Currently Historic: what are the odds?by Jason Linden
August 02, 2012
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.
Jason has too many irons in the fire. He fancies himself a fiction writer and also writes about the Reds at Redleg Nation, books at Elephants for Bookends, and everything else at The Winesburg Eagle. Email him at winesburgeagle *at* gmail or follow him on Twitter @jasonlinden