Manny Machado’s Real Record Pursuit

If it seems like there’s always a lot of talk about all-time records in the earlier months of seasons, there’s a good reason why. With less and less of a season complete, the sample sizes are smaller and smaller, and over smaller sample sizes, one will observe greater statistical volatility. Basically, it’s easier to be on a record pace after a month or three than it is after five months or six. The trouble with on-pace statistics is that they fail to factor in regression, and regression is a part of our reality. Sometimes record paces are kept up, but most often they aren’t after a player starts to play more like his normal, non-record-setting self.

This season, we’re hearing about some records that might fall, and these days there’s a lot being written about Chris Davis‘ pursuit of the “legitimate” home-run record. But one of Davis’ teammates is also pursuing a long-standing record, as Manny Machado is approaching the single-season record for doubles. Earl Webb‘s record isn’t as sexy as Roger Maris‘ was, and still is in some corners, but Machado’s pursuit has drawn attention to itself as Machado the player establishes himself as one of the game’s elite young talents.

Webb’s record is 67 doubles, set in 1931. No one’s reached 60 since 1936, and the modern-day high is 59, belonging to Todd Helton. Machado has played in all 96 games for the Orioles. He’s already got himself 39 doubles, putting him on pace for 66. ZiPS projects him to finish with 55, while Steamer projects him to finish with 51. Those would be pretty far off, but as of right now Machado is on a promising pace, which has been driving some Google search traffic:

doublesrecordtrend

That’s Google Trends data, for “doubles record.” People long didn’t give a hoot, but now Machado’s giving them reason to inquire. As for last year’s spike, Joey Votto had 35 doubles in 83 games before the All-Star break. At that point he was leading the rest of the pack by eight, but he was also playing injured, and shortly thereafter he went on a lengthy disabled-list stint. Which is why this is still Earl Webb’s record, and not Joey Votto’s.

Machado used to be on a better pace. One could say that regression’s already setting in. He was second in the league in doubles in April, he was first in May, and he was first in June. But he’s hit just one double in July, tying him with 15 pitchers. Typically, record-breakers aren’t allowed to take entire months off, so Machado will need to get it going again, but his earlier numbers did buy him some time.

Some things, though. First, it’s worth acknowledging just how unfamiliar and unknown Earl Webb really is. When the average baseball fan looks up who owns the all-time doubles record, he sees a name he’s probably never seen before. It’s not like the Internet has put in a lot of work to fill in the gaps in the Earl Webb story. Webb’s Wikipedia biography goes 125 words. Robinson Cancel‘s Wikipedia biography goes 202. Webb’s a guy with a record, but he played a long time ago, and he wasn’t amazing, and the record isn’t one of those records fathers tell their kids about when they’re young.

And there’s the matter of triples. By talking about how many doubles a guy has, we ignore his total number of triples, even though a triple is just a sexier double. A triple goes through a double — anyone who records a triple could’ve easily just stopped at second base. Realistically, it makes little sense to talk just about doubles, because then you might be penalizing equivalent hitters with better footspeed. Realistically, it also makes little sense to talk about counting stats, instead of rate stats, but then that’s getting pretty nerdy. The other thing — that’s not nerdy. That’s regular sense.

Machado has 39 doubles and three triples, giving him 42…whatever we’re going to call these. Non-home-run extra-base hits. That’s part of the problem. Doubles and triples have easy, distinct labels, whereas there’s nothing for the combination, and we like our records to be simple. But anyway, Machado has 42 of these kinds of hits, putting him on pace for 71. When Webb hit his 67 doubles, he added three triples, giving him a season-ending combined total of 70.

But that isn’t the all-time high. Webb has the record for doubles, but if you combine doubles and triples, the all-time record belongs to Joe Medwick, who hit 77 in 1936. To go with his 64 doubles, he added 13 triples, which were doubles plus one. Here’s the all-time top five:

The most recent player to reach 70 was Stan Musial, in 1946. The highest total in the modern era is 65, posted by Hal McRae in 1977. Machado’s on pace to eclipse that, for whatever that’s worth. The overall all-time record is just about out of reach, but Machado was on pace for 78 at the end of June, so this remains a legitimate pursuit. Add in triples and Machado slips a little bit, but not so far that he’s out of the picture.

Just by doubles this year, Machado is leading Joe Mauer by nine. By doubles and triples combined, he’s leading Mike Trout by five. Trout’s recently closed the gap, with six in July, to Machado’s two. Machado might not only fall short of the all-time record; he might not even end up the 2013 league leader. Again, people aren’t going to pay much attention, since there’s no widely-understood word for combined doubles and triples, but it’s the more meaningful number.

I guess maybe even combining the stats is getting too technical. And then where do you stop? Machado’s got a 162-game season. Webb didn’t. Medwick didn’t. Machado has doubled or tripled in 9.7% of his plate appearances. In 1900, Honus Wagner doubled or tripled in 11.6% of his plate appearances. The league-average rates have changed over time, meaning you could conceivably come up with a stat like 2B/3B+. None of this considers park factors. Machado’s 2B/3B rate is 197% the league average. That would be tied for 44th-highest ever, and the best mark since Frank White in 1982. With records, you can go deeper and deeper and deeper, and you can get more and more scientific, and then you can end up with something too complicated to celebrate.

