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April 19, 2008
Can Of Corn
Offensive Milestones in Reach
Each new season brings us a new batch of individual milestones, and the 2008 campaign will be no exception. With that in mind, let's take a look at which offensive milestones have realistic chances of being met during 2008, and see what sort of entertainment that promises within the season. (Next time out, I'll take a look at the pitching benchmarks that might be reached this year.)
Ken Griffey Jr.
Barring season-ending injury (not an impossibility in his case), Griffey is a lock to become just the sixth player ever with 600 or more spanks. He still flashes occasional power, and he plays his home games in the best home-run park in baseball. Junior will become one of two players (joining Willie Mays) to reach 600 while playing the majority of his games toward the right end of the defensive spectrum.
Ramirez is hitting like a house afire in 2008, and obviously he's going to get to 500. The PECOTA projection strikes me as too conservative, but that's not terribly important for the purposes of this exercise. Once he gets there, among his fellow members of the 500 home run club just Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx and Barry Bonds will have higher career slugging percentages than Ramirez's .594.
According to PECOTA, Sheffield won't get there in 2008. He's 40, so it's certainly possible that age-related decline won't permit him to reach 500 this season, but it's worth noting that only once in the past 12 seasons has Sheffield failed to hit at least 21 homers.
Only a season-ending injury could get in the way of Ramirez's reaching this mark. As impressive as his career "triple slash" stats are (.313/.409/.594), he's now racking up the counting numbers in impressive fashion. When the time comes, it'll be interesting to see which self-appointed BBWAA guardians of this or that try to contort themselves around the self-evident fact that this guy's an inner-circle, first-ballot Hall of Famer. "He can't play defense!" "He's weird!"
It's been a nifty career, but the only traction Gonzalez will get for the Hall will be among the not insubstantial "but he was a nice guy" voting bloc; he doesn't deserve it on the merits. Still, a nifty career. Anyhow, Gonzalez's prevailing issue when it comes to reaching milestones this season is playing time. He's playing sporadically at the moment, and that figures to continue. Still, the bar is quite low for this one, and even getting only part-time work, he's likely to get there.
Like him or not, Kent continues to build his case for the Hall. He's got a career SLG of .504, with 541 doubles and 368 homers. To boot, he's done it all while spending the vast majority of his career in pitchers' environments, and he's spent almost 90 percent of his career defensive innings at an up-the-middle position. As for the benchmark at hand, PECOTA sees his coming short by a single knock, but I think that's underselling him.
Rodriguez's eclipsing of milestones is about to become a fairly pedestrian occurrence. This time around, it's 1,000 extra-base hits that's within reach, as he needs just 51 to get there. That's a challenging total for some, but, unless Rodriguez uncharacteristically pulls up seriously lame, he'll get there with relative ease.
Belting 36 extra-base hits seems like a very reachable total for a slugger like Sheffield, but questions of age and health complicate matters. PECOTA tabs him for a mere 19 doubles, which seems reasonable considering the doubles-suppressing nature of Comerica. If he hits fewer than 20 doubles, then he's going to have serious problems getting to 54 extra-base hits. I'm with PECOTA on this one.
As mentioned above, Gonzalez is no longer an everyday player, and that means it's going to be difficult for him to get 28 more doubles in 2008, particularly in his home park, which cuts down slightly on two-baggers. On the other hand, we're talking about a guy who smacked 52 doubles at the age of 38. If Gonzalez does pull off the unlikely this season, then he'll become just the 15th player ever to get to 600 doubles.
Thomas isn't much of doubles machine these days, but he plays in a great park for them, and he needs just 11 more to get to 500. Barring injury, this one's a lock.
A right-handed, fly-ball hitter in Fenway playing regularly should never have any problem getting to 30 doubles. Notch another statistical feat for Ramirez.
Ken Griffey Jr.
As you can see, PECOTA is not optimistic about Griffey's chances here. Sure enough, in four of the last five seasons he's failed to reach the total he'll need. That's mostly because of injury, but injuries have defined decline-phase Junior. However, Griffey is a fairly safe bet to become just the 18th player ever to tally at least 5,000 total bases.
Surprised to see Anderson closing in on 500 doubles? I was, certainly. As a player, Anderson may seem terminally underrated in stathead circles, and I still didn't realize he was this close to joining fairly elite company. It's going to be close, though--he needs 32, PECOTA has him tabbed for 28, and the crowded outfield/DH situation in Anaheim might complicate matters.
Of Helton's 460 doubles, 213 have come on the road, so he'd likely be chasing this milestone even if he weren't a denizen of Coors Field. Anyhow, take Coors into account in tandem with the fact that Helton has notched at least 40 doubles in each of the last five seasons, and it seems clear to me that PECOTA is giving him short shrift. So bump it up a little, and he's there.
Only injury can get in the way the relentlessly patient Thome's reaching 1,500 walks. A mere 17 other players have pulled it off, and of those who are eligible, just Eddie Yost, Darrell Evans and Pete Rose aren't in Cooperstown.
While a player with Sheffield's discriminating eye is certainly capable of drawing 113 more walks this season, it's also highly unlikely. Sheffield hasn't drawn 100 walks in a season since 2000, and there's no reason to believe that he's going to this year.