February 1, 2001

Weighing In The Tons
by Steve Lombardi

During the 2000 season, Rickey Henderson became only the sixth player in Major League history to physically reach base by either a hit, base on balls, or being hit by a pitch 5,000+ times in his career. The complete list follows:

Games

AB

H

BB

HBP

Ton

Pete Rose

3,562

14,053

4,256

1,566

107

5,929

Ty Cobb

3,034

11,434

4,190

1,249

94

5,533

Carl Yastrzemski

3,308

11,988

3,419

1,845

49

5,313

Stan Musial

3,026

10,972

3,630

1,599

53

5,282

Hank Aaron

3,298

12,364

3,771

1,402

32

5,205

Rickey Henderson

2,856

10,331

2,914

2,060

90

5,064

It’s significant to note that "Ton" above represents TIMES ON BASE (by either a hit, base on balls, or being hit by a pitch). Honorable mention is deserved for the great Tris Speaker - - who only missed the cut BY TWO (having a Ton total of 4,998). And, special mention for Ted Williams (4,712 Ton) who lost nearly five seasons to service in the military during wartime.

Henderson’s achievement is extraordinary. In fact, only eleven players in history have managed a Ton total of 4,700+ (see list below):

Ton

Pete Rose

5,929

Ty Cobb

5,533

Carl Yastrzemski

5,313

Stan Musial

5,282

Hank Aaron

5,205

Rickey Henderson

5,064

Tris Speaker

4,998

Babe Ruth

4,971

Eddie Collins

4,892

Willie Mays

4,790

Ted Williams

4,712

Among active players, only Barry Bonds has a fair possibility of joining the "Ton 4700" club. (Through 2000, Bonds has a Ton total of 3,760.) To reach the mark, Bonds would have to "keep doing what he’s doing" until age 40 - and, of course, hope that games are not lost to any possible work stoppages in the 2002 season (or beyond).

There are thirty-three players who have attained a Ton total of 4,000 or more. (The complete list can be found at the close of this feature.) Both Tony Gwynn (3,912 Ton) and Harold Baines (3,923 Ton) look to stretch out the total to thirty-five during the 2001 season.

Among the "Ton 4000" club, one standout item is the total for Rusty Staub (4,050). La Grande Orange was actually on base more times than Rogers Hornsby (4,016). If one is to use Ton, as a tool, you will find many such interesting comparisons as this - for example, Darrell Evans (3,863) is just a shade behind Nap Lajoie (3,892) and is ahead of notables Lou Brock (3,833), Mike Schmidt (3,820) and Eddie Mathews (3,785).

Back to Henderson - how does he rank among the "Big Six" (of Rose, Cobb, Yaz, Musial, Aaron and himself)? Examining the numbers, it is easy to ascertain:

Analyzing the notion of getting on base in terms of quantity, frequency, and production (once on) from a high level, it is safe to say Cobb and Henderson are the top of the list.

Granted, if one were to lower the bar to Ton totals of 4,000+ in lieu of 5,000+ there would be other players who could go toe-to-toe with Cobb and Henderson in terms of frequency and post-On Base production. Among these reside Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Charlie Gehringer, Rogers Hornsby, Tris Speaker, Mickey Mantle (and someday Barry Bonds).

Gehringer and Henderson mirror each other in some interesting ways:

Games

Ton

OBA

Ton/G

Rickey Henderson

2856

5064

.404

1.77

Charlie Gehringer

2323

4075

.404

1.75

Of course, during Gehringer’s playing career, the "average" On Base Average was about 10 points higher than during Henderson’s time on the field. So, in reality, accounting for a Ton difference of almost one thousand and the relativity of their On Base marks, the Mechanical Man and Rickey were no where near being equal.

Related, Henderson and Bonds are lacking in one department: nicknames. The Georgia Peach (Cobb), Teddy Ballgame (Williams), The Iron Horse (Gehrig), the Beast (Foxx), Rajah (Hornsby), the Grey Eagle (Speaker), the Commerce Comet (Mantle) and the aforementioned Gehringer had great nicknames. Oh, and that Ruth fellow had quite a few to himself as well. Alas, it’s too late in their careers for Bonds and Henderson to establish an impressive sobriquet. (For a while in New York, many called Henderson "Hammy." For sure, that is one moniker he’s probably glad did not stick.)

