By Bill James

July 26, 2013

If a player’s career high in runs scored is 100, how many runs will be probably score in his career?

About 660, it turns out. If his career high in runs scored is 50, he will probably score about 170 runs in his career; if 60, about 235; if 70, about 300; if 80, about 400; if 90, about 520; if 100, about 660; if 110, about 810; if 120, about 1000 or a little more.

Conversely, if a player gets 3,000 hits in his career, what is his career high in hits? Probably about 215. . ..215 to 220 is the best estimate. If a player hits 500 home runs in his career, his career high in home runs is probably about 46. But if a player hits 250 home runs in his career, his career high in home runs is probably about 34. If a player hits 125 home runs in his career, his career high in home runs is probably about 24.

A good player, of course, has a longer career than a lesser player. I have been studying the normal ratios of career highs to career totals. Barry Bonds never scored more than 129 runs in a season, but scored 2,227 in his career, which is a ratio of 17.26 to 1—the highest ratio of all time in runs scored. On the other hand, Billy Werber also scored 129 runs in a season, but scored only 875 in his career, a ratio of 6.78 to 1, which proves once again that Duke basketball players are worthless people. Roger Maris scored 132 runs in one season. . ..I forget which season. . ..but scored only 826 runs in his career. Johnny Mostil scored 135 runs in a season, but scored only 618 in his career, somewhat hampered as he was by the fact that he slit his throat in mid-career. Lefty O’Doul scored 152 in a season, but only 624 in his career.

Pete Rose’s career high in hits for a season was 230, but he had 4,256 in his career, a ratio of 18.50 to 1. This is the highest ratio that I found in any of the categories that I studied—runs, hits, doubles, triples, homers, RBI. Rickey Henderson has the highest ratio in doubles, with a career high of 33 but a career total of 510, or 15.45 to 1. Ty Cobb has the highest ratio in triples, with a career high of 24 but a career total of 296, or 12.33 to 1. Hank Aaron has the highest ratio in home runs, with a career high of 47 but a career total of 755, or 16.06 to 1, and Aaron also has the highest ratio in RBI, with 2297 to 132, or 17.40 to 1.

The ratios are lower when the norms are lower; that is, the ratio in hits is higher than the ratio in doubles because a player gets more hits in a season than he does doubles, which means that the career high in doubles is more susceptible to a fluke. If a player has a long career, at some point he will have a season in which he hits a lot of doubles. Henry Aaron hit 46 doubles in 1959, only 20 doubles in 1960. There probably isn’t any actual reason for that; it just happened. The lower the norm, the more susceptible the category is to a random variation in the season-to-season totals, therefore the lower the ratio between the career total and the career high.

RBI. …87 players have driven in more runs in a season than Hank Aaron; that is, 87 different players, and some of them have done it many times. Vic Wertz, Hal McRae, Moose Solters, George Bell, Dale Alexander, Jay Buhner, Jim Gentile, Preston Wilson and Bret Boone all drove in more runs in a season than Henry Aaron did.

Aaron, however, drove in 17.4 times as many in his career as he did in any season. Pete Rose is second on that list, at 16.05 to 1; Dave Winfield is third, at 15.53, and Eddie Murray fourth, at 15.46. The same players tend to be at the top of all of the lists—the players who had long careers. Ron Fairly is 17^{th} on the RBI list, at 13.56 to one; he drove in no more than 77 runs in any season, but 1,044 in his career. He ranks just ahead of George Brett and Willie Mays—not in RBI, but in "seasons" worth of RBI.

In my calculations of any player’s chance of breaking the career record for doubles, for hits or for home runs, I tend to assume that there is a normal ratio of performance levels to career length. This study shows, however, that that ratio is different for doubles and triples than it is for the other categories. 109 players have hits ratios of 12.50 to 1 or higher—but no player has a ratio of 12.50 to 1 in triples. Twenty players have ratios of 15 to 1 or higher in hits—but only three players have ratios of 15 to 1 in doubles.

It’s not a *dramatic* difference, except for triples. Basically, doubles totals are two "years" shorter than hits. If you could have a ratio of 17 to 1, then you could break the record for career doubles with a career high in doubles of 47. But with a ratio of 15 to 1, then you would need a career high of 53—and a very long career.

Basically, if you have ratios longer than ten to 1, that’s a long career. Willie Mays’ ratios are 15.86 (runs), 15.78 (hits), 12.16 (doubles), 7.00 (triples), 12.69 (home runs) and 13.50 (RBI). That’s a long career. Joe DiMaggio’s ratios are 9.21 (runs), 10.30 (hits), 8.84 (doubles), 8.73 (triples), 7.85 (home runs) and 9.20 (RBI). That’s not such a long career. Troy Glaus’ ratios are 7.41, 8.59, 7.71, 5.00, 6.81 and 8.56. That’s a fairly short career. Which makes a point that I have to make periodically about Ted Williams: this is actually a pretty long career. People always focus on the parts of his career that are missing, but his ratios are about 12 to 1, which is a pretty long career (11.99, runs; 13.68, hits; 11.93, doubles; 5.07, triples; 12.12, home runs; 11.57, RBI.)

**Manny**

As of this writing, Macho Manny Machado hasn’t hit a double in almost three weeks, and his chance of breaking the record for doubles in a season has dropped to about 1%.

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## COMMENTS (3 Comments, most recent shown first)

WinShrsTwo words: Dick. Groat.

Three words: You. Jinxed. Manny.

3:46 PM Aug 1stshtharWhat about the age at which a player has a career high in something?

Does that tell us anything?

Do you have a better career if you hit your highs early or late?

7:02 PM Jul 26th3for3Love the Duke reference. Ted had a "long" career because he was great at 20, and still going strong at 41. Long live Earl Webb. And Owen Wilson, while we are at it

4:51 PM Jul 26th