HOF Spotlight: Joe Sewell
by, 05-06-2010 at 12:59 PM (1155 Views)
From a pitcher who could strikeout a batter blindfolded, to batter who would could not be struck out even when blindfolded, here is Joe Sewell.
QUICK CAREER NUMBERS
Games Played: 1,903
At Bats: 7,132
Total Bases: 2,945
- Struck out a grand total of 114 times.
- Struck out 1 time for every 63 at bats, or about once every 14 games.
- Struck out 1 time in 38 post season at bats.
- Had fewer than 10 strikeouts in a single season 9 straight years.
- Struck out 4 times or less in 5 seasons.
- Went 115 consecutive games without a strike out.
- Never struck out more than 20 times in a season doing that only once.
- Achieved top 10 in American League MVP voting 4 times.
- Drove in 80 or more runs 7 times.
- Batted over .300 10 of 14 seasons played.
- Hit a career high 48 doubles in 1927.
- Selected to HOF in 1977 by the Veteran's Committee.
- Teamed with six different second baseman during 11 seasons with Cleveland.
- Rumored to play his entire career using only one 40-ounce bat which was named Black Betsy.
- Appeared in 2 World Series winning both.
- Had two brothers and one cousin who also played in the Majors.
- Never lead the league in any hitting category except doubles in 1924 and sacrifice hits in 1929.
- Attempted to steal 19 bases in 1927 getting caught a league leading 16 times.
- Played 1,103 consecutive games from 1922 to 1930.
There is no doubt Joe Sewell had the greatest ability to put the ball in play of his generation, and possibly ever. To put his strike out stats in a bit of perspective, Ichiro Suzuki has struck out 10 times through 27 games this season. That is already half way to the 20 times Sewell struck out total in 1922 when he played 153 games. I know there are some that say you can not compare baseball statistical information from two different times periods. While I do agree with that to an extent, the fact remains that Sewell accomplished something no other player today, 10 years from now, or 100 years from now will ever see. For those who want a closer comparison of Sewell's greatness, let us use George Sisler and Rogers Hornsby who are considered to be some of the greatest hitters during the 1920s. Sisler struck out 24 or more times in 8 of his 15 seasons while striking out 20 or less the reaming 7. Sisler's highest strikeout total was 37 in 1916, almost doubling the number of 20 by Sewell. Hornsby struck out 40 or more times in 8 of his 14 full seasons, and fanned 63 times in one year alone. Now I am in no way saying Sewell is better than Hornsby or Sisler because that would be a ridiculous statement. I am talking simply about the ability of putting the baseball into play. I believe striking out is the single worst outcome you can have as a batter in baseball. There are some who may disagree with that statement, and while there are exceptions to almost every rule, that is how I feel.
When looking at the stats of Joe Sewell, what I can not wrap my head around is what happened to all of those batted balls. You would tend to believe if a batter struck out so few times that his other offensive stats would be some of the greatest of all time, but that is not the case. Let us take 1925 as an example. My math skills are not the best, so please feel free to call me out if you see I have made an error. Sewell had 608 at bats. He struck out 4 times, was HBP 4 times, sacrificed 23 times, and was credited with a hit 204 times. That leaves 373 (608 minus 235) instances where the ball was put into play resulting in a negative outcome.
Was Sewell the unluckiest batter in the history of baseball? It would seem like only a matter of time before some of those remaining 373 times at bat would lead to a positive play. Perhaps that is baseball karma at its best. You have the ability to put the ball in play almost every time up, but you will have to deal with amazing and bizarre outcomes that impact you negatively.
Feel free to use the comments section to continue this discussion.
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