“I’m not numbers oriented—which some people may find hard to believe—because there are so many numbers associated with my career,” Nolan Ryan said as he was approaching his 300th career victory in 1990. “But this is one of the few years when I’ve wanted to do something. I feel if I don’t win my 300th game this year, then I’ve had a bad year.”
Those thoughts can be associated with a number of great players who are on the verge of historic achievements prior to the start of a new major league campaign. But as much as players want to reach individual plateaus, they also know that the importance of the success in the game is through team work and to keep their mind focused on the job they have at hand in each and every game.
So entering the 2016 season, here are some milestones on the docket to be matched by some outstanding big-league performers.
Ichiro Suzuki will begin his 16th major league season 65 hits away from becoming the 30th player to reach the 3,000-hit plateau. And if you count his 1,278 career hits in the Japanese League, Suzuki is still 470 hits away from tying Pete Rose’s mark of 4,683 lifetime professional hits.
Although it’s not a Hall of Fame numbers marker, 2,000 career major league hits is quite a milestone when you consider there have been more than 18,000 men who have played in the big leagues and through 2015, only 279 of them have surpassed 2,000 hits. Those who could pass that total in 2016 include A.J. Pierzynski of the Braves (1,989), who is 11 hits away; Carl Crawford of the Dodgers (1,916), who is 84 his shy; Jose Reyes of the Rockies (1,904), who is 96 hits away and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals (1,901) who needs 99 hits to reach the 2,000 plateau. The players who have an outside shot at joining this fraternity in 2016 are Adrian Gonzalez (208 hits away) of the Dodgers, Mark Teixeira (217 hits short) of the Yankees, Alex Rios (222 hits away) and Victor Martinez (224 hits shy) of the Tigers. Among these four hitters, only Gonzalez has ever had a 200-hit season—213 in 2011 for the Red Sox.
Teixeira hasn’t had 180 or more hits in a season since 2005, Rios’s career high mark is 191 in 2007, and Martinez has never surpassed 188 hits in a season during his 13 years in the majors.
700 Home Runs
Despite his controversial career totals, Alex Rodriguez enters the year only 13 homers away from joining Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Barry Bonds (762)—whose total is also a steroid-riddle controversy—in the 700-HR Club. If A-Rod remains healthy and away from suspension for any more wrongdoing, he could hold the all-time mark for homers, since he is 65 homers away from that historic baseball landmark.
600 Home Runs
If Albert Pujols can equal his 2015 homer output (40), he will become the ninth player to club 600 or more career home runs . . . and in the process will surpass Reggie Jackson (563), Rafael Palmeiro (569), Harmon Killebrew (573), Mark McGwire (583) and Frank Robinson (586) on the career HR leader board.
500 Home Runs
No major league player is within a shot at reaching the 500-Home Run club in 2016, but it is interesting to note that David Ortiz, who has 503 career home runs and is likely to retire at the end of the season, is only 53 homers away from clubbing 500 lifetime homers as a designated hitter.
400 Home Runs
There are 53 players with 400 or more career home runs, a total that was equaled by only 12 players at the start of the 1966 season (50 years ago). But no matter how many players have joined this select group, it is still a special plateau for power hitters. The men with a chance to reach this milestone in 2016 include Yankee teammates Mark Teixeira (394) and Carlos Beltran (392), and Ryan Howard of the Phillies (357).
Entering the 2016 season, only 14 players have exceeded 600 or more career doubles and 12 of those players are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The two that are not are Pete Rose and Barry Bonds. Boston’s David Ortiz (584) and the Angels’ Albert Pujols (583) should both become members of this select group, and it will be interesting to see which of these sluggers reaches the milestone first.
Over recent years the number of players to reach 500 lifetime doubles has been increasing steadily—30 years ago at the start of the 1986 season, there were 24 members of the 500-Doubles Club. Before the 1996 campaign, the group increased to 32, and prior to the start of 2006 the number of 500-double hitters was 43. Entering the 2016 season there are 61 players with 500 doubles, with Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (492) the only player likely to reach the plateau in the coming year. Seattle’s Robinson Cano has an outside shot, but would need a career high in that department since he is 54 two-base hits away from the coveted mark.
500 Stolen Bases
There are currently 37 players with 500 or more career stolen bases in the major leagues, with four active players in position to surpass the historic total in the near future. Aging legs may prevent some from reaching the mark in ’16, but a sure bet is Ichiro Suzuki of the Marlins, who enters the year two steals away from 500. If Suzuki can get his two stolen bases for 500 and 65 hits for 3,000, he will become the seventh player to reach both milestones. The others include Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Honus Wagner and Paul Molitor.
Others in line to reach 500 steals in 2016 are Carl Crawford (480), Jose Reyes (479) and Jimmy Rollins (465), who are all within 35 steals of accomplishing the impressive stolen base plateau. Reyes should swipe 21 or more bases if he remains healthy. Crawford, who is only 20 SBs away, has exceeded 20 steals in a season only once in the last five years. The venerable veteran Rollins is 35 stolen bases away, but he hasn’t stolen as many as 35 in a season since 2008 when he had 47.
1,000 Runs Scored
Although it has been matched by 326 players, it is an impressive total and indicates production value from a player who has been consistent for a number of years. In 2016, there are nine players within 119 runs from reaching 1,000 for their career--Carl Crawford (990), Chase Utley (963), Robinson Cano (958), Curtis Granderson (951), Ian Kinsler (942), David Wright (931), Adrian Gonzalez (899), Alex Rios (885) and Hanley Ramirez (881).
Between all-time RBI king Hank Aaron (2,297) and Darryl Strawberry (1,000) there are 277 other players with 1,000 or more career big league RBI. Here is a list of active players with a chance to climb into this plethora of run producers in 2016--Victor Martinez (991), Prince Fielder (984), Robinson Cano (983), Justin Morneau (960), David Wright (956), Jimmy Rollins (928), Chase Utley (925), A.J. Pierzynski (886) and Adam LaRoche (882).
With high on-base percentage totals being more mainstream in today’s game, the number of players drawing high walk totals has increased and the number of major leaguers with 1,000 or more career walks has jumped to 117. Miguel Cabrera (936) appears to be the only player to have a legitimate shot at joining this fraternity in 2016.
The small group of pitchers with 400 or more career saves includes Mariano Rivera (652), Trevor Hoