Touch 'Em All: Power Ranking the Top 12 Milestones Likely to Fall in 2011
The Grapefruit and Cactus leagues are (thankfully) underway, but as much as this development is a wonderful harbinger of spring, I’m having trouble getting myself too worked up about the standings. Having said that, some congrats are due to those Grapefruit League-leading Baltimore Orioles and Cactus League-leading Milwaukee Brewers and Kansas City Royals. Maybe that Zack Greinke deal was a win-win after all.
And perhaps I’m just feeling sour and prickly about not being in Florida or Arizona right now. It also seems that whenever one of those spring training games is televised, I always seem to be tied up.
So, on to the regular season, and a look at some individual milestones that may be reached this year. One of the many charms of baseball is that it is uniquely a game of individual numbers, and quite a few players are poised to hit some of those numbers this year.
In this article, I have favored the round numbers—i.e., 500 home runs or 3,000 hits—over the ranking, although both the career and active leaders in all featured categories have been provided.
Without any further adieu, let’s step up to the plate and enjoy this trip around the bases.
12. Livan Hernandez: 50 Complete Games
Allow me three disclaimers right off the bat—or the mound, if you prefer.
1) That's not Hernandez pictured: That's the immortal Cy Young, who is the career leader with 749 complete games.
2) I'm not implying that Hernandez is as old as Cy, although his older brother, El Duque...
3) Hernandez actually ranks second among active hurlers with 49, which places him nine behind active leader Roy Halladay.
By the way, Halladay ranks 724th all-time—of course, it's a different ballgame now.
11. Tim Wakefield: 200 Wins
That shot of Wakefield fluttering his version of the knucksie makes me want to grab a bat and—make a fool of myself.
Wakefield, presently at 193 wins, may not get enough decisions in 2011 to hit this milestone. He is projected to be a long reliever for the Boston Red Sox.
Only 110 pitchers in MLB history have achieved this mark. It's not an exclusive club, but it's also no mean feat.
Career Leader: Cy Young: 511
Active Leader: Jamie Moyer: 267 (He did win nine games last year)
10. Ichiro: 400 Stolen Bases
The amazing Ichiro needs only 17 stolen bases to hit 400—only 69 other players have reached this plateau.
By the way, Johnny Damon (of the Tampa Bay Rays—can it be?) needs only 15, but he only swiped 11 last year.
Career Leader: Rickey Henderson: 1,406
Active Leader: Juan Pierre: 527
A special nod goes to Omar Vizquel, who swiped 11 bases last year to reach 400. He turns 44 on April 24.
9. Chipper Jones: 1,500 RBI
Chipper Jones shares a birthday with Vizquel (though he's only turning 39) and is only nine ribbies short of 1,500.
If healthy, Chipper should become the 51st player in MLB history to drive in 1,500 runs, and do so in April. He may even do so before he turns 39.
Career Leader: Hank Aaron: 2,297
Active Leader: Alex Rodriguez: 1,831
8. Livan Hernandez: 3,000 Innings Pitched
I did not intend to throw so much love Livan's way, but he's had a pretty decent career, even if he's no Hall of Famer.
With 2,946.1 innings in the bank, Hernandez is a cinch to join 131 other pitchers in the 3,000 club.
Livan has pitched more than 200 innings in nine different seasons, including 2010 (those washboard abs must be the reason why).
Career Leader: Cy Young: 7,356
Active Leader: Jamie Moyer: 4,020.1
7. Albert Pujols: 250 Intentional Bases on Balls
So, would you pitch to him with a base open?
I may not pitch to him with the bases closed.
If Pujols is intentionally walked at least 14 times this year, he will be only the fourth player in MLB history to have been given a free pass 250 times. Perhaps there should be an asterisk here, as this is a modern stat, but that should not detract from the high esteem in which Albert is held.
Career Leader: Barry Bonds: 688 (Hank Aaron is in second place with 293.)
Active Leader: Vladimir Guerrero: 247
Would it be improper to point out that the majority of Bonds' IBBs came during an era where his head was five times bigger than the strike zone? But yes, the man could flat-out hit.
