Votto, Walker and O'Neill dominate Canadian single-season records

By: Neil Munro

Canadian Baseball Network

As the 2016 Major League Baseball season gets underway, it is a good time to examine the best individual performance that Canadian ball players have posted in the 140 year history of MLB. The quality of so many excellent season accomplishments by Canadian batters might come as a surprise to some observers. A player managing a hypothetical 2016 statistical line with 110 runs scored, 184 base hits, 31 home runs, 112 RBI and a .334 batting average would not crack the top ten in a single one of these categories.

As a consequence, very few active players have much chance to post sufficiently impressive statistics to make it into the top 15 in almost any batting category. Nonetheless, the standards necessary for inclusion in the all-time lists are outlined for your inspection below. 

The first three tables are indicative of a player’s iron man status in that the only requirement is to remain healthy and hold down a regular spot in the batting order for the full season. In point of fact, there have been eight Canadians who have participated in every one of their team’s games in a season (altogether a total of 15 times). These occasions are listed below. As you can see, the vast majority were accomplished in the nineteenth century when fewer games constituted a full schedule and so most do not appear in the table of top overall Canadian performances. 

Played in Every Scheduled Game

Arthur Irwin 1880 Worcester NL 85
Arthur Irwin 1882 Worcester NL 84
Arthur Irwin 1883 Providence NL 98
Pop Smith 1880 Cincinnati NL 83
Pop Smith 1883 Columbus AA 97
Pop Smith 1890 Boston NL 134
Bill Phillips 1880 Cleveland NL 85
Bill Phillips 1881 Cleveland NL 85
Bill Phillips 1886 Brooklyn AA 141
George Wood 1884 Detroit NL 114
Frank O'Rourke 1929 St. Louis AL 154
Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 162
Joey Votto 2013 Cincinnati NL 162
Justin Morneau 2008 Minnesota AL 163

As you can see from the charts below, in 2008 Morneau also had the most at bats by any Canadian, the year he played all of his team’s 163 contests. Joey Votto did surpass Morneau’s total plate appearances in 2013, the year he played in all of Cincinnati’s 162 games.

That season, Votto batted second in the lineup, so he had more times coming up to bat. Total plate appearances include at bats, walks and all other (rarer batting outcomes such as being hit by a pitch and sacrifices).  

Season Leaders in Games Played

1 Justin Morneau 2008 Minnesota AL 163
2 Joey Votto 2013 Cincinnati NL 162
2 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 162
4 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 161
5 Jason Bay 2006 Pittsburgh NL 159
6 Joey Votto 2015 Cincinnati NL 158
7 Pete Ward 1963 Chicago AL 157
7 Terry Puhl 1979 Houston NL 157
7 Justin Morneau 2006 Minnesota AL 157
7 Justin Morneau 2007 Minnesota AL 157
11 Jack Graney 1916 Cleveland AL 155
11 Russell Martin 2008 Los Angeles NL 155
11 Jason Bay 2008 Pitt. - Bost. BL 155
14 Frank O'Rourke 1929 St. Louis AL 154
15 Corey Koskie 2001 Minnesota AL 153
15 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 153

Season Leaders in At-Bats

1 Justin Morneau 2008 Minnesota AL 623
2 Goody Rosen 1945 Brooklyn NL 606
3 Pete Ward 1963 Chicago AL 600
3 Terry Puhl 1979 Houston NL 600
5 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 599
5 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 599
7 Justin Morneau 2006 Minnesota AL 592
8 Justin Morneau 2007 Minnesota AL 590
9 Jack Graney 1916 Cleveland AL 589
10 Bill Phillips 1886 Brooklyn AA 585
10 Terry Puhl 1978 Houston NL 585
10 Jeff Heath 1941 Cleveland AL 585
13 Frank O'Rourke 1929 St. Louis AL 585
14 Joey Votto 2013 Cincinnati NL 581
15 Tip O'Neill 1886 St. Louis AA 579

Season Leaders in Plate Appearances

1 Joey Votto 2013 Cincinnati NL 726
2 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 719
3 Justin Morneau 2008 Minnesota AL 712
4 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 707
5 Jack Graney 1916 Cleveland AL 702
6 Joey Votto 2015 Cincinnati NL 695
7 Jason Bay 2006 Pittsburgh NL 689
8 Goody Rosen 1945 Brooklyn NL 673
9 Terry Puhl 1979 Houston NL 672
10 Jason Bay 2008 Pitt. - Bost. BL 670
11 Justin Morneau 2007 Minnesota AL 668
12 Pete Ward 1963 Chicago AL 667
13 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 664
14 Justin Morneau 2006 Minnesota AL 661
15 Frank O'Rourke 1929 St. Louis AL 659

The next three categories are certainly the most important in terms of run production. Quite frankly, the only active player with a chance to produce 2016 statistics which will land him in the top 15 spots here is Joey Votto. Russell Martin will not play enough games as a catcher to bat in over 100 runs and Justin Morneau’s best chance at a high RBI total were to remain in Colorado (his buy-out option with Colorado was purchased and he is still a free agent as of this writing). This presents a good opportunity to reflect on the tremendous season that Tip O’Neill had in 1887. He played with the St. Louis Browns of the American Association in 1887 when he scored 167 runs. Baseball historians have traditionally considered the AA to be an inferior league in comparison to the founding National League and as a result, have considered most of its players batting and fielding statistics to have been inflated.

