Even though I never saw him play a game, Lewis Robert “Hack” Wilson has always been one of my favorite guys in Chicago Cubs history, and in general baseball. Not only was he a baseball player who was my size, he was one of the better players of his era. Standing only 5’6” he was a force to recon with, and left his mark on the game back in 1930.
That was the year that he set a record which still stands today, one that most people deem to be unbreakable, even though the season is eight games longer than all those years ago. In that season, Wilson knocked in 191 RBI that year, which surpassed the total Lou Gehrig put up three years earlier. Since setting the record in 1930, the closest anyone has gotten to breaking the record came the following year when Gehrig drove in 184.
Even in today’s game, when there are more games played, the closest anyone has gotten to breaking his record came back in 1999 when Manny Ramirez compiled 165 RBI while only playing in 147 games. Could Ramirez have gotten the 26 RBI he needed to even tie Wilson’s record if he had played those 15 games he missed? Perhaps, but very unlikely.
This year though, his record has a small chance of falling if Detroit Tiger’s Miguel Cabrera is able to continue the pace he is on, and does not miss a game. So far, as of this writing before his game tonight (May 23, 2013) Cabrera has hit a very impressive 52 RBI in only 44 games, and with his 1.18 RBI a game, he is on pace to tie Wilson’s record.
In order to do this though, Cabrera first must play in every game this season. He cannot miss a single game, and likely needs to play every inning. This means he cannot get sick or get hit with an injury. Not too many players nowadays play in every game, but Cabrera comes close, as he has played in 161 games two of the last three years. If he wants to break this record, he also must drive in at least one RBI a game, for the rest of the season, sometimes more.
Even though Cabrera is having a great year, and appears to be a legitimate threat to Wilson’s record, I am not entirely sure how realistic his chances are. Even though one RBI a game is well within reason for a player with the skill level of Cabrera, you are asking a lot of a player to keep up this pace. Teams are likely going to start walking him when there is a base open, or maybe even when there isn’t, and take their chances with the man who hits right behind him.
In case you do not follow Tigers games, the man who hits behind Cabrera is Prince Fielder. Even though Fielder is an exceptional hitter himself, and has the power to beat you with one swing of the bat, he is seen as less of a threat as Cabrera is. Some will always be against walking a hitter no matter how damaging he is, because they are still likely to make an out around 60% of the time.
If Cabrera wants to tie the record, he needs 139 more RBI in 118 games. That is no small order, even for a man who is making the game look easy.