The 100 Greatest in 100 Days: #5 Lou Gehrig

Riding in at #5 on the list is “The Iron Horse” Lou Gehrig. It would be easy to lose sight of Gehrig’s significance given that he played in the shadow of Babe Ruth, but the difference between the two is much smaller than the historical narrative indicates. Gehrig was eight years younger than Ruth. Ruth’s numbers were astronomical, no doubt, but it took some time for major league pitchers to adjust to hitters looking to hit home runs. By the time Gehrig reached his peak, pitchers had more tools to combat the changing game. We can only wonder what Gehrig’s numbers would’ve looked like had he arrived at the same time as Ruth and been able to feast on overmatched pitching. Although that’s fun speculation, the numbers Gehrig did put up are still almost too silly to believe. He had 13 consecutive seasons of 100 RBIs and 100 runs which is the all-time record. He had 11 seasons of at least 120 RBIs which is tied with Ruth for the all-time record. He had nine seasons of at least 140 RBIs which is the all-time record and two more than any other player. He had seven seasons of at least 150 RBIs and four seasons of at least 160 RBIs; both are all-time records. There have only been seven seasons in history that yielded 170 RBIs and Gehrig has three of them. Unsurprisingly, that is also the all-time record. He drove in 185 RBIs in 1931 which is the second-highest single-season total of all time. Gehrig had nine seasons of at least 135 runs which are tied with Ruth for the all-time record. He had 12 consecutive seasons with at least 125 runs which is a ludicrous streak on its own but even more so considering the second-longest streak in history is four! Gehrig’s eight seasons of at least 135 runs and 135 RBIs are the most all-time. Babe Ruth is the only other player with more than two. Gehrig produced five seasons of at least 400 total bases which is the most in history and two more than any other player. He had seven seasons of at least 200 hits and 150 RBIs. Nobody else has more than three. He had four seasons of at least 200 hits and 165 RBIs. Nobody else has more than one. There have only been two seasons ever with at least 218 hits and 173 RBIs. Gehrig has both. Gehrig had seven seasons of at least 200 hits and a 1.100 OPS. Nobody else has more than four. His three seasons with at least 200 hits and an OPS+ of 200 is tied for the most ever. He had nine seasons with at least 80 extra-base hits and fewer than 80 strikeouts which is the most all-time, and he had seven seasons with at least 85 extra-base hits and fewer than 70 strikeouts which is also the most all-time. There have only been four seasons in history where a player had more home runs than strikeouts with at least 49 home runs. Gehrig has two of them. His 117 extra-base hits in 1927 are the second-highest single-season total of all-time. Gehrig is third all-time in slugging percentage, 4th in OPS+, and 5th in on-base percentage. He won two MVPs, finished runner-up twice, and had eight top-5 finishes. Although Gehrig had one of the greatest regular-season careers in history, his production actually improved in the postseason. Among players with at least 150 postseason plate appearances, Gehrig’s .483 on-base percentage and .361 batting average are #1 in baseball history, and he’s tied for first with an otherworldly OPS of 1.214. He led the Yankees to six World Series titles in seven appearances. Of course, Gehrig’s career was tragically cut short while he was still firmly entrenched in his prime by the disease that would become synonymous with his name. Gehrig almost certainly would’ve blown past 2,000 runs, 2,000 RBIs, 3,000 hits, 600 home runs, and 600 doubles which would’ve put him in a club that would have made even the Babe envious.

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