We are now down to 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 the 30 teams have a less than one percent chance of making the playoffs according to FanGraphs. The Reds, Diamondbacks, and Giants could be mere days from making that bump up to half of all the teams in 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 second of two articles on the subject, with this one focusing on pitchers. First the first edition of this article focusing on milestones for hitters, here is the link.
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 Strikeouts – David Price (1,979)
This seemed like a lock to happen in August before the 12 year veteran went down with a wrist injury. He should still return in early September, if not before the end of this month. Having a career high of 10.8 K/9 this year means that it should take only 3 starts for Price to reach two thousand strikeouts on his career. He will be the 84th pitcher and only the 27th southpaw to ever reach that mark.
1,000 Strikeouts – Dallas Keuchel (998), Rich Hill (993), Mike Minor (950), Sonny Gray (943)
Tune in at 7:20 pm EST tonight to see Keuchel reach the millennium mark in career punch outs. He will get there early in his start versus Miami. Hill also only needs one more start to reach this milestone; it is only a matter of when it will come. The Dodgers still believe the 39 year old will be able to get stretched out to return as a starter. Even if he doesn’t, a return in any role by mid-September will lead to Hill reaching one thousand strikeouts.
Minor and Gray are both in the midst of fantastic seasons, and both will need excellent finishes to their campaigns in order to get to 1,000. Both of these 2019 All-Stars have pitched to ERAs under 3.00 and rank in the top 25 in strikeouts in the MLB this season. Even if they can’t get there this season, both will accomplish this milestone in just a matter of time.
300 Saves – Kenley Jansen (294)
This closer is still one of the best in the game, well on his way to a 6th consecutive 30 save season. He has already reached 25 for the 8th straight year. If Kenley can pick up another 30 saves next season, he would move into the top 15 all time. Before he can do that, he has to shut the door 6 more times this season. With the Dodgers, it’s more a matter of whether they will play close enough games, not whether they win enough.
100 Wins – Jason Vargas (98), Corey Kluber (98), Lance Lynn (96)
Vargas looked to be done after he posted an ERA+ that ranked 180th out of 184 pitchers that made at least 10 starts last year. He has bumped that mark up from 65 to 107 (average is 100) in a career resurgence. He has yet to get a win with the Phillies, even though Vargas allowed only two runs in three of his four starts. Vargas should be able to get those two coveted wins before the season winds down.
Lance Lynn is another pitcher having a career resurgence, pitching to a respectable 3.60 ERA with an even better 3.06 FIP this season. Lynn should have seven or eight more starts this year, meaning he will have to win half to earn his 100th. Having won over half (14) of his 26 starts to this point, this is achievable.
Kluber is a different story than the other two starters. The two-time AL Cy Young winner’s year was derailed after fracturing his right elbow on a comebacker on May 1. He was set to make a return later this week until abdominal pain ended yesterday’s rehab start. The Indians do not think it is serious, and if Kluber can get stretched out to return as a starter, then he is a good bet to win two more games and reach this milestone.
BONUS: 2,000 Manager Wins – Bruce Bochy (1,989)
His 25th and final year as an MLB manager has gone better than anyone expected. The Giants are floating right around 0.500, on the fringe of the NL Wild Card race. Coming into this season, getting his 2,000th victory seemed like it would go down to the wire; the Giants need to go at least 74-88 to get him there. Now, it is all but guaranteed.
In fact, if Bochy can manage the Giants to a 19-18 record down the stretch, he will tie Leo Durocher for 10th all time. Furthermore, if the Giants find their way into a playoff birth, it will go down as one of the most impressive accomplishments of a career full of playoff runs and World Series victories. Future Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochy’s career is winding down, so make sure to tune in to see him reach a milestone so few have achieved.
All in all, 9 pitchers (and 1 manager) from 8 different teams have legitimate shots at major milestones before this season is over. When you account for all these players’ former teams, nearly every team is 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 athletes are impressive in some way or another.
There are superstars and seasoned veterans 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, turn 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: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images