Here’s guessing that moments after you fist-pumped or breathed a sigh of relief that baseball was indeed coming back for a 60-game regular season, your mind turned to what’s possible over a campaign of that length. Could somebody hit .400? What’s the ceiling for home runs? Just what exactly are the records for a 60-game stretch?
No worries, we’ve got you. MLB.com senior data architect Tom Tango and baseball research and development manager Jason Bernard crunched the numbers and unearthed the greatest 60-game runs in modern history by each major statistical category, giving us some context for just how high players will have to shoot this summer to join the all-time hottest of hot streaks. Of course, the odds that anyone actually matches these numbers are very slim; the all-time leaders have stayed on top for a reason.
Below, we’ll give the closest examination to players from the past decade because the climate they played in (whether it be the recent strikeout boom, increased testing for performance-enhancing drugs, or simply the number of teams and the demographics of players themselves) most closely mirrors the baseball we’ll see this summer. But we’re also including the all-time leaders for those who are curious, alongside another notable performances from the last 25 years, too.
(Some simple notes on qualifiers: Tango and Bernard looked at players' best 60-game stretches within a span of 75 days or less, to account for brief interruptions like an All-Star break, and minimums of 186 plate appearances -- 3.1 per game -- for non-counting batting stats and 60 innings pitched in any 12-game span for pitching stats were set for this exercise.)
Here are the standards for any 60-game stretch within a single season, again with an emphasis on leaders since 2010:
Last decade: . 427 -- Josh Hamilton
June 4 - Aug. 14, 2010
Hamilton’s ascendance from being essentially out of baseball as he battled injuries and drug abuse issues to winning the American League batting title and MVP award five years later ranks among the best turnarounds in the sport’s history. No one was hotter during the summer of 2010, and Hamilton tallied multiple hits in nearly half (27) of the 60 games he suited up for in this particular stretch, while going hitless only seven times.
All-time leader: Rogers Hornsby (.466), June 21 - Aug. 29, 1924
Additional recent notable: Ichiro Suzuki (.458), July 1 - Sept. 6, 2004
Last decade: .560 -- Joey Votto
July 18 - Sept. 21, 2015
It shouldn’t surprise anyone to see the past decade’s on-base master atop this category. This stretch from Votto included the majority of a 48-game on-base streak that began on Aug. 11, tying Pete Rose for the Reds’ franchise record. Votto walked in a staggering 29% of his plate appearances during this 60-game segment and reached base four or more times in nearly one-quarter (13) of those contests. Overall, Votto reached base multiple times in 107 different games in 2015, setting a club record that he would match again two years later.
All-time leader: Barry Bonds (.613), June 27 - Sept. 7, 2004
Additional recent notable: Frank Thomas (.550), May 1 - July 7, 1994
Last decade: .824 -- Giancarlo Stanton
June 22 - Aug. 29, 2017
Stanton woke up on the morning of June 21, 2017, with a .276/.356/.540 slash line, which was strong enough to put him among the top 30 or so hitters at that moment in the season, but it was also certainly overshadowed by massive early-season performances by players like rookie Aaron Judge, the resurgent Ryan Zimmerman and even the out-of-nowhere Yonder Alonso. Then, Stanton closed his batting stance and turned into the modern-day equivalent of Babe Ruth. The then-Marlins star ripped off 46 extra-base hits in this 60-game stretch, including a ridiculous 33 homers (we’ll get to those in a minute), kickstarting a summer for the ages that helped him capture the NL MVP award.
All-time leader: Barry Bonds (1.016), April 13 - June 23, 2001
Additional recent notable: Jeff Bagwell (.883), May 28 - Aug. 6, 1994
Last decade: 1.269 -- Bryce Harper
April 24 - July 5, 2015
Here’s a reminder that Harper was 22 years old when he went on a tear that placed him next to the Ruths, Bonds, Gehrigs and Williamses of the world. This stretch included 21 of Harper’s NL-most 42 homers for the season, including his first career three-homer game on May 6 against the Marlins and four different on-base streaks of at least 11 games, catapulting him from hyped phenom to the youngest league MVP award winner.
All-time leader: Babe Ruth (1.598), May 11 - July 22, 1920
Additional recent notable: Jim Edmonds (1.367), July 3 - Sept. 12, 2004
Last decade: 103 -- José Altuve
May 27 - Aug. 8, 2017
The diminutive Altuve had already captured two AL batting titles, but he ascended to another level in the summer of 2017. Altuve finished July with a .485 average, setting an Astros franchise record for any calendar month and recording the sport’s highest mark for any month since Chipper Jones hit .500 in July 2006. He was at his hottest from July 4-28, when he hit .544 and became the first player with 37 hits in 68 or fewer at-bats since Rogers Hornsby back in 1923. Altuve captured the AL MVP Award and led the Astros to their first World Series title that fall.
