Impending Baseball Milestones

The other night while the Yankees were routing the Red Sox, Alex Rodriguez hit his 522nd career home run, moving into 15th place on the all-time home run list. Combined with an article in this morning’s paper, I realized that there are actually a cluster of career stats milestones likely to be passed this year:

  • Ken Griffey Jr. is 4 home runs away from 600, which would make him the 6th player to reach that milestone. (ARod probably won’t hit that mark for a year or two.)
  • Manny Ramirez hit his 494 and 495th home runs last night and should reach 500 in the next month or so. He’s currently 24th on the list, but should crack the top 20 this year.
  • Gary Sheffield is at 481, and has a shot at 500 if he can stay healthy.
  • If anyone signs him, Barry Bonds (2935) has a shot at 3000 hits. No other active player is close, and I think Derek Jeter (2369, age 34) is the most likely active player to get there.
  • Greg Maddux goes for his 350th career win tonight. He’s already 9th in career wins, and seems likely to pass the recently-retired Roger Clemens (354). If he can stay healthy, I think it’s not ridiculous to think that he could claim the 3rd spot all time (currently shared by Pete Alexander and Christy Mathewson with 373). Walter Johnson (417) and Cy Young (511) are likely out of reach, though.
  • Maddux is also likely to be the 13th person to pass the 5000 innings pitched mark.
  • Randy Johnson (284) could reach 300 wins this year.
  • Johnson (4623) could also pass Clemens (4672) for #2 on the career strikeouts list this year, though his back has been so balky that nothing is really certain with him. In any event, Nolan Ryan‘s record (5714) looks safe.
  • John Smoltz should reach 3000 strikeouts in his next start or two.

Of all the milestones on this list, I think Maddux’s are the most impressive. He’s not thought of as a strikeout artist since he’s not a classic power pitcher, but he’s 11th on the all-time list. He is, however, 52nd on the list for walk rate (and 2nd among active pitchers), which means he’s been both effective and efficient, which is why he’s been pitching for so long.

Maddux’s last great season was 2002, but he was 36 in that year, and he’s been a consistent league-average pitcher since then. Anyone who can be an average player in their 40s at the highest level of professional baseball is clearly doing something right. He still only walks about 1 guy every 8 (!!) innings, which is just amazing, so I could see him doing this for several more years. He doesn’t get a lot of fanfare since he left the Braves, but he’s still one of the all-time greats.

On the hitting side, Griffey and Ramirez are busy polishing their admission tickets to Cooperstown (or whatever bad metaphor you’d care to apply), but ARod is clearly going to blast through all sorts of records over the next 8 years, so we’d better save up some superlatives for him. Like Barry Bonds, he’s not a widely-loved player, but being likable is rarely a requirement for playing Major League baseball.

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