Rookie HR Record, 300 K's and More Milestone Chases the Rest of 2017
The 2017 MLB season has already given us a handful of notable milestones.
Albert Pujols joined the 600-homer club in June, Adrian Beltre all but punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame with hit No. 3,000 in July and the Los Angeles Dodgers have been historically good over the past few months.
What milestones and records might we see achieved the rest of the way?
Ahead is a quick rundown of what to watch for over the regular season's final two months.
Kansas City Royals HR Record: 36
Record Holder: Steve Balboni, 1985
Challenger: Mike Moustakas (current: 32; pace: 45)
The Kansas City Royals are the only team in baseball that has never had a player produce a 40-homer season.
Steve Balboni still holds the single-season franchise record with the 36 he slugged back in 1985, a total that didn't even pace the AL that season, as Darrell Evans (40) and Carlton Fisk (37) both hit more.
"It is surprising, the way people have been hitting home runs in the years since I retired," Balboni told Pete Grathoff of the Kansas City Star in 2013. "It does seem unusual that 36 is still the record."
It doesn't look like that record will survive the 2017 season, though.
Mike Moustakas surpassed his previous career high of 22 homers by the All-Star break, and he's on pace to best Balboni's record by nine. Free agency awaits in the offseason, so he picked the perfect time for a power surge.
Colorado Rockies Save Record: 41
Record Holder: Jose Jimenez, 2002
Challenger: Greg Holland (current: 34; pace: 48)
The Colorado Rockies rolled the dice on a one-year, $6 million deal for Greg Holland in free agency, hoping he could return to the All-Star form he had prior to Tommy John surgery.
He's done just that, leading the majors with 34 saves in 37 chances to go along with a 2.79 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 11.6 K/9.
Save total is as much about opportunity as it is about execution, so credit a contending Rockies team for putting Holland in a prime position to set a new franchise record for saves.
Miami Marlins HR Record: 42
Record Holder: Gary Sheffield, 1996
Challenger: Giancarlo Stanton (current: 39; pace: 56)
Giancarlo Stanton is already the Miami Marlins' franchise leader in career home runs (247), RBI (625), total bases (1,861) and WAR (31.9).
He'll almost certainly add single-season home run leader to that list before August is over.
Stanton leads the majors this year with 39 long balls. That's already good for the second-highest total in franchise history, trailing only Gary Sheffield, who hit 42 in 1996.
Those 39 homers represent a new career high for Stanton, who previously hit 37 twice.
Houston Astros BA Record: .368
Record Holder: Jeff Bagwell, 1994
Challenger: Jose Altuve (current: .365)
Jeff Bagwell set the Houston Astros franchise record when he hit .368 over 479 plate appearances during the strike-shortened 1994 season.
Jose Altuve has made a run at that record en route to winning a pair of AL batting titles with averages of .341 in 2014 and .338 in 2016, and he's taken things up a notch this year.
A ridiculous .485/.523/.727 line over 107 plate appearances in July gave his average a major shot in the arm. With his contact skills and plus speed, a .370 average is well within reach.
Leaguewide MLB Single-Season Home Run Record
Record: 5,693 in 2000
Current Total: 4,306
Current Pace: 6,119
It's no secret balls are flying out of the yard this season.
Amid stories of juiced baseballs, 59 players have already reached the 20-homer mark, including the likes of Marwin Gonzalez, Trey Mancini, Matt Davidson, Yonder Alonso, Scott Schebler and Justin Smoak.
In total, 4,306 big flies have been hit so far this year, putting the league on pace to shatter the previous mark of 5,693, hit back in 2000.
Here's a look at how things have been trending over the past five seasons:
- 2012: 4,934
- 2013: 4,661
- 2014: 4,186
- 2015: 4,909
- 2016: 5,610
It hasn't been a steady progression to where we are today, as last year saw a jump of over 700 home runs, but we're still headed for uncharted territory.
Single-Season MLB Strikeout Record (Hitter): Miguel Sano and Others
Record Holder: Mark Reynolds, 2009
Challenger: Miguel Sano (current: 154; pace: 221)
Challenger: Aaron Judge (current: 149; pace: 214)
Challenger: Khris Davis (current: 149; pace: 210)
Home runs may be trending upward around the league, but so too are strikeouts as hitters continue to adopt an all-or-nothing approach.
Here's a look at how things have been trending in the strikeout department:
- 2012: 36,426
- 2013: 36,710
- 2014: 37,441
- 2015: 37,446
- 2016: 38,982
- 2017 (Pace): 40,029
Miguel Sano, Aaron Judge and Khris Davis are all on pace to surpass the 200-strikeout mark—something that's only been done nine times in MLB history.