Still it must be noted that O’Neill’s 167 runs scored represents the fourth highest figure ever compiled in that statistical category. The three players who exceeded his total are Billy Hamilton (198 runs in 132 games with Philadelphia in 1894), Babe Ruth (177 runs scored in 152 games with the 1921 Yankees) and Tom Brown (also 177 runs with the 1891 American Association Boston Reds in 137 games). Lou Gehrig also scored 167 runs with the 1931 Yankees (in 155 games). In terms of runs scored per game the rations of these four players are: Hamilton (1.500), O’Neill (1.347), Brown (1.292), Ruth (1.164) and Gehrig (1.077). Just for the full picture it should be noted that Billy Hamilton also had a ratio of 1.350 runs per game in 1895. So O’Neill has the third best ratio of runs per game in any baseball season behind only Hamilton’s 1894 and 1895 figures).

It is interesting to note that Justin Morneau tied Larry Walker for the best RBI figure by a Canadian when he plated 130 teammates in 2006. Walker and Morneau were the MVPs in these respective years despite the fact that neither player led his league in RBI. Just two Canadians have ever topped their league in RBI – O’Neill in 1887 (123) and Sped Johnson of the 1891 American Association Columbus Solons (113).

If you actually remember that baseball club, you are indeed a true baseball aficionado! Larry Walker easily holds down the top single season total bases figure with his 409 bases in 1997. This represents the 18th best figure in that regard in baseball history. In point of fact he is tied for 18th with Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby – some pretty fair Hall of Fame company.

Season Leaders in Runs Scored

1 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA 167
2 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 143
3 Goody Rosen 1945 Brooklyn NL 126
4 Tip O'Neill 1889 St. Louis AA 123
5 George Wood 1887 Philadelphia NL 118
6 George Wood 1890 Philadelphia PL 115
7 Larry Walker 1998 Colorado NL 113
8 Tip O'Neill 1891 St. Louis AA 112
8 Tip O'Neill 1890 Chicago PL 112
10 Jason Bay 2008 Pitts-Bost BL 111
11 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 110
11 Larry Walker 1999 Colorado NL 108
13 Larry Walker 2001 Colorado NL 107
14 Spud Johnson 1890 Columbus AA 106
14 Tip O'Neill 1886 St. Louis AA 106
14 Joey Votto 2010 Cincinnati NL 106
14 Jack Graney 1916 Cleveland AL 106

Season Leaders in Total Bases

1 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 409
2 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA 357
3 Jeff Heath 1941 Cleveland AL 343
4 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 335
5 Justin Morneau 2006 Minnesota AL 331
6 Larry Walker 2001 Colorado NL 329
6 Joey Votto 2010 Cincinnati NL 329
8 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 318
9 Larry Walker 1999 Colorado NL 311
9 Justin Morneau 2008 Minnesota AL 311
11 Jason Bay 2006 Pittsburgh NL 303
12 Jeff Heath 1938 Cleveland AL 302
13 Jason Bay 2008 Pitts-Bost BL 301
14 Larry Walker 1995 Colorado NL 300
15 Joey Votto 2007 Cincinnati NL 295

Season Leaders in Runs Batted In

1 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 130
1 Justin Morneau 2006 Minnesota AL 130
3 Justin Morneau 2008 Minnesota AL 129
4 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA 123
4 Larry Walker 2001 Colorado NL 123
4 Jeff Heath 1941 Cleveland AL 123
7 Jason Bay 2009 Boston AL 119
8 Larry Walker 1999 Colorado NL 115
9 Spud Johnson 1890 Columbus AA 113
9 Joey Votto 2010 Cincinnati NL 113
11 Jeff Heath 1938 Cleveland AL 112
12 Justin Morneau 2007 Minnesota AL 111
13 Tip O'Neill 1889 St. Louis AA 110
14 Jason Bay 2006 Pittsburgh NL 109
15 George Selkirk 1936 New York AL 107
15 Tip O'Neill 1886 St. Louis AA 107

The next four charts outline breakdowns of high season totals in base hits and in hitting for power (doubles, triples and home runs). Tip O’Neill is the runaway leader among Canadians in base hits, and although his 225 hits made in 1887 is “merely” the 56th best figure in major league history, his ration of hits made to games played (1.815) is the third best ever recorded. He trails only Hugh Duffy (who banged out 237 safeties in 125 games in 1894) and Wee Willie Keeler (with 239 hits in 129 games in 1897). In O’Neill’s great 1887 season he also captured the Triple Crown (.435 batting average, 14 home runs and 123 RBI).

