On the final day of the 1921 regular season, Yankees outfielder Babe Ruth went 2-for-4 and hit his 59th home run to help New York to a 7-6 victory against the Red Sox. With the homer, Ruth completed the year with 119 extra-base hits in 693 plate appearances. No other player has had as many extra-base hits in a season or has seen a greater percentage of his plate appearances conclude with a hit going for extra bases. Ruth's extra-base-hit percentage (extra-base hits/plate appearances) of 17.172 truly outdistances the competition, with the second-highest percentage for any player qualifying for the batting title standing at 16.323, courtesy of outfielder Albert Belle in 1995 (103 extra-base hits in 631 plate appearances). First baseman Lou Gehrig owns the third-highest mark, with 117 extra-base hits in 717 appearances in '27 for a percentage of 16.318. Continuing down the list for all players since 1893, one doesn't find a full-time third baseman enter the picture until more than 130 seasons have gone by, with Matt Williams' percentage in 1994 (12.836) holding up as the top mark for the position. The second-highest percentage authored by a hot-corner hitter came in 1980, when George Brett produced 66 extra-base hits in 515 plate appearances (12.816). Both of these seasons are well known, with Williams' being remembered for his abbreviated pursuit of the all-time home run record (when the strike-shortened season ended in '94, he was, by games, just a shade behind the pace established by Roger Maris in 1961), and Brett's year is fondly recalled as one in which he flirted with the magical .400 batting mark before finishing at .390.
Top extra-base-hit percentages for third baseman since 1893
The third-highest percentage for a third baseman might come as a bit of a surprise, for it was not compiled by Mike Schmidt when he hit 48 homers in 1980, Chipper Jones in his 87 extra-base-hit season in '99, Alex Rodriguez when he clubbed 54 homers in 2007, or even from Al Rosen when he came within a whisker of capturing the Triple Crown in '53; instead, the author of the third-highest percentage did his work just this past season for the Brewers.
With three triples, 27 home runs and a league-leading 50 doubles in 2012, Aramis Ramirez had a total of 80 extra-base hits (which tied for the National League lead with his teammate Ryan Braun) in 630 plate appearances, for a percentage of 12.698. Beyond Ramirez's historic rate of producing extra-base hits during the 2012 season, the ninth-place finisher in the NL MVP Award voting (the highest spot of his career) also managed some other noteworthy accomplishments: • Becoming the ninth third baseman in the past 50 seasons to lead his league in two-base hits.
• Becoming the seventh third baseman in history to accumulate at least 50 doubles in a season.
• Standing out as one of 10 third basemen since 1901 to lead the league in extra-base hits. The others: Schmidt (1975, '76, '80, '81, '86), Heinie Zimmerman ('12), Rosen ('53), Dick Allen ('64), Tommy Harper ('70), Sal Bando ('73), Graig Nettles ('76), Brett ('79) and Miguel Cabrera (2012).
• Joining Troy Glaus as the only third baseman in history to have multiple seasons with at least 80 extra-base hits (Ramirez also had 80 in 2006).
• Joining Zimmerman in 1912 and Bando in '73 as the only third basemen since 1901 to lead their league in doubles and extra-base hits in the same year. Looking back at the list of the top 10 extra-base hit percentages for a third baseman since 1893, it's interesting to note the clusters of performances, with six of the 10 occurring since 1999 and all but one taking place since 1980. The outlier in this perspective is Eddie Mathews' mark of 12.628 from 1953. When he began his second Major League season in 1953, Mathews was just 21 years and 182 days old, and he was set to embark on what would turn out to be an historic year for the position. The brilliance can be identified in a number of categories:
• His 47 home runs. Before Mathews, the previous high for a third baseman had been Rosen's 37 in 1950 (Rosen had 43 in '53). No other third baseman would match Mathews' total until Schmidt hit 48 in '80.
• His 86 extra-base hits. Before Mathews in 1953, the best mark for a third baseman had been 77 by Odell Hale in '36. No other player at the position would top Mathews until Jones had 87 in '99, and Mathews' total is still the second highest for the position. • His extra-base hit percentage of 12.628, surpassing the previous high since 1893 for a third baseman established by Bill Joyce in '94 (12.200). • His 171 OPS+. While not otherworldly for a third baseman (that same season, Rosen posted a 180 while manning the hot corner for the Indians), it was -- and is -- mind boggling for a player his age. Mathews' 171 is tied with Mike Trout in 2012 for the second highest since 1893 for any player in his age-21 or younger season. Only Jimmie Foxx -- with a 173 in 1929 -- owns a higher mark for that group.
If a portion of the allure of Mathews' season in 1953 resides in his age, that heading can also be applied to Ramirez in 2012. Playing in his age-34 season, Ramirez posted the second-highest OPS+ of his career (and the fourth highest since 1893 for any third baseman in that age season), collected 308 total bases (the most for a third baseman in his age-34 season), became just the second player (after first baseman George Burns in 1927) to collect as many as 50 doubles in an age-34 season and compiled the sixth-most extra-base hits for any player at any position in his age-34 campaign.
In addition to joining Honus Wagner in 1908 and Dave Parker in '85 as the only players since 1901 to be in their age-34 season and lead the league in both doubles and extra-base hits, Ramirez's 12.698 extra-base hit percentage is the fifth highest since 1901 for any qualifying player in his age-34 season, behind marks from Jim Edmonds (2004), Mark McGwire (1998), Ruth ('29) and Tris Speaker ('22). It was, undoubtedly, a special year for the Brewers' third baseman, and one of the highlights of the '12 season.