Top 10 upcoming player/team milestones in 2013

Another season is nearly here. Time to start looking forward to what’s to come. In that spirit, a few weeks ago I looked up some possible managerial milestones we might see in 2013. I like looking at managers because that’s my thing. I did write a book on them after all. It’s also an area people rarely look at.

Player and team milestones get more attention. So let’s look at some of the bigger and more impressive achievements we should see from individuals and teams in 2013.

1. 500 homers: Albert Pujols

Well, there is no question what the biggest upcoming milestone will be. There are three clubs everyone cares about: 500 homers, 3,000 hits, and 300 wins. Only one should get a new member this year, as Albert Pujols sits on 475 home runs. Yes he had an off year by his standards last season, but he still hit 30 homers despite a slow start.

2. 200 wins: Halladay, Hudson, and Sabathia.

We haven’t had too many 200-game winners lately. The only guys in the club who were active in 2012 were Jamie Moyer and Andy Pettitte, and they both entered the fraternity a long time ago. Tim Wakefield edged into the club as his career wound down in 2011.

We now have three players all within single digits of the 200-win club: Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, and CC Sabathia.

After several brilliant seasons, Halladay was injured and ineffective in 2012, but he needs just one more win to get to 200. Tim Hudson has had 10 or more wins in 13 of his 14 seasons and needs just three more to get to 200. Sabathia has the best chance to miss out, as he’s the furthest back at 191 wins and had an injury last year. Then again, he’s had at least 11 wins in every season of his career. All are clearly on pace to reach 200 career victories in 2013.

3. 1,000 extra-base hits: Pujols and Helton

Some career achievements are flashier than others. Everyone has heard of 500 homers, but who has ever heard of 1,000 extra-base hits? They aren’t quite the same in terms of rareness, but they aren’t too far off, either. While 25 men have 500 homers, 34 have 1,000 extra-base hits.

Well, Pujols will join this before making it to 500 homers. He hit his 500th double last year and currently has 995 extra-base hits. Colorado’s Todd Helton should join him too, health permitting. Helton is just 40 short of membership, but that number might be bigger than it sounds. Given his health and declining production, he’s had 40 extra-base hits in just two of the last five years.

4. Yankee team leaderboard: Pettitte and Jeter

Aside from players on the verge of history with overall career leaderboards and magic numbers, several players are poised to make history for their various franchises.

Sometimes these records are the mark of a team that hasn’t been around too long. (For example, Ian Kinsler is just four stolen bases shy of being the Rangers franchise leader.) Sometimes it’s setting a record in an obscure stat. (Carlos Marmol should become the Cubs all-time relief appearance leader this season.) Sometimes it’s both (Evan Longoria soon will be the Tampa Bay career GIDP leader). But sometimes it’s a player making history in a notable category for a team that’s been around for quite some time.

The Yankees have as storied a history as any club, and Andy Pettitte should climb atop some career leaderboards this year. Most notably, health permitting, he’ll soon be No. 1 in strikeouts as a Yankee. Currently he has 1,892, just 64 behind Whitey Ford. That’s easily the most prestigious category he’s on the verge of topping, but he’s also nearly there in games started (408, 30 behind Ford), homers allowed (219, nine behind), and earned runs allowed (1,146, 76 away).

Oh, and teammate Derek Jeter should pass up Lou Gehrig as the all-time franchise leader in doubles. Jeter already has climbed atop the club records list in a number of other categories, though. Pettitte is still looking for his mark.

5. Paul Konerko and White Sox lore

Konerko isn’t the most talented hitter in White Sox history, but he has been very good at the plate for quite some time and has aged better than anyone expected. As a result, he’s about the surpass the man he replaced at first base, Frank Thomas, in some key all-time Sox franchise stats.

Most notably, Konerko sits on 415 homers, 33 behind Thomas’ Sox total. Konerko has belted that many homers just once in the last six seasons, but he’s come close in others. Still, the odds are against him in 2013.

His chances are much more favorable in total bases, though. Just 71 more and he’s atop the franchise leaderboard. Thomas was a far better offensive threat, but much of Thomas’ value came from bases on balls, which don’t help him here.

6. Jimmy Rollins and Phillies history

The Phillies don’t have the most stellar franchise history, but they’ve had their moments and have been around for 130 years and counting.

In his 13th season with the club, veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins has some chances to make his bit of history. His best bet is to become their king of doubles. He has 421, just 21 behind Ed Delahanty.

Rollins is fourth in caught steaingls with 83, but that’s just 11 behind first-place contestant Larry Bowa. Normally getting caught stealing 11 times would be a decent bet for a prolific base stealing threat, but Rollins isn’t a normal base stealer. His 83 steals are alongside 403 successful swipes. He’s one of the greatest percentage stealers of all time, so he he’s an outside bet at best for this.

Speaking of being an outside bet, Rollins technically has a chance to become the all-time Phillies hit leader. His 2,024 hits put him 210 behind Mike Schmidt. Now, Rollins has had over 210 hits in a season, but he did it just once and is no longer the player he used to be. With an improbably resurgence season he can do it, but that’s just about the only way.

7. 10,000 wins: Pittsburgh

It’s been a long two decades for the Pittsburgh Pirates, so it’s nice to know that they are the verge of one nice franchise marker. Their 39th win of the season will be their 10,000th all-time victory. Obviously, this marker is more a matter of lasting a long time than overwhelming brilliance, but it’s worth noting that their overall franchise record is still over .500: 9,961-9,857.

