Let’s get this out of the way: Any “record” set during the 2020 Major League Baseball season will carry an asterisk next to it, either literally or figuratively.
Nevertheless, the radical, 60-game campaign could lead to some notable rewriting of the baseball record books.
Given the nature of the shortened season, certain marks will be virtually impossible to surpass. We’re confident in saying Barry Bonds’ single-season home run record and Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak record both are safe for at least another year. However, others should be put on notice.
Here are five records that could fall in MLB’s shortened 2020 season:
.400 batting average
This isn’t a “record” so much as it is a notable statistical achievement, but it still must be addressed. No player has hit .400 in a season since Ted Williams did so for the Boston Red Sox in 1941. Ultimately, it is far too difficult to get four hits out of every 10 at-bats over the course of a 162-game season. But 60 games? It still is unlikely, as the current era is not one conducive to high batting averages. However, Daniel Murphy in 2016 was hitting .397 through 53 games for the Washington Nationals; so, we believe the Mookie Betts and Mike Trouts of the world are capable of meeting or surpassing that level of performance.
Pitcher winning percentage
The all-time mark for highest winning percentage by a pitcher is .947 by Roy Face, who went 18-1 (all decisions as a reliever) in 1959 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In order to qualify, a pitcher needs one decision for every 10 games played, meaning six decisions is all someone will need to qualify for the record this year. There are plenty of pitchers in today’s game who are capable of going 6-0. Again, this record would be accompanied by a massive asterisk.
Highest single-season OPS
This one has a legitimate shot of going down if a player gets off to a roaring start and never lets up. Barry Bonds holds the all-time mark for highest single-season OPS with 1.4217, a record he set in 2004 (at age 39, lol) with the San Francisco Giants. In fact, Bonds owns four of the top 12 highest single-season OPS marks, with Williams and Babe Ruth responsible for the other eight. Those guys were pretty good. Milwaukee Brewers star Christian Yelich led baseball last season with a 1.100 OPS.
Lowest single-season ERA
This record might be on life support. Cambridge, Mass., native Tim Keefe owns the all-time record for lowest single-season ERA with 0.857, a number he posted in 1880 for something called the Troy Trojans. Dutch Leonard (0.961 in 1914) and Mordecai Brown (1.038 in 1906) rank second and third, respectively. As for pitchers who didn’t play in the stone age, Bob Gibson posted a 1.123 ERA in 1968, the fourth best mark ever.
Strikeouts per nine innings pitched
Gerrit Cole set this record last season when he struck out 13.8179 batters per nine innings for the Houston Astros. If he is on his A-game to start his New York Yankees career, he easily could break his own record. As for relievers, nobody ever has hit 20.0 strikeouts per nine innings, though Brewers lefty Josh Hater posted an 18.2 clip last season.