Currently Historic: what are the odds?

Warning: The following column contains lots of references to percents and chances. All are totally made up by the author using nothing but his somewhat functional noggin.

Welcome to August. We now have one third of the baseball season remaining. So, in addition to our normal updates, I thought it might be nice to take a realistic look at how likely players are to reach the historic numbers we’ve been tracking.

I wrote a lot about Adam Dunn last week, so let’s start there. Dunner is now just four home runs away from 400. Barring injury, that is as sure a thing as there can be. He also now needs only 39 strikeouts to become the sixth player with 2,000. It probably will take him longer to get those whiffs than to hit the homers he needs, but again, barring injury, this is going to happen this year.

Then there are the two accomplishments that are less than certain. Last week, I ascertained that Mark McGwire‘s 1998 season is the record for TTOs. McGwire had 387 that year. Dunn is currently on pace for 409, but his pace has been slowing steadily. If Dunn homers, strikes out, and walks at his career norms for the rest of the season, he’ll finish with 384—a virtual tie. He should get some extra credit for the unusual season he’s currently having, but I wouldn’t put his chances of breaking that record at more than 60 percent.

Also on the line is the single-season strikeout record. Mark Reynolds currently owns that distinction with 223 in 2009. Dunn is on pace for 239 right now, but again, his career norm rate would have him finish just off the pace at 222. Put the odds here at 60 percent, as well.

Next up is Aroldis Chapman, who showed up in the column for a second time last week because of his 17.16 strikeouts-per-nine innings (K/9) rate. Well, he’s now down to 16.88. That’s still the best ever for a pitcher with at least 30 innings pitched (Chapman just topped 50 and probably will finish around 70 frames), but it’s not that far away from Kenley Jansen‘s 16.10 just last year.

I know a difference of 0.78 batters seems like a lot, but when we’re talking about strikeout rates this high, it doesn’t take much for those numbers to drop. Consider that over the last week, Chapman threw four innings, struck out six, and saw his K rate fall by 0.28, and you’ll see what I mean. I’d like to place odds on this, but these numbers are so weird I don’t know what to say. It will be interesting to watch, though.

First, commenter Michael pointed out that Juan Pierre has been caught stealing 194 times. That is currently the eighth most ever. It’s unlikely that he gets to 200 by the end of the year, but we’ll keep an eye on it and note if he moves up any spots, as he needs only one more to move into a tie for seventh.

Jim Thome, sadly, has been placed on the DL with a neck injury. This is what I was afraid of. If Thome was going to break Reggie Jackson‘s all-time record for strikeouts, he didn’t have much margin for error. If he comes back the moment he’s eligible, stays healthy the rest of the year, and strikes out above his career rate, he has a shot, but it’s small, maybe a five or 10 percent chance. Odds are, he’ll have to come back next year to pass Jackson.

A few weeks ago, I started keeping track of the Red Sox and their quest for the team doubles record. It ain’t happenin’. They’ve fallen well off the pace and simply aren’t a good bet to break the record. They’ll finish with a lot of doubles, but nothing historic.

If Alex Rodriguez gets back on the field (no reason to think he won’t), he’ll pass Andres Galarraga for fourth all time in strikeouts, Ty Cobb for seventh in RBI, and Tris Speaker for 11th in runs. Sure bets, every one of those.

Derek Jeter currently has a slew of accomplishments on the horizon. He’s a virtual lock to get to 14th all-time in runs scored, and there’s probably a 70 percent chance he gets to 13th (he needs 32 runs to reach that target). Unless he has a huge slump, Jeter will move up to sixth all-time in singles. Call that one a 90 percent chance. He’s pretty much a sure thing to advance to 12th all time in hits, but it’s something like 50-50 that he’ll record enough base knocks enough to pass Willie Mays for 11th.

There’s a pretty good scrum for the NL strikeout lead this year. R.A. Dickey has a shot to be the first knuckler to do it, but the odds aren’t in his favor. At best, I’d say 30 percent.

Unless he gets hurt again, Ryan Howard will get to 300 homers. He has 290 right now.

Bobby Abreu stole another base, but he’s been DFA’d, so unless someone picks him up, he’s going to be stuck at 398. Jimmy Rollins needs ten steals to get to 400. I’d put that at around a 40 percent chance. Jose Reyes is five away from 400. If he doesn’t get there, I’ll eat my hat (not really).

Todd Helton (568) has a shot at getting into the top 20 in doubles, but it’s less than 50 percent. Bobby Abreu can, of course, stick a fork in that dream.

We are still set up to see some historic achievements this year, with Dunn clearly being the most interesting one to watch. See you next week.

