MLB Records That Could Fall During the Rest of the 2014 Season
With just over three quarters of the MLB season complete, it is a good time to take a look at some records that are on the verge of being broken during the rest of the 2014 campaign.
True, the marks we are going to discuss don’t necessarily carry legendary weight. No one is on the precipice of breaking Barry Bonds’ single-season home run record, for example, or of topping the 233 strikeouts Mark Reynolds amassed in 2009.
These will be a bit more obscure.
Some are MLB records, and others are franchise specific. Some of them are achievements that a player will be happy to be remembered for, while others speak to the changing landscape of professional baseball.
Here are seven records that could fall during the rest of the 2014 season.
Colorado Rockies: Total Number of Starting Pitchers Used in a Season
The 2014 season for the Colorado Rockies started so well.
Troy Tulowitzki and Charlie Blackmon led the offense as the club got off to a 23-16 start and held a spot in first place in the NL West on May 10. After that, unfortunately, things started to unravel.
Injuries beset the lineup, and the offense never recovered. Meanwhile, the rotation lost four starting pitchers—Brett Anderson, Tyler Chatwood, Christian Bergman and Jhoulys Chacin—to injury.
When reliever Matt Belisle took the mound against the Cincinnati Reds last week, he became the 15th different starting pitcher Rockies manager Walt Weiss had used, which tied "the franchise record set in the team’s inaugural season," per Michael Kelly of The Associated Press (via The Sacramento Bee).
With September call-ups looming, this is a record that is guaranteed to be broken. And considering that general manager Dan O’Dowd spent considerable energies creating depth in the rotation this past offseason, the turn of events is unfortunate.
MLB Record for Seasons with 200-Plus Innings Pitched and Fewer Than 61 Walks
Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle is a pillar of longevity and efficiency. He hasn’t missed a start in 14 years, regularly finishes games in well under three hours and throws the ball over the plate.
It is that combination that has him on the brink of history.
See, Buehrle is on the verge of breaking a record he shares (subscription required) with Hall of Fame right-hander Greg Maddux—13 seasons of 200-plus innings pitched and 61 walks or fewer. Make no mistake, it is an impressive accomplishment.
With roughly seven starts left this season, Buehrle (11-8, 3.38 ERA) will need to log 45.1 innings and limit his base on balls to 21. If he does that, he will become MLB’s only pitcher to achieve a record that requires time and precision.
Clayton Kershaw and the 'Rule of Two'
In 1913, Walter Johnson had perhaps the most dominant season in MLB history. In it, he went 36-7 with a 1.14 ERA, 1.90 FIP and 243 strikeouts in 346.0 innings pitched. He was sensational.
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw could best him this year.
Before moving forward, let's set some parameters. What’s required here is that a starting pitcher throw at least 200 innings, amass 200 strikeouts and have both an ERA and a FIP under 2.00.
Call it the “rule of two.”
Using that criteria, there are 21 single-season performances (subscription required) that make the grade. Of them, Johnson tops the list with an .837 winning percentage—and that is where Kershaw comes in. Not only is he on pace to be the first pitcher to have a season worthy of inclusion since Tom Seaver did it in 1971, but he has the chance to best Johnson’s single-season winning percentage.
Currently, he is 15-3 (.833) with a 1.82 ERA, 1.84 FIP and 184 strikeouts in 153.1 innings pitched. There is little doubt he will reach 200 strikeouts and 200 innings pitched. And if he continues to throw the ball the way he has been, he will keep his ERA and FIP in line.
Just a few more wins and the title is Kershaw's.
MLB Record for Highest Fielding Percentage in MLB History
It is widely known that the Baltimore Orioles set the bar when it comes to team fielding last season.
After all, they finished with an MLB-record .991 fielding percentage and had three Rawlings Gold Glove winners in the form of center fielder Adam Jones, third baseman Manny Machado and shortstop J.J. Hardy.
They were good, but records are made to be broken—sometimes the very next year.
As it stands, the Orioles are in a position to best their record this season, but the Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners are right with them. Going into action Friday each team had a .988 fielding percentage, per splits over at ESPN.com.
More will be revealed, of course, but there is a good chance that this record falls. Who will hold it is the only question.
San Diego Padres: Offensive Futility
The San Diego Padres are a bad offensive club. Simply put, they have struggled in almost every facet at the plate, leading to a disappointing 59-67 record entering play Thursday.
More specifically, though, they are on the verge of setting the franchise mark for offensive futility.
To be clear, they have already avoided the ignominy of the record for fewest runs scored (463) in a 162-game season, set by the Chicago White Sox in 1968, and are slugging a surprising .348, good for 11th-worst in team history. So, on the bright side, they have that going for them.
What we are talking about is getting on base.
The Padres are within percentage points of setting the franchise record for lowest batting average (.225 in 1969) and OBP (.283 in 1972). Currently, the lineup has a combined .227 batting average and an OBP of .290. Not good.
And just consider how much worse things would be were it not for the season Seth Smith (.296/.393/.501, 12 HR, 40 RBI) is having. He is the only regular with a batting average over .245 and an OBP north of .305.
To be sure, it is going to take a slump of significant proportions to set the mark for OBP, but it isn’t going to take much to set the (ahem) record for lowest batting average in club history.
MLB Record for Total Strikeouts in a Season
A staggering 36,710 batters struck out in 2013, setting a major league record. It is a mark that could be short-lived.
Per splits over at Baseball-Reference, the average number or strikeouts per game this year is 7.71, meaning that 29,294 have been recorded in the 3,800 games played to this point. And if the current rate holds true, the total at the end of the 2014 season will top 37,000, setting a new mark.
There are reasons for the rise in strikeouts, of course.
At the top of the list is that pitchers are throwing harder than ever. To that effect, Travis Sawchik from TribLive.com noted “Last season, the average fastball reached 92.0 mph,” and “the competitive balance” has shifted “in favor of pitchers.” In essence, hitting has not kept up with the increase in velocity.
There is more, though.
Four-seam fastballs up in the zone have become more commonplace as a way to set up off-speed stuff. There is also the concept of effective velocity that was detailed by SB Nation’s Jason Turbow back in June.
One thing seems certain: Strikeout rates have gone up each of the last five seasons and aren’t going down anytime soon. This could be a record that is broken yet again next year.
MLB Record for Lowest Expansion Era WHIP
The dramatic rise in strikeouts and improved fielding previously discussed has put another record in jeopardy—lowest WHIP in an MLB season in the expansion era.
As of game time Friday, pitching staffs across the game had put together a cumulative 1.281 WHIP, which is a slight improvement over the 1.300 WHIP they compiled in 2013, according to Baseball-Reference.
The impact all of this has on run production is tangible. In fact, statistics over at Baseball-Reference also show that MLB’s current average of 4.09 runs per game is the lowest total since 1981.
So for as dominant as some of the game’s elite hitters are, it is pitching that is ruling the day.