Betts scoring at prolific rate, could make history

May 25th, 2018

Pick a significant offensive category, and is probably the Major League leader.

The Red Sox right fielder ranks first in batting average (.362) and slugging percentage (.751), as well as wRC+ (212), not to mention home runs (16), doubles (19), extra-base hits (36), total bases (132) and runs scored (49).

That last category might get overlooked, but it's one in which Betts is optimally suited to make history.

The target is the 150-runs mark. As a milestone, it doesn't have the prestige of a .400 batting average or 60 home runs, but it is highly exclusive.

Since 1900, 12 players have posted a total of 19 seasons with at least 150 runs scored, led by Babe Ruth -- who holds the all-time record with 177 runs in 1921 -- with six. However, 17 of those 19 seasons came between 1920-37, with Lou Gehrig ('36) and Joe DiMaggio ('37) doing it in consecutive years at the end of that stretch. Since then, the march to 150 runs has become a steep one, even as the season has expanded to 162 games.

Most runs scored in a season

Integration Era (Since 1947)

  1. Jeff Bagwell (2000 Astros): 152

  2. Ted Williams (1949 Red Sox): 150

    T-3. Sammy Sosa (2001 Cubs): 146

    T-3. Craig Biggio (1997 Astros): 146

    T-3. Rickey Henderson (1985 Yankees): 146

    T-6. Alex Rodriguez (2007 Yankees): 143

    T-6. Jeff Bagwell (1999 Astros): 143

    T-6. Larry Walker (1997 Rockies): 143

    T-6. Lenny Dykstra (1993 Phillies): 143

  3. Ellis Burks (1996 Rockies): 142

    Last season, the Rockies' Charlie Blackmon scored 120 runs through the end of August and needed 30 more over Colorado's final 29 games. But he ended up with a total of 137 -- still the most since 2008.

    This season, Betts is on that sort of pace, with 49 runs through Boston's first 50 games -- especially impressive considering Betts has missed four of those. Bagwell scored 47 runs through Houston's first 50 games in 2000, when he reached the 150-runs plateau. Since then, just five players have scored at least 49 times in their club's first 50 contests.

    Most runs scored through 50 team games

    Since 2001

  4. Lance Berkman (2008 Astros): 51 (finished with 114)

  5. Todd Helton (2001 Rockies): 50 (finished with 132)

    T-3. Mookie Betts (2018 Red Sox): 49

    T-3. (2006 Cardinals): 49 (finished with 119)

    T-3. Melvin Mora (2004 Orioles): 49 (finished with 111)

    As that list shows, a player being "on pace" for 150 runs doesn't necessarily mean much at this stage of the season. It's extremely difficult to maintain that through the dog days of summer, and like with RBIs, a player is partially dependent on his teammates to continue racking up runs.

With that said, Betts meets all the criteria one needs to score runs in bushels.

• He gets on base. Betts can hit for average -- he's up near .300 for his career -- and take a walk. He has drawn a free pass nearly as often as he has struck out this year (22 walks, 23 strikeouts) and has one of the lowest K-rates among qualified hitters, while chasing pitches out of the zone less frequently than just about anyone.

• He hits for power. Every homer is a run, and every double and triple puts Betts in scoring position. The two-time American League All-Star is making a lot more hard contact and hitting the ball in the air more this year, according to Statcast™, and is the MLB leader in barrels -- balls with a combination of exit velocity and launch angle ideal for creating extra-base hits.

• He can run. Good wheels help a hitter get on base, take extra bases and score when others might not. Betts' average sprint speed of 28.1 feet per second, according to Statcast™, is solidly above MLB average (27 ft/sec), and he has been successful on 84 percent of his career steal attempts. Betts' acumen on the basepaths has helped him accrue more FanGraphs Baserunning Runs over the past three years than anyone besides .

• He has backup. The Red Sox are one of the highest-scoring teams in the Majors this season, and Betts is entrenched in the leadoff spot, which maximizes his plate appearances. With the likes of J.D. Martinez lurking behind him in the order, Boston should continue to push Betts across the plate when he reaches base.

With all of those factors in play, a full healthy season could see Betts make a serious bid to become just the third player to score 150 runs in the past 81 seasons.