Baseball’s Surprising Stats: Joe Jackson
This is part 3 of my series, “Baseball’s Surprising Stats.” The object of this series is to revisit players most of us already know something about, then to uncover one fact or statistic about that player that isn’t widely known.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the career of Shoeless Joe Jackson. Specifically, we are going to research one particular question that I discovered I did not know the answer to when I started brainstorming ideas for this series.
The particular question that I discovered I didn’t know the answer to was, “How many batting titles did Shoeless Joe Jackson win during his career?”
When Joe Jackson was banned from baseball at the end of the 1920 baseball season, he finished his career with a lifetime batting average of .356, the third highest career batting average of all-time.
Jackson’ s career high batting average was .408 in 1911. Unfortunately for Joe, Ty Cobb of Detroit, just 24-years old, won his 4th batting title that year with a .420 mark.
Jackson batted .395 the following season, only to finish second once again to Ty Cobb’s league-leading .409 average.
In 1913, Cobb dropped below .400, hitting a mere .390, but Joe Jackson finished 17 points behind Cobb with a .373 mark. Thus, three consecutive second place finishes for Jackson in the race for the A.L. batting title.
In 1914, Jackson dropped down to .338, good for 4th best in the league. 1915 was even worse. His .308 batting average was the second lowest of his career.
1916 saw Jackson rebound to .341, but that was just 3rd best in the league behind Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb. In 1917, Jackson hit a career low .301, which would have to be considered his own personal Mendoza Line.
Jackson was injured for most of the 1918 season; he played in only 17 games. In fact, Jackson topped 100 games played just nine times.
Jackson returned to prominence in 1919 and 1920. During those two years, he hit .351 and .382, respectively. Neither mark, however, was good enough to win a batting title. Jackson finished 4th in 1919 (Cobb won yet another title), and he finished 3rd in 1920, behind George Sisler (.407) and Tris Speaker.
After the 1920 season in which Babe Ruth slugged a record 54 home runs (no one before had ever reached even 30 homers), it was clear that the advent of the live-ball era had begun.
Probably, Joe Jackson expected at that point that he would still be playing Major League baseball for several more years. He also might have expected that his first batting title was not too far off. After all, his .382 batting average in his final season was the third highest mark in his career.
But due to the repercussions of the Black Sox Scandal, Joe Jackson was not to play another inning of Major League baseball.
The question that I posed at the beginning of this article was, “How many batting titles did Joe Jackson win his career?”
The answer, which I have to admit came as a bit of a surprise to me, is that despite finishing his career with the 3rd highest career batting average of all-time, Joe Jackson never won a batting title.
Jackson is probably the greatest hitter of all-time never to have won a batting title. But, of course, batting titles are just one measure of greatness. By any other measure on the field, Joe Jackson remains one of the greatest, if one of the most controversial, baseball players of all time.
- Shoeless Joe’s Legacy: An Interview with Arlene Marcley (ondeckcircle.wordpress.com)
- Baseball’s Surprising Stats: Cy Young (ondeckcircle.wordpress.com)