8. Fighting for .500: Arizona and Anaheim

The Pirates are one of just 12 teams with cumulative franchise records over .500. It might seem odd that 18 are under .500 while 12 are above, but that’s due to expansion. The teams that have been around longer are over .500. In fact, every single expansion club without exception currently has an all-time record under .500, though that wasn’t always the case. In the past, the Blue Jays, Astros, Royals, and Diamondbacks were all over .500, but now none are.

Arizona and Anahiem both can change that this year. Both clubs enter 2013 exactly 10 games under .500. If they go 86-76, they’re at .500. Do better, and they fly over it.

Neither are guaranteed to do it, though. It’s feasible in both cases, but not guaranteed. The Angels won 89 last year and 86 before that, but the mid-80s victory range is where they normally are these days. Arizona had a great 2011 as the surprise NL West team but last year fell back to 81-81. We’ll see how these clubs fare in 2013.

9. All-everything milestones

Last year, Baseball-Reference got some attention by having a countdown for an unusual marker: baseball’s 500,000 error since 1876. It’s not the sort of thing people typically notice, but B-ref had the stats to figure it out, and some followed along in the countdown because it’s such a nice, round number.

Along those lines, we should have four similar countdowns this year, though not always in as round a number with as impressive a stat as errors.

As of right now, there have been 69,855 known intentional walks in baseball history. Last year there were 1,055, so it’s a lock we’ll get to 70,000 this year. In fact, it should take us 22 games to get there, so around late April.

Second, to date, big league pitchers have been called for 13,962 balks. That’s just 38 away from an even 14,000. There were 165 last year, so figure it’ll take 37 games this year, or sometime in mid-to-late May.

Want a really nice, juicy round number? Okay, how does 100,000 sound? This year we’ll see the 100,000th known hit by pitch. That should happen midseason, around 70 games in.

Last by certainly not least, is the biggest round number of them all, and the most important stat, too. At-bat number 14,000,000 should happen this year. Actually, it’s a little controversial as to when.

You see, it’s a matter of debate when you claim major league baseball starts. The NL began in 1876, so everything since then is in. However, there was there a primordial major league, the National Association, from 1871-75. We don’t have balks, hit-by-pitch, or intentional walks from the NA, but we do have at-bats.

Include the NA, and baseball we’ll have at bat No. 14,000,000 in game 70 (exactly when the 100,000th hit-by-pitch occurs). However, exclude the NA, and it’ll take until the end of the year. If we have the same number of at-bats as last year, it’ll take until game No. 158 to reach it. (So if there’s an offensive downturn, we might not get there).

I’ll point out that last year’s error countdown used 1876-onward stats only.

10. If … Abreu, Thome, A-Rod

In all, 2013 isn’t shaping up for a great year for personal milestones. Only one 500-homer guy and no 3,000 hits or 300 wins. Nothing like that. As it happens, some of the guys on the verge of some milestones are either unsigned or injured. Things would be different otherwise.

Look at the currently unsigned Bobby Abreu. The very definition of the professional hitter, Abreu has been a solid, high-quality bat for years, though he’s never been among the front rank of offensive threats. But being really good for really long has put him near some nice achievements.

There have been 78 players who have had 10,000 career plate appearances. Abreu needs just 74 more to become No. 79. Also, 70 men have scored 1,500 runs, and Abreu needs 59 more (though to be fair, he was nowhere near 59 runs last year). Only 18 have ever drawn 1,500 walks, and Abreu sits on 1,456. No, none of them are 500 homers-worthy, but they are also some nice, round numbers.

Alongside Abreu among the ranks of the unsigned, there is Jim Thome. He currently has 1,699 RBIs. You have to like Thome’s odds to make be the 24th man with 1,700 RBI if he joins a team. More impressively, Thome has the chance to become all-time No. 1 on a leaderboard. He had 2,548 strikeouts, just 49 behind Reggie Jackson. The way Thome played last year, it will take just 150 plate appearances for him to get there. Then again, that might explain why no one has signed him yet.

Alex Rodriguez is signed, and when the offseason began, he looked like a shoo-in for some impressive career achievements. He has 2,901 hits. Yeah, that’s a pretty big milestone in front of him. His 1,950 RBIs put him just shy of an even more impressive achievement, as only three men have 2,000 RBIs (Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Cap Anson—and you have to count the NA to get Anson). Less enjoyably for A-Rod, his career batting average now sits at .300, so it should fall under sooner rather than later.

He might still have his average fall under .300, but that’s the only milestone it looks like he’ll achieve. Instead of another full season of adding to his counting stats, Rodriguez will miss much of the year due to hip surgery.

References & Resources
Stats come from Baseball-Reference.com. In the case of all-time intentional walks and balks, I had that from previous work I’d done, but that previous work came from B-ref, too.

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Comments

  1. 87 Cards said...

    The Pirates closing in on 10,000 wins caught my eye so over to BB Ref I went….The Alleghenys/Pirates are 99 wins ahead of the New York Yankees….Obviously, this is due to the Bucs (1892) getting a 19-year head start on the Yankees (1901) but that trivia nugget got me a coveted Gee-Whiz Award at today’s department meeting at my place of employment.

    The Pirates are 2,364 ahead of the NYYs in total losses.

  2. Ian R. said...

    “The teams that have been around longer are over .500”

    All except the Phillies, who despite their recent resurgence are still well under the coveted .500 mark.

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