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MLB: Power Ranking the Top 10 Likely Dubious Milestones of 2011

Matt GoldbergCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2011

MLB: Power Ranking the Top 10 Likely Dubious Milestones of 2011

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    Baseball is a game of numbers and milestones, be they admirable achievements or regrettable results.

    Earlier today, I posted a piece that ranked the top 12 milestones likely to be reached in 2011. All of the featured players and their fans should be proud of these accomplishments that speak to their excellence over the course of their careers (http://bleacherreport.com/slideshow/627753/new).

    On the other side of the diamond, if you will, is this companion piece which features 10 more dubious milestones that are also likely to be reached in 2011.

    Granted, there are several very good players on this slideshow, at least a couple of whom are strong candidates for Cooperstown. That makes sense as one has to be a good batter to keep fanning at historic proportions, or a better-than-average pitcher to have the opportunity to uncork a ton of wild pitches or lose a bunch of ballgames.

    The beauty of baseball is that the best players (and, in fairness, not all of these guys are great, except compared to me and you) learn to come to grips with their failures because baseball puts a premium on a positive attitudes and great resiliency.

    Please join me on this slightly treacherous jog around the diamond in the following players’ honor.

10. Ivan Rodriguez: 350 GIDPs

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    Ivan Rodriguez is a future Hall of Famer who always ran well for a catcher,

    However, he's getting older and slower, he hits the ball sharply and he does not fan too often.

    This makes Pudge a good candidate to at least tie all-time leader Cal Ripken with 350 GIDPs. In only 398 at-bats last year, Pudge grounded into 25 of these rally-killers.

    Not to worry, as a majority of the top 20 in this category are also in Cooperstown.

     

    Career leader: Cal Ripken (350)

    Active leader:  Ivan Rodriguez (331)

9. Chase Utley: 150 HBPs

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    Getting hit by a pitch is not a bad thing, as the player who does so often takes one for the team. Of course, it's much easier to watch a slightly-built gamer like Utley get drilled than to actually be the one getting plunked.

    Only 131 players in the history of MLB have been hit 150 times or more, and Utley (just 31) is already at 125. So he needs 25 more.

    In the last four years, Chase has been plunked 25, 27, 24 and 18 times. His 18 last year was impressive when you consider that he only played in 115 games.

    The 150 milestone is a very dubious one for Chase's teammates and fans. The guy is valuable in part because he plays the game with a never-give-an-inch mentality, but he is also way too valuable to the team to risk injury in this fashion.

    Utley is usually quick enough to get away with crowding the plate, but Phillies Nation hopes that he'll start to turn away from some of those projectiles.

     

    Modern career leader: Craig Biggio (285)

    Active leader: Jason Kendall (254)

     

    Ouch!

8. Javier Vazquez: 150 Losses

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    When you consider that Cy Young lost 316 games, 150 losses is not a monumental number.

    Of course, Cy Young won 511 games and he has a certain award named after him. He'd also be 143 years old today.

    Javier Vazquez is only 34 years old and he has only won 152 games.

    He is now working for his seventh different team and he seems to have much better stuff than your average 152-149, 4.26 ERA hurler.

    Just 163 other pitchers have been on the wrong end of 150 decisions, and only 45 have taken the leap (or descent) to 200 losses.

    Two hundred is well within Vazquez' career reach.

     

    Career leader: Cy Young (316)

    Active leader:  Jamie Moyer (204)

7. Miguel Tejada: 300 Total Errors

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Miggy (we think he's 36 years old) Tejada is a durable player who still has above-average range at shortstop. His glove? Good, not great.

    Tejada has a total of 277 bobbles and errant throws charged against him, and he seems to be within range of the 23 he needs. But not so fast: He only committed 18 miscues last year. Can he keep playing 150-plus games each year? We're not sure as that's a lot of games for a 36-year-old (we think) middle infielder.

    Technology being what it is, Miguel Tejada, the leader among active fielders, is nowhere close to the all-time leaders, many of whom played with gloves no bigger and with less padding than your average surgical glove.

    Career leader: Put it this way: In third place was a middle infielder named Jack Glasscock. His nickname, per baseball-reference.com, was "Pebbly Jack." And yes, he played during the deadball era. I'm kind of trying to avoid more puns. Oh yeah, Pebbly Jack Glasscock committed 1,049 errors (and you thought you had problems).

    Active leader: Miguel Tejada (277)



6. Tim Wakefield: 190 Hit Batters

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    Yes, Tim Wakefield has plunked 178 hitters in his fascinating, knuckleballing career.

