This is Part 5 of my series, “Baseball’s Surprising Stats.” To link to any of the first four parts, click on the links to the right under “Recent Posts.”
The object of this series is to revisit players most of us already know something about, then to uncover one fact or statistic that isn’t widely known.
Pete Rose, like Joe Jackson before him, made some personal choices regarding baseball that came back to haunt him, and from which his personal reputation will probably never recover.
But the fact remains that, on the baseball field, Pete Rose accomplished some very impressive things. He is, of course, baseball’s all-time hits leader with 4,256 safeties. His 3,215 singles are also the most in history.
Rose is also in second place on the all-time doubles list with 746. He had ten 200-hit seasons, won three batting titles, and played in more games (3,562) than any other man in baseball history.
Perhaps most impressively, though, Pete Rose reached base safely more times (5,929) than any other player ever did.
That’s a lot of at bats. That’s a lot of plate appearances.
Which inevitably leads me to the question, “How many outs did Pete Rose make in his career.”
First, some perspective. Babe Ruth made 5,758 outs in his entire career. Mickey Mantle made 5,899 outs. Richie Ashburn, who was primarily a lead-off hitter for most of his career, and who played in parts of three decades, made 6,096 outs.
Willie McCovey broke into the big leagues when Eisenhower was President, and he didn’t retire until the eve of Ronald Reagan’s first term. McCovey made 6,259 outs.
Carlton Fisk, who would probably still be playing today if someone hadn’t hidden his catching gear from him (1969-93!) made 6,767 outs.
Ty Cobb, to whom Pete Rose in often compared, made 7,748 outs.
Peter (Charlie Hustle) Rose made 2,580 more outs than Ty Cobb. (Imagine if he hadn’t hustled?)
Pete Rose made about as many outs in his career as Babe Ruth and Phil Rizzuto combined. He made approximately as many outs as Mike Piazza and Edgar Martinez combined. He made just a few less outs than Bobby Murcer and Kirby Puckett put together.
The answer to my original question as to how many outs Pete Rose made in his career is that Rose made exactly 10,328 outs. He is the only player in history to have made more than 10,000 outs.
Another way of looking at this is that if you take Rose’s 162 game average of 723 plate appearances per season, and divide 10,328 by 723, you end up with equivalent of 14 seasons where Rose did absolutely nothing but make outs!
Rookie outfielder Bryan Harper is 19-years old. If Harper began next season going 0-4 in his first game, and then kept doing absolutely nothing but making outs UNTIL HE WAS 34 YEARS OLD — not a single hit, walk, or hit by pitch — he would then begin to approach the number of outs Rose made in his career.
Would the Washington Nationals be patient enough to wait out a 14-year super-slump from this year’s phenom? I’m guessing probably not.
So here’s a thought. If Pete Rose’s job was basically to do nothing other than to get on base (for he was by no means a slugger, nor was he much of a base-stealer), then do we consider him a success for reaching base more times than any man in history?
Or do we shake our collective heads in disbelief regarding the overwhelming number of outs he made and ask, was it really necessary for him to play as long as he did?
In short, were those 5,929 times on base really worth the 10,328 outs it took to get him there?
Let’s hope Bryan Harper doesn’t have to find out the answer to that question the hard way.