Currently Historical: Fascinating seasons from Hamilton, Votto and Dunnby Jason Linden
June 14, 2012
Welcome to a new Hardball Times feature which will bring you a running list of and commentary on pending historical achievements throughout baseball. The goal of this column is to highlight rarity in the game. Sometimes that will mean writing about a historically excellent season. Sometimes it will be a chronicle of a truly miserable performance.
As long as someone has a shot at breaking a record or doing something truly (or even moderately) rare, we'll keep you posted. If they fall off the radar, we'll try to tell you what happened.
I will need your help though. There are a lot of baseball players out there and, no doubt, there are some things that have slipped past me. So, if someone is on pace to do something truly great or terrible or weird, please let me know in the comments or shoot me an email and I'll add them to the list. I hope you enjoy the column. Here we go. All stats are through Tuesday, June 12.
Let's start by talking about a couple of very special offensive seasons.
Josh Hamilton has been simply monstrous this year, and he has at least a ghost of a chance to do several pretty awesome things: Hit 60 home runs, win the triple crown, and reach 400 total bases (accomplished only 29 times in major league history) along with 100 extra base hits (accomplished only 15 times).
His current pace is for: 57 home runs, 407 total bases, 94 extra base hits. He currently leads the league in homer and RBIs and is second to Paul Konerko in batting average.
So how likely is he to do any of these things? Not very, and I'm sure you all know why. Hamilton has played 150 games exactly once in his career. Sure, he's also playing out of his mind and likely to regress a bit, but the real issue is going to be staying healthy.
If he does stay healthy, though, he has at least some kind of shot at the triple crown. Especially with Paul Konerko being the unlikely batting leader at the moment.
Joey Votto is the Hamilton of the NL. He is simply playing out of his mind right now. But what might he do that is truly special? He currently has a shot at a .500 OBP (accomplished only 19 times), 100 extra base hits, the league lead in BA, OBP, and SLG, and—coolest of all—the single-season doubles record.
He is currently on pace for: .479 OBP, 100 extra-base hits, 70 doubles, and he currently leads the league in OBP and SLG while coming in second to Melky Cabrera in the batting race.
What are his odds? He has a very solid shot at the saber triple crown as he has lead the league in OBP and SLG already in his career and has come very close to a batting title. It certainly helps that Melky Cabrera (current NL BA leader) is playing way, way, way over his head.
A .500 OBP is less likely. Votto is probably going to come back to the pack eventually, and he still has some work to do as it is. Given how unlikely it is that he'll play better than he has, this is probably a long shot.
The doubles record is interesting and will also affect his quest for 100 extra base hits. The doubles record has been approached in recent memory by the likes of Craig Biggio, Todd Helton, Nomar Garciaparra, Brian Roberts, and even Garret Anderson. It seems primed to fall eventually, but Votto will need some luck to get there. His home park is very homer friendly, and his tendency to walk will also likely cost him some opportunities. Though 67 doubles if going to be tough, he does have a very solid shot at becoming the first player since 1936 to crack 60.
Also having a thoroughly interesting, though perhaps more dubious season, is Adam Dunn. Currently sitting at 21 homers, Dunn is close to a lock to pass 400 before then end of the year (he needs only 14 more). Even more interesting is that his excellent play has him poised to obliterate the single-season strikeout record; he's currently on pace for 260 Ks.
Most fun, though, is the Three True Outcome bonanza that his season has been so far. 62.5 percent of his plate appearances have ended in a walk, a strikeout, or a home run so far this year. If he keeps it up he'll finish with 443 TTOs. That has to be some kind of record.
Oh, and he'll also likely strikeout for the 2000th time this year (he currently has 1,907) and finish the year less than 600 away from Reggie Jackson's career record of 2,597. We may see that one fall in a few years.
While those three are having the most interesting seasons, several other players have a shot at doing something pretty neat this year. Let's look at them in brief.
Aroldis Chapman currently has an ERA of 0.87 and has accumulated 1.9 WAR. If he keeps up his current level of dominance (he has struck out nearly half the batters he's faced and while walking only 2.9/9IP) he'll make himself a Cy Young contender and set records for reliever ERA (Dennis Eckersley—0.61 in 1990) and WAR (Bruce Sutter—5.4 in 1977).
R.A. Dickey and Lance Lynn already have nine wins each giving, one of them at least a shadow of a chance at being the first person in 22 years (Bob Welch, 1990) to win 25 games. Unlikely, but if anyone can do it, it might be Dickey, as the knuckler doesn't wear down pitchers as much and gives him a chance to go consistently deep into games and pick up lots of decisions.
Miguel Cabrera (290 HR) and Ryan Howard (286) are both good bets to crack their 300th homers this year (though Howard needs to get healthy first).
Ichiro Suzuki (2496 hits) will pick up his 2500th hit any day now. Bobby Abreu (2418), and Todd Helton (2404) could also finish the season north of 2500 hits.
Alex Rodriguez (1968 SO, 639 HR and 1922 RBIs) is likely to join Adam Dunn in the 2000 K club and has a lesser shot at becoming the fourth player ever to accumulate 2,000 RBIs and at passing Willie Mays on the all-time home run list.
Jim Thome needs only five homers to move into seventh place on the all-time homer list. (By the way, if Thome miraculously became a regular player, he'd quickly slide past Jackson for the all time K record. He's only 96 behind.)
Abreu (395 SB), Jose Reyes (386), and Jimmy Rollins (383) could all crack the 400 SB mark this year. Though, oddly, Abreu might be the least likely of the trio to accomplish that as he runs so infrequently.
Sometime this year, Derek Jeter will move into the top 10 list for most singles.
A bunch of "ifs" here, but if Jamie Moyer pitches all season and pitches like he has, he may well allow his 2000th earned run.
Okay, there's the first installation of currently historical. Tell me what I missed and let me know what you think in the comments. I'll be back with more 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