    And yes, all but 175 of them complained of pain afterwards.

    Luckily for opposing hitters, he does not throw as hard as, say, the recently-retired Randy Johnson, who is tied for second all-time (in the modern era) with 190. Then again, Wake (ironically, in a couple of different ways) throws a dead ball himself.

    Timmy only hit five batters last year, but we're hoping he can target 12 more, if not 22, for an even 200. He's capable and I'm sure that guys like Jason Kendall and Chase Utley would be happy to oblige him.

     

    Career leader: Walter Johnson (205) (now, he threw some cheese)

    Active leader: Tim Wakefield (178)

5. Livan Hernandez: 1,500 Total Earned Runs

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Livan is as trim as your average slow-pitch softball catcher, but he is still firing away. He rarely, if ever, misses a turn.

    Apply his 4.39 career ERA to almost 3,000 career innings and you end up with a number approaching 1,500 earned runs.

    Hernandez had been charged with 1,437, so he should  be able to work in the needed 63 runs in his first 14 or 15 starts.

    And yes, our friend Tim Wakefield is at 1,494, but that's not even a challenge.

     

    Career leader: Cy Young (2,147)

    Active leader: Jamie Moyer (1,892) (will he pitch this year?)

4. A.J. Burnett: 100 Wild Pitches

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Is it just me or does A.J. Burnett look like Nuke LaLoosh (from Bull Durham) here?

    Burnett is not a bad pitcher, but how does a guy with his stuff have the kind of 2010 he had, and for a good team? Nuke, I mean A.J, was 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA and a league-leading 19 wild pitches last season. Just a horrid line.

    With his first errant offering of the season, Burnett will become the 103rd pitcher to uncork 100 wild pitches. And if he keeps struggling with his mental approach to the game, he'll soon be recklessly climbing  the all-time lists.

    Maybe if he wore a garter underneath his uniform...sorry for the word picture.

     

    Career leader:  Nolan Ryan (277)

    Active leader:  Tim Wakefield (119)

3. Juan Pierre: 200 Caught Stealing

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Juan Pierre, the will-o'-the-wisp, veteran left fielder, led the junior circuit with 68 stolen bases last year. He was only caught 18 times.

    It would seem to be a tall order to expect Pierre to get caught a career-high 27 times this year to reach 200. If he does do so, he will become only the fifth player in MLB history to get nabbed 200 times.

    On the bright side, Pierre may be a step slower this year, but if he increases his on-base percentage (he turned in a rather pedestrian .341 OBP last year) and takes more chances, you never know.

     

    Career leader:  Rickey Henderson (335)

    Active leader:   Juan Pierre (173)

2. Barry Zito: 1,000 Bases on Balls

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Zito's fans and milestone trackers have to hope that Barry does not fall out of the Giants' starting rotation altogether. Is it true that this guy was acquired from across the bay just a few seasons ago to be their ace? Hard to believe.

    Here's the situation. If he issues 90 walks this season, this puzzling lefty ties Hall of Famer (and right-winger) Jim Bunning at 1,000 free passes.

    Zito did issue 84 of them in 2010 and he has topped 90 a couple of times in his career.

    So he just needs to stay healthy, pitch well enough to stay in the rotation and trust (not too much) his mediocre stuff.

     

    Career leader: Nolan Ryan (2,795)

    Active leader:  Tim Wakefield (1,158)

1. Jim Thome: 2,500 Strikeouts

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    Big Jim Thome has never gotten cheated at the plate, often unfurling a Reggie Jackson-like pass at the ball, even with two strikes.

    Thome's approach has worked to the tune of 589 homers and 1,624 RBI, numbers that will likely land him in Cooperstown.

    Big Jim has also given quite a few fans some much-needed ventilation on hot summer days with his massive swings and misses.

    Thome needs only 105 strikeouts (achievable, if difficult for a platoon player) this year to become the second player in the history of the game to fan 2,500 times. Thome had cleared this number the previous five seasons, before slumping to only 82 last year.

     

    Career leader: Reggie Jackson (2,597)

    Active leader: Jim Thome (2,395)

     

    So, there you have it: 10 dubious milestones that are likely to be reached this year, regardless of the best-and-worst efforts of all of these featured players.

    If you have any thoughts on this article (any omissions or other comments), please record them below.

     

    For more information on Matt Goldberg’s new books, other writings and appearances, please e-mail: matt@tipofthegoldberg.com, or contact him privately via his Bleacher Report page.

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