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Which milestones and records will be reached -- and which won't?


As a continuation of the Derek Jeter/hit record post, I thought it might be fun to spark a little conversation and make a few predictions about players and their magic numbers. I wrote in that Jeter post that I don't think Jeter will quite get to 3,500 hits.

Here are a few more predictions (all stats through May 25):

Johnny Damon will get to 3,000 hits

Damon is 530 hits short of 3,000 right now, and he is having a good season. If he stays healthy and plays a a reasonably high level the rest of the way, he should finish the year only about 400 hits short of 3,000. Even as he goes into his 37 year, even if his talents fade rapidly, I think he can hang around long enough to get to 3,000.

And if he gets to 3,000 hits, he'd have a chance to have an utterly unique statistical stew -- 3,000 hits, 500 doubles, 100 triples, 250 homers, 400 stolen bases. That's never happened before. In my mind, Damon -- despite the Idiot stuff -- has not had anything near a Hall of Fame peak. But I think if he gets to 3,000 hits, with those secondary numbers and some postseason heroics, he will end up in the Hall of Fame.

Jim Thome will get to 600 home runs

Thome is 31 homers short of 600. But he's still a viable player -- he can take a righty pitcher deep and he's definitely helping the Minnesota Twins -- and I suspect he will have a team that wants him next year. That team will probably be the Twins. I don't think Thome has all that many home runs left in that awesome bat. But he has enough to get to 600.

Don't you think Jim Thome would make for an awesome bonus piece in Sports Illustrated? One of my all-time favorite players.

Ichiro Suzuki will get to 3,000 American hits

There's no great reason to believe he will get there. He turns 37 this year, and he will probably finish the season between 750 and 800 hits short of 3,000. That's four more seasons, even at his amazing pace. From what I can tell, nobody who had that few hits at 37 has ever reached 3,000, and few have even come close. Luke Appling got up to 2,749.

But the thing about Ichiro is, I suspect he really WANTS 3,000 American hits. He's a tremendous student of baseball history. You know about him visiting the grave of George Sisler. And you probably know that when Buck O'Neil died, there was a beautiful bouquet of flowers sent ... from Ichiro (who had met O'Neil and loved him). Ichiro has a deep appreciation of baseball and its great players, and I think he will drive himself to get to 3,000. And I would never bet against a driven Ichiro.

Alex Rodriguez will break Hank Aaron's record of 2,297 RBIs

Below, I predict that A-Rod will not break the home run record. But I do think he will break the RBI record. He's 559 RBIs short, which is five good seasons on the Yankees. I think he will break it with some room to spare.

Andruw Jones will hit 500 homers

Here is my bold pick -- against logic, I have this feeling that Jones will reinvent himself as a corner outfielder/DH. He just turned 33 in April and he has hit nine home runs for the White Sox so far this year. He's only 103 homers short of 500. I just have this feeling he's going to limp his way to 500.

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Now, what would that mean for his Hall of Fame chances? I don't know. Nobody seems to think of him as an all-time great (that .257 average and .338 on-base percentage stand out), and we all know that 500 home runs doesn't mean what it once meant. That said, if Andruw Jones gets to 500 home runs AND you throw in that he was one of the greatest defensive center fielders in baseball history, well, I don't know. That's some combination.

Trevor Hoffman will get to 600 saves

Well, he probably will get there -- he's sitting at 596. But he also looks done as a big league closer. After his recent struggles, his ERA is a staggering 12.21. The Brewers are kind of stuck -- they won't look all that great releasing him, not when he's four saves shy of 600 -- especially because Hoffman was really good in 2009. On the other hand, this is getting embarrassing. There is building heat on Hoffman to retire now. I wonder if Hoffman will get to 600 and immediately retire.

Mariano Rivera will get to 600 saves

He's 66 saves short, and even after the stunning Jason Kubel grand slam on May 16, he still seems more or less unhittable. I know that at some point it's going to stop working for The Great Rivera. At some point, he's going to lose his aura -- hitters are going to WANT to hit against him. At some point, he will go Trevor Hoffman ... or he will retire first. But for the foreseeable future, he will get outs in the ninth inning and roll up saves. I see him getting to 600 sometime in late August 2011. I think he will end up with the all-time saves record.

Jamie Moyer will break Robin Roberts record for most home runs allowed

Roberts allowed 505 home runs in his kill-or-be-killed career. Moyer has now allowed 501, and he's among the National League leaders in home runs allowed this season. He should break the record in the next two or three weeks. He should take great pride in that record because it's just another symbol of his remarkable career. There is no way that somebody with his stuff, somebody who had a 34-54 record with an 87 ERA+ at age 30, somebody who could not hit 90 mph in a Masserati, has managed to pitch long enough to win all those games and give up all those home runs. I don't think he will get to 300 victories (more on that below) but who could have ever expected him to do this much? There should be a movie about that guy's career.

CC Sabathia will win 300 games

It's really way too early to predict this, but Sabathia is probably a good test case for the ol' "Nobody will ever win 300 games," meme that pops up every year. Sabathia came up to the big leagues when he was just 20 years old, and he has won double digit games every year. He won 17 games as a rookie in 2001, won an American League Cy Young in 2007, led the league in victories in 2009. In other words, he has done just about everything right in the new paradigm of baseball pitching. He doesn't turn 30 until July, and by the end of the season he figures to have 150 to 155 victories which is a lot for that age.

