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15 MLB Single-Season Records That Could Fall in 2013

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystMay 30, 2013

15 MLB Single-Season Records That Could Fall in 2013

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    Not all records were made to be broken.

    The late, great Will White threw 75 complete games in 1879 en route to a completely unbreakable 680 innings pitched in a single season. No one has even reached 400 innings pitched in one season in the past century

    Chief Wilson hit 36 triples in 1912. Jose Reyes leads all current players with a total of 28 three-baggers since the start of the 2011 season.

    Now, if you want to talk about the single-season doubles record, that's another story.

    Because that's just one of the 15 MLB single-season records that might be broken this year.

     

    *All statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs and are accurate through the start of play on Wednesday, May 29.

Modern Day Records vs. All-Time Records

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    Baseball history is a crazy thing.

    The game has gone through so many micro- and macro-evolutions over the past 142 years that we might as well not even consider a lot of the all-time single-season records. They'll never be broken.

    However, aside from periods of rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs and the addition of a handful of teams, baseball is pretty much the same today as it was when they lowered the pitching mounds following the 1968 season.

    On the following slides, you'll find both a modern-day record (since the start of 1969) and an all-time record.

    While some of the players certainly aren't on pace to break the all-time records, it's at least worth noting that they're on pace to do better (or worse) than anyone has in the past 44 years.

Most Times Hitting an Opposing Batter

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    Candidate: Doug Fister (11 HBP)

    Modern Day Record: 21 by Kerry Wood (2003) and Tom Murphy (1969)

    All-Time Record: 41 by Joe McGinnity in 1900

     

    Baseball was apparently not a friendly game during its formative decades. There were 33 individual seasons before 1910 in which a pitcher hit at least 24 opponents standing in the batter's box. No one has hit more than 23 batters in a season since then.

    Until now.

    The really bizarre thing about Doug Fister being a candidate for this award is that he has allowed the fifth-fewest number of walks among pitchers who have logged at least 60 innings this season. He has actually hit more batters than he has walked.

    You would think it would be someone with the ball control of a Carlos Marmol who would be gunning for this record, but it's the relatively mistake-free Fister who's on pace to shatter a 100-year-old record.

    And who knows, maybe he'll even approach the all-time record held by McGinnity. Assuming he makes 34 starts this season, he's on pace to hit more than 37 batters.

Most Times Hit by a Pitch

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    Candidate: Shin-Soo Choo (14 HBP)

    Modern Day Record: 50 by Ron Hunt in 1971

    All-Time Record: 51 by Hughie Jennings in 1896

     

    Technically, Choo is only on pace for 44 bean balls, so those records might be a bit out of reach.

    However, no one has been hit by more than 35 pitches in a season since Hunt hit the half-century mark 42 years ago. Choo may not be destined for all-time greatness, but it certainly looks like he's headed for more circular bruises than anyone who has played in my lifetime.

    Over the past four seasons, Choo has averaged 12 plunks per year. He's hardly limping to first at the same rate as Carlos Quentin (18.75 HBP per year) or Chase Utley (17), but this isn't exactly uncharted waters for him, either.

    Choo likes to crowd the plate. Whether it is poor reflexes or a burning desire to get on base by any means necessary, it isn't his instinct to get out of the way of an inside fastball. If anything, he appears to turn into the contact.

    And no, unfortunately the Reds do not face the Tigers this season, so we won't get to see Fister vs. Choo as both guys chase an antiquated HBP record.

Lowest ERA

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    Candidate: Clayton Kershaw (1.68 ERA)

    Modern Day Record: 1.53 by Dwight Gooden in 1985

    All-Time Record: 0.96 by Dutch Leonard in 1914

     

    I'm a pretty big proponent of the law of averages, regression to the mean and all that math jazz.

    But there are always anomalies.

    No matter how many standard deviations you travel from the apex of your normal distribution bell curve, there will always be some outliers. And if we're ever going to flip a coin and have it land on heads 100 consecutive times, Clayton Kershaw's the guy to do it.

