20% Done And What Have We Got?

After the three games that were played Monday and the full 15-game schedule that was played Tuesday, the 2004 season was just about 20% in the books. I say “just about” because differing schedules and rainouts have teams at various points in their season, but 20 of the 30 MLB teams were at least 20% (32 games) through their schedule when newspapers landed on front steps (or in bushes) Wednesday morning.

I’m a big fan of “paces.” From Opening Day through September, I am constantly looking at numbers, trying to figure out what someone’s final 2004 totals might look like. For most people, it might make sense to look at what players are on pace for when we reach the All-Star break, but one-fifth of the season being completed is more than reason enough for me.

So, through the games of May 11, with the Red Sox, Twins, White Sox, Angels, Marlins, Astros and Dodgers in first-place, here are the paces we’ve got so far…

HOME RUNS
 
AMERICAN LEAGUE     HR          NATIONAL LEAGUE     HR
Troy Glaus          54          Miguel Cabrera      56
Carlos Beltran      47          Steve Finley        56
Eric Chavez         46          Adam Dunn           56
Magglio Ordonez     42          Adrian Beltre       52
Jason Giambi        41          Jim Thome           51
Jorge Posada        41          Luis Gonzalez       51
Jermaine Dye        41
Hank Blalock        41

Sadly — or perhaps not, depending on how you feel about it — it looks as though no one will challenge the single-season home run record this year. In fact, despite this being the time for outrageous paces, no one is even on pace for 60 homers.

Back in 2001, when Barry Bonds hit 73 homers to break Mark McGwire‘s all-time record, he had 13 homers through San Francisco‘s first 32 games, which put him on a 66-homer pace. In 1998, when McGwire broke Roger Maris‘ record with 70 homers, he was on a 61-homer pace through 20% of the Cardinals‘ season. So, I suppose one of the above guys could get hot and make a run.

After hitting 12 homers in 87 games with the Marlins last year, Miguel Cabrera has 11 homers in 31 games this season. This is Cabrera’s age-21 season and the all-time record for homers by a 21-year-old is 47, by Eddie Mathews in 1953. Albert Pujols, who many have compared Cabrera to of late, hit 37 as a 21-year-old in 2001.

Jermaine Dye has basically won the AL Comeback Player of the Year award already. Dye is on pace for 41 homers and 122 RBIs after hitting .172 with four homers and 20 RBIs all of last season. He has 24 RBIs through his first 32 games this season.

Can a 25-year-old be making a comeback? If so, Adrian Beltre might be making a run at the same award over in the NL. Beltre hit .240/.290/.424 with 23 homers and 80 RBIs last year. So far this season, he’s hitting .381 and is on pace for 52 homers and 141 RBIs.

Steve Finley continues to show off his power in his old age. Through the age of 30, Finley averaged a home run every 72 at-bats. From age 31 on (including this season, at 39), Finley has hit a homer every 22 at-bats. His career-high (so far) came as a 35-year-old in 2000, when he hit 35.

RUNS BATTED IN
 
AMERICAN LEAGUE     RBI         NATIONAL LEAGUE     RBI
Magglio Ordonez     146         Scott Rolen         172
Carlos Beltran      142         Vinny Castilla      162
Miguel Tejada       140         Lyle Overbay        157
Troy Glaus          137         Adrian Beltre       141
Ivan Rodriguez      137         Aramis Ramirez      137
Rondell White       137

Much like with homers, no one has really put up massive RBI numbers to start the year. Scott Rolen is the MLB leader with a 172-RBI pace. 172 RBIs would rank him 7th all-time, sandwiched in between Lou Gehrig (174, 1930) and Babe Ruth (171, 1921). On second thought, maybe those are some massive numbers from Rolen.

The secret to Rolen’s success thus far is clearly the fact that he’s hitting .339 with a .603 slugging percentage. Beyond the obvious though, much of Rolen’s big RBI total comes from his teammates.

Rolen has batted in the #5 spot in St. Louis‘ lineup for the majority of the season, with his other at-bats coming at #4. Take a look at the combined on-base percentages of the first four spots in St. Louis’ lineup:

#1     .338
#2     .347
#3     .367
#4     .370

Men on base + .603 slugging percentage = lots of RBIs. Shocking, I know. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that Rolen is hitting .441 with runners on base and .514 with runners in scoring position.

In case you forgot just how powerful Coors Field is, take a look at Vinny Castilla‘s name on that list, and the “162″ accompanying it. Castilla played for the Rockies from 1993-1999 and drove in 100+ runs each year from 1996-1999. Then he left, first for Tampa Bay and then for Houston and Atlanta. In his two years with Atlanta, he drove in just 61 and 78 runs. Overall, from 2000-2003, Castilla hit .250/.289/.405 with 270 RBIs in 521 games.