In closing, what follows are some different sorts (for perspective) of the "Ton 4700" club:

Top Ten in terms of career On Base Average:

Games

Ton

OBA

Ted Williams

2,292

4,712

.482

Babe Ruth

2,503

4,971

.474

Lou Gehrig

2,164

4,274

.447

Rogers Hornsby

2,259

4,016

.434

Ty Cobb

3,034

5,533

.433

Tris Speaker

2,789

4,998

.428

Jimmie Foxx

2,317

4,111

.428

Eddie Collins

2,826

4,892

.424

Mickey Mantle

2,401

4,161

.421

Stan Musial

3,026

5,282

.417

Top Ten in terms of career Ton/Game:

Games Ton Ton/G
Ted Williams

2292

4712

2.06

Babe Ruth

2503

4971

1.99

Lou Gehrig

2164

4274

1.98

Ty Cobb

3034

5533

1.82

Wade Boggs

2440

4445

1.82

Tris Speaker

2789

4998

1.79

Rogers Hornsby

2259

4016

1.78

Jimmie Foxx

2317

4111

1.77

Rickey Henderson

2856

5064

1.77

Charlie Gehringer

2323

4075

1.75

Top Ten in terms of career Runs per Ton:

Games Ton R R/Ton
Lou Gehrig

2164

4274

1888

.442

Babe Ruth

2503

4971

2174

.437

Charlie Gehringer

2323

4075

1774

.435

Willie Mays

2992

4790

2062

.430

Rickey Henderson

2856

5064

2178

.430

Jimmie Foxx

2317

4111

1751

.426

Hank Aaron

3298

5205

2174

.418

Ty Cobb

3034

5533

2245

.406

Mickey Mantle

2401

4161

1677

.403

Frank Robinson

2808

4561

1829

.401

The only players to make all three "Top Tens" are: Ruth, Cobb, Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx. Mickey Mantle just missed the cut - needing a Ton per Game rate of 1.75 when he had one of 1.73. (And, if Barry Bonds maintains his same level of production over the next four years, he could become the fifth member of this group.)

One observation on the relationship between being on base and scoring runs: Conventional wisdom would dictate that the more often on base, the greater the likelihood to score a run. However, examine Wade Boggs. Among the "Ton 4000" only Williams, Ruth, Gehrig and Cobb had a higher rate of times on base per game. Yet, Boggs Runs per Ton rate was .340 (only good for 31st place out of 33, spared last only by Luke Appling and Rusty Staub). Loosely translated, two-thirds of the time Boggs reached base, he died there.

Could it be that Boggs’ Run per Ton rate was lower than expected as a result of the fact that he was on so often? Doubtful, as being on often did not adversely impact the Run per Ton rates of Ruth, Gehrig, Cobb, Henderson, or Gehringer in the same fashion. Perhaps Boggs’ relatively low mark was a result of playing so many games in Fenway Park (where it is somewhat more difficult to score from second on a single to left than in other stadiums)?

Ted Williams’ Ton/Game rate was 2.06 and his Run per Ton rate was .382 - for a Ton-Run Factor per Game of .79. Using the same approach for Boggs yields a result of .62. Seems that Fenway did not have the same effect on The Splinter as The Chicken Man.

In any event, congratulations to Rickey Henderson for the achievement of his milestone. Just how hard is a 5000 Ton total? Consider this: Most would agree that a season line of 200 hits and 100 base on balls is an exceptional feat, no? Well, do that for SIXTEEN STRAIGHT seasons - and you would still fall 200 Ton short of 5000.

