There’s long been a train of thought that if a player were to reach a certain statistical plateau they’d have their spot reserved in Cooperstown, the baseball Hall of Fame. We’ve all heard of the 500 home run and 3,000 hit clubs as things of legend and lore, and for the most part, all players who have reached at least one of the two milestones are currently in the Hall of Fame. The exceptions to the ‘rule’ are players who have found themselves amidst the controversy surrounding the period in the 1990′s unaffectionately labelled the steroid era of baseball.
Players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa have put up outstanding careers from a statistical standpoint, but the shroud of doubt that they legitimately produced those numbers has limited the number of votes they’ve received on their quests to Cooperstown up to this point in time.
Without dwelling on one of the darker eras Major League Baseball has found itself in, let’s take a look at several players who could hit milestone marks of their own at some point in the 2014 season.
It’s more than likely that Pujols would’ve crossed the 500 home run mark within the 2013 campaign, but injuries limited him to just 99 games and 17 home runs, both of which were career lows for the slugger. It appears as though he’s back to full health for the start of the upcoming year however, and will play a big role in the Los Angeles Angels’ success this year. Pujols has averaged just under 38 home runs a year thus far in his career, and barring another injury or a prolonged slump, he should hit the big mark by May.
Aside from the 2004 season in which he hit 48 home runs as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Beltre hasn’t hit more than 37 long balls in any other campaign. However, there’s only been four seasons since he became a full-time player in 1999 that he hasn’t knocked at least 20 out of the park. Consistency has almost always been a staple of the 35-year old’s career and he now finds himself within striking distance of the 400 home run mark. He’s hit at least 30 in his first three seasons as a Texas Ranger, so it’s reasonable to suggest he’ll hit at least 24 over the course of the 2014 campaign.
|Runs Batted In|
Pujols hit the 1,500 mark April 8 in Seattle.
Despite creeping close to 40 years of age, Ortiz has shown very few slow signs of slowing down over the past couple of years. In fact, his 30 home runs and 103 runs batted in from 2013 was his best performance since 2010; his batting average was also 39 points higher in ’13 than in ’10. With just 63 more runs batted in needed to hit the 1,500 mark it’s simply a matter of when, not if, he gets there in 2014. The designated hitter has been as consistent a bet for 100 runs batted in as anyone over the past decade as long as he’s been healthy.
Both Holliday and Howard find themselves within arm’s reach of the 1,000 RBI mark and barring any setbacks, they are both capable of hitting the mark prior to this year’s All-Star break. Howard’s incredible 58 home run and 149 runs batted in performance of 2006 seem like a distant memory after a pair of injury plagued seasons in 2012 and 2013 though. Holliday has rather quietly put a nice career together for himself over the past decade. The six-time All Star has been a solid bet for 20 or more home runs and 100 runs batted in since his days as a member of the Colorado Rockies.
Miguel Cabrera, 1B — 2,003, age 31 season
Raul Ibanez, OF/DH — 1,999, age 42 season
Adrian Beltre, 3B, –2,434
Victor Martinez, DH — 1,489, age 36 season
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B — 1,482, age 32 season
Joe Mauer, 1B — 1,426, age 31 season
Ichiro Suzuki, OF — 2,750, age 41 season
Cabrera hit the mark in Week 1 and Ibanez could break the 2,000 hit mark any second. The twice former Seattle Mariner has been a consistent hitter for the bulk of his career and was good for 150 or more hits a year throughout his prime.
Aside from potentially hitting a home run milestone this year, Beltre also figures to have a very good chance of reaching the 2,500 hit plateau in 2014. In the past two years alone with the Rangers, he’s managed to accumulate 393 hits and with at least a couple more solid years left in him, there’s a real chance he could hit the 3,000 hit mark before his career is over as well. Staying off the disabled list will be key, however.
All three of Martinez, Gonzalez, and Mauer are set to pass the 1500 hit mark in the upcoming season. It’s likely that they all would’ve surpassed this mark already had they not each missed significant time with injuries over the last several seasons.
While it’d take a repeat of his record setting 262 hit campaign of 2004, it’s worth mentioning that Ichiro is approaching striking distance of the 3,000 hit plateau as he enters the twilight years of his career. Of course he already has over 4,000 hits in his professional career including his numbers in the Japan Pacific League, but it’s entirely possible he could have 3,000 hits in the MLB before he finishes his fourteenth professional season in North America in 2015.
It’d be difficult to not mention the illustrious career of Derek Jeter at least somewhere on here as the Yankee great enters the final year of his incredible career. Unfortunately injuries limited Jeter to just 13 games in 2013 and had he played the entire season, reaching the 2,000 run mark would have been a much more realistic possibility in the year ahead. As it stands he’ll be hard pressed to reach the mark with just one season remaining, although if he’s able to play like the Jeter that’s averaged 117 runs a season in his career, it’s certainly not out of the question.
If Pujols is able to remain healthy, it’s entirely possible he hits the 1,5000 run plateau before the end of the upcoming campaign. The slugger has averaged over 110 runs a season thus far in his career, although he’s yet to clear the 100 mark in his first two seasons as a member of the Angels.
Both Holliday and Teixeira should be able to score their thousandth runs this season as they’ve averaged 107 and 101 runs a season in their respective careers, although Jeter’s Yankee teammate was also limited to just 23 games in 2013 due to injuries.
Ichiro Suzuki, OF — 473
Carl Crawford, OF — 451, age 33 season
Michael Bourn, OF — 299, age 32 season
Alfonso Soriano, OF — 288, age 38 season
Coco Crisp, OF — 278, age 35 season
Rajai Davis, OF — 273, age 34 season
There was a time when both Ichiro and Crawford were solid bets to swipe 50 bags in a year, but it appears that those days are in the past for both players. Ichiro has 49 steals over the past two years so it’s possible he could get the 28 needed to reach the 500 mark, but if he sees his playing time decline with the Yankees this year as it’s expected to, it would be unlikely. Since leaving the Rays after the 2010 season Crawford has yet to steal more than 18 bags in a single season, and has missed time in each of the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. Prior to signing a seven-year deal with the Red Sox, the speedster had stolen 46 or more bases on seven occasions so at one point he was capable of the 53 steals he needs, but like Ichiro, reaching the 500 mark will likely be a two year project.
Bourn currently has a pair of 61 stolen base campaigns on his resume and has been a threat on the base paths throughout his career to date. Needing just one stolen base to crack the 300 plateau, it’s nearly a formality that he’ll reach it this season. On the other hand, Soriano’s 19 steals in 2013 were his most since a pair of 18 steal campaigns in 2007 and 2008 so he is capable of cracking the 300 mark this year as well, but he’s no sure bet.
Both Crisp and Davis are within striking distance of the 300 plateau as well, and given they own 35 and 53 career averages respectively, it’s very likely they’ll both be able to reach the mark in the year ahead. While Davis was originally expected to share an outfield spot in Detroit this year, an early and lengthy injury to Andy Dirks makes it very possible that he’ll see regular time in 2014.