His 14 home runs might not seem like much but this was the dead ball era and only three batters ever blasted more home runs than this in the entire history of the American Association. O’Neill also boasts the best doubles figure ever accrued by a Canadian (52) and remains to this day, the only better ever to lead his league in doubles, triples and home runs in the same season.

Although almost all of the top fifteen batters with the highest totals in triples come from the 19th century, Jeff Heath is probably the best Canadian batter at legging out triples. He has the top figure (his 20 in 1941 makes him one of the very few major leaguers to garner at least 20 doubles, 20 triples and 20 home runs in the same year) and three of the top 15 performances overall.

An interesting note about the best doubles hitters concerns Larry Walker and Joey Votto. Walker tied for the league lead in doubles in the strike-shortened 1994 season with 44 doubles in just 395 at bats while Joey knocked out 44 doubles in just 374 at bats in 2012 (a year in which he missed 51 games as a result of an injury).

These two remain the only batters in major league history with more than 40 doubles in fewer than 400 at bats. In all, four different Canadian batters have led their respective leagues in doubles, including Jack Graney of the 1916 Cleveland Indians – a batter not known for his extra base power. Five different Canadian sluggers have banged out 30 or more home runs in a season (in a total of 13 different occasions). Larry Walker’s league leading 49 HR in 1997 easily tops the list.

Season Leaders in Hits

1 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA 225
2 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 208
3 Jeff Heath 1941 Cleveland AL 199
4 Goody Rosen 1945 Brooklyn NL 197
5 Doc Miller 1911 Boston NL 192
6 Tip O'Neill 1886 St. Louis AA 190
6 Justin Morneau 2006 Minnesota AL 190
8 Justin Morneau 2008 Minnesota AL 187
9 Spud Johnson 1890 Columbus AA 186
10 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 185
11 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 183
12 Tip O'Neill 1889 St. Louis AA 179
13 Tip O'Neill 1888 St. Louis AA 177
13 Joey Votto 2010 Cincinnati NL 177
13 Pete Ward 1963 Chicago AL 177
13 Joey Votto 2013 Cincinnati NL 177

Season Leaders in Doubles

1 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA 52
2 Justin Morneau 2008 Minnesota AL 47
3 Larry Walker 1998 Colorado NL 46
3 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 46
5 Joey Votto 2012 Cincinnati NL 44
5 Larry Walker 1994 Montreal NL 44
5 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 44
8 Jack Graney 1916 Cleveland AL 41
9 Larry Walker 2002 Colorado NL 40
9 Frank O'Rourke 1925 Detroit AL 40
9 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 40
12 Joey Votto 2009 Cincinnati NL 38
13 Corey Koskie 2002 Minnesota AL 37
13 Corey Koskie 2001 Minnesota AL 37
13 Jeff Heath 1942 Cleveland AL 37
13 Justin Morneau 2006 Minnesota AL 37

Season Leaders in Triples

1 Jeff Heath 1941 Cleveland AL 20
2 George Wood 1887 Philadelphia NL 19
2 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA 19
4 Jeff Heath 1938 Cleveland AL 18
4 Spud Johnson 1890 Columbus AA 18
6 Pop Smith 1883 Columbus AA 17
7 Tip O'Neill 1890 Chicago PL 16
8 George Wood 1886 Philadelphia NL 15
8 Bill Phillips 1886 Brooklyn AA 15
10 George Wood 1891 Philadelphia AA 14
10 George Wood 1890 Philadelphia PL 14
10 Tip O'Neill 1886 St. Louis AA 14
10 Jack Graney 1916 Cleveland AL 14
14 Pop Smith 1885 Pittsburgh AA 13
14 Jeff Heath 1942 Cleveland AL 13

Season Leaders in Home Runs

1 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 49
2 Larry Walker 2001 Colorado NL 38
2 Matt Stairs 1999 Oakland AL 38
4 Larry Walker 1999 Colorado NL 37
4 Joey Votto 2010 Cincinnati NL 37
6 Larry Walker 1995 Colorado NL 36
6 Jason Bay 2009 Boston AL 36
8 Jason Bay 2006 Pittsburgh NL 35
9 Justin Morneau 2006 Minnesota AL 34
10 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 32
11 Jason Bay 2008 Pitts-Bost BL 31
11 Justin Morneau 2007 Minnesota AL 31
13 Justin Morneau 2009 Minnesota AL 30
14 Joey Votto 2015 Cincinnati NL 29
14 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 29

The next four tables show the best season performances in the percentage categories. The category of OPS (on-base average plus slugging percentage) is considered to be the best single indicator of batting prowess that is used to rank ball players today. The other three more standard categories include batting average, slugging percentage and on-base average. Canadians have been the batting champs of their leagues six times in the past.