    There are 608 starting pitchers who have logged at least 1,000 innings pitched in the past 75 years. Among the names on that list are Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson, Jim Palmer, Whitey Ford and probably two dozen other guys already in the Hall of Fame.

    None of them have a better career ERA than Clayton Kershaw.

    I highly doubt he'll finish the season with an ERA below 1.53. But I would much sooner put my money on him doing it than on Clay Buchholz or Patrick Corbin.

Most Strikeouts Per 9 IP

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    Candidate: Yu Darvish (12.71 K/9)

    Modern Day Record: 13.41 by Randy Johnson in 2001

    All-Time Record: 13.41 by Randy Johnson in 2001

     

    When you start a conversation about the greatest pitchers of the past 30 years, names like Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez are probably the first that come to mind. But you can't possibly argue anyone was ever better than Randy Johnson was from the time he left Seattle in 1998 through the end of the 2002 season.

    During that span of time, Johnson made 150 starts. He had 35 complete games, 15 of which were shutouts. He recorded 1,533 strikeouts in 1,114.1 innings of work for an insane K/9 of 12.38. As a point of comparison, the highest K/9 by a pitcher with at least 800 innings pitched from 2008 through 2012 was Tim Lincecum's 9.84.

    Just in terms of strikeouts, four-plus years of Randy Johnson was 26 percent better than five years of someone who won two Cy Young Awards in those five years. Johnson has six of the 10 greatest individual seasons in MLB history when it comes to K/9.

    Yet, Yu Darvish has a shot at breaking a record that the immortal Randy Johnson set.

    In three of his 11 starts, Darvish has struck out 14 batters. (No, all three of those starts weren't against the Houston Astros.) It doesn't matter who steps into the batter's box, Darvish is mowing them down.

    Unfortunately, with a stat such as K/9, one bad start can completely undo three or four great ones, so he'll have to stay at the top of his game for another 23 or so consecutive starts. I don't see any reason to doubt he can pull that off, but it bears mentioning.

Most Strikeouts by a Starting Rotation

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    Candidate: Detroit Tigers (333 K)

    Modern Day Record: 992 by the 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks

    All-Time Record: 992 by the 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks

     

    The crazy thing about having this record set by the Diamondbacks is that they basically did so with just two guys. Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling were amazing in 2002. The rest of the rotation was completely forgettable.

    Meanwhile, all five guys in 2013 are playing a significant role in the Tigers' quest for history. Even Rick Porcello's numbers look pretty good after Tuesday night's 11-strikeout game against the Pirates.

    Through 50 games, they're currently on pace to finish the season with 1,079 strikeouts.

Most Strikeouts by a Batter

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    Candidates: Chris Carter (75 K in 196 PA) and Mike Napoli (74 K in 222 PA)

    Modern Day Record: 223 by Mark Reynolds in 2009

    All-Time Record: 223 by Mark Reynolds in 2009

     

    As an entire league, MLB is on pace to set a strikeout record for a sixth consecutive season.

    So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that two guys are on pace to break an individual strikeout record set by Mark Reynolds four years ago and nearly broken last year by Adam Dunn.

    Both Chris Carter and Mike Napoli have been fairly whiffy throughout their careers, but this is the first time that either is in a position on the field or in a position within the organization to actually have the opportunity to swing and miss on a daily basis.

    The smart money is on Carter breaking the record. He could strike out 23 consecutive times, but the Astros won't take him out of the lineup since the next best option behind him is playing a man down and just taking an automatic out when the ninth spot comes up in the batting order.

    Actually, they could totally go with Carlos Pena at first base, Carlos Corporan at catcher and Jason Castro at DH, with an outfield of Brandon Barnes, J.D. Martinez and Jimmy Paredes. However, it's more fun to pretend that Carter is going to get 600 plate appearances no matter how poorly he performs.

    (If you've ever heard of any of those names aside from Carlos Pena, you have my sympathy for being an Astros fan.)