I don’t know if it’s getting too complicated to combine doubles and triples. I should hope not, since a triple is just a better double, and the two numbers are widely understood and available. All triples are doubles, but not all doubles are triples, such that triples are kind of a doubles subset. I don’t see the two as necessarily distinct categories, and so it seems to me like they should be put together. It makes sense to have an all-time leader in triples, but it makes less sense to have an all-time leader in doubles. Combine the two and Machado’s chances of breaking an all-time record get considerably worse. But he’d still be on pace to challenge the record for the modern era, and more importantly, records are hard to break, and that’s why they’re records, and there’s no shame in falling a little bit short. The actual purpose behind following Machado’s record pursuit is acknowledging and appreciating just how good he is. He’s really, really good, and baseball players don’t play baseball to set records.




Print This Post



Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


54 Responses to “Manny Machado’s Real Record Pursuit”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. jevant says:

    But what about inside-the-park HRs? Does that change anything?

    We could always call them double-doubles?

    Yeah, I’ll see myself out now.

    +19 Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Too Many Uptons says:

    Interesting article–if you’re going to combine doubles + triples, shouldn’t you do total bases (2*2B + 3*3B)? How about inside-the-park homers?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. PraiseTrout says:

    Call the stat ‘Gap Power’

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. my jays are red says:

    another jeff sullivan post without a gif? *gasp*

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. David says:

    XBIPs?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Hi Jeff:

    SABR has a great biography on Earl Webb here: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/79961264

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. PSUALUM says:

    2b3b+ is actually a good idea for a stat, Too Many Uptons has it right i think doing (2*2b+3*3b). Call it Isolated In Play Power or something.. but really you guys should consider making that a stat, it would really be useful to see what hitters rely more on the Three True Outcomes for Slugging or OPS as oppose to foot speed and gap power.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. B.E. Earl says:

    “All triples are doubles, but not all doubles are triples, such that triples are kind of a doubles subset.”

    I like this. Kind of like the relationship between mezcal and tequila. All tequila are mezcal, but not all mezcal are tequila, such that tequila is kind of a mezcal subset. God…I need a drink.

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • VB says:

      Squares and Rectangles

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Elmer Fike says:

        Even though they are much more common, doubles are in fact a subset of triples in the only meaningful way that a set-subset relationship would matter here.

        All doubles are doubles and not all doubles are triples.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

        • O'Day O'Day O'Day O'Day says:

          What? No. The only meaningful set-subset relationship is triples as a subset of doubles. Every triple is a triple AND every triple is a double. There are doubles that are not triples. Therefore, the set of triples is a subset of the set of doubles.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Steve says:

    Going for the record of Mr. Lucky? Nice, Machado. I’d deal him if he were on my fantasy team

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Patrick says:

    You could also include players thrown out at third attempting to get a triple

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Robbie says:

    All this talk makes me want to go to Wendy’s.

    +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. dtpollitt says:

    One of my very favorite trivia questions:

    Who led the 1990s in doubles? (He also led the 1990s in hits).

    1990s = 1990 – 1999, just to clarify

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Dave says:

      Mark Grace…his only claim to fame. That, and the DUI

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • SprayingMantis says:

      I’d guess Edgar Martinez.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • jruby says:

        He was third, apparently, behind Grace and Biggio.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jon L. says:

        You may be right, in a way. Edgar had more doubles per at-bat (or per game or plate appearance) than Grace (or Biggio) in the 90′s. The fact that Edgar had just 7 doubles in 42 games in 1993, while Grace was able to stay on the field and hit 39, more than accounts for Grace’s 6-double margin in the decade’s counting stats.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. cass says:

    What’s the record just for extra-base hits, including doubles, triples, and home runs? Probably one of the big home run hitters? Total bases is a good stat too.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Brian says:

    Is he deliberately not stretching doubles to triples because he wants the doubles record?

    three triples this season. they are all available on video at mlb.com. The first one was a legit good baserunning hustle play, and they tried to made a play on him. That one was back on April 24.

    Since then, he’s had two triples. Both misplays by the OF’er. Both easy triples (one he might have been able to go for the inside-the-park HR). I didn’t look at the doubles, but I have a hard time believing that he’s not leaving that extra base on the field from time to time. Maybe he’s just a conservative base runner. Maybe he’s conscious of the record. I don’t know. I just know I never like it when a guy pulls up at first on a gapper because he was 3 for 3 with a double, triple, and HR.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Josh M says:

      For starters, he isn’t a particularly good baserunner for a guy with his foot speed but I seriously doubt he is giving up on triples on purpose for the sake of some dumb record. The question is if he is tied or about to tie the record and hits a homerun does he stop at second? Of course not, so the idea of a doubles record is pretty silly. It’s kind of like hitting for the cycle to me. What idiot would choose hitting for the cycle over 4 HRs? Or pull up for a single if there is a clear double or triple to be had? I’m ranting but these things bother me.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Spit Ball says:

        It has long been speculated that Earl Webb gave up on triples in 1931 in order to break Burns record of 64. He had 20 by the end of May and realized he stood a shot. 30 doubles, 6 triples in 1930, 67 doubles 3 triples in 1931, 28 doubles 9 triples in 1932. Plus there are excerpt after excerpt like the following one.

