We are now getting into the final quarter of the 2019 MLB regular season. That means there are a lot of exciting games for fans of some teams, but some not so exciting games for others. 12 out of 30 teams have a less than 1 percent chance of making the playoffs according to FanGraphs. The Reds and Giants could be mere days from making that bump up to nearly half of all of baseball.
For that reason, I want to show fans why they still need to be watching games down the stretch, even if their team is out of it. This is the first of two articles on the subject, with this one focusing on hitters. Here is a list of all the potential individual statistical milestones MLB hitters can accomplish in the coming weeks (all numbers are as of the morning of Friday, August 16):
2,000 Hits – Ian Kinsler (1,999)
Ian Kinsler needs just one more hit to get 2000 for his career. This is definitely the last major milestone he will achieve before retiring. Kinsler is batting only .217 in a part time role this year in San Diego. In fact, that role has been reduced further in recent weeks to pinch hitting duties. He hasn’t started a game since July 19.
Kinsler is one of those ballplayers you can remember as a quality big leaguer that was always good but never great. He did make 4 All Star teams and win 2 Gold Gloves, but look no further than hits to see what this second baseman provided over his career. Kinsler reached 150 hits in a season 7 times, with this being the first of his career he won’t reach triple digits. As a message to Padres fans (and Rangers and Tigers fans): enjoy watching a former big league staple get one more hit and see him ride off into the sunset.
1,000 Hits – Jose Abreu (991), Matt Wieters (987), Todd Frazier (986), Xander Bogaerts (978), Justin Turner (960), and Anthony Rendon (947)
Barring injury, Abreu, Frazier, and Bogaerts are guaranteed to reach this milestone this season. Turner and Rendon are closer cases. Assuming Turner plays 35 of the Dodgers final 40 games, he would need to bat around .320 to get the 40 more hits he needs. Rendon, with his team in the thick of a Wild Card race, could realistically play every remaining game. Even if he misses a game or two, the 29 year old stud would only need to increase his average to about .350 in order to get his 1,000th hit this season. A hot streak for Rendon is certainly not out of the question.
I skipped over Matt Wieters because he has a unique circumstance. He needs 13 more hits, but that is no given considering his role as a backup catcher on the Cardinals. In fact, with DFA fever going around, Wieters could find himself out of a job if a younger, cheaper catcher performs at the minor league level. Regardless, Wieters has only 34 hits in 38 starts this year. Keeping a rate of about one hit per start would not yield the 15 more hits needed considering Molina should hold at least a 3:1 ratio of starts. The Cards have 44 more games; Wieters would need to hit about .360 in his approximated 11 more starts to get to 1,000.
What makes Wieters worth paying extra close attention to is that he might never reach 1,000 hits. Unlike the other players, he isn’t a starter anymore; he is not the talented catcher he once was. With catchers retiring at younger ages more often, it would not be all that surprising if the veteran hung it up after this season. It would be a shame if he came that close to a significant career milestone only to fall just short.
400 Home Runs – Nelson Cruz (392)
This seemed like a lock with the way he was playing since the All Star break before he went down with a ruptured extensor carpi ulnaris tendon in his left wrist. However, reports are looking good for the 38 year old slugger, and he could come back within a few weeks. If he does, he would need to regain his power hitting prowess immediately to have a chance to get 400 home runs this year. He had 16 homers over a 25 game stretch before the injury, so do not count him out.
300 Home Runs – Mark Reynolds (298), Justin Upton (294), Chris Davis (292), Evan Longoria (292)
This is a group of major league vets that are well onto the backside of their careers. Reynolds has only 4 home runs this season. He is close enough to the milestone to where he can run into a few IF he gets the opportunity. However, he is currently a free agent, so he would need an opportunity to present itself for him to have a chance. It seems unlikely, but not impossible at this point.
Upton is probably the best of this group, but he has struggled in limited action this year after spending a majority of the season on the Injured List. However, the Angels’ oufielder has 8 dingers to this point in the year and very well can add 6 more to his total to get 300.
Davis has been well-documented as being absolutely terrible this year. But he can still hit home runs. 8 more this year is unlikely but not impossible. Longoria has 15 home runs for the season. At a per game pace, he is unlikely to get to 300. However, like Upton and Davis, he has had his fair share of home run binges and could surge in September to reach this milestone.
300 Stolen Bases – Elvis Andrus (296), Billy Hamilton (295)
Did you know that before last year, Elvis Andrus held the longest active streak of consecutive seasons with 20 or more stolen bases? I did not. Andrus has actually been the most consistent base stealer over the past decade, last season’s injury riddled campaign notwithstanding. He and the speedy Hamilton should reach the 300 steals mark in late August or early September. They are both in the top 5 among active players in stolen bases.
200 Stolen Bases – Mike Trout (199)
Mike Trout needs just one theft to get to 200 on his illustrious career. Everyone knows how amazing Mike Trout is. This is just one extra reason to tune in, because seeing one of the greatest players of all time reach a career milestone never disappoints.
1,000 RBIs – Evan Longoria (994)
Here is the first of two repeats in this article. Longoria is much more likely to drive in the requisite 6 runs than he is to get 8 more home runs. In fact, he drove in 4 while I was writing this article to nearly cut the amount needed in half. The 2008 American League Rookie of the Year is far from his hay day, but he is still a quality major league starter.
He has a WAR of 2.2 this year and actually ranks 2nd in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) for third basemen with 10 DRS behind only Matt Chapman. If Longoria continues to be above average at the hot corner and at the plate, he should have more milestones to hit in the years to come.
1,000 Runs Scored – Joey Votto (990), Justin Upton (980)
Votto has had a down year, but he still has the ability to avoid a complete drop off in production over the next few years and maintain a case for Cooperstown. Scoring 1,000 runs in your career is a significant marker. Votto will cross that threshold in a matter of weeks as the latest of a career full of milestones.
Upton is the other repeat player, and he is in a tough spot on both of them. As outlined above, the home runs will take a hot streak. The runs are more realistic, with the Angels’ slugger needing only 20 more. With a quarter of the season remaining, he needs to score runs at close to his career rate in order to get there. Things will have to turn around for Upton soon, but 1,000 runs is well within reach.
500 Doubles – Nick Markakis (496)
This is the smallest of all the potential milestones I have written about, hence why it is the last one. However, it is a great opportunity to acknowledge one of the most underrated players of the last decade. Markakis has been extremely durable, playing at least 147 games in a season 12 times in his 14 year career; he has never been below 100 games.
He also has produced consistently across his career, with over 2300 hits and topping the 1,000 mark in both runs and RBIs. He has a career triple slash of .288/.358/.424. The slugging percentage leaves some to be desired, but the BA and OBP are well above MLB average and show the productive line drive hitter Markakis has been.
Getting back to the milestone at hand, he is actually 4th among active players in career doubles, only behind future Hall of Famers Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera and 8 time All Star Robinson Cano. Make sure to tune in for Markakis’ 500th double so you can appreciate this impressive, yet undervalued, career.
All in all, 17 hitters from 16 different teams have legitimate shots at major milestones before this season is over. When you account for all these players’ former teams, every team should be represented by someone. It takes a long career, full of lots of great moments, in order to reach these milestones. The careers of all of these players are impressive in some way or another.
There are superstars and one dimensional players in this bunch, but they all have a chance to do something special. So if you find yourself missing out on the stretch run fun, tune the station to one of these guys. Whether it’s to reminisce with an old favorite or watch someone you hardly pay attention to, there is no losing in milestones. Take it in. Enjoy it. Baseball never disappoints.
Featured Photo: James Borchuck