Slugging infielder Max Muncy doesn’t match up with some of the names who have done it, but in 2019 he achieved a thrice-in-a-decade feat.
That year, he had 122 hits and crossed the plate 101 times, an astonishing hit-to-run ratio of 1.21, which was accomplished by only two other players in the 2010s (minimum 100 hits).
In 2011, Curtis Granderson scored 136 runs on 153 hits and in 2017, Aaron Judge scored 128 runs on 154 hits. Since 1950, the Muncy Ratio, as we’ll call it, happened just 25 times, and only 46 times since 1900.
But, historically, it isn’t rare. In the small ball, high-steal, often wonky days of 19th century baseball, it happened 114 times. Ross Barnes did it first in 1873, when he had 125 runs on just 138 hits, then he did it again in 1876, with 126 runs and 138 hits.
If a Hall of Famer couldn’t do it, some lesser names could. Emmett Seery—whose claim to fame still hasn’t been established nearly a century-and-a-half later—scored 104 runs and had the same number of hits for the long-since forgotten Indianapolis Hoosiers in 1887.
Honestly, if we were discussing this feat in the 1800s, no one would be impressed. Eight men scored more runs than had hits between 1884 and 1890 alone. George Gore did it twice. Seery’s accomplishment is unique, sure, but the Muncy Ratio—the very reason for this article!—eh, it’d be nothing to write home about about.
Harry Stovey managed it eight times, including four years in a row. Bid McPhee, a Hall of Famer, and George Gore—who should be in the Hall if you ask the right folks—did it five times each. Even Tom Brown—Tom who??—did it four times.
Then the 20th century dawned. The Ratio, which was achieved eight times from 1895 to 1899, didn’t occur again until 1911—it happened four times that decade, and Donie Bush owns two of its instances.
It saw a resurgence in the high-flying 1920s and 1930s, occurring 15 times. Of course Babe Ruth accomplished it, three times in fact, but so did Oscar Charleston and Cool Papa Bell, twice, each. In 1930, Max Bishop, known for being a walks machine, was the first player to score more runs than have hits in a season since 1890. That year, he trotted home 117 times on just 111 hits. He was also the last player to manage a hit-to-run ratio of less than one-to-one.
As offenses came down to earth, the mark again became a rarity. Only two men did it in the 1940s, none in the 1950s, two in the 1960s and one in the 1970s, with Jim Wynn the only man to do it that decade. He also achieved it in 1969.
As the game became offensive again in the 1990s, it saw an uptick in the hit-run phenomenon. It was achieved six times by four players in that ten-year span.
Then 2000s Barry Bonds happened. With hurlers pitching around him at record rates, he was getting on base with superhuman frequency—and, with guys like Jeff Kent batting behind him, scoring a lot. He accomplished the feat four times in a five year span, but still doesn’t own the most impressive season of those who did it that decade: In 2000, Jeff Bagwell led the league with 152 runs scored on just 183 hits.
While nearly all the players who reach the Ratio rank as very good-to-great and have or had All-Star potential, sometimes a total outlier crops up and joins the club. In 2005, David Dellucci did just that, scoring 97 runs on just 109 hits. It was one of only two seasons in which he had 100-plus knocks.
And here we are today. Max Muncy was the last player to reach the ratio he established, and though he’s managed it just once, he’s gotten close in other years, as well. In 2018, he had a hit-to-run ratio of 1.41-to-1. This year, he’s at 1.31. And last year, had he played a full season, he would have bested the Muncy Ratio with a mark of 1.08.
There are a few factors that allow for the phenomenon to unfold. Drawing walks is key—58 of those who achieved it had on-base percentages of .400 or better when they did. Speed helps, too, especially for those who hit a lot of singles or don’t have a good eye at the plate. Sixty-nine of the players who achieved the Muncy Ratio had stolen at least 40 bases.
Home runs contribute. By dint of what they are they achieve a H:R ratio of 1:1 each time they’re hit. And triples, they’re not quite home runs, but they get a player as close to scoring as possible without going all around the bases. Sixty-two of those who managed the Ratio had 10 or more when they did it.
And most importantly, batters need other solid hitters in the lineup to drive them in—a triple is only a run scored if someone else pokes one into the outfield or himself hits a big fly. Otherwise, it’s a wasted opportunity.
Sure, it’s a novelty, the Muncy Ratio. But those who achieve it, in the 21st century at least, are in fairly rare territory. And though the club’s membership might expand by two this year, with Fernando Tatis, Jr. (98 H, 83 R) and Joey Gallo (81 H, 70 R) right at its doorstep, do recall—