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Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Joey Votto is doubly awesome

By David Schoenfield

I'm working on a little project for later this afternoon, but wanted to point out a cool fact about Joey Votto: He's on pace for 73 doubles.

That, in case you didn't know, would be a single-season record. Most doubles in a season:

1. Earl Webb, 1931 Red Sox: 67
2. George Burns, 1926 Indians: 64
(tie) Joe Medwick, 1936 Cardinals: 64
4. Hank Greenberg, 1934 Tigers: 63
5. Paul Waner, 1932 Pirates: 62
6. Charlie Gehringer, 1936 Tigers: 60

You'll notice that all those 60-double seasons came in the same era. There's a reason for that: Batting averages were high, players didn't hit as many home runs or strike out as much, outfielders played a little more shallow. Just like the 1990s and 2000s were great for home runs, the late '20s and '30s were great for doubles. Webb was a good player in 1931, a left-handed hitter who hit .333. He didn't get a chance to start regularly in the majors until the Red Sox gave him a shot in 1930, when he was 32 years old. Part of that was because he'd been primarily a pitcher until 1924 before converting to the outfield, but part of it was he was apparently a lousy outfielder (by his own admission; he was once referred to himself as the "All-American stumbler").

Anyway, he undoubtedly smacked a lot of doubles off the Green Monster that year. It's one of baseball's all-time fluke records, however. Webb hit 30 doubles in 1930 and 28 in 1932. Four of the players to hit 60 doubles are in the Hall of Fame and Burns collected over 2,000 hits. Webb had his one season in the sun.

As for Votto, I'd say it's possible he could chase the record. Todd Helton hit 59 doubles in 2000; true he had Coors Field as his home park, but he did hit 31 doubles on the road. Votto is a similar hitter to Helton. Carlos Delgado hit 57 in 2000. Brian Roberts hit 56 in 2009. Garret Anderson, Craig Biggio and Nomar Garciaparra also hit 56 in a season, so others have approached 60 in recent years.

Still, 56 is 11 away from 67. One thing working against Votto: He walks too much. He's on pace for 142 walks. Webb drew 70 walks in his record season. If Votto does have a chance, oddly a key factor may be to not hit too many home runs. Helton hit 42 in 2000; if he'd turned 10 of those home runs into doubles, he'd have the record.