Three of those seasons belong to Mark Reynolds, including the record of 223, which could be in jeopardy if Sano slumps down the stretch.
The Battle to Avoid 20 Losses
Last 20-Loss Season: Mike Maroth, 2003
Challenger: Rick Porcello (current: 14; pace: 20)
Rick Porcello looked like a prime candidate for regression after going 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA and 1.01 WHIP last season to claim AL Cy Young honors.
However, no one predicted he'd make a run at 20 losses.
Porcello hasn't been nearly as good this season with a 4.63 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, but his 6-14 record over 24 starts is still surprising.
Consider that the last pitcher to lose 20 games was Mike Maroth as part of a 119-loss Detroit Tigers team in 2003.
Meanwhile, this year's Boston Red Sox sport a .570 winning percentage atop the AL East standings, putting them on pace to win 92 games.
Porcello should get about nine more starts the rest of the way as long as he stays healthy, which puts him on pace for exactly 20 losses.
The Race to 300 Strikeouts
Last 300-Strikeout Season: Clayton Kershaw, 2015
Challenger: Chris Sale (current: 229; pace: 325)
Challenger: Max Scherzer (current: 210; pace: 301)
When Clayton Kershaw eclipsed the 300-strikeout mark during the 2015 season, it was the first time since 2002 that a pitcher had reached that milestone.
All told, there have been 65 such seasons, but it's become a far bigger accomplishment in the age of pitch counts and deep bullpens.
A whopping 31 of those seasons came prior to 1900, at the height of the dead-ball era, and all but 12 occurred before the 1990 season.
Put another way, if your name isn't Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez or Clayton Kershaw, you haven't reached 300 strikeouts in the past 30 years.
However, the 2017 season could give us a pair of 300-strikeout performers if Chris Sale and Max Scherzer continue at their respective paces.
It's also worth noting the single-season franchise records for the Red Sox (313) and Washington Nationals (305)—both held by Pedro Martinez—could fall if both pitchers finish strong.
Single-Season MLB BAA Record: Max Scherzer
Record Holder: Pedro Martinez, 2000
Challenger: Max Scherzer (current: .170)
A chance at 300 strikeouts is not the only thing Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer will be chasing the rest of the way.
The 33-year-old also has the opportunity to take down the all-time record for lowest opponents' batting average by a pitcher who qualifies for the ERA title.
That record belongs to Pedro Martinez, who held hitters to a .167 clip in 2000 in one of the most dominant pitching seasons in baseball history.
He finished that season at 18-6 with a 1.74 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and 284 strikeouts en route to his third Cy Young Award in four years.
The average fan might not appreciate how dominant Scherzer has been this season. As long as he doesn't hit a rough patch over the final two months, he should add a third Cy Young Award of his own.
MLB Rookie Home Run Record: Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger
Record Holder: Mark McGwire, 1987
Challenger: Aaron Judge (current: 35; pace: 50)
Challenger: Cody Bellinger (current: 33; pace: 47)
It's not supposed to be this easy.
New York Yankees phenom Aaron Judge has taken the league by storm with his light-tower power, slugging 35 home runs and setting a new franchise rookie record in the process.
Not to be outdone, slugger Cody Bellinger has launched 33 homers of his own for the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers, leaving him two short of the 35 hit by Mike Piazza when he took home NL Rookie of the Year honors in 1993.
However, both players have their sights set on more than their respective franchises' rookie records, as they're no doubt eyeing the MLB rookie record of 49, set by Mark McGwire during the 1987 season.
Since that record was established, Albert Pujols (37, 2001) and Jose Abreu (36, 2014) have come the closest to taking it down.
At the very least, Judge and Bellinger look like safe bets to become just the second and third MLB rookies to reach 40 homers.
MLB Team Wins Record: Los Angeles Dodgers
Record Holders: 1906 Chicago Cubs, 2001 Seattle Mariners
Challenger: Dodgers (current: 81; pace: 115)
Just how good are the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers?
With a .711 winning percentage, they're on pace for 115 wins, which would leave them one victory short of the single-season record.
However, that overall winning percentage might not be the best judge for how they'll perform the rest of the way.
Since getting off to an unspectacular 22-18 start, they've been nearly unstoppable, going 59-15 over their past 74 games.
That equates to a .797 winning percentage. If they can maintain that level of play the rest of the way, they'd go 38-10 over their final 48 games for a 119-43 record.
With the NL West title and home-field advantage essentially already in the bag, a chance to be the winningest team in MLB history should give the Dodgers plenty to play for in September.