6. Alex Rodriguez: 1,800 Runs Scored
Loathe him or tolerate him, A-Rod has put up some astonishing numbers during his career, and he does not turn 36 until midseason.
Rodriguez needs only 43 more runs to become the 17th player to score 1,800 runs.
All of those above him are in the Hall of Fame, except for Pete Rose (another debate) and Craig Biggio (too soon).
Career Leader: Rickey Henderson: 2,295
Active Leader: A-Rod: 1,757
5. Mariano Rivera: 600 Saves
This one will be an interesting one to watch.
Rivera is second on the all-time saves list with 559.
Mo needs 41 to reach 600, and the ageless one did close out 44 games successfully in 2009 (but only 33 last season.)
Trevor Hoffman is the leader in the clubhouse with 601, so 43 saves gives Rivera the undisputed lead.
New York Yankees fans would love to see him do so.
Admittedly, this Philadelphia Phillies fan would like to see him do so as well, even if I won't root for him in the postseason.
Career Leader: Trevor Hoffman: 601
Active Leader: Mariano Rivera: 559
4. Ivan Rodriguez: 2,500 Games Played
Wow, Pudge has been playing for a long time, and quite well at that.
The future Hall of Famer, at 2,499 games played, will join 51 other players at 2,500 games played on Opening Day. Pretty cool feat for a 39-year-old receiver who still caught 102 games last year.
Interestingly, Pudge Rodriguez is tied with, um, Pudge (Carlton) Fisk at 2,499 games played, the most for any catcher all-time. (I realize that they both also saw some action as a DH.)
Hopefully, when I-Rod gets inducted into Cooperstown, Fisk won't be blocking his path to the podium.
Career Leader: Pete Rose: 3,562
Active Leader: Omar Vizquel: 2,850
(Gee, Vizquel's name turns up a lot, and we haven't even talked about his all-world defense. Is Omar a Hall of Famer in your eyes?)
3. Jim Thome: 600 HRs
With just 11 more dingers, Thome enters the 600 home run club, a club that—steroid era and all—is still pretty exclusive.
There are only seven other major leaguers who have earned 600 leisurely trots around the diamond in regular season games, and it should be noted that Thome is looked upon by most baseball fans as untainted.
Is he considered by most to be an all-time great? No.
Has he put up some all-time great numbers? Yes.
Career Leader: Barry Bonds: 762
Active Leader: Alex Rodriguez: 613
2. Mariano Rivera: 1,000 Games Pitched
The greatest closer of all-time (by consensus) is also climbing the leaderboard in total appearances.
Currently, Mo is in 17th place with 978 games—if he matches his 2010 mark of 61, he vaults into ninth place. He only needs 22 more appearances to hit 1,000.
Unlike some other categories, this number alone does not assure a pitcher a place in Cooperstown.
Journeymen like Michael Jackson, Roberto Hernandez, Todd Jones and Jose Mesa have all amassed 1,000 games—none of them were half as good as Rivera, nor was the career leader in this category (listed below).
Career Leader: Jesse Orosco: 1,251
Active Leader: Stephen Strasburg: 12 (This is supposed to be fun.)
1. Derek Jeter: 3,000 Hits
The Yankees' captain only needs 72 more hits to become the 28th member of the 3,000 hit club.
Last year, in an off-year by his standards, he still (mostly) inside-outed 179 base hits, tying a career-low for a full season. If he matches that total in 2011, he'll arrive at 3,105 hits—good for 20th place.
Jeter could very well finish his career in the top five or so in total hits.
So, there you have it—12 milestones that are likely to be reached this year, regardless of what's happening in the next few weeks of Grapefruit and Cactus League play.
If you have any thoughts on this article (any omissions, other comments), please record them below.
Please also take a look at the Top 10 Likely Dubious Milestones of 2011:
For more information on Matt Goldberg’s new books, other writings and appearances, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact him privately via his Bleacher Report page.