Rogers Hornsby: An Unstoppable Season

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Rogers Hornsby has one of the most intriguing statistical anomalies in the game of baseball. Although he hit over .400 three times, he does not have 3,000 hits as he has 2,930. The two-time MVP could be considered the greatest pure hitter not to eclipse the mark. He had some incredible seasons. In 1922, while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, he hit .401 with 42 homers and 152 RBI. Two years later, he posted a staggering 222 OPS+ with a 1.203 OPS and a baffling .424 average.

Furthermore, he was a two-time MVP and a two-time Triple Crown winner. The Hall of Famer also boasts 1,579 runs scored and over 1,000 walks. His patience at the plate led him to strike out a mere 679 times in over 8,100 at-bats.

Lost to time was his season with the Boston Braves. After spending 1927 with the New York Giants, Hornsby was traded to Beantown. He went on to post the fourth greatest season in Braves history by WAR (8.9). His managerial skills were also at the forefront when Jack Slattery was relieved of duty after 31 games. His season took a turn for the worse, as the team went 39-83 during his tenure. Fortunately for Rogers Hornsby, he did enough with the bat to make people forget (or, perhaps, almost forget) about the Braves finishing 50-103. Let’s dive in and examine his triumphs during the 1928 season.

Rogers Hornsby in 1927

Entering the year, Hornsby was at the top of his game. His lone journey with the Giants had proved extremely fruitful. He led the league in runs scored (133), on-base percentage (.448) and OPS+ (175), among other things. A third-place finish in MVP voting wrapped everything up. It was the third time in four years that he’d wound up in the top three. Where the struggling Braves sought help, the Giants obliged. They sent Hornsby to Boston in return for young catcher Shanty Hogan and young outfielder Jimmy Welsh. The trade worked out well for both teams, as Hogan was one of the league’s best catchers in 1928. Welsh had a solid season, posting a WAR of 2.0 and 146 hits in 124 games. However, none of them came close to Hornsby.

April: A Tale of Two Months

The legend got off to a poor start in April, going one for his first 11. Four games into the season, he caught fire. He picked up hits in all the monthly games except one. Over this stretch, he hit .455 (15-for-33). The seven-time batting title leader added six RBI and a homer and only struck out three times. That impressive start saw him slash .364/.462/.500 for the month, including an OPS of .962. He also had a BABIP of .375 and a WPA of 0.825. He took a three-game hitting streak into May, where he managed to become even more spectacular.

May: Rogers Hornsby Explodes

When it came to May, Rogers Hornsby put up numbers that blew the previous month out of the water. He started much the same way, going one for his first ten. Then, he exploded, picking up at least one hit in all but two of the remaining games. Overall, Hornsby hit an overwhelming .433 (39-for-90) with five homers and 16 RBI. He slugged .744 and got on base at a .541 clip. He only struck out seven times all month in yet another nod to his patience at the plate. His OPS soared to 1.285, and he hit .436 on balls put in play. If they had been giving out Player of the Month awards, his contention would have been unquestioned.

June: A Cooling Period

In June, Hornsby dipped back into the mid-.300s. The Braves, now under his management, only achieved four wins during the month. Hornsby’s offense was terrific for the first part, then cooled sharply. In the first 10 games, he hit a scorching .444 (16-for-36) with seven homers. That was part of a 20-game hitting streak where he hit .472 (34-for-72) with 10 dingers. After the streak ended, Hornsby only picked up 12 hits in the 12 games remaining in the month. He still posted a .300 average. However, some of his other statistics were down.

July: Rogers Hornsby Returns to Form

His cool period didn’t last long, as he put up more stellar numbers in July. He hit .363 (37-for-102) with 25 RBI. He scored 16 runs, cracked eight doubles, and slugged at a .500 clip. However, this month, his patience truly burst onto the scene. He walked 20 times in 27 contests, fueling an on-base percentage of .467. In addition, he only struck out six times all month, putting together a minuscule whiff percentage (5.9%). Through it all, he continued to manage a Braves team that, despite his brilliant play, was one of the worst in the game. They tallied eight victories in July. By this point, they were firmly out of contention.

August: More of The Same

That didn’t stop Rogers Hornsby, though. His bat exuded flammability, though his August wasn’t quite as impressive. He hit .357 (20-for-56) with two homers, six RBI, and 14 runs. His patience at the plate dipped only so slightly as he walked 15 times in 75 plate appearances. His OPS was 1.892, and his slugging jumped to .589. The Braves followed suit, putting together their first .500 month of the season. It was too little, too late, but it’s also good to note that the team never gave up. With Rogers Hornsby at the helm, they showed they had what it took to be successful for a stretch.

September: Going Out Strong

Finally, we have September, where Hornsby lit up stat sheets again. His .407 average, 48 hits, and 28 walks are blistering reflections of who he was as a hitter. He also posted an on-base percentage of .521 and an OPS of a staggering 1.139. He hit .437 when putting the ball in play and added a total WPA of well over 0.750. In other words, Rogers Hornsby said to the team’s chances of winning by over 75% when playing. That is massive, especially since his responsibilities were doubled. The Braves, on the other hand, could not shoulder their end of things. They went out with a whimper, posting a 10-25 mark for the month.

An Astonishing Trade

The team decided to trade Hornsby to the Chicago Cubs during the offseason. Six players and $200,000 were returned. Yes…six players and a massive sum for one man. That’s how good Rogers Hornsby was. True, it is a shock that he retired with fewer than 3,000 hits. However, when he was in his prime, the baseball game knew very few who were better. Rogers Hornsby had his best years with the Cardinals. However, his lone season as a Brave showed that nothing was stopping him but anything other than time itself. It sits proudly as the fourth-best season by a position player in team history.

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Rogers Hornsby