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"Put Me in Coach, I'm Ready to Play Today"
Baseball's obsession with statistics goes hand-in-hand with the fascination in its own history. This article is interested in both. Major League Baseball has had hundreds of talented rookies in the last century and a half, but some have undoubtedly posted better numbers than others. Here's a look at 13 of the best statistical rookie seasons ever.
1. Joe Jackson
- Rookie MLB Season: 1911
- MLB Career: 1908-1920
- Accolades: World Series champion
Shoeless Joe had arguably the best rookie year in all of baseball history. In 1911, he became an everyday player for Cleveland. He set rookie records with 233 hits, 45 doubles, 126 runs, and an incredible .408 batting average and .468 on-base percentage.
He would have led the league in all of these categories, but he came in second to Ty Cobb in average, hits, doubles, and runs. Later on, Ty Cobb claimed that Shoeless Joe was the best hitter he ever saw. Babe Ruth allegedly modeled his swing after Jackson's.
Jackson would go on to win a World Series as a member of the Chicago White Sox in 1917. He would be part of a scandal that saw players for Chicago throw the 1919 World Series in exchange for money. Jackson and seven other players would be permanently banned from professional baseball. They would also be banned from being inducted into the hall of fame.
2. Lloyd Waner
- Rookie MLB Season: 1927
- MLB Career: 1927-1942, 1944-1945
- Accolades: One-time All-Star and Hall of Fame inductee
In 1927, Lloyd Waner started for Pittsburgh, and he had a .355 batting average with 233 hits. He set a rookie record with 133 runs.
The runs scored record still stands today. Since 1927, only Ichiro Suzuki has had more hits in a rookie year. Waner would play in his only World Series in his rookie season, but the Pirates would lose to the New York Yankees in four games. Waner would go on to set hitting records within his first three seasons.
3. Dale Alexander
- MLB Rookie Season: 1929
- MLB Career 1929-1933
Dale Alexander's rookie year was in 1929 for the Tigers. In his first year, he hit .343 and led the league with 215 hits, 43 doubles, 25 home runs, 110 runs, and 137 RBI.
His next year was incredible as well. In fact, Joe DiMaggio is the only person who drove in more runs in his first two years in the Majors. Alexander's career sadly came to an end in 1933 when he suffered third degree burns on his legs. The burns would later become infected with gangrene, which severely limited his mobility.
4. Hal Trosky
- MLB Rookie Season: 1934
- MLB Career: 1933-1941, 1944, 1946
Trosky had an impressive rookie year in 1934 for the Cleveland Indians. He hit .330 with 206 hits, 45 doubles, 9 triples, and 35 home runs while scoring 117 runs and 142 RBI. He was just the 6th rookie to ever hit over 200 hits, and he was only the second hit 30 HRs.
His 45 doubles were tied with Shoeless Joe for the most by a rookie. That record stood until Fred Lynn beat it in 1975. Despite being hailed as the next Babe Ruth, Trosky was never selected to an All-Star team. He generally gets lost in discussions about the greatest players due to playing at the same time as Lou Gehrig and Hank Greenberg.
5. Joe DiMaggio
- MLB Rookie Season: 1936
- MLB Career: 1936-1942, 1946-1951
- Accolades: 13-time All-Star, 9-time World Series champion, 3-time American League MVP, and Hall of Fame inductee
Joltin' Joe burst onto the scene in 1936 for the New York Yankees. In his first month in the bigs, he batted .381 for 48 hits, 30 runs, and 28 RBI. He ended the season with a .323 average, 206 hits, 44 doubles, 15 triples, 29 home runs, and 125 RBI. His outstanding play helped propel the Yankees to the World Series that year. DiMaggio would go on to have a legendary career as one of the greatest players in MLB history.
His 132 runs scored is still an American League rookie record. His 29 home runs was a Yankees rookie record until Aaron Judge hit 52 in 2017. DiMaggio still holds the longest hitting streak with 56 games.
6. Ted Williams
- MLB Rookie Season: 1939
- MLB Career: 1939-1942, 1946-1960
- Accolades: 19-time All-Star, 2-time American League MVP, and Hall of Fame inductee
The Splendid Splinter burst onto the scene with a home run in his first at-bat in 1939 for the Boston Red Sox. In that year, he hit for a .327 average, .436 OBP, 46 doubles, 11 triples, 32 home runs, 131 runs, and 107 walks. He also set a rookie record with 145 RBI. This was just the start of one of the best careers in baseball history.
In 1941, Williams would bat for a .406 average. He is the last player to bat over .400 in a season. He would go on to be a batting champion, home run leader, and RBI leader multiple times in his career.
7. Walt Dropo
- MLB Rookie Season: 1950
- MLB Career: 1949-1961
- Accolades: One-time All-Star and 1950 American League Rookie of the Year
Batting behind Ted Williams in the Red Sox lineup in 1950, Walt Dropo had a sensational rookie season. He won the Rookie of the Year award while leading the league with 144 RBI and hitting 34 home runs and batting .322.
In 1951, Dropo fractured his wrist. As a result, he never had another performance like his rookie season. He retired with a career batting average of .270 with 152 home runs. Because the rest of his career was not illustrious, Dropo has fallen into obscurity.
8. Tony Oliva
- MLB Rookie Season: 1964
- MLB Career: 1962-1976
- Accolades: 8-time All-Star, 2-time World Series champion (as a coach), American League Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove award, and Hall of Fame inductee
In 1964, Tony Oliva had one of the greatest rookie seasons ever. Playing right field for the Minnesota Twins, he led the American League in hits (217), doubles (43), runs (109) and batting average (.323). In this amazing year, he became the first rookie to ever win the league batting crown. He won Rookie of the Year by a landslide, and he almost became the first rookie to win the ROY and the MVP in his first season.
