The 2013 MLB season will provide plenty of day-to-day excitement, but we shouldn't forget about the teams and individuals who will gradually approach records as the summer wears on.
Several pursuits attest more to loyalty than skill. Challengers to the following franchise records, for example, have reached free agency multiple times during their careers, only to re-sign with familiar clubs.
Changes in the sport itself—expanded postseason format, reorganization of both leagues and increased revenue through television deals—help in other instances.
Whatever the case, seven long-standing records are about to fall.
Francis was Colorado's first-round draft pick in 2002.
Record holder: Aaron Cook (72 W from 2002-2011).
Veteran starting pitcher Jeff Francis didn't interest many teams in free agency. The soon-to-be 32-year-old posted a 5.58 earned run average last summer and amassed just 76 strikeouts.
The Colorado Rockies lack proven rotation candidates, so they agreed to terms with him on a one-year, incentive-laden deal.
The left-hander needs 12 wins to pass Cook, his longtime teammate. Francis had at least that many during the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons.
Adequate offensive support will obviously be essential. The Rockies lineup scored 5.4 runs per game when Francis started in 2012—an average it should improve upon with Michael Cuddyer and Troy Tulowitzki back in the lineup.
Konerko might retire after this season when his contract expires.
Record holder: Frank Thomas (3949 TB from 1990-2005).
Paul Konerko played alongside Thomas for seven seasons and became captain of the Chicago White Sox after he left.
Only 172 total bases stand between Konerko and the franchise record. He always finishes with more than that. Hypothetically, the first baseman would pass Thomas by totaling 20 doubles, 20 home runs and 100 hits overall.
Barring a lengthy stint on the disabled list, he'll get there shortly after the 2013 All-Star break.
Mark Reynolds strikes out at an embarrassingly high rate.
Record holder: Mark Reynolds (223 SO in 2009).
Reynolds whiffed only 159 times last summer.
The slugger rode the bench occasionally during his sluggish start. Combined with a stint on the disabled list, he totaled just 538 plate appearances.
However, he's expected to be the regular first baseman next year with the Cleveland Indians.
Reynolds lucked out in 2012. During his only season in the AL East, Brandon Morrow and CC Sabathia spent time on the disabled list, while Jon Lester and Ricky Romero underachieved.
Now, the lion's share of his plate appearances will come against AL Central teams like the Detroit Tigers. They employ Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, who, a year ago, placed first and third, respectively, in strikeout rate among American League starters. And both are right-handed.
Moreover, the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins have revamped their pitching staffs. New additions like Wade Davis, Rich Harden and James Shields all induce swing-and-misses.
It gets worse. Cleveland's interleague schedule includes the Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals (oh my!).
So long as Reynolds continues hitting for power, the Tribe will use him, which means the record should fall easily.
Second baseman Jose Altuve won't have much help in 2013.
Record holder: New York Mets (120 losses in 1962).
The Houston Astros franchise has hit rock bottom. Coming off consecutive 100-loss campaigns, it's moving to the AL West.
To accelerate the rebuilding process, the Astros dealt all their veteran players. Chris Johnson, Carlos Lee, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez were exchanged for developing players. With the exception of third baseman Matt Dominguez, none of them will contribute at the MLB level this season.
You know Houston is in trouble because Phil Humber and Alex White—both of whom failed as starters elsewhere—are rotation candidates.
Free agency has barely helped.
The Astros signed Jose Veras to a one-year deal. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports writes that, despite a history of control problems, he'll be considered for the closer's job! And Carlos Pena would have been an exciting signing several years ago, but expectations of a rebound from a .197/.330/.354 triple-slash line ought to be tempered as he approaches his 35th birthday.
From July 1 through the end of 2012, the Astros posted a 23-61 record. Performing at that level over the course of an entire season puts them at 118 losses. Adjust for the tougher competition they'll be facing to get an uglier, more realistic approximation.
Kershaw's extension could cost north of $200 million.
Record holder: CC Sabathia ($161 million in 2008).
For every reason, Clayton Kershaw deserves a more lucrative deal than Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Zack Greinke, who signed for $147 million last month.
The 2011 National League Cy Young Award winner has been both durable and effective. Per FanGraphs, he leads the Senior Circuit in earned run average, innings pitched and WAR over the past two seasons. And he doesn't turn 25 until March.
L.A.'s ace isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season, but general manager Ned Colletti has considered locking him up before then. Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that an extension could be discussed this winter. Baseball's richest franchise can—and will—guarantee Kershaw about $200 million on a long-term contract, shattering Sabathia's record.
Nobody can catch up with Chapman's fastball.
Record holder: Pedro Martinez (.167 BAA in 2000).
To be eligible for this single-season record, Aroldis Chapman will need to pitch at least 162 innings in 2013 (one for each team game). Stephen Strasburg came within a few outs of reaching that while being on a tight leash, so it's an attainable total for the Cuban Missile.
Opponents have combined for an anemic .149 batting average against Chapman in three MLB seasons. He has annually improved in that category despite an increasing workload.
As we've observed with Chris Sale, Adam Wainwright, C.J. WIlson and many others, relievers lose velocity once they join the starting rotation. They also become slightly more hittable.
However, Chapman is a unique case.
His triple-digit heat will still be difficult to connect with after several times through a lineup. Also, being on an innings limit—stricter than any that the aforementioned pitchers dealt with—should protect his stats.
Though the lefty has used only two pitches regularly at the MLB level, he reportedly refined his splitter last offseason.
Pettitte is already the all-time leader in postseason wins.
Record holder: John Smoltz (199 SO from 1991-2009).
Andy Pettitte needs 17 strikeouts during the 2013 postseason to overtake the record-holder.
Even with diminished stuff, he has been punching out more batters recently. Frequently throwing first-pitch strikes enabled Pettitte to excel as a 40-year-old in 2012.
Two or three October starts would be enough to propel him past Smoltz, especially if he faces the Los Angeles Angels and/or Toronto Blue Jays. Members of both teams struggle to make contact, including J.P. Arencibia, Josh Hamilton, Colby Rasmus and Mark Trumbo.
Just advancing to the ALDS can put Pettitte in position to become the all-time leader.
I came, I saw, I tweeted something clever about it.