Justin Morneau’s 2014 batting crown (.319) does not even make it into the top 15 in this category in the table below. Undoubtedly, the most impressive batting average performance was Tip O’Neill’s 1887 crown. His .435 average remains the second highest ever achieved in the history of major league baseball (behind the .440 posted by Hugh Duffy in 1894).

However, high batting averages, like virtually all batting categories, are a product of their times and the condition of play in a specific era. Fourteen of the 21 highest batting averages in history were achieved in the 25 years of play in the nineteenth century. All but one of the best twenty-one occurred more than 90 years ago (the lone exception was Ted Williams’ .406 stint in 1941). In more modern times, Larry Walker captured three batting crowns in his career.

Canadians have led their leagues in on-base average seven times – Joey Votto accounting for four these in consecutive seasons no less. Votto’s 2012 OBA crown of .474 requires a special mention here. He was injured shortly after the All-Star break in 2012 and missed more than 50 games in the second half. In the end he had just 475 plate appearances that year, 27 short of the minimum required for leading in a percentage category.

However, when baseball’s rule 10.22 was applied, he did qualify and is listed as the official 2012 OBA NL leader. Rule 10.22 allows for adding enough phantom hitless at bats to a player’s actual number to determine if he is still leading in a percentage category after this imaginary adjustment. In Votto’s case, he would have had an OBA of .448 in 502 appeearances, still well ahead of the second place .408 posted by Buster Posey.

Canadians have been the league leader in slugging percentage on four occasions, topped by Larry Walker’s two phenomenal years exceeding the .700 mark. His 1997 and 1999 slugging percentages are the 25th and 27th best in major league history. Once again, all of the top 30 major league slugging performances were a product of their times; all but two posted by Ted Williams were achieved in either the recent steroid era or the 1920 to 1939 period of extremely high slugging and run production.

As indicated above, probably the most cherished percentage title today would be that of OPS (the sum of a player’s on-base average and slugging percentage). Canadians have taken the OPS crown four times as well. Here Tip O’Neill’s 1.180 of 1887 edges out Walker’s two stellar performances of 1997 and 1999. Canadians have cracked the 1.000 OPS barrier eight times, five by Larry Walker alone. It is worth highlighting four additional 1.000 OPS years posted by Canadians who did not qualify for league leadership and do not appear in the tables below. In each case, severe injuries significantly hindered their progress or longevity as batting stars.

Player Year Team - League OBA S.P. OPS
Joey Votto 2012 Cincinnati NL .474 .567 1.041
Justin Morneau 2010 Minnesota AL .437 .618 1.055
Larry Walker 2004 Color-St.L NL .424 .589 1.013
George Selkirk 1937 New York AL .411 .629 1.040

Joey Votto was clearly the best hitter in both major leagues in 2012 but then he missed most of the second half. He was threatening the major league single season doubles record (67) and was the runaway leader in slugging percentage, on-base average and OPS while batting .344 at the mid-season break. He never really returned to that high level of batting proficiency until his outstanding second half of 2015. Hopefully we are in store for several more great seasons from the Cincinnati first-sacker.

Justin Morneau was tearing up the American League through the first half of 2010 when he suffered a serious concussion in a collision on the base paths. At the time he was also the dominant AL slugger that year and was well on his way to another MVP performance. After his injury, it was another couple of seasons before he resumed his duties as a regular first baseman and his batting figures have not approached those of his stellar years between 2006 and 2010 since.

Larry Walker had a rare off-year in 2003 after two fine campaigns in 2001 and 2002 in which he won one batting crown (in 2001) and was runner-up in 2002 while posting excellent power statistics both seasons. His return to top form was cut short by injuries in 2004 and he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals later that year. His stats in less than half of a full year in 2004 (17 HR and 47 RBI) showed the promise that he could continue his high level of achievements for several more seasons. In the end, his injuries pretty forced his retirement prematurely by the end of 2005. Perhaps those missed extra years of batting proficiency would have cemented his status as a sure Hall of Fame candidate.

George Selkirk had made steady progress in his first three seasons as a Yankee outfielder, eventually replacing Babe Ruth in right field in 1935. By 1936 he was established as a .300 batter with good power (and an excellent fielder). In 1937 he really came into his own, batting .347 with 17 HR and 54 RBI in his first 53 games.

Once again, injuries significant hampered his progress, limiting him to just 256 at bats when the season concluded. He took more than a year to regain a similar level of batting proficiency after 1937 and after his fine year in 1939, he never really approached the promise that his great start to the 1937 season had foretold.

The top 15 performances in the four percentage categories follow in the tables below.

