By Scott Barancik, editor
Jewish Baseball News recently updated its page devoted to all-time Jewish batting leaders. Following are some highlights from the stats, which are current through the end of the 2016 season:
- It’s been nearly 70 years since Hank Greenberg last swung a bat in the major leagues, but he remains the most dominant player in Jewish hitting statistics, and not just in the power categories you might expect. Yes, Greenberg remains the all-time leader in career (331) and single-season (58) home runs, home-run frequency, RBIs (including 6 of the top 7 seasons ever) and slugging percentage. He also owns the records for most career and single-season doubles, triples and walks, the best career and single-season on-base percentage, and the most doubles in a season (he ranks #2 in career doubles). In addition, Greenberg is #2 in career batting average and has recorded 3 of the top single-season averages. You might think a man with all that power would have struck out a lot, but at his worst, Hammerin’ Hank struck out just 101 times, in 1937. Of course, hitters struck out a lot less back then. Only 3 major leaguers fanned more than 100 times that year, while 139 players did so in 2016.
- Although more than 160 Jews have played in the major leagues, the very first Jewish player, Lipman Pike, retains the title for best career (.322) and single-season (.346) batting average. Pike also remains the hardest to strike out, fanning just 2.9% of the time in nearly 2,000 career at-bats.
- No Jewish player has been more controversial than Ryan Braun, thanks to his 65-game suspension in 2013 after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. But Braun has hit 80 home runs since returning and ranks high in power-hitting categories. His career totals rank him 2nd in slugging percentage and 3rd in home runs, home-run frequency and RBIs, and he is poised to surpass 300 career home runs and 1,000 career RBIs in 2017. Possessor of one of the top power-speed combos of his time, Braun also ranks 2nd in career and single-season stolen bases.
- Ian Kinsler already holds the career record for stolen bases, and ranks 4th in career home runs. He also has a good shot at becoming the all-time Jewish doubles king. Through 2016, he ranked 3rd with 353 two-baggers, and he only needs 27 this season to surpass #2 Hank Greenberg.
- Kevin Youkilis was known as the Greek God of Walks, but in reality he ranks 7th in career walks, a category dominated by Hank Greenberg. If anything, Youkilis should be known as the Greek God of Hit by Pitches. Youk holds the career record with 104 — #2 is a surprising Mike Lieberthal, with 84 — and the top three single-season totals.
- Hank Greenberg documentarian Aviva Kempner is working on a film about Moe Berg, who was better known as a spy and polyglot than as a hitter. Hopefully Kempner will find a moment to note that Berg was the second-hardest Jewish player to strike out of all time.
- Just two full seasons into his MLB career, Joc Pederson already has climbed his way onto the leader boards. Pederson ranks 2nd to Hank Greenberg in career home-run frequency, and the 92 walks he drew in 2015 are tied for 8th most of all time. Some of the center fielder’s stats are less than optimal. His 170 strikeouts in 2015 and 130 in 2016 ranked the 1st and 5th most of all time.
- Not all of the statistical contenders are household names. Sid Gordon, who played from 1941 to 1955, ranks 5th in career home runs (202) and 4th in career RBIs (805). Phil Weintraub (1933-45) ranks 2nd in career on-base percentage (.398) and 4th in career batting average (.295). Sammy Bohne (1916-26) — who twice led National League second baseman in fielding percentage — had 16 triples in his first full season (tied for #1 with Hank Greenberg) and is #3 in that category career-wise. Bohne also ranks 3rd in career strikeout ratio (6.7%) and 6th in career stolen bases.
Click here to see the batting leaders for yourself. We’ll let you know when pitching stats are ready.
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