        There were some who suggested that Webb went for doubles at the expense of some triples, pulling up at second base instead of trying to get three bases out of a long drive to the outfield. In 1930, he’d tripled six times, while in 1931 he tripled just three times. Given the additional 140 at-bats he enjoyed, perhaps the law of averages would suggest that he might have hit eight or nine triples in 1931 instead of the three he recorded. He was, of course, a year older but he hit nine triples in 1932, so speed on the basepaths is probably not an issue. Of course, it was well into the season before Webb would have ever dreamed of setting a single-season record for doubles. It’s not the sort of thing one goes into a season thinking about, particularly when his career high was 30 and the existing record was more than twice that amount. He didn’t double until the third game of the year, and he probably didn’t really notice the accumulation of two-base hits until the end of May when he hit two doubles in the May 26 game against the visiting Washington Senators, and then doubled twice in both games of the May 27 doubleheader against Washington. (Despite Earl’s four doubles, and a triple, the Red Sox lost both games, however.) Six doubles in two days helped bring him to 20 for the still-young season, and attracted some notice (particularly in the Washington Post, which noted the devastation he had wreaked against the Senators – seven doubles, one triple, and two homers in one series in Boston. The paper miscalculated his number of doubles so far as 22, and said that he batted right-handed, but advised readers that the league record was 64, set by George Burns. [Washington Post, May 29, 1931]

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. jruby says:

    I like the discussion about doubles and triples. I’ve always been fascinated with others’ fascination with hitting for the cycle, especially when people suggest players do or should “trip” when going around 1st or 2nd if it would get them a cycle. I mean, obviously, 2B, 3B, 3B, HR is better than 1B, 2B, 3B, HR. Except you don’t get your name marked down in a list of players who have hit for the cycle.

    Meh. I has sour grapes.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Micah Stupak says:

    I really enjoyed the discussion on the rabbit hole of stats at the end, Jeff. Very good points and shows very well that users of more complex stats recognize that good players are still good players, and we don’t always need to analyze the shit out of them.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. si.or.no says:

    “Realistically, it makes little sense to talk just about doubles, because then you might be penalizing equivalent hitters with better footspeed.”

    But following that same logic, aren’t there doubles which were really stretched singles, thanks to good footspeed? IMO, including triples would let the fastest players double-dip.

    And I don’t like germs in my salsa.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • DNA+ says:

      Not to mention all the singles that were doubles if only for more foot speed. If triples are doubles+, then singles are simply doubles-. Why not count them in your equation too. Because its absurd?

      Doubles are doubles. Triples are triples, etc. You don’t get the doubles record for hitting triples…

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. Dylan says:

    Robinson Cancel went 9 years between major league appearances. Also, his last name is Cancel (it’s pronounced can-SELL, not cancel, I don’t know if that’s better or worse). The man is a legend, having a Wikipedia page even half the length of his is an accomplishment.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. Ben Hall says:

    I’m pretty sure I’ve read that, late in the season, Webb began stopping at second on hits that could’ve been triples to pad hit doubles total. Does anyone else remember ever seeing that?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. Obese and Lonely says:

    When does the “modern era” start?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. philkid3 says:

    You’re penalizing people for inside-the-park home runs, as though they should have stopped at third.

    (87.3% meant in jest.)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. Professor Ross Eforp says:

    How useful are ZIPS and Steamer ROS for a rookie?

    Don’t get me wrong, I love what they do overall and are a great guideline when you’re deciding on which fantasy guy to pull off the scrap heap, but it just doesn’t seem like it is built to tell me much about Manny Machado.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. griggs says:

    On a related note, I’ve been wondering for about a decade now if when Todd Helton is done will he have the highest double/ab rate in history. I think he still does with Pujols, Edgar Martinez, and David Ortiz his closest chasers(I’m only looking at guys with at least 5500 or so ab.)

    Anyway, good article. It brings up a lot of the issues I’ve considered.

    1. Speed helps turn some singles to doubles as well as turns some doubles to triples or even hrs.

    2. Park affects are very important.

    3. Historically defenses weren’t as good at stopping the baserunner.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. Synovia says:

    The word legitimate makes me giggle. The idea that anyone in MLB is legitimate these days (or any other days) is absurd. There’s too much money and incentive to not be.

    We know Barry Bonds used steroids. We know Hank Aaron used greenies. We know Babe Ruth injected himself with sheep testosterone.

    There has never been a time in MLB where players have been legitimate. “legitimate” is the equivalent of “get off my lawn you damn kids!”

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>