Thing is, that STILL leaves him 145 to 150 victories short of 300. As golf announcers like to say, there's a lot of meat left on that bone. I think Sabathia looks strong, he plays on a team that scores a lot of runs, he figures to win 17-20 games each of the next three or four seasons which will put him within shouting distance by the time he's hitting his mid-30s. I think he will do it. But there is no question that in this era, where the whole concept of pitching victories is more useless than ever, this is awfully hard to predict.

Somebody will hit 60 doubles in a season

I think it will happen this year. Nobody has hit 60 doubles in a season since 1936, but the double seems to be having a rebirth. Last season, Baltimore's Brian Roberts hit 56 doubles and Kansas City's Billy Butler hit 51. Butler is off to another great doubles start -- he has 13 and he's a line drive machine who plays half his games in a big ballpark, making him a real threat to reach 60 at some point. Boston's Dustin Pedroia has hit 50 doubles in a season and with the Green Monster there for him in left field, he's certainly a threat. But the best best this year seems to be Philadelphia's Jayson Werth, who already has 22 doubles -- putting him on pace for 81 this year. He's a terrific hitter and real threat to hit 60 -- maybe even a threat to challenge Earl Webb's record of 67 doubles in a season, which he set in 1931.

Ken Griffey Jr. will not get to 3,000 hits

Well, that's looking pretty obvious now. Griffey is 219 hits shy of 3,000 and he just doesn't seem to have that much time left in his body. When you consider that Griffey had more than 1,700 hits before he turned 30, it's really quite amazing -- and sad -- that he will not get to 3,000. He is in his 11th season since then, meaning he only needed to average about 115 hits a year to get to 3,000 by the end of this season. He's not going to get there.

I suppose he could try to hang on for another year after this, try to find someone willing to put him in the lineup for the thrill of 3,000. But it would smack of Dale Murphy's rather sad effort to try and get to 400 home runs and eventually falling two shy. And there are no guarantees that he would get there.

Here's a Dale Murphy question I was wondering about: What if, when the Braves were about to trade him to Philadelphia in the summer of 1990, he had instead retired? He was 34 then. What if he had said, "I'm not longer at my best, and I owe it to myself to step down." He would have retired then with a 371 career home runs, five Gold Gloves, two MVPs, and one team. No one would have seen his decline phase because he would not have had one. He would have been eligible for the Hall of Fame in 1996, before the big home run numbers had started to build up. Would he have been a more viable hall of Fame candidate then?

Alex Rodriguez will not get to Barry Bonds home run record -- or even Hank Aaron's more respected record

This is just a hunch. A-Rod figures to hit his 600th home in the next couple of months -- he's only 11 shy -- and he doesn't turn 35 until late July. He certainly seems like a prime candidate to hit 762 homers or -- if you prefer -- 755. But, I just have this feeling he won't. He needs 175 more home runs to pass Bonds, and he's having some health issues -- the last couple of seasons he has not played 140 games -- and his power does seem to be dwindling just a bit. Also -- again, a hunch -- I have this feeling that we are entering a down cycle on home runs. But that's a post for another time. Anyway, I'm predicting A-Rod breaks the RBI record but not the home run record.

Jamie Moyer will not get to 300 wins

Hardly a bold prediction -- he's still 37 victories shy and he's turning 48 in November. On the other hand, you simply cannot dismiss Jamie Moyer for ANY achievement. Heck, he might pitch until he's 70 and break Cy Young's win record.

Mark Buehrle will not get to 300 wins

Again, something of a hunch. Buehrle is 162 wins shy of 300 -- still not halfway. He's only 31, and he's a lefty with a great change-up which could mean a long career ahead. But with victories so hard for him to come by -- he averages about 14 a year -- he would need to keep up his pace for another 12 seasons. I don't see it.

I do see him playing for the St. Louis Cardinals someday soon. His contract is up after 2011, and I think he wants to play for the Cardinals, I think the Cardinals want him, I think that will happen. I wonder if the White Sox, realizing that and realizing that they're not going to win this year, will trade Buehrle to St. Louis and try to at least cash in a little bit.

Zack Greinke will not win 10 games this season

Not a milestone, exactly, but Greinke continues to pitch well for Kansas City and not getting the wins to show for it. For those scoring at home, he had a 2.71 ERA in his first nine starts -- and one victory. On May 18, he pitched seven innings in Baltimore, allowed two runs (both on homers) and left with a 3-2 lead. The bullpen allowed the tying run in regulation and the winning run in the 10th inning. Greinke said afterward that by giving up those home runs, he had not done his job. That's what it has come to with Greinke -- he blames himself for seven inning, two run outings now.

The winning run that night was given up by former No. 1 overall pick Bryan Bullington, who is trying to regain his career in Kansas City. I bring this up only because I was listening to Baltimore radio, and for the whole inning the radio voice called him Bryan Bullinger. Again and again, called him Bullinger -- at least 10 times during the inning. I mean, the guy was the NUMBER ONE PICK in the draft before injury problems ruined his promising career. You could at least get his name right.