Manny Machado's Doubles

July 16, 2013
 
As a few of you are probably aware, Manny Machado is hitting a lot of doubles. At this moment, he has an impressive 39 doubles in the 94 games the Orioles have played, which puts him on a pace for 67 doubles. The single-season record for doubles is 67, set by Earl Webb back in 1931.
 
Let’s talk about Webb first, and then move on to Manny Being Machado.
 
Or...let's talk about Ed Delahanty. In 1899, Ed Delahanty hit 55 doubles, breaking Tip O’Neill’s record of 52 doubles, set in the American Association. It wasn’t shocking that Big Ed broke the doubles record: he had led the NL in doubles twice before, and was considered one of the elite hitters in the game. We're starting with Big Ed because he was the first player to hold the doubles record for a long time…for more than two decades. 
 
He had some challengers: Nap Lajoie had three seasons where he made a run on the record, collecting 49, 48, and 51 doubles in 1904, 1906, and 1910.
 
It took another Clevelander to finally pass Delahanty: after notching 53 doubles for the Red Sox in 1912, Tris Speaker made a near-annual run at the double record:
 
Year
Doubles
1920
50
1921
52
1922
48
1923
59
 
Speaker was thirty-five years old when he finally set the record. Two years later he’d pass Nap Lajoie for the career doubles record, which he hasn’t yet relinquished.
 
Nap Lajoie and Tris Speaker were both Indians, and they both hit a lot of doubles. Did they have a park advantage?
 
Sure. The Cleveland teams played in League Park (or "Dunn Field", for a few years). The distance to the fence in right was just 290 feet down the line, with a sixty-foot high fence. The angle to center was wide: 460 feet to center. From pictures, it looks like a football field with a baseball diamond on it: one long field and one short field.
 
Nap Lajoie batted right-handed…he would’ve had a natural pull to the closer fence. I don’t know that he benefited from that close, big wall, or if he lost doubles to homers over the fence.
 
But Tris Speaker, a left-handed hitter, absolutelybenefited from the big outfield he was hitting into. Baseball-Reference has most of Speaker’s splits from 1916 to 1928:
 
Speak’s Splits
PA
2B
2B%
League Park (CLE)
3333
312
9.4%
Other Parks
4108
240
5.8%
 
Tris Speaker doubled in 5.8% of his plate appearances on the road, and 9.4% at home.
 
League Park was a terrific doubles park: between 1901 and 1936 (when the Indians started splitting their home games at Municipal Stadium), an Indians player led the AL (or tied for the lead) in doubles fourteen times. In the nearly eighty years since they left League Park, only five Indians have led the AL in doubles.
 
Tris Speaker broke the career doubles record in 1925…for one brief year he held the single-season and career record for doubles.
 
In 1926 George Burns collected 64 doubles. You’ll never guess which team he played on. Yup…the Cleveland Indians. He broke the record under the nose of Tris Speaker, who was a player-manager for the 1926 team. Burns, a right-handed hitter, hit 38 doubles at home, 28 on the road.
 
Burns believed that he deserved a plaque in Cooperstown; he was sort of a Mark Grace type of hitter, a first-baseman who hit for a high average, and had a few extra-base hits. He was a good player: his career totals might’ve been more impressive, but he was a part-timer in what should’ve been his peak, and his career tailed off quickly. He isn’t someone the Hall has ‘missed’ on.
 
Burns held the record for five seasons, before Earl Webb came along and set a new record. Webb was a left-handed hitter, playing in another park that had a ‘dimension’ problem. Fenway’s dimensions are the opposite of League Park: a big right field, a small leftfield with a tall wall. Like the Indians players, Webb collected 39 of his 67 doubles in Fenway.
 
George Burns enjoyed his record for five years….Webb’s record was under immediate assault. In 1932, the great Pirates right fielder Paul Waner tallied 62 doubles. After a solid April, Waner hit an astonishing 20 doubles in 110 plate appearances in May, which probably got him thinking about the record. But he slowed in June (3 double) before finishing strong over the second half.
 
Hank Greenberg made an attempt in 1934, hitting 63 doubles. If you want to see an example of a player ‘coming strong,’ you should look at Greenberg’s first/second half and monthly splits for 1934.
 