The "Ton 4000" club - (with Harold Baines, Tony Gwynn, and Barry Bonds knocking on the door):

Games

AB

H

BB

HBP

Ton

OBA

Ton/G

R

R/Ton

Pete Rose

3,562

14,053

4,256

1,566

107

5,929

.375

1.665

2,165

.365

Ty Cobb

3,034

11,434

4,190

1,249

94

5,533

.433

1.824

2,245

.406

Carl Yastrzemski

3,308

11,988

3,419

1,845

49

5,313

.379

1.606

1,816

.342

Stan Musial

3,026

10,972

3,630

1,599

53

5,282

.417

1.746

1,949

.369

Hank Aaron

3,298

12,364

3,771

1,402

32

5,205

.374

1.578

2,174

.418

Rickey Henderson

2,856

10,331

2,914

2,060

90

5,064

.404

1.773

2,178

.430

Tris Speaker

2,789

10,195

3,514

1,381

103

4,998

.428

1.792

1,882

.377

Babe Ruth

2,503

8,399

2,873

2,056

42

4,971

.474

1.986

2,174

.437

Eddie Collins

2,826

9,948

3,312

1,503

77

4,892

.424

1.731

1,821

.372

Willie Mays

2,992

10,881

3,283

1,463

44

4,790

.384

1.601

2,062

.430

Ted Williams

2,292

7,706

2,654

2,019

39

4,712

.482

2.056

1,798

.382

Mel Ott

2,730

9,456

2,876

1,708

64

4,648

.414

1.703

1,859

.400

Eddie Murray

3,026

11,336

3,255

1,333

18

4,606

.359

1.522

1,627

.353

Frank Robinson

2,808

10,006

2,943

1,420

198

4,561

.389

1.624

1,829

.401

Honus Wagner

2,792

10,430

3,415

963

124

4,502

.391

1.612

1,736

.386

Paul Molitor

2,683

10,835

3,319

1,094

47

4,460

.369

1.662

1,782

.400

Wade Boggs

2,440

9,180

3,010

1,412

23

4,445

.415

1.822

1,513

.340

Joe Morgan

2,649

9,277

2,517

1,865

40

4,422

.392

1.669

1,650

.373

Dave Winfield

2,973

11,003

3,110

1,216

25

4,351

.353

1.464

1,669

.384

Al Kaline

2,834

10,116

3,007

1,277

55

4,339

.376

1.531

1,622

.374

George Brett

2,707

10,349

3,154

1,096

33

4,283

.369

1.582

1,583

.370

Paul Waner

2,549

9,459

3,152

1,091

38

4,281

.404

1.679

1,626

.380

Lou Gehrig

2,164

8,001

2,721

1,508

45

4,274

.447

1.975

1,888

.442

Cal Ripken Jr.

2,873

11,074

3,070

1,103

64

4,237

.343

1.475

1,604

.379

Mickey Mantle

2,401

8,102

2,415

1,733

13

4,161

.421

1.733

1,677

.403

Robin Yount

2,856

11,008

3,142

966

48

4,156

.342

1.455

1,632

.393

Jimmie Fox

2,317

8,134

2,646

1,452

13

4,111

.428

1.774

1,751

.426

Rod Carew

2,469

9,315

3,053

1,018

25

4,096

.393

1.659

1,424

.348

Charlie Gehringer

2,323

8,860

2,839

1,185

51

4,075

.404

1.754

1,774

.435

Luke Appling

2,422

8,857

2,749

1,302

10

4,061

.399

1.677

1,319

.325

Reggie Jackson

2,820

9,864

2,584

1,375

96

4,055

.356

1.438

1,551

.382

Rusty Staub

2,951

9,720

2,716

1,255

79

4,050

.362

1.372

1,189

.294

Rogers Hornsby

2,259

8,173

2,930

1,038

48

4,016

.434

1.778

1,579

.393

Harold Baines

2,798

9,824

2,855

1,054

14

3,923

.357

1.402

1,296

.330

Tony Gwynn

2,369

9,186

3,108

780

24

3,912

.388

1.651

1,378

.352

Barry Bonds

2,143

7,456

2,157

1,547

56

3,760

.412

1.755

1,584

.421

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