All-time leader: Ichiro Suzuki (121), July 1 - Sept. 6, 2004
Additional recent notable: Johnny Damon (111), July 9 - Sept. 12, 2000
Last decade: 33 -- Giancarlo Stanton
June 22 - Aug. 29, 2017
Maybe Stanton wasn’t Bonds-ian in 2017, but he was as close as anyone has been. Stanton’s 33 dingers are third most in any 60-game stretch, this past decade or otherwise, behind only Bonds' barrage that kicked off his record-setting 2001 season and Sammy Sosa’s incredible summer of 1998. Big G had 18 four-baggers through June 21, tying him for 13th in the Majors. By the end of this 60-game run, he was 14 clear of everyone else in the field.
Stanton swatted a pair of dingers on Sept. 28 to put him on the doorstep of the historic 60-homer plateau, but he did not go deep in the Marlins’ last three games of the season.
All-time leader: Barry Bonds (37), April 13, 2001 - June 23, 2001
Additional recent notable: Sammy Sosa (34), May 22, 1998 - July 31, 1998
Runs batted in
Last decade: 68 -- Josh Donaldson
July 1 - Sept. 11, 2015
Donaldson started knocking in runners in droves right as Harper was reaching the end of his scorching-hot run in the summer of 2015. Donaldson was plenty motivated after arriving in Toronto via trade from Oakland, batting an impressive .323/.399/.681 during this stretch as the Blue Jays surged into first place in the AL East. It was enough to push Donaldson past perennial favorite Mike Trout for that year’s AL MVP Award, and he also claimed the Hank Aaron Award for the league’s best offensive player, which Harper won over in the NL.
All-time leader: Hack Wilson (90), July 17 - Sept. 27, 1930
Additional recent notable: Mark McGwire (80), March 31 - June 13, 1998
Last decade: 0.41 -- Jake Arrieta
Aug. 4 - Oct. 2, 2015
The second half of Arrieta’s 2015 NL Cy Young Award-winning season ranks among the very best pitching stretches in history. In this Gibson-esque run, Arrieta allowed a total of four earned runs and just one homer across 88 1/3 innings, holding opponents to a .136 average and .182 OBP. The Cubs righty won 11 straight decisions and tossed at least eight innings of one-run ball or less in five straight starts, beginning with a 12-strikeout no-hitter against the Dodgers on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
All-time leaders: 0.29 -- Fernando Valenzuela, April 9 - May 8, 1981 and Lefty Grove, April 14 - May 18, 1936
Additional recent notable: Zack Greinke (0.60), April 8 - May 15, 2009
Last decade: 133 -- Gerrit Cole and Corey Kluber
July 17 - Sept. 24, 2019 (Cole) and June 14 - Aug. 13, 2017 (Kluber)
We know exactly where the bar is for strikeouts, because we just saw Cole set it last summer. Cole’s closing kick to the 2019 regular season saw him post double-digit K totals in 10 of his 12 starts during this stretch, including a record-tying three straight games with 14 or more punchouts. This segment doesn’t include Cole’s last start of the season, when he twirled a record-setting ninth consecutive game with double-digit strikeouts. Now it’s the Yankees, and not the Astros, who get to see if Cole can be that dominant again.
And don’t forget that Kluber was just as overpowering in the summer of 2017, also putting up 10 double-digit strikeout games in a span of 12 starts in this highlighted segment, but he’ll have more to prove with his new club in Arlington after an injury-riddled ‘19 campaign.
All-time leader: Nolan Ryan (142), May 14 - July 4, 1977
Additional recent notable: Randy Johnson (138), May 23 - July 24, 1997
Team win-loss record
Last decade: Dodgers (51-9)
Two stretches between June 7 - Aug. 19, 2017
These Dodgers got contributions up and down the lineup, whether it was NL Rookie of the Year sensation Cody Bellinger, star shortstop Corey Seager, reclamation project Chris Taylor, the dynamic Yasiel Puig or the steady Justin Turner. The only thing as impressive was the Dodgers’ pitching, which weathered a back injury to Clayton Kershaw in early July thanks to huge years by pitchers like Alex Wood and Rich Hill.
L.A. was on pace for a 116-win season -- and had just acquired Yu Darvish via trade, to top it all off -- before going on an unexpected tailspin in September. But the Dodgers still finished with 104 wins before going on to claim the NL pennant, and 16 holdovers from that club are on Los Angeles’ 2020 roster.
All-time leaders: 1906 Cubs and 1912 Giants (52-8)
Additional recent notable: 2017 Indians (48-12)
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.