Karpin’s Korner: Is There Anyone Today Who Could Challenge DiMaggio?

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Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941 has stood the test of time.

The closest anyone has come to that impressive feat was back in 1978 when Pete Rose hit in 44 consecutive games, but he was still 12 games short of tying the mark. Hall of Famer Paul Molitor had a 39-game hitting streak in 1987.

It’s so difficult to get, at least, one hit in each game.

A hitter who could challenge DiMaggio’s record would have to be one who makes contact on a consistent basis, combined with some luck. (34 times during his streak, DiMaggio had one hit in a game and struck out only five times) The late, great Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who was a prototypical pure hitter, averaged 29 strikeouts a season, yet never had a hitting streak of 30 games or more.

Walks do no good when it comes to this record, although, if you walked every time up in a game and didn’t get an official at-bat, a hitting streak would continue.

So, who in today’s game would qualify as someone with a chance at getting a hit in 56 straight games.

Here are three names to (IMHO) debate: Yankees 2B D.J. LeMahieu, Mets 2B Jeff McNeil, and Rockies CF Charlie Blackmon.

All three are what you would call “pure hitters.” (.300+ hitters, who don’t strike out a lot) That’s the profile of a hitter that could potentially make a run at the magic number.

LeMahieu has two batting titles, Blackmon has one and McNeil is very capable of winning one.

Another factor is something that DiMaggio faced, but not on the level that would exist today. Once an individual gets into the thirties and beyond, the pressure to catch and pass DiMaggio would be off the charts.

Speaking of “pure hitters,” keep an eye out Twins utility man Luis Arraez. The soon to be 24-year old fits the profile of LeMahieu, Blackmon and McNeil in that he is a line drive hitter who does have doubles power. Arraez has hit at every pro level that he’s played at and that has continued into the majors.

The Venezuelan native has played 129 career games and is batting .333 with 152 hits in 456 at-bats. Arraez has four home runs and 30 doubles in that span, but he’s only struck out 45 times. This season, Arraez has an unusual five strikeouts in only 18 at-bats, but look for that to even out as the season progresses. (He averages one strikeout every 10 at-bats)

The acquisition of Roughned Odor is a no risk proposition. For some reason, the 27-year old’s numbers have declined since he slammed 33 home runs in 2016. Odor has only played second base and DH during his career, but versatility aside, the Venezuelan native provides a lot more of a power option off the bench than Tyler Wade.
Despite the Yankees’ contention that he would hit at the major league level, Wade has not acquitted himself very well in that regard. In five major league seasons, Wade has played 165 games and has a .190 career batting average with a career .270 OBP.

Expect the players to make an issue of the “extra inning rule” in the upcoming negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

MLB was able to implement that rule without the approval of the players. Pitchers don’t want it and the majority of fans don’t want it. Last season, it was accepted, but we’ve already heard the outrage. At the very least, it will have to be amended.

The team that everyone loves to hate, the Houston Astros, have gotten off to a 5-1 start but not without experiencing some payback from their peers and fans for the “sign stealing scandal.”

A’s pitcher Chris Bassitt made the first move. After Bassitt hit Astros’ shortstop Carlos Correa with a pitch on opening day, the Oakland fans cheered wildly.

Monday night, during their loss to the Angels in Anaheim, a fan threw an inflatable garbage can on the field.

It’s only just begun.

The Angels are taking a big risk by using Shohei Ohtani as both a pitcher and a hitter in the same game.

If Ohtani doesn’t have it on the mound and has to be replaced early, the Angels lose the DH for that game. An injury impacts a team but if Ohtani gets hurt, it’s a two-fold effect because you lose a hitter and a pitcher at the same time.

Have you checked out what Jose Abreu has been doing to start the season. The reigning AL MVP hit his second grand slam of the season last night and drove in five in the White Sox 10-4 rout of the Mariners.

Abreu has to be one of the best RBI guys of this era. This is his eighth major league season and he’s hit over 30 home runs, four times, and has driven in 100 runs or more, five times. In 2020, Abreu had 60 runs batted in while appearing in all 60 games.

The career numbers in the clutch are eye-popping. Abreu’s career batting average with RISP is .322. With two outs and RISP, Abreu is hitting .312. (Thank you baseball-reference.com and thank you for my personal page)

When they talk about the best players in the game, of course, Mike Trout and Mookie Betts are the headliners. Maybe Jose Abreu deserves to be in that argument.

Tune into Karpin’s Korner, every Tuesday night at 7 pm, eastern time on 365sportscast.com

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