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Chris Davis is on track for a rare feat and even rarer feat

Updated on August 29, 2013

I’ve recently written a few posts about the fantastic season Miguel Cabrera is having with the bat. But Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles is in line to accomplish a couple of rare batting feats too.

Davis, through Aug. 28, has crushed 47 homers and stands as a major impediment to Cabrera repeating as the Triple Crown winner. Some people have speculated whether he can reach 61 homers, the mark set by Roger Maris in 1961 and which Davis considers the untainted record. He would have to continue hitting homers at a pace of one every two games to reach that milestone.

But the fact that he has also hit 37 doubles this season puts him on track to join some elite company in the baseball world. That gives him 84 extra base hits for the season.

Few have reached 90 extra base hits

Reaching 84 extra base hits in a season is not particularly rare. When Davis got there on Aug. 28, it was the 161st time it had been accomplished in history. In fact, Cabrera had that total last year and in 2010. But Davis still has 31 games left to keep moving up the ladder.

With each extra base hit, he will leapfrog many players at once. Three more extra base hits and he’s in the top 100, five more and he’ll be in the top 73. When he reaches 90, it’ll be only the 66th time someone has belted that many extra base hits in a season.

At his current pace, though, Davis will strike 20 more balls for extra bases, which would give him 104. That would put him in some rarified air.

100 extra base hits a rare feat

In baseball history, reaching 100 extra base hits has been accomplished only 15 times. The last time was in 2001, when four players all hit triple digits.

There have been some near misses. Eight players have reached 99 extra base hits, most recently Derek Lee in 2005 and Albert Pujols in 2004. Nineteen times someone has struck between 95 and 99 extra base hits.

Players with 100 extra base hits

Player
Year
Hits
2B
3B
HR
XB hits
Babe Ruth
1921
204
44
16
59
119
Lou Gehrig
1927
218
52
18
47
117
Barry Bonds
2001
156
32
2
73
107
Chuck Klein
1930
250
59
8
40
107
Todd Helton
2001
197
54
2
49
105
Sammy Sosa
2001
189
34
5
64
103
Todd Helton
2000
216
59
2
42
103
Albert Belle
1995
173
52
1
50
103
Stan Musial
1948
230
46
18
39
103
Hank Greenberg
1937
200
49
14
40
103
Chuck Klein
1932
226
50
15
38
102
Rogers Hornsby
1922
250
46
14
42
102
Luis Gonzalez
2001
198
36
7
57
100
Jimmie Foxx
1932
213
33
9
58
100
Lou Gehrig
1930
220
42
17
41
100

Doubles-homers combo a rare one

One of the reasons reaching 100 extra base hits isn’t accomplished more often is fairly obvious – that’s a lot of hits. It’s hard enough for a player to reach 200 hits in a season, it’s even harder for 50 percent or more them to go for extra bases.

But to reach triple digits in extra bases, you need to not only hit a lot of homers, you need quite a few doubles and triples as well. In general, players with home run power don’t hit as many doubles because their long balls are going over the wall. Players with good doubles numbers are either guys who can’t quite muscle up enough to put the ball over the fence, or they’re speedy.

For example, Davis’ teammate Manny Machado leads the majors in doubles with 44 but only has 12 homers. Matt Carpenter leads the NL with 43 doubles, but has only 10 homers. Cabrera has 43 homers, but only 25 doubles. Pedro Alvarez has 32 homers but a mere 15 doubles. So the combination of homers and doubles that Davis has is rare. (I expect as Machado matures and his strength increases you’ll see his home run numbers increase and his doubles numbers decrease as more of his long hits get longer and travel beyond the fence.)

Davis has one thing going against him and that is speed. He has not yet hit a triple this season, and none of the players who has reached 100 extra base hits has done so without hitting at least one triple. (Albert Belle in 1995 had only one triple and would have reached 100 without it, as would have Todd Helton in 2000 and 2001.)

Ruth, Gehrig almost untouchable in extra bases

Three players have reached 100 extra base hits twice – Helton in 2000 and 2001, Chuck Klein in 1930 and 1932, and Lou Gehrig in 1927 and 1930. Babe Ruth only reached that number once, but twice hit 99 and 97 once.

But Ruth holds the all-time record for extra base hits. In 1921, Ruth hit 44 doubles, 16 triples and 59 homers for an astounding 119 extra base hits (he had 204 total hits for the season). The only other player to come close to that number was Gehrig in 1927, when 52 doubles, 18 triples and 47 homers for 117. In third is Barry Bonds with 107 in 2001 when he hit 73 homers.

The triples numbers for Ruth and Gehrig are pretty amazing, likely because they played home games in giant parks that were marked at 480 to dead center (Ruth played in the Polo Grounds in 1921, Gehrig in Yankee Stadium, where the fences weren’t moved in to a more “reasonable” 457 until 1937). Probably in today’s parks their triples numbers would have been lower but their home run numbers higher.

Davis heading for even rarer feat

Ironically, Davis might have an easier time accomplishing an even rarer feat than 100 extra base hits and can do so with just six more extra base hits.

Davis currently has 37 doubles and 47 homers. If he hits three more doubles and three more homers, he will become only the third player with 40 doubles and 50 homers. He’ll join Belle who had 52 doubles and 50 homers in 1995 and Ruth in 1921 with 44 doubles and 59 homers. (Helton just missed in 2001 when he hit 54 doubles and 49 homers.)

Players with 40 doubles and 50 homers

Player
Year
2B
HR
Albert Belle
1995
52
50
Babe Ruth
1921
44
59
 
 
 
 

Davis won’t reach Ruth or Gehrig in number of extra base hits, since that would require him to average more than one extra base hit per game the rest of the season. A particularly great September could have him challenging Bonds for third place. But even a reasonable remainder of the season could put him in the rare doubles-homers club.

Davis may lose the MVP race to Cabrera, but he will almost certainly etch his name in baseball history.

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