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  1. Michael said...

    Following up with my Juan Pierre comment a few weeks back, with his two SB last night he jumped over Ozzie Smith for 21st on the career list. If he can steal 6 more this season he can take over #19 on the list. #18 is a stretch, it would take 15 more to tie, but he’s creeping up!

  2. Dave S said...

    I wonder if the Phils have a shot at the largest decline for a 100 game winner?  Going from 102 wins to ~73 gives them a 29 win dropoff from last year.

    Whats the record?

  3. Paul G. said...

    Here’s a few oddball stats you can track:

    There is Top 20 action in the career records.  Jason Giambi is currently 12th with 175, 3 behind Andres Galarraga.  Alex Rodriguez just moved up to #15 all-time to tie Kid Elberfeld, but that achievement also broke his hand so I wouldn’t congratulate him on that accomplishment else he break his other hand on your anatomy.  Derek Jeter sits at 17th with 162 and could potentially pass both A-Rod and Kid this year.  Next up for A-Rod would be Carlos Delgado with 172.  To get into the Top 10 would take 183 to tie Jake Beckley.

    Out of the Top 20 is Chase Utley with 141 in 26th place.  He would need to get up to 154 to reach the Top 20 and I doubt he could get hit that many times and not go on the DL again.

    Quite a few players have “earned” HBP 100 this year or are close to doing so. 

    Jamie Moyer and Jamey Wright are just outside of the Top 20 career.  Moyer is tied with Silver King for 21st place with 146.  Jamey Wright sits in 23rd with 145.  Bert Cunningham and Adonis Terry are tied at 19th with 148.  Moyer plunked 2 batters this year before his release; Wright has hit 3 so far.

    There is also a selection of brand names that hit #100 this year.

    AJ Burnett has 127 to his name and needs 6 more really wide ones to tie John Harkins at #50 career.  No, I had never heard of John Harkins either.

    Alex Rodriguez is 2 way from 100 career SF.  The record is Eddie Murray with 128.  Chipper Jones is at 96, a few others active in the low 90s.

    Albert Pujols is at 262 career Intentional Walks, third all-time behind Hank Aaron (293) and Barry Bonds (688).  I seriously doubt he could get to #2 this year, but he has finally found his swing.  Todd Helton needs 3 more to reach 187 and tie Harold Baines at #20 all-time.

    Derek Jeter and Paul Konerko are knocking on the Top 20 door for career GIDP.  Tony Perez holds that spot at 268.  Jeter has 261, Konerko 258.

  4. Eric R said...

    “I wonder if the Phils have a shot at the largest decline for a 100 game winner?  Going from 102 wins to ~73 gives them a 29 win dropoff from last year.

    Whats the record?”

    I guess it depends on any qualifiers you use.  Here are the biggest drop-offs in wins from one year to the next for a 100 win team:

    1993 Giants 103->55 [-48]
    1980 Yankees 103->59 [-44]
    1917 White Sox 100->57 [-43]
    1980 Orioles 100->59 [-41]
    1993 Braves 104->68 [-36]
    Granted they lead into strike shortened years [and WWI shortened for the White Sox], so maybe you don’t count those.

    1931 Cardinals 101->72 [-29]
    That appears to be the record with the special cases above excluded.

    Using wins per 162 games instead:
    1884 St Louis Maroons 134->53 [-81!]
    1876 Chicago White Stockings 128->70 [-58]

    … pre-1900s are just too weird, so how about …
    1914 Philadelphia A’s 102->45 [-56]

    … Since WWII?
    1994 Expos 105->74 [-31]
    1993 Giants 103->77 [-26]
    1970 Reds 102->79 [-23]
    2001 mariners 116->93 [-23]

  5. Will said...

    Just a heads up as far as knucklers leading a league in strikeouts.  Phil Niekro led the league in K’s (262) in 1977.  Of course he pitched 330 innings, but he got there.  Thanks for the good article!

  6. Paul G. said...

    For those who don’t know, that St. Louis squad also switched leagues from the Union Association to the National League.  St. Louis absolutely destroyed the UA (in more ways that one), then switched to the NL with an upgraded roster and finished last.  The one-year wonder UA is considered a major league, but no one is quite sure why….

  7. Edmundo said...

    Unless he gets hurt again, Ryan Howard will get to 300 homers. He has 290 right now.

    With the way he is hitting and the likely days off to continue his recovery, I would bet even money that he doesn’t hit 10 more HRs this year.

  8. hopbitters said...

    Paul G : Plunk Everyone does an amazing and amusing job of covering every HBP stat imaginable and some other oddball stats.

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