As of the end of Boston’s victory over Tampa Bay on Patriots’ Day, Mookie Betts had not struck out in 123 consecutive plate appearances, dating back to last season. According to a graphic posted during today’s NESN broadcast, the next closest active streak is fewer than 50.
As remarkable as Mookie’s streak has been – as a point of comparison, last season Red Sox batters struck out on average once every 5.53 plate appearances – he has a long way to go to approach the major-league record for consecutive plate appearances without a strikeout.
That mark belongs to Joe Sewell, a player renowned for his ability to put the ball in play. In a career that lasted 14 seasons from 1920 through 1933 (11 with the Indians and the last three with the Yankees), Sewell went to the plate 8,333 times and suffered only 114 strikeouts – averaging more than 73 plate appearances between K’s. And beginning on May 17, 1929, Sewell played in 115 consecutive games without striking out, tallying 516 plate appearances during that span. (As game logs are not available for that season, the total between strikeouts is likely a few higher than that.)
As a point of extreme contrast, between July 5 and October 4 of the 2009 Colorado Rockies season, during 76 games over less than three months, Mark Reynolds racked up as many strikeouts as Sewell did in his entire fourteen-season career. And Rob Deer struck out every 3.2 plate appearances, or 22.8 times more frequently than Sewell did.
Yet as frugal as Sewell was in giving up strikeouts in 1929, recording only four through 152 games and 671 plate appearances that year, that was not even his best season in that regard. In 1925, he batted in all 155 games the Tribe played that season (one more than the season schedule of 154 games due to a seven-inning tie against Detroit on May 3), and totaled 699 plate appearances while striking out only four times. That season he averaged more than 173 plate appearances between strikeouts, about once every 39 games.
So congratulations, Mookie, on your great streak so far. And if you can go another 393 plate appearances without a K, you will pass Joe Sewell sometime in late July. Good luck!
Editor’s Note: Mookie’s current streak stands at 123, not 116 as originally published.