Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
by Derek Smart
During a recent Cub broadcast, it was mentioned that when Derrek Lee hit his fortieth homer of the year that he would be the first player in Cub history to have 40 homers and 40 doubles in a season. He reached the milestone the other night, and while it's an impressive feat, I was struck by how, well, arbitrary this particular 40/40 designation was. He may be the first to get this particular combination of numbers, but there are ways to get more value without having those specific figures in those specific categories.
I began thinking about it, and to my mind the important combination of numbers was 40 or more home runs along with a total of 80 or more extra base hits (See, 40 + 40 = 80. Note my spectacular math skills.). Since I think we can agree that a home run or a triple has more value than a double, anyone in Cub history with at least those same 40 dingers that The Savior has, and a total number of extra base knocks over 80, has had a season that's at least as valuable in the power category as Lee's 40/40 year.
So, in the spirit of science and pointless fun, I put together a list of Cub players who have had at least 40 homers and at least 80 extra base hits, listed from highest to lowest extra base hit totals.
That's some pretty good company. Ten seasons between four men, eight of them split evenly between Sammy Sosa and Ernie Banks, with Sosa clearly the most productive power hitter in the history of the franchise (not exactly news, but there you are).
At this point, Lee pretty easily projects to be only the third player in the history of the franchise to have over 90 extra base hits, and while it's a longshot to say he could get up in the rarified air of "Sosa 2001," it's not entirely out of the question. Still, he's not likely to break the 50 homer barrier, let alone the 56 or 64 that Wilson and Sosa put up in their most productive years, so it's worth taking a look at this another way: Total Bases.
I'm going to choose a nice, round, arbitrary cut-off that Lee will reach in his sleep. Let's say a Cub player would need 350 total bases on the season to make this list. What does it look like?
A couple new names show up, but for the most part, it's the same guys in nearly the same spots. Lee will break this top ten in the next week or two, and if things go right, he could break the top five. However, I think those top four seasons by Sosa, Hornsby, and Wilson aren't quite within reach. Lee's been wonderful this year, but he has yet to break into the realm that those men inhabit.
My point? Nothing, really. Just that mention of essentially made-up milestones riles my contrarian instincts. That Lee is the first Cub to hit 40 homers and 40 doubles in the same season is a fun piece of trivia, but as great as his season has been, and as impressive as this particular accomplishment is, trivia it remains.