Charlie Gehringer hit 60 doubles in 1936, and Joe Medwick hit 64. Medwick was the most prolific young doubles hitter in baseball history. Through Age-27, Medwick ranks first among all players in career doubles:
 
1.      Joe Medwick – 353
2.      Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols – 298
 
From 21 to 27, Medwick averaged 49 doubles a year. His career stalled in 1940, after a serious beaning from an ex-teammate. Medwick had four years of 30+ doubles, never crossing even 40 again. Despite this, Medwick remains the pace-setting for career doubles until Age 33, when Speaker takes over. If a young player is chasing the all-time doubles record, they’re chasing Medwick.
 
No one’s crossed 60 since. Todd Helton (59) and Carlos Delgado (57) made serious runs for 60 in 2000, but no one was paying too much attention. Garret Anderson and Nomar Garciaparra hit 56 each in 2002.
 
Of all the players who have held/made a run at the doubles record, Earl Webb is easily the worst of the bunch. That’s not meant to slight to Webb; only to state a fact. Ed Delahanty, Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Joe Medwick, and Hank Greenberg are in the Hall-of-Fame. George Burns was a pretty good player for a long time. Even Tip O’Neill was an elite player for the American Association, winning a Triple Crown in 1887.
 
Earl Webb was a middling player. He hit .301 as a twenty-eight year old rookie in 1927, with decent pop. Then he slumped to .250 as a second-year player for the Cubs.
 
He was thirty years old, then. He went to the Pacific Coast League in 1929 and hit extremely well. He was signed by the Reds, who took a look and then put him on waivers. He was claimed by the Senators, who took a look and traded him to Boston. He was a terrible defensive player, and a lot of his offensive value was an ability to get on base. He joined a Boston team that would go on to win just 52 games in 1930. The Sox improved to 62 wins during his record-breaking season: he was just about the only reason to watch the Red Sox that year. A year later he wasn’t hitting doubles, and the Sox traded him to Detroit. A year later the Tigers traded him to the White Sox, who sent him to the American Association. He played well in the minors, but never got a call-up again.
 
Webb’s held the doubles record for eighty-four years, which is a long time for a record to stand. It is especially astonishing because it seems such a vulnerable record: lots of elite doubles hitters have emerged in the eight decades since Webb, but none of them have come close to the record. The Earl of Doublin’ has endured, against all odds.
 
 
*          *          *
 
Onto Machado….
 
Bill’s estimated that Machado has about a 3% chance of breaking the single-season record. This seems about right: it’s highly unlikely that Machado keeps up his blistering pace of doubles, and that’s exactly what he’d have to do to break Webb’s record.
 
That said, there are a few points worth making while Machado’s on pace.
 
Camden Yards isn’t a particularly good doubles park: 153 doubles have been hit at Camden this year (counting the Orioles and their opponents), a tally that is tied for 18th in baseball. Fenway is still a doubles haven: 221 doubles have been hit there, 32 more than the second-best park (Rogers Center, in Toronto). Last year, Camden was tied for 12th in doubles hit (Fenway was first, followed by Coors and Chase Field).

So Machado is the rare challenge to the doubles record who hasn’t enjoyed a terrific advantage in doubles. He’s hit 19 at home and 20 on the road, an even split. Just about all the other big-season doubles hitters: Manny hasn’t had any edge at home.
 
Machado turned twenty-one last week, but he’s still in his Age-20 season. He is (already) one of ten players to collect 35 doubles at such a young age:
 
A-Rod- 54
Vada Pinson – 47
Ted Williams – 44
Johnny Bench – 40
Cesar Cedeno – 40
 
Machado – 39
Orlando Cepeda – 38
Mickey Mantle – 37
Mel Ott – 37
George Davis – 35
 
There are nobusts on that list….everyone he’s keeping company with had a long and successful career. The worst players on that list at Vada Pinson (54.2 bWAR), who was a Bernie Williams-type centerfielder, and Cesar Cedeno (54.6 WAR). Everyone else is either a) in the Hall of Fame, or b) Alex Rodriguez.
 
That list suggests that there’s at least an even chance that Machado hits for some impressive power.  A-Rod, Williams, Bench, Cepeda, Mantle, and Ott all went on to win HR crowns….six of nine.
 
Machado and Chris Davis are on record attempts…one’s going for doubles and the other is going for homeruns. Chris Davis probably won’t catch Bonds, but the American League HR record is still Maris, 61. Davis has 37 homers in 96 games, which puts him on pace for 62.4 HR. He’s a little behind Maris’ pace: Roger had 40 homers through 96 games.
 
