Emmitt Smith as MLB’s career RBI leader

May 22, 2017

ESPN’s resident stat man Dan Szymborski took on a fun project of trying to compare all time records across sports. Naturally, that led to some D FW sports icons being mentioned.

Turn on your imagination and try to picture Nolan Ryan in a hockey uniform. That’s what Szymborski did when he compared Wayne Gretzky’s season and career goal mark to Nolan Ryan’s strikeout marks.

We’re out of basic hitting records, so let’s shift to pitching records. A goal really is kind of like the goalie whiffing, in a philosophical sense, anyway. Plus, comparing the Great One to the Ryan Express seems more fitting, no?

Matt Kilroy technically has the most strikeouts in a season (513), but it was with a 50 foot mound and well before the modern era (1886); Ryan has the season record in this era (383 K’s in 1973), and even that is nowhere close to Gretzky’s comp. That said, Ryan who pitched in the majors for 27 years and led his league in K’s four times after turning 40 blows away the career comp with his 5,714 career K’s.

That just puts in to perspective how impossible Ryan’s career strikeout will be to break, considering how impossible Gretzky’s goal mark will be to break as well. A hockey player would need to average about 45 goals a season over a 20 year career to break the goal mark. Only one player scored more than 45 goals this year, and that was Alexander Ovechkin. He’s scored 525 career goals in 11 seasons. We’ll see if he has nine years left in the tank at this pace.

Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 rushing yards in a season; Emmitt Smith’s 18,355 career rushing yards

MLB comps: 172 RBIs in a season; 2,329 career RBIs

The numbers look about right to me here. Dickerson’s record has stood more than 30 years, but it’s a number that doesn’t look impossible for a player to make in the right circumstances. In fact, players have come very close, most recently Adrian Peterson (2,097 yards) in 2012. Hack Wilson’s single season RBI record of 191 looks improbable, though before the drop off in offense, top players were at least threatening that 172 number above, including Manny Ramirez (165 in 1999), Sammy Sosa (160 in 2001) and cheap jerseys
Alex Rodriguez (156 in 2007). Smith’s career rushing record which is nearly 2,000 yards more than the next guy on the list, Walter Payton looks a bit trickier, as running backs tend to break down before they get near that point. But from a baseball perspective, Hank Aaron at least came close to the 2,329 RBI equivalent (just 32 RBIs shy).

With the way running backs careers go these days, it looks like Emmitt will probably hold on to his career rushing mark for a while. Peterson is at 11,675 career yards which gives him a chance, but running backs careers end abruptly through injury or sharp decline, so he better keep churning out 1,300 yard seasons while he still can.


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