Season Leaders in Batting Average

1 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA .435
2 Larry Walker 1999 Colorado NL .379
3 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL .366
4 Larry Walker 1998 Colorado NL .363
5 Larry Walker 2001 Colorado NL .350
6 Spud Johnson 1890 Columbus AA .346
7 Jeff Heath 1938 Cleveland AL .343
8 Jeff Heath 1941 Cleveland AL .340
9 Larry Walker 2002 Colorado NL .338
10 Tip O'Neill 1889 St. Louis AA .335
11 Tip O'Neill 1888 St. Louis AA .335
12 Doc Miller 1911 Boston NL .333
13 Tip O'Neill 1886 St. Louis AA .328
14 Goody Rosen 1945 Brooklyn NL .325
15 Joey Votto 2010 Cincinnati NL .324

Season Leaders in On-Base Percentage

1 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA .490
2 Joey Votto 2015 Cincinnati NL .459
3 Larry Walker 1999 Colorado NL .458
4 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL .452
5 George Selkirk 1939 New York AL .452
6 Larry Walker 2001 Colorado NL .449
7 Larry Walker 1998 Colorado NL .445
8 Joey Votto 2013 Cincinnati NL .435
9 Joey Votto 2010 Cincinnati NL .424
10 Larry Walker 2003 Colorado NL .422
11 Larry Walker 2002 Colorado NL .421
12 George Selkirk 1936 New York AL .420
13 Tip O'Neill 1889 St. Louis AA .419
14 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL .416
15 Joey Votto 2009 Cincinnati NL .414

Season Leaders in Slugging Percentage

1 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL .720
2 Larry Walker 1999 Colorado NL .710
3 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA .691
4 Larry Walker 2001 Colorado NL .662
5 Larry Walker 1998 Colorado NL .630
6 Larry Walker 1995 Colorado NL .607
7 Larry Walker 2002 Colorado NL .602
8 Jeff Heath 1938 Cleveland AL .602
9 Joey Votto 2010 Cincinnati NL .600
10 Larry Walker 1994 Montreal NL .587
11 Jeff Heath 1941 Cleveland AL .586
12 Joey Votto 2009 Cincinnati NL .567
13 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL .559
14 Justin Morneau 2006 Minnesota AL .559
15 Joey Votto 2015 Cincinnati NL .541

Season Leaders in OPS

1 Tip O'Neill 1997 St. Louis AA 1.180
2 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 1.172
3 Larry Walker 1999 Colorado NL 1.168
4 Larry Walker 2001 Colorado NL 1.111
5 Larry Walker 1998 Colorado NL 1.075
6 Joey Votto 2010 Cincinnati NL 1.024
7 Larry Walker 2002 Colorado NL 1.023
8 Joey Votto 2015 Cincinnati NL 1.000
9 Larry Walker 1995 Colorado NL .988
10 Jeff Heath 1938 Cleveland AL .985
11 Jeff Heath 1941 Cleveland AL .982
12 Larry Walker 1994 Montreal NL .981
13 Joey Votto 2009 Cincinnati NL .981
14 George Selkirk 1939 New York AL .969
15 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL .961

The next seven categories of batting statistics, while seemingly not as important as runs, RBI or home runs are still quite essential in contributing to a team’s offensive production. Some might argue that walks are just as critical as runs scored or RBI. The players with the best seasons in one-base hits are usually labelled as “singles hitters” but the exception in the list here is Tip O’Neill who was a terrific slugger in every respect. 

Doc Miller’s very fine 1911 season is the only one in which a Canadian led his league in this category. Joey Votto has become extraordinary at collecting walks in recent years. He not only has the two best seasons in Cincinnati franchise history in receiving walks, he also now has two of the best 50 years of bases on balls in major league history and threatens to add significantly to that ranking. He has already had five seasons in which he was the NL leader in walks.

Intentional walks have only been officially recorded since 1955, although extensive data for this category has been extracted from examining box scores since 1940. The definition of a “sacrifice hit” has varied substantially over the years so the best totals in that category should be viewed with some suspicion from a comparison standpoint. The definitions used for both SH and SF have been consistent since 1954 so contrasts since then are valid. 

It is surprising that no Canadian has ever led his league in stolen bases. This is the only batting or base-running category for which this is true. Hit by pitch for both batters and pitchers have been recorded since the mid-1180s, and the distribution of our best at getting plunked is quite consistent over the last 130 seasons.

Season Leaders in Singles

1 Goody Rosen 1945 Brooklyn NL 150
2 Doc Miller 1911 Boston NL 146
3 Tip O'Neill 1886 St. Louis AA 145
4 Spud Johnson 1890 Columbus AA 144
5 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA 140
6 Terry Puhl 1979 Houston NL 138
6 Tip O'Neill 1888 Cleveland AL 138
8 Terry Puhl 1978 Houston NL 135
8 Tip O'Neill 1890 Chicago PL 135
10 Tip O'Neill 1889 St. Louis AA 129
11 George Wood 1891 Philadelphia AA 128
12 Bunk Congalton 1907 Boston AL 125
12 Tip O'Neill 1891 St. Louis AA 125
14 Jeff Heath 1941 Cincinnati NL 123
14 John O'Brien 1895 Louisville NL 123