Has this happened before, two teammates going for different single-season records? I’m sure it has…I can come up with one recent example, but I’m sure I’m missing something obvious. I’ll spring it on you in a bit…
 
Machado is walking is just 3.7% of his plate appearances, which is just about the only element of his game that isn’t terrific. The positive is that Machado posted a walk rate hovering around the 10% range in the minors (10.5% in AA last year), so there’s a good chance he improves there, too. He’s actually swinging a tad less than he did last year: he just happens to be making better contact this year. He’s not Marco Scutaro (Scutaro has swung and missed on exactly 1.4% of his swings this year, best in the majors), but he’s holding his own.
 
This has been some year for 3B in the majors: coming into the break there are five 3B’s with a fWAR over 4.0:
 
Miguel Cabrera - 6.2
David Wright – 4.8
Manny Machado – 4.2
Evan Longoria – 4.2
Josh Donaldson – 4.1
 
That’s not counting the breakout seasons by Kyle Seager (.293/15/44, 3.5 fWAR) and Pedro Alverez (24 HR), and the usual brilliance of Adrian Beltre. Heck, Matt Carpenter (4.4 fWAR) has played a few games at third: let’s count him in the lot. If Chase Headley, Ryan Zimmerman, and Pablo Sandoval have strong second halves, we might be seeing the best year from 3B since 1980. 
 
Okay…back to Davis and Machado, and whether we’ve ever had two teammates going for different single-season records in the same year. The closest comparable I could come up with is the 1985 Cardinals. Jack Clark neared the NL record for walks in a season (at the time the record was 148, set by Eddie Stanky in 1945). That same year, on the same Cardinals team, Vince Coleman made a run for the NL single-season record for stolen bases, which was Brock’s 118 mark. Both players came up short (136 walks, 110 steals).
 
I wonder if the Orioles have a team MVP Award….deciding between Machado and Davis a lot like last year’s Trout/Cabrera debate. Being a contrarian, I’d vote for Tommy Hunter.
 
And being an optimist, I’m giving Manny Machado about a 5% chance of breaking Earl Webb’s record.
 
Dave Fleming is a writer living in Wellington, New Zealand. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com. 
 
 
 

COMMENTS (12 Comments, most recent shown first)

MarisFan61
Nice post by DanDan!

Even recognizing people's skepticism about "forensic sabermetrics" :-) .....I'm reasonably convinced by DanDan's data that at least in the latter part of that season, Earl Webb was pulling up at 2nd base when he could have gone to 3rd, in order to pad his doubles total. Not convinced enough to convict him criminally on a "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard, but convinced enough if it were a civil trial.
12:49 AM Jul 27th
 
DanDanDodgerFan
In 1931 Earl Webb had a record 67 doubles, but only three triples. Excluding inside-the-park homers, that’s 70 “running” extra-base hits which produced 143 total bases.

In 1927 Lou Gehrig had 52 doubles and 18 triples; his 70 produced 158 total bases, 15 more than Webb’s.

Webb was no speedster, to be sure, stealing only 8 bases in 12 attempts in his entire career. Still, he was no lumbering first baseman or catcher but rather a 33-year-old, 185 lb. rightfielder. It’s reasonable to doubt that, at 33, many of his doubles were the result of him aggressively stretching singles; but he could still run a little, enough to reach third. In 1930 Webb had 30 doubles and 6 triples. In 1932 he had 28 doubles and 9 triples.

So, in 1931 Webb had 70 balls bouncing around the outfield that enabled him to reach second base, but on only three of those was he able to stretch it successfully to third. Did I mention he batted lefthanded? So we can assume a fair percentage were up against the rightfield wall. Three out of seventy? Five years earlier Gehrig converted eighteen such opportunities into valuable extra bases for a championship club.

In 1931, after May, Earl Webb had an astonishing, and exceedingly improbable, 46 doubles and 1 triple. That year, his Red Sox club finished 62-90. The next year, no doubt inspired by Webb’s all-out team-effort, they dropped to 43-111, the worst record in franchise history and, to this day, the fourth-worst record in American League history. Just an awful team—but they began their turnaround by shipping Earl Webb to the Tigers in early June.

The question, then, is: in 1931, did ol’ Earl deliberately, routinely, and obviously pull up at second just in order to pad his eternal record, his single claim to fame?