And now? Well, Castilla is back in Colorado and loving it. He is hitting .390/.464/.746 at Coors Field thus far, with 23 RBIs in 59 at-bats (.39 per AB). Outside of Coors, Castilla has just eight RBIs in 55 at-bats (.14 per AB).

The Brewers have to be loving the Richie Sexson trade right about now. Sexson is out with a shoulder injury and the first baseman they got from Arizona for him, Lyle Overbay, is on pace for 157 RBIs and 81 doubles. They also got Junior Spivey, who is hitting .290/.362/.484.

RUNS SCORED
 
AMERICAN LEAGUE     RUN         NATIONAL LEAGUE     RUN
Melvin Mora         156         Luis Gonzalez       162
Michael Young       152         Jeff Bagwell        152
Brian Roberts       145         Todd Helton         146
Troy Glaus          142         Albert Pujols       142
Carlos Beltran      141         Steve Finley        137

As you saw earlier, Miguel Tejada is third in the AL with an RBI pace of 140. It shouldn’t surprise you then that two of the guys who bat ahead of Tejada in Baltimore‘s lineup have huge runs-scored paces. Brian Roberts, who has hit leadoff for the Orioles this year, is on pace for 145 runs scored. Melvin Mora, Baltimore’s #2 hitter, is on pace for 156. Those two have OBPs of .377 and .452 and, not coincidentally, Tejada is Baltimore’s #3 hitter.

Alex Rodriguez‘s replacement in Texas, Michael Young, is on pace to score 152 runs batting atop the Rangers’ lineup. He’s also on pace for 132 RBIs, while ARod is on pace for a total of just 187 combined RBIs and runs scored.

STOLEN BASES
 
AMERICAN LEAGUE     SB          NATIONAL LEAGUE     SB
Brian Roberts       84          Scott Podsednik     91
Carl Crawford       78          Dave Roberts        78
Carlos Beltran      52          Juan Pierre         51
Chone Figgins       44          Tony Womack         44
Jacque Jones        37          Mike Cameron        34
                                Endy Chavez         34

You may have noticed the name “Carlos Beltran” on each of these first four leaderboards. Through Tuesday’s games, Beltran was on pace for 47 homers, 142 RBIs, 141 runs and 52 stolen bases. All of which is why I wrote about him making “The Leap” last week.

When it comes to stealing bases though, Beltran has nothing on Scott Podsednik. Podsednik not only has 18 stolen bases in 32 games, he has not been caught stealing yet. That means he’s on pace to go 91-for-91, which although it’ll never happen, is still pretty amazing. Podsednik went 43-for-53 as a rookie last year, but what he’s doing this year is on a whole different level.

No one has stolen 90+ bases in a season since Rickey Henderson stole exactly that many in 1988. In fact, no one has stolen even 80 bases in a year since that same year, when Henderson stole his 90 and Vince Coleman swiped 81 of his own.

Dave Roberts looked like he might give Podsednik a run for his money (pun intended) for the NL stolen base crown, with 15 steals in his first 23 games, but he’s been out with a sore hamstring since May 5.

WALKS
 
AMERICAN LEAGUE      BB         NATIONAL LEAGUE      BB
Frank Thomas        146         Barry Bonds         250
Rafael Palmeiro     140         Adam Dunn           192
Mark Bellhorn       137         Lance Berkman       167
Eric Chavez         122         Todd Helton         152
Shannon Stewart     120         Luis Gonzalez       122

Yeah, you read that right … Barry Bonds is on pace for 250 walks. And that is despite missing a few games already. For those of you with Memento-like memories, Bonds is already the all-time record holder for walks in a season, with 198 free passes in 2002. He broke his own record that year, topping the 177 walks he had in 2001.

Bonds might end up with twice as many walks as hits. Right now he’s on pace for 250 walks and 128 hits, and that’s with a .377 batting average. There’s also an outside shot he could have more walks than at-bats. He’s currently at 51 walks and 69 at-bats.

I could talk about Bonds all day, but I’ll leave with you just a few more things…

Bonds has 51 walks in 120 plate appearances this year. In the history of baseball, a player has accumulated at least 600 plate appearances in a season while drawing fewer than 51 walks 2,034 times. 2,034.

Pud Galvin, a Hall of Fame pitcher who won 364 career games in the late 1800s, walked a grand-total of 38 times in his career. He had 2,788 plate appearances.

For those of you only interested in talking about position players, Sadie Houck, a shortstop in the 1800s, has the most career plate appearances (2,727) with fewer than 51 career walks (48).

For a more modern example, Rob Picciolo, an infielder in the 70s and 80s, walked 25 times in 1,720 career plate appearances. Steve Carlton, not known for what he did with the bat, had 41 career walks in 1,877 plate appearances.

And finally, Bonds is on pace for 250 walks this season. Ozzie Guillen, the new manager of the White Sox and 16-year major-league veteran, walked a total of 239 times in his entire career, a span of 7,133 plate appearances.

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