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Possible MLB milestones for 2018

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Baseball is a game that has always held its own history in high regard. And one of the best ways to keep track of that history has been through statistical milestones, numbers that have come to act as a sort of distillation of greatness. Round numbers that represent on-field brilliance in an easy-to-understand way.

Granted, changes in the game are in turn changing these milestones. The way the game is played and the meaning of the numbers being tallied isn’t what it once was; the sabermetric revolution has altered how we look at these statistics. Still, there’s something undeniably special about those iconic career marks. While their relevance may fade someday, we’re not there yet.

Here are a few milestones that might be reached in 2018:

3,000 hits/2,000 RBI – Albert Pujols

Pujols could stop playing tomorrow and he’d be a no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Famer. But he’s still going, so we’re going to see some phenomenal numbers before it’s all said and done. At season’s start, he was just 32 hits away from becoming the 32nd (and third active) member of the 3,000-hit club. He’s also poised to join a more exclusive crew; with 82 RBI, he’s just the fifth player to reach 2,000. All this after he already crossed an iconic threshold when he launched his 600th home run last season – he landed at 614 for his career and seventh on the all-time list, just 16 away from passing Ken Griffey Jr. By the time he hangs them up, Albert Pujols will be in some truly rarified statistical air.

500 homers – Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera

These two are both in the same boat as Pujols as far as first-ballot Hall of Fame status is concerned. Both men started the season 38 homers shy of 500, so we probably shouldn’t expect both to make it – even in a homer-happy era such as this one, 38 is a lot of home runs. Cabrera turned in the most ineffective season of his career last year; expecting a bounce back this extreme is unfair. Beltre has been remarkably consistent, but his raw power doesn’t match Cabrera’s. And each of them has struggled with injury, so health is a factor. If I had to bet on one, Cabrera has the higher ceiling; Beltre is much more likely to have to wait until 2019.

250 wins – Bartolo Colon and C.C. Sabathia

One of the big milestone-related changes wrought by the evolution of the game is that we’ve quite possibly seen the last-ever 300-game winner. Expect 250 to become the new 300 as far as pitcher wins are concerned – and we’re looking at a pair of veterans with a reasonable shot at getting there. Bartolo Colon and C.C. Sabathia started the season needing 10 and 13 wins respectively to hit that mark, and while both are definitely in their athletic dotage, one imagines that there’s enough in the tank for them to get there. Colon is 45 and had some struggles last year, but he’s just two years removed from a 15-win All-Star season. Sabathia is eight years younger and won 14 just last year; starting for this powerhouse Yankees team all but ensures he reaches the mark barring injury.

3,000 strikeouts – Sabathia

Sabathia far outstrips Colon in this category. He’s just 150 strikeouts away from becoming just the 17th pitcher in MLB history to reach 3,000 Ks. This one is a bit of a longshot - he only struck out 120 in 27 starts last year – but if he makes it to 175 innings or so, he could make it sometime in September.

300 saves – Craig Kimbrel

Sure, the save has fallen out of favor in terms of its statistical usefulness, but that’s no reason for us not to keep counting them. Kimbrel kicked off 2018 with 291 career saves; he’ll blow by 300 this season (assuming he stays healthy), becoming the 29th pitcher ever to reach that level. But a typical year will cause him to rapidly climb the all-time saves list – 27 will put him into the top-20 and 38 will get him into the top-15; both numbers are eminently reachable for Kimbrel.

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There are other prominent numbers that might be reached this year. Ichiro Suzuki could conceivably reach 10,000 at-bats and 100 triples for his career. Justin Verlander could cross both the 200-win and 2,500-strikeout thresholds; Felix Hernandez might hit 2,500 Ks as well. Chase Utley could become the eighth player to be hit by a pitch 200 times. Joe Mauer’s probably going to collect his 2,000th hit. And on and on and on.

That’s the joy of a game with so much interest in history – turns out, they’re always making more.

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