Season Leaders in Bases on Balls

1 Joey Votto 2015 Cincinnati NL 143
2 Joey Votto 2013 Cincinnati NL 135
3 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 110
4 Jack Graney 1919 Cleveland AL 105
5 George Selkirk 1939 New York AL 103
6 Jason Bay 2006 Pittsburgh NL 102
6 Jack Graney 1916 Cleveland AL 102
8 Larry Walker 2003 Colorado NL 98
9 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 95
10 Joey Votto 2012 Cincinnati NL 94
10 George Selkirk 1936 New York AL 94
10 Jason Bay 2009 Boston AL 94
10 Jack Graney 1917 Cleveland AL 94
14 Joey Votto 2010 Cincinnati NL 91
15 Russell Martin 2008 Los Angeles NL 90

Season Leaders in  Intentional Walks

1 Larry Walker 1993 Montreal NL 20
2 Joey Votto 2013 Cincinnati NL 19
3 Joey Votto 2012 Cincinnati NL 18
4 Justin Morneau 2008 Minnesota AL 16
5 Joey Votto 2015 Cincinnati NL 15
5 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 15
7 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 14
7 Larry Walker 2003 Colorado NL 14
9 Larry Walker 1995 Colorado NL 13
10 Terry Puhl 1984 Houston NL 12
10 Justin Morneau 2009 Minnesota AL 12
12 Pete Ward 1964 Chicago AL 11
12 Pete Ward 1965 Chicago AL 11
12 Justin Morneau 2007 Minnesota AL 11
15 Larry Walker 1992 Montreal NL 10
15 Corey Koskie 2004 Minnesota AL 10
15 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 10

Season Leaders in Stolen Bases

1 Jimmy Knowles 1890 Rochester AA 55
2 Spud Johnson 1890 Columbus AA 43
3 Pop Smith 1890 Boston NL 39
4 Pop Smith 1886 Pittsburgh AA 38
5 Pop Smith 1888 Pittsburgh NL 37
6 Spud Johnson 1889 Columbus AA 34
7 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 33
8 Doc Miller 1911 Boston NL 32
8 Terry Puhl 1978 Houston NL 32
10 Pop Smith 1887 Pittsburgh NL 30
10 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA 30
10 Terry Puhl 1979 Houston NL 30
13 Larry Murphy 1891 Washington AA 29
13 Larry Walker 1993 Montreal NL 29
13 Tip O'Neill 1890 Chicago PL 29

Season Leaders in Hit-by-Pitch

1 Russell Martin 2014 Pittsburgh NL 15
2 Larry Walker 1995 Colorado NL 14
2 Larry Walker 2001 Colorado NL 14
2 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 14
5 Aaron Guiel 2003 Kansas City AL 13
5 Pop Smith 1887 Pittsburgh NL 13
7 Corey Koskie 2004 Minnesota AL 12
7 Sam LaRoque 1890 Pittsburgh NL 12
7 Larry Walker 1999 Colorado NL 12
7 Pop Smith 1884 Columbus AA 12
7 Spud Johnson 1889 Columbus AA 12
7 Frank O'Rourke 1927 St. Louis AL 12
7 Corey Koskie 2001 Minnesota AL 12
14 Seven Players     11

Season Leaders in Sacrifice Bunts

1 Frank O'Rourke 1925 Detroit AL 29
2 Frank O'Rourke 1929 St. Louis AL 28
3 Frank O'Rourke 1928 St. Louis AL 25
4 Bunk Congalton 1906 Cleveland AL 24
5 Ryan Dempster 2008 Chicago NL 19
6 Doc Miller 1910 Chic-Bost NL 18
6 John O'Brien 1895 Louisville NL 18
8 Frank O'Rourke 1926 Detroit AL 17
9 Ryan Dempster 2010 Chicago NL 16
9 Ryan Dempster 2001 Florida NL 16
9 Jack Graney 1919 Cleveland AL 16
9 Jack Graney 1911 Cleveland AL 16
9 Jimmy Archer 1910 Chicago NL 16
14 Frank O'Rourke 1930 St. Louis AL 15
14 George Gibson 1909 Pittsburgh NL 15
14 Jack Graney 1917 Cleveland AL 15

Season Leaders in Sacrifice Flies

1 Justin Morneau 2006 Minnesota AL 11
2 Justin Morneau 2012 Minnesota AL 10
2 Justin Morneau 2008 Minnesota AL 10
4 Corey Koskie 2003 Minnesota AL 9
4 Jason Bay 2006 Pittsburgh NL 9
4 Justin Morneau 2007 Minnesota AL 9
7 Larry Walker 2001 Colorado NL 8
7 Justin Morneau 2014 Colorado NL 8
7 Larry Walker 1992 Montreal NL 8
7 Jason Bay 2007 Pittsburgh NL 8
7 Jason Bay 2008 Pitts-Bost BL 8
11 Justin Morneau 2009 Minnesota AL 7
11 Pete Ward 1964 Chicago AL 7
11 Corey Koskie 2001 Minnesota AL 7
11 Terry Puhl 1978 Houston NL 7
11 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 7
11 Reno Bertoia 1959 Detroit AL 7

The next three batting categories shown might well be ones that a player would likely want to avoid appearing on the list, as they actually represent negative contributions. Still, they are probably more indicative of a player consistently serving as a regular in the lineup rather than a sign of failure. Just one Canadian batter has ever led his league in strikeouts and that player is Pop Smith (leading with 68 whiffs in 1889 and with 80 K’s in 1890). 

