Three Strikes: Ichiro did the impossible

Updated: November 12, 2010, 7:24 PM ET
By Jayson Stark
It may be November, but Three Strikes' ever-popular History Watch is still in midseason form …

Strike One -- Ichiro's Hit-And-Run Dept.

You don't need to be a descendant of Charlie Lau to know that Ichiro Suzuki is one of the greatest hit machines who ever lived. But what fascinates Three Strikes about this man isn't the number in his hits column.

It's the number in his runs-scored column.

And by that, to be honest, I mean: his runs not scored.

Once again this season, nobody in baseball got more hits than Suzuki (214). But amazingly, 84 players in baseball scored more runs than Suzuki (74). And you sure don't see that much. For instance:

• Not only did Suzuki score the fewest runs in history by a player who got as many hits as he did, only two other players have even made it to within 10 runs of him:

Kirby Puckett, 1989 -- 75 runs, 215 hits
Beau Bell, 1937 -- 82 runs, 218 hits

Always good to get Beau Bell some much-needed pub, by the way.

• But thanks to the Mariners' pathetic offense, which this year scored fewer runs than any team in any full season in the DH era, this not-scoring thing is practically becoming a habit for our man Ichiro. And it's not one you'll find on his Hall of Fame plaque, I'm predicting right now.

Last year, when he got 225 hits, he scored only 88 runs. So that's two years in a row of this stuff. And only three other players in history have ever had back-to-back seasons of 200 or more hits and fewer than 90 runs. It's quite a group:

Pinky Whitney, 1929-30
Dale Mitchell, 1948-49
Steve Garvey, 1975-76

Garvey, as I once wrote in my book (caution: book plug ahead) "Stark Truth," was the all-time king of the Runs Not Scored crowd. He had six 200-hit seasons -- and didn't score 100 runs in any of them. No one else has even had three 200-hit seasons like that. So Suzuki has a long ways to go before he can fairly be compared with King Garv.

• Fortunately for him, Suzuki did not set the record this year for fewest runs scored by a man who led the league in hits, although it was close. In the half-century in which teams have been playing 162-game schedules, I uncovered two famed hit leaders who managed to score fewer than 74 runs in a non-strike season:

Felipe Alou, 1968 -- 72 runs, 210 hits
Rafael Palmeiro, 1990 -- 72 runs, 191 hits

• Finally, here's Suzuki's most incredible feat of all, and one I still find hard to believe:

Even though he got the most hits in the American League, he somehow scored fewer runs than the guy who got the fewest hits in the National League (among players who batted enough to qualify for the batting title). Here. See for yourself:

Suzuki -- 74 runs, 214 hits
Mark Reynolds -- 79 runs, 99 hits

I don't know if that's a record. But it ought to be impossible. Shouldn't it?

Strike Two -- Quality Control Dept.

So if I asked you which pitcher led the Kansas City Royals in wins this season, how many of you would answer, immediately: Zack Greinke?

Great try. Excellent guess. Sound thinking. Just happens to be incorrect. That's all. But thanks for playing.

Now how long do you think most of you would have had to guess before you stumbled upon the actual answer -- Bruce Chen? An hour? A week? A month?

Hey, don't feel bad. If I'd asked the Royals themselves in spring training which pitcher was going to lead their team in wins, they probably would have guessed for a month, too, before they got to a guy who had gone a combined 1-13 in the big leagues over the previous four seasons. And yes, you read that right: 1-and-13!

Nevertheless, this is a true fact: This man really did lead his team, with 12 wins. But it's how Bruce Chen led the Royals in wins that's most astonishing. Here's why:

• This guy led his team in wins even though he had only eight quality starts all season. Yessir, eight.

Just so you know, there were 136 pitchers in the big leagues who had more quality starts than that. That includes a guy who went 1-11 (Ross Ohlendorf), a guy who went 4-16 (Kevin Millwood) and a guy with a 6.34 ERA (Brian Bannister).