Most Doubles

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    Candidate: Manny Machado (23 doubles)

    Modern Day Record: 59 by Todd Helton in 2000

    All-Time Record: 67 by Earl Webb in 1931

     

    Based on the number of games the Orioles have played, Manny Machado is currently on pace to finish the season with 71.7 doubles.

    I'll be particularly intrigued to see how he gets the 0.7 portion of that projection, but I wouldn't put anything past Machado given the incredible season he's having.

    He's so good that he's on pace to break a record that no well-adjusted human being knew about until the stat junkies told you he was on pace to break it.

    That's a sign of true greatness.

Most Times Grounding into a Double Play

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    Candidates: Michael Young (12 GIDP) and Albert Pujols (11)

    Modern Day Record: 36 by Jim Rice in 1984

    All-Time Record: 36 by Jim Rice in 1984

     

    In my opinion, this record is both the most likely to be broken and the least likely to be noticed.

    Albert Pujols is already 24th on the list of most times grounding into a double play in a career, having done so 262 times. And now he's playing with all sorts of foot and leg problems that might prevent him from beating out what once would have been a close play.

    Michael Young isn't too far behind Pujols with 227 GIDPs (or, as I like to call them, giddy ups).

    Young isn't so young anymore. He's 36 years old, and the likely candidates to get on base in front of him aren't exactly spring chickens either. Of the 75 times he's come to the plate with runners on base, 16 percent have ended with two more outs than when he left the on-deck circle.

Fewest Triples in a Season

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    Current Total: 243 triples

    Modern Day Record: 746 triples in 1972

    Note: The 1981 season (659 triples) and 1994 season (702 triples) were strike-shortened seasons.

     

    First and foremost, let's point out that 1972 was a 154-game season between 24 teams. If we extrapolate the number of triples per game to the current 162-game season for 30 teams, that number would actually be 981, so this is one of those silly records that shouldn't ever be broken.

    Yet, we're just barely on pace to pass that non-extrapolated number with a current projection of 757 triples in 2013. To put that number into a different, more relevant context, there were 866 triples in 2010, 898 in 2011 and 927 last year.

    How in the world did we go from a year-over-year increase to a projected 18 percent decrease this year?

    Well, it's simple, really. The guys who were hitting triples aren't doing it anymore.

    Over the past five seasons, the 12 most frequent triples hitters combined to average 99.2 triples per season. Through one-third of the 2013 season, those 12 guys are only on pace for 37 triples this year.

    Age and injury have played a key role in that drop. Jose Reyes had 59 triples over the past five years, but he failed to manage one before suffering an ankle injury that still has him sidelined. Shane Victorino isn't as speedy as he used to be. Curtis Granderson had 42 triples, but he has played just eight games this season between trips to the disabled list with broken bones.

    Also, the improvement of the Cubs' and Rockies' pitching staffs has contributed to the decline. Last season, those two teams combined to allow 96 triples. This year they're on pace for less than half of that.

    Unless Mike Trout and Jean Segura can really shoulder the load, we could be headed for a historically futile season of three-baggers.

Most Home Runs Allowed

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    Candidate: Jeremy Guthrie (15 home runs allowed)

    Modern Day Record: 50 by Burt Blyleven in 1986

    All-Time Record: 50 by Burt Blyleven in 1986

     

    In two starts against the Chicago White Sox, Jeremy Guthrie has allowed one earned run in 15 innings of work with 12 strikeouts against just two walks. Unfortunately, he doesn't get to pitch all his games against the South Siders.

    In his eight starts against the rest of the league, Guthrie has allowed 15 home runs and is averaging just 2.5 strikeouts per game. His three most recent games have been particularly dreadful, giving up eight home runs, allowing seven walks and only recording four strikeouts.

    On the whole, he's allowing 1.5 home runs per start, which equates to 49.5 home runs if he makes 33 starts this season. Burt Blyleven will no doubt be hoping that he does.

Most Holds and Saves

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    Candidates: Mark Melancon (18 holds); Jason Grilli (21 saves)

    Modern Day Records: 40 holds by Luke Gregerson in 2010; 62 saves by Francisco Rodriguez in 2008

    All-Time Records: 40 holds by Luke Gregerson in 2010; 62 saves by Francisco Rodriguez in 2008

     

    Holds didn't become an official stat until 2002, and saves didn't become a one-inning specialty job until the late 1980s, so these aren't quite ancient records that are in jeopardy of being broken.

