a career and you will get quite a few correct answers.

Ask who holds the NFL record for most touchdowns in a season or in a career and you’ll get a lot of people going to Google to find the answer.

With major league baseball planning to play a 60-game schedule this year, some of those traditional measuring sticks will have to be adjusted.

Obviously, no pitcher is going to win 20 games, no hitter is going to accumulate 200 hits and no runner is going to steal 50 bases this season.

So, what would a good season look like this year?

If Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez hits 18 home runs this season it would be equivalent to the 49 he hit last season,

If Houston Astros Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander wins eight games this year it would be about the same as his 21 wins last season.

If Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna, who led major league baseball with 46 stolen bases last season, gets 17 of them this year he will be at the same level he was a year ago.

What if baseball had always played a 60-game schedule? What might some of its most hallowed records look like?

Doing the math, the top three home run hitters of all time might be Barry Bonds with 282, Hank Aaron with 279 and Babe Ruth with 264 instead of Bonds with 762, Aaron with 755 and Ruth with 714.

Babe Ruth’s 60-home run season in 1927, which helped make the longball a big part of baseball, might have been his 22-home run season.

Pete Rose might be the all-time hits king with 1,574 hits instead of 4,256 and his goal every season might have been to get 75 hits instead of 200 hits.

Greg Maddux might have gone into the Hall of Fame with 131 wins instead of 355 and Cy Young’s all-time record of 511 wins might have been only 189.

Nolan Ryan might have struck out 2,114 batters instead of the 5,714 he had. And with only a 60-game schedule we would have missed his epic punch out of another kind when he put Robin Ventura in a headlock after he charged the mound in August 1993.

Joe DiMaggio’s legendary 56-game hitting streak in 1941 would have ended at 32 games because that’s where it stood after the New York Yankees’ 60th game of the season.

Ted Williams, the last player to hit over .400 for a season, also in 1941, still would have done it in 60 games. He was hitting .411 after the Boston Red Sox’s 60th game.

Denny McLain, the last pitcher to win more than 30 games when he went 31-6 for the Detroit Tigers in 1968, had 10 wins after 60 games that season.

A 60-game schedule would have been a good thing for some teams and not so good for others through the years.

If they’d stopped playing after the first 60 games last season, the World Series champion Washington Nationals would have finished in fourth place in the National League East Division with a 27-33 record.

The Cleveland Indians’ 22-game winning streak in 2017 might never have happened. It didn’t begin until Aug. 24 in the 126th game of the season.

On the other hand, the 2003 Detroit Tigers might have welcomed an early end to that season in which they lost 119 games. It could have been only a 43-loss season if they’d stopped after 60 games.

And the 1969 Chicago Cubs in a 60-game season would have won the National League East by nine games, gone to the playoffs and maybe won the World Series instead of collapsing and finishing eight games behind the Mets in the division.

Would the legends still have been legends with smaller numbers? Certainly.

The Big Red Machine still would have been the Big Red Machine, not the Midsize Red Sport Utility Vehicle. The 1927 Yankees’ Murderers Row still would have been Murderers Row, not Shoplifters Row or Trespassers Row.

Greatness is obviously greatness. Baseball fans just won’t have as many chances to watch it this season.

And if you’re still wondering, the NFL career touchdown leader is Jerry Rice and the season record belongs to LaDainian Tomlinson.

Jim Naveau

Staff Columnist