4:41 PM Jul 23rd
 
ventboys
Good memory Rev, but I believe Edgar was playing first base, not third base when Marzano plowed him under.​
4:33 PM Jul 23rd
 
studes
Please ignore this post. It's a test!
4:21 PM Jul 23rd
 
therevverend
In 1996 Edgar Martinez had a better first half than Machado. In his first 78 games, through April, May and June he had 39 doubles. At the all star break, 85 games he had 42 doubles. The way he was hitting he was sure to break the record. I was starting to get excited. No one in the press was talking about it. No one in the press ever talked about anything Edgar did. Then in the middle of July Lou Pinella did a strange thing. Edgar had DH'd all year. For some inexplicable reason (probably because Russ Davis sucked) Lou played Edgar at third. A strange sickening feeling of impending doom seized me. Dan Wilson was not the catcher that day. John Marzano was getting one of his rare starts that year. Marzano was tough, Lou liked him, but he was not known for his brains.With runners at first and second, less then 2 outs, a batter hit a high popup between the catcher and third base. The ump signaled the batter out, infield fly rule. Edgar camped under the ball only to lose it in the deep blue sky. And at the last second Marzano came charging in like a drunken bull, stumbling and crashing his head into Edgar's knee. Edgar was lost for almost a month, as was his chance to break Earl Webb's record.​
4:09 PM Jul 21st
 
therevverend
The Green Monster wasn't built until 1934. The wall was originally 25 feet high, burned up in a fire January 5, 1934. Thomas Yawkey built the 37 foot wall with scoreboard that year, tin over railroad ties. The original fence was wood, about 318 feet away in 1931. It was 468 feet to center. 550 to 593 feet to right center depending on source. 325 to right. I think there was a small hill in front of the wall in left. I I expect Webb got many doubles not from pop flys off the Monster but from hits to right and center with the outfielders having to cover all the extra ground. With the massive dimensions to right Babe Ruth had his breakout season in 1920 not because of the lively ball, but because he moved from Fenway to the Polo Grounds. In 1919 Ruth hit 9 HRs at Fenway, 20 on the road.
3:51 PM Jul 21st
 
MarisFan61
NU? :-)

(Don't wanna clear up the thing about Lajoie and Speaker?)
10:28 PM Jul 19th
 
chuck
The most doubles on the road I could find were Lou Gehrig in 1927, who had 36 on the road and 17 at home. He's the only one, I believe, who would best Webb's number, if one simply doubled the road doubles.

After Gehrig, there is a large cluster of guys who hit road doubles anywhere between 32 and the high 20’s.

Joe Cronin had 32 on the road in 1938. (19 at home)
Todd Helton (2000) is next with 31 doubles on the road (28 at home). Among the top season doubles leaders, he is the first to have more on the road than at home, though 5 behind Gehrig on the road.
Craig Biggio also had 31 on the road in 1998 (51 overall).

Players with 30 road doubles:
Joe Medwick (in his 64 season)
John Olerud (1993)
Don Mattingly (1986)
Paul Waner (1936)

3:17 PM Jul 17th
 
DavidTodd
Maybe we should convince the Orioles to shorten one of their fences so Machado would have a better chance.​
11:01 AM Jul 17th
 
CWright
Yes, the League Park Fleming is referring to - which opened in 1910, not the 1901 - was considerably shorter to RF and the RF fence was very tall -- slightly taller than the green monster, but not 60 feet. It was 45 feet tall during the periods Fleming is talking about (reduced to 40 feet in 1934). He is mistaken in how the extra doubles were produced, though the effect was real. I suspect there were a lot of doubles off the RF wall because of crazy bounces off steel support beams that protruded into the field of play rather than behind the wall.

Webb's ratio of home doubles to road doubles was high (28% above the league norm), but many players with big doubles totals are higher than that. In fact, most of the other players in the top ten in AL doubles that year hit a higher percentage of doubles at home than Webb did. He just hit a lot of doubles that year. That's the main truth of it. Incidentally, the year before, Webb and the whole Red Sox team hit fewer doubles at Fenway than on the road. What is fascinating about Webb is that his next highest finish in doubles in the league was 24th!

10:33 AM Jul 17th
 
MarisFan61
Maybe I'm misunderstanding something but it looks like you're getting something backwards in talking about the distances at League Park. You say (correctly, I think) that RF was the short field and LF the deep field, but then it seems like you're saying that the righty-hitting Lajoie was pulling into the short field and the lefty-hitting Speaker was hitting into the bigger field.
12:50 AM Jul 17th
 
Robinsong
Babe Ruth set the HR record in 27, the same year Gehrig set the RBI record with 175. The 1894 Philadelphia outfield - Delahanty, Thompson, Hamilton - made a run at a bunch of records though I think runs scored was the only one they set.
5:30 PM Jul 16th
 
 
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