Clearly his strikeout totals do not come close to the copious numbers of strikeouts many of today’s free-swinging sluggers have managed to accumulate. It should also be noted that no Canadian has ever led his league in the number of times he was caught stealing in a season or in grounding into a double play.

Season Leaders in Caught Stealing

1 Terry Puhl 1979 Houston NL 22
2 Jack Graney 1914 Cleveland AL 18
3 Jack Graney 1915 Cleveland AL 15
4 Terry Puhl 1978 Houston NL 14
5 Jeff Heath 1941 Cleveland AL 12
6 Terry Puhl 1980 Houston NL 11
6 Terry Puhl 1983 Houston NL 11
6 Corey Koskie 2002 Minnesota AL 11
9 Russell Martin 2007 Los Angeles NL 9
9 Terry Puhl 1982 Houston NL 9
9 Larry Walker 1991 Montreal NL 9
9 Frank O'Rourke 1930 St. Louis AL 9
9 Jeff Heath 1942 Cleveland AL 9
14 Six Players     8

Season Leaders in Hit into Double Play

1 Mark Teahen 2007 Kansas City AL. 23
2 Russell Martin 2015 Toronto AL 22
3 Justin Morneau 2008 Minnesota AL 20
3 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 20
5 Russell Martin 2011 New York AL 19
5 Justin Morneau 2012 Minnesota AL 19
7 Russell Martin 2009 Los Angeles NL 18
8 Dave McKay 1978 Toronto AL 17
8 Russell Martin 2006 Los Angeles NL 17
8 Justin Morneau 2007 Minnesota AL 17
11 Corey Koskie 2001 Minnesota AL 16
11 Russell Martin 2007 Los Angeles NL 16
11 Russell Martin 2008 Los Angeles NL 16
11 Russell Martin 2014 Pittsburgh NL 16
15 Four Players     15

Season Leaders in Strikeouts

1 Jason Bay 2009 Boston AL 162
2 Jason Bay 2006 Pittsburgh NL 156
3 Brett Lawrie 2015 Oakland AL 144
4 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 142
5 Jason Bay 2007 Pittsburgh NL 141
6 Joey Votto 2013 Cincinnati NL 138
7 Jason Bay 2008 Pitts-Bost BL 137
8 Joey Votto 2015 Cincinnati NL 135
9 Michael Saunders 2012 Seattle AL 132
10 Jason Bay 2004 Pittsburgh NL 129
10 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 129
12 Corey Koskie 2002 Minnesota AL 127
13 Joey Votto 2010 Cincinnati NL 125
14 Matt Stairs 1999 Oakland AL 124
15 Matt Stairs 2000 Oakland AL 122

The final four statistical categories can be best be labelled as arcane concoctions designed to uncover important offensive contributions to scoring runs for a ball club. Indeed most require a computer spreadsheet just for carrying out the necessary computations. Some of the baseball guides published nearly 100 years ago did try to track the number of times a batter reached base safely. Interesting enough, the earlier efforts for this category included the times a batter reached base via an error on the opposing side.

Now this statistic computes only the sum of the number of hits, walks aand hit by a pitch. Not surprisingly, Tip O’Neill was the first Canadian to lead his league in this category, and it was well over a hundred years before a fellow countryman was to accomplish this feat again. Votto has now led the National League three times in reaching base safely and will likely add to this number in the near future in that he draws an inordinately high number of walks.

I have outlined my own creation for the category of Total Bases Produced in other essays in the past. Simply put, TBP is the sum of total bases, walks, stolen bases, sacrifices and hit by pitch instances. For decades now, the league MVP (when it is a non-pitcher) almost always ranks at or near the top of the league in this category. Just one Canadian has actually led his league in TBP and that was Larry Walker in 1997.

His very impressive 538 total is actually the 19th best season record ever produced in a season. The second best TBP record achieved by a Canadian might come as a bit of a surprise here. Jason Bay’s 2005 total bases produced resulted from an all-around superior performance in virtually every aspect. He accumulated 335 total bases, 95 walks, 21 stolen bases (against being caught just once) and tossed in 7 SF and 6 HBP for good measure.

