When Michael Brantley collected his 200th hit of the season on Saturday, he became only the 18th player in franchise history to reach that mark. He's only the 4th Tribe hitter to do it in the last 60 years, and the first since Kenny Lofton in 1996. It's always been a rare feat, and for the Indians it's become far more rare over time.
The Dead Ball Era is generally seen as having ended in 1919, when Babe Ruth set a new record with 29 home runs.
200-hit seasons around MLB in each decade since then:
- 1920s: 103
- 1930s: 96
- 1940s: 20
- 1950s: 19
- 1960s: 29
- 1970s: 42
- 1980s: 42
- 1990s: 36
- 2000s: 58
- 2010s: 11
Considering that there were barely half as many teams as there are now until the 1960s, those totals from the '20s and '30s are startling. In 1930 alone, there were 20 players who reached 200+ hits, with 12 of the 16 teams having at least one player get there, and the Cubs and Phillies each having three.
When you factor in expansion, 200-hit seasons were pretty consistent from the '40s through the early '90s, at which point they show back up to levels not seen since before World War II, before dropping back off again in recent years. Brantley and Houston's Jose Altuve both got there this season, but there were no players with 200 hits in 2013, only the second time in the last 40 years that's happened.
Players with 200 hits in a season for the Indians:
- Nap Lajoie (1904, 1906, 1910)
- Joe Jackson (1911*, 1912)
- Tris Speaker (1916, 1920, 1923)
- Charlie Jamieson (1923, 1924)
- Joe Sewell (1925)
- George Burns (1926)
- Lew Fonseca (1929)
- Johnny Hodapp (1930)
- Ed Morgan (1930)
- Earl Averill (1931, 1936)
- Hal Trosky (1934, 1936)
- Joe Vosmik (1935)
- Dale Mitchell (1948, 1949)
- Al Rosen (1953)
- Joe Carter (1986)
- Carlos Baerga (1992, 1993)
- Kenny Lofton (1996)
- Michael Brantley (2014)
*Jackson's 233 hits in 1911 remain the franchise record.
The 18-year gap between Lofton and Brantley is second only to the 33-year space between Rosen and Carter as the longest in franchise history.
Brantley's 611 at bats are a lot, but they're the fewest for any Indians 200-hit season since Rosen's 1953. Semi-related, Brantley's .327 batting average is the best from any of these seasons since Rosen.
In addition to Brantley's 200 hits, his 2014 totals are also the highest for the Indians this decade in doubles (45), extra-base hits (67), total bases (309), runs (94), RBI (97), batting average (.327), OPS (.890), and wRC+ (155). All that and he was 23 for 24 in stolen base attempts too. In short, he had easily the best offensive season we've seen in years. Hopefully it's rewarded with a top-five finish in the American League MVP voting.