Yogi Berra’s Incredible Feat for the Yankees That No Slugger Will Ever Match

March 22, 2012

The New York Yankees won the 1950 pennant, edging out the second-place Detroit Tigers by three games and the third-place Boston Red Sox by four games.

The Yankee scored 914 runs, averaged 5.90 runs a game, batted .282 and hit 159 home runs. They had 687 walks and struck out 458 times, which includes 47 walks and 72 strikeouts by pitchers.

Try to find a team that has more walks than strikeouts since about 1970.

In 1950, almost no one but Branch Rickey and Allan Roth knew about on base percentage, which didn’t become an official statistic until 1984. The 1950 Yankees had an on base percentage of .367.

Now we come to a statistic that seems incredible today but one that has gone almost unnoticed. In 1950, the only Yankees with at least 300 plate appearances and more strikeouts than walks were Joe Collins (31-34), Hank Bauer (35-41) and Cliff Mapes (47-61). The latter led the team in strikeouts.

Not one player on the 2011 Yankees had more walks that strikeouts.

It was quite a feat for a pitcher to strike out a Yankee batter, but when it came to Yogi Berra, it was almost impossible. That is not an exaggeration.

He hit 28 home runs and drove in 124 runs in 1950. Berra made 656 plate appearances, hit .322/.383/.533, and, get ready for this, he struck out 12 times.

It wasn’t as if Berra choked up on the bat the way Nelson Fox used to do in an attempt to simply make contact. Berra was a dangerous power hitter that didn’t strike out. Berra finished his career with 358 home runs.

The numbers reveal that in 1950, Berra hit 2.33 home runs for every strikeout. He drove in 10.33 runs for every strikeout.

When Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, he hit 0.67 home runs for every strikeout and batted in 1.84 runs for every strikeout.

Joe DiMaggio, like Berra, was a great power hitter, and like Berra, didn’t strike out much. DiMaggio’s 361 career home runs and 369 strikeouts are the standard used by those individuals that insist a strikeout is not just another out.

Berra was close to DiMaggio. He hit 358 home runs and struck out only 414 times.

Another fascinating fact about the 1950 Yankees is that not all their pitchers were “sure outs.”

Tommy Byrne hit .272/.322/.407 with two home runs and 16 RBIs. Eddie Lopat hit 232/.364/.329 with 17 walks and only nine strikeouts.

The Yankees met the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series that year. They swept the Phillies despite Berra’s poor showing. He had only three hits in 15 at-bats for a .200 average, although one of the hits was a home run leading off the sixth inning of Game 4.

Ironically, the Yankees had almost as many strikeouts (12) as walks (13). Berra struck out once during that World Series.