    Still, there's something pretty special going on in the Pittsburgh bullpen.

    With the departure of Joel Hanrahan and the potential continued improvement of the Pirates on the whole, you might have been able to foresee a quality season from Jason Grilli. In the setup role in 2012, he had a 13.81 K/9 and a sub-3.00 ERA.

    Having 21 saves in 21 chances is better than anyone could have expected, though. That puts him on pace for 65.4 saves and an almost-certain playoff appearance for the Pirates.

    If you expect me to believe that you knew Mark Melancon would have a season this good, you're out of your mind. Just last season he had a 6.20 ERA, giving up at least one earned run in 14 of his 41 appearances, including three four-run outings and a particularly hideous six-run, zero-out appearance in late April.

    Yet, he has an ERA below 1.00 in 2013 and is on pace to not only break the record for holds but break it by 16.

Most Blown Saves by an Individual

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    Candidate: Fernando Rodney (five blown saves)

    Modern Day Record: 13 by Bob Stanley (1983), Ron Davis (1984) and Jeff Reardon (1986)

    All-Time Record: 13 by Bob Stanley (1983), Ron Davis (1984) and Jeff Reardon (1986)

     

    Count me among the masses who were fleeced by Fernando Rodney's impeccable 2012 campaign.

    After wishing he had been on my team while he was busy recording 48 saves with a 0.60 ERA, I drafted Rodney instead of Rafael Soriano to be my primary closer in my fantasy league this season.

    Not a day has gone by that I don't regret that decision.

    Rodney has been terrible. Given his numbers from 2007-2011, this shouldn't come as a surprise.

    If he doesn't break the record, it's only because Joe Maddon eventually comes to his senses and puts Joel Peralta in the closer's role.

Most Blown Saves by a Team

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    Candidate: Baltimore Orioles (12 blown saves)

    Modern Day Record: 34 by the 2004 Colorado Rockies

    and All-Time Record: 34 by the 2004 Colorado Rockies

     

    No lead is safe this year—which is weird, since strikeouts are at an all-time high and the league batting average is the lowest it has been since before 1975.

    Less than a month ago, I was praising Jim Johnson's name as one of the best closers in baseball. Now we're left wondering where it all went wrong so fast for Baltimore.

    I suppose it's the nature of the law-of-averages beast to blow more than a few saves just one year after going 29-9 in one-run games.

Most Sacrifice Flies

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    Candidate: Brandon Phillips (six sacrifice flies)

    Modern Day Record: 18 by Andre Dawson in 1983

    All-Time Record: 19 by Gil Hodges in 1954

     

    If this isn't the most boring individual record in all of baseball, it's definitely in the top five.

    With OBP machines Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto batting in front of him, Brandon Phillips should be in great shape to cash in on fly balls all season.

    He's already had 70 plate appearances this season with men in scoring position, and 68 of his 226 plate appearances have resulted in a fly ball, while only 33 have ended with a strikeout.

    Chances are, he's going to put the bat on the ball and put the ball in the air. It's just a matter of making sure there's a man on third base with less than two outs.

Most Runs Batted In

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    Candidate: Miguel Cabrera (57 RBI)

    Modern Day Record: 165 by Manny Ramirez in 1999

    All-Time Record: 191 by Hack Wilson in 1930

     

    You had to know Miguel Cabrera would show up somewhere on this list, whether it was for RBI or batting average.

    Cabrera's current rate of 57 RBI in 50 games puts him on track for 185 RBI. That doesn't quite give him the all-time record, but it's a heck of a lot better than anyone else has done in the past 44 years.

    I still believe he can break Wilson's record. With guys like Omar Infante and Torii Hunter regularly getting on base in front of him, and Prince Fielder batting behind him, we're talking about the best hitter in baseball having probably the most RBI opportunities of anyone.

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