A few different versions of the WAR (wins above replacement) and runs created have been developed over the years. I have settled on the WAR used in the baseball-refernce.com website as it is the one most commonly referred to by baseball commentators and analysists. I have used an earlier version of Bill James’ runs created formula in the chart below. The final figures determined by competing versions of these formulas do not vary significantly in any case. Of particular note is that the WAR figures shown include defensive contributions by a player and are adjusted for ball park differences.

The 19th century players have their overall numbers diminished somewhat in comparison to the baseball stars of the last 90 years because the length of their playing schedule was somewhat or considerably shorter then. Taking all factors into account, you would probably have to conclude that the two best seasons ever produced by a Canadian batter must come down to Larry Walker’s 1997 campaign or Tip O’Neill’s 1887 effort. It might almost require a simple coin toss to make a definitive claim as to which of these was really the more superlative effort.

Season Leaders in Times Reaching Base

1 Joey Votto 2015 Cincinnati NL 319
2 Joey Votto 2013 Cincinnati NL 316
3 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 300
4 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 299
5 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 284
6 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA 280
7 Joey Votto 2010 Cleveland AL 275
8 Jason Bay 2006 Pittsburgh NL 273
9 Larry Walker 2001 Colorado NL 270
10 Justin Morneau 2008 Minnesota AL 266
11 Tip O'Neill 1889 St. Louis AA 256
12 Jeff Heath 1941 Cleveland AL 253
13 Russell Martin 2008 Los Angeles NL 250
13 Jason Bay 2008 Pitts-Bost BL 250
13 Goody Rosen 1945 Brooklyn NL 250

Season Leaders in Total Bases Produced

1 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 538
2 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 464
3 Joey Votto 2013 Cincinnati NL 456
4 Larry Walker 2001 Colorado NL 447
5 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 446
6 Joey Votto 2010 Cincinnati NL 445
7 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA 442
8 Joey Votto 2013 Cincinnati NL 436
9 Jason Bay 2006 Pittsburgh NL 433
10 Jeff Heath 1941 Cleveland AL 419
11 Jason Bay 2009 Boston AL 405
12 Jason Bay 2008 Pitts-Bost BL 404
13 Justin Morneau 2006 Minnesota AL 403
14 Justin Morneau 2008 Minnesota AL 400
15 Larry Walker 1999 Colorado NL 397

Season Leaders in Runs Created

1 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 184
2 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA 173
3 Larry Walker 2001 Colorado NL 146
4 Larry Walker 1999 Colorado NL 140
5 Joey Votto 2010 Cincinnati NL 139
6 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 138
7 Joey Votto 2015 Cincinnati NL 136
8 Jeff Heath 1941 Cleveland AL 132
9 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 131
10 Larry Walker 1998 Colorado NL 128
11 Joey Votto 2013 Cincinnati NL 124
11 Justin Morneau 2006 Minnesota AL 124
13 Jason Bay 2006 Pittsburgh NL 121
14 Larry Walker 2002 Colorado NL 118
15 Justin Morneau 2008 Minnesota AL 117

Season Leaders in WAR (among position players)

1 Larry Walker 1997 Colorado NL 9.8
2 Larry Walker 2001 Colorado NL 7.8
3 Joey Votto 2015 Cincinnati NL 7.6
4 Tip O'Neill 1887 St. Louis AA 6.9
4 Joey Votto 2010 Cincinnati NL 6.9
6 Joey Votto 2013 Cincinnati NL 6.6
7 Corey Koskie 2001 Minnesota AL 6.3
7 Joey Votto 2011 Cincinnati NL 6.3
9 Terry Puhl 1980 Houston NL 6.2
10 Larry Walker 2002 Colorado NL 6.1
11 Joey Votto 2012 Cincinnati NL 5.9
12 Larry Walker 1998 Colorado NL 5.7
12 Russell Martin 2007 Los Angeles NL 5.7
12 Jason Bay 2005 Pittsburgh NL 5.7
15 Russell Martin 2014 Pittsburgh NL 5.5

We will now wait and see if any Canadian batter can post sufficient numbers in any of these statistical categories and move into the list of leaders here. I doubt that the top 15 in most categories will change very much after the 2016 season statistical records are in the books.

Comment

Neil Munro

Neil is a retired secondary school mathematics teacher with a life-long passion for the collection and analysis of baseball statistics. A North Bay Ontario resident for almost 50 years, Neil has fuelled his interest by serving as a research consultant with STATS Inc. He was the former chair of the Records Committee of SABR – the Society for American Baseball Research. Neil assisted in the development of the complete statistical database of baseball records that is used by a number of pro and media organizations and formed the basis for the STATS Inc. All-time Major League Handbook. He has contributed innumerable essays and columns to a variety of publications including; the Bill James Baseball Abstract, Grandstand Baseball Annual and Innings, and Canada’s Baseball Newspaper. Neil’s special interest continues to be the maintenance of the records compiled by Canadians in the major league. In 1996, he authored the Canadian Players Encyclopedia, a full statistical record of all current and former major leaguers from Canada.