Oliva would go on to win the league batting title on two more occasions. He would also win the Gold Glove award in 1966. He would serve as a coach for Minnesota after retiring. As a coach, he won the World Series in 1987 and 1991.
9. Fred Lynn
- MLB Rookie Season: 1975
- MLB Career Season: 1974-1990
- Accolades: 9-time All-Star, American League MVP, American League Rookie of the Year, American League Championship Series MVP, and 4 Gold Glove awards
In 1975, Red Sox rookie Fred Lynn became the first player to win the Rookie of the Year and the American League MVP. He batted .331 and had 105 RBI. He led the league in runs (103), doubles (47) and boasted a whopping .566 slugging percentage. He helped the Red Sox win the pennant in that fateful year.
Lynn would win the Gold Glove award in his rookie season, and he would win the award on three more occasions in his career. In 1983, he hit the only Grand Slam in the history of the All-Star Game. Lynn's career would be stifled by injuries. He was never able to play more than 150 games in a season.
10. Nomar Garciaparra
- MLB Rookie Season: 1997
- MLB Career: 1996-2009
- Accolades: Six-time All-Star, American League Rookie of the Year, and Silver Slugger award
In 1997, Nomar became the starting shortstop for the Red Sox. During that year, he led the American League with 209 hits and 11 triples. He also batted .306 with 122 runs, 44 doubles, and 30 home runs with a 98 RBI. He also dazzled with his glove and quickly became a fan favorite. He competed in the Home Run Derby and came eighth in MVP voting in his rookie season.
Garciaparra would be a major force on the Red Sox for nearly a decade. He left in 2004 after failing to reach an agreement on a new contract.
11. Ichiro Suzuki
- MLB Rookie Season: 2001
- MLB Career: 2001-2019
- Accolades: 10-time All-Star, American League MVP, American League Rookie of the Year, 10 Gold Glove awards, and 3 Silver Slugger awards
In 2001, Ichiro Suzuki moved from the Japanese leagues to the Seattle Mariners. He led the American League with 242 hits, 56 stolen bases, and a .350 batting average. He actually became the first rookie to win a batting title, Rookie of the Year, and the MVP in his first season.
Suzuki is still the only player in MLB history to gather more than 200 or more hits in each of his first 10 seasons. His 242 hits in his rookie season is still a record, and his 262 hits in 2004 is still an MLB record. He was the 2007 All-Star Game MVP where he hit the first ever inside-the-park home run in the history of the event. Across his career in MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball, Suzuki has 4,367 hits. That is more than any player in history.
12. Albert Pujols
- MLB Rookie Season: 2001
- MLB Career: Currently active
- Accolades: 11-time All-Star, 2-time World Series champion, 3-time National League MVP, National League Rookie of the Year, National League Championship Series MVP, 2 Gold Glove awards, and 6 Silver Slugger awards
Albert won the Rookie of the Year in 2001 with the St. Louis Cardinals. He hit .329 with 47 doubles, 37 home runs, 130 RBI, and 112 runs. He has been an offensive juggernaut ever since. He led the National League twice in home runs, and he has also led the league in batting average, doubles, and RBIs. Pujols is only the fourth player to reach 3,000 hits and 600 home runs.
Pujols is a three-time National League MVP, and he has numerous Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. With his stats and accomplishments, Pujols is considered to be a lock for a hall of fame induction when he retires.
13. Mike Trout: 2012
- MLB Rookie Season: 2012
- MLB Career: Currently active
- Accolades: 10-time All-Star, 3-time American League MVP, 2-time All-MLB First Team, American League Rookie of the Year, 8 Silver Slugger awards, 2-time All-Star Game MVP
In 2012, Mike Trout had a very impressive rookie season for the Angels. Even though he wasn't called up until the end of April, he still led the American League in runs (129) and stolen bases (49). He did all of this while batting .326 and hitting 30 home runs and 83 RBI. In this remarkable year, he entered the 30-30 club.
Trout has led the league in runs and times on base on four occasions. He is only the fifth player to win two All-Star Game MVP awards, and he is the first to win the award in back-to-back years. As one of the best players in the history of the Angels, Trout still has many exciting seasons ahead of him. He has all the tools to be in the hall of fame.
MLB Rookie Records
Here are some notable rookie records in Major League Baseball history.
Highest Rookie Batting Average
Shoeless Joe Jackson holds the record for the highest batting average by a rookie. His average was .408. For reference, the season record for highest batting average in the modern era is .426. That record belongs to Nap Lajoie.
Most Home Runs by a Rookie
Pete Alonso holds the MLB record for most home runs by a rookie. He hit 53 in 2019; this was also the Mets franchise record for most home runs in a season.
Most Hits by a Rookie
Ichiro Suzuki holds the record for most hits by a rookie with 242.
Most RBIs by a Rookie
Ted Williams has the record for most RBIs by a rookie. He had 145 in 1939.
Most Strikeouts by a Rookie Pitcher
The record for most strikeouts by a rookie in the modern era belongs to Dwight Gooden. He had 276 strikeouts in 1984.
Most Stolen Bases by a Rookie
Vince Coleman has the record for most stolen bases in the modern era. He was able to steal 110 bases in 1985. He would go on to set many stolen bases records.
© 2014 William
Krish Sud on May 13, 2020:
Jalen M on April 20, 2020:
i mean my boy judge was .284 with 52 bombs come on now
Jonathan L on October 10, 2019:
Where is Jose Fernandez at though
DM on September 29, 2019:
No love for the pitchers? Fidrych, Valenzuela, Gooden, Newcombe, just to name a few.
Michael on July 26, 2019:
Johnny Fredrick in 1929 should be on here.
David Matamoroz on August 02, 2018:
What about Cody bellinger I need 2017