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A look back at some historic seasons in the MLB

MLB greatest seasons

Baseball has been around since the late 1800s, yet only a handful of players have put up numbers to qualify for the following lists. As we take a look at some of the top seasons in MLB history, we will also attempt to predict if any of the active players have a shot at making one of these lists in 2018.

.300 batting average, 50 Home runs, 50 doubles

MLB greatest seasons
Albert Belle is the only player to hit 50 home runs with 50 doubles in a season. (Photo from BestSportsPhotos)

Although this may come as a surprise to some, Albert Belle is the only player in MLB history to bat at least .300 with 50 home runs and 50 doubles. In 1995, despite playing just 143 games because of the previous year’s strike, Belle hit .317 with 50 home runs and 52 doubles, while also leading the American League in runs, home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and total bases. Despite all that, he finished runner-up to Mo Vaughn for the AL MVP Award. It is assumed he lost this race because of his reputation, and most notably the 1994 bat burglary, in which Belle was caught using a corked bat.

Was anyone close? In 2001, Todd Helton was a home run shy of joining Belle on this exclusive list. In Lou Gehrig’s 1927 AL MVP season, he hit .373 with 47 home runs and 52 doubles. Both Derrek Lee (2005) and Albert Pujols (2004) were four home runs away.

Nolan Arenado has the best shot out of all active players to join this list. Like Helton, Arenado is at an advantage by playing 81 games at Coors Field. Over the last three seasons, Arenado is averaging 40 doubles and 40 home runs. He hit a career-best .309 last year, and is only 26 years old.

30 Home runs, 20 triples

Only three players in MLB history posted a season with at least 30 home runs and 20 triples. The first player to do this was 1928 NL MVP, Jim Bottomley with 31 home runs and 20 triples. 29 years later in 1957, Willie Mays hit 35 home runs and 20 triples. 50 years later in 2007, Jimmy Rollins joined these two, and like Bottomley, was named NL MVP.

Less than 120 players have ever hit 20 triples in a season, so you can see why only three players made this list. In 2007, Curtis Granderson hit 23 triples, but clubbed only 23 long balls. If I was a betting man, I would guess that no active players will ever reach this milestone. It is not because these players are not talented, but because the triple is vanishing. In 1921, with only 16 MLB teams, 1,364 triples were hit. By 1950, that number was down to 793, and just 795 were hit in 2017.

Teams are not utilizing speed like they used to, and more players are swinging for the fences than ever before. In 2017, the Toronto Blue Jays hit just five triples, the fewest by a team in MLB history. Will we ever see a fourth member on this list?

200 hits, 30 Home runs, 30 Stolen bases

This is a far more common list. In the history of the sport, we have seen eight players post a season with at least 200 hits, 30 home runs and 30 steals. Below is the eight players sorted by year.

Hank Aaron, 1963

Ellis Burks, 1996

Larry Walker, 1997

Alex Rodriguez, 1998

Alfonso Soriano, 2002

Vladimir Guerrero, 2002

Jimmy Rollins, 2007

Jacoby Ellsbury, 2011

The best season among these eight men had to be Larry Walker’s in 1997. The NL MVP that year, Walker smacked 49 home runs and batted .366 with his 33 steals. Historically, this was one of the greatest offensive seasons we have ever seen. The only other player to hit at least .365 with 49 home runs, an OBP greater than .450, and a SLG of at least .710 was Babe Ruth. However, Alex Rodriguez, in 1998, became one of four players to ever post a season with 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases, so you could make an argument.

MLB greatest seasons
Will one of these men join this coveted list? (Photo from USA Today)

This list is a good mix of players with speed, power and durability. You cannot miss too many games if you expect to get 200 hits in a season while hitting at least 30 bombs. All of these studs played in at least 153 games.

Last year, Charlie Blackmon had 213 hits, including 37 home runs, but stole just 14 bags. The 2017 AL MVP, Jose Altuve, had 204 hits and stole 32 bags, but needed six more home runs to join this club. With that said, Altuve has a very good shot in 2018.

Mike Trout, arguably the game’s best player, is averaging 33 home runs and 27 steals over his last six seasons. His highest hit total was 190, which came in 2013.

At some point in the near future, Trout or Altuve will be added to this list. A dark horse to put up these numbers is Ronald Acuna. One of the top prospects in the game, Acuna had 181 hits with 21 home runs and 44 steals in 139 games in the minors.

250 Strikeouts, 250 ERA+

Pitching seasons are tough since the game has changed so much, but we had to throw in at least one. In the history of the sport, only two pitchers have posted a season with at least 250 strikeouts and a 250 ERA+. Those two men are Hall of Famers Bob Gibson (1968) and Pedro Martinez (2000).

Walter Johnson was very close in joining this list, and would have been the first to do so. In 1913, Johnson had an ERA+ of 259, but had 243 strikeouts.

In 1999, Pedro Martinez struck out 313 batters, but his ERA+ was 243. Since 2009, only three pitchers, Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta and Corey Kluber have posted a season with at least 200 strikeouts and a 200 ERA+. Kluber has the best shot to join Gibson and Martinez, but like the 30 home run, 20 triple club, we may never see this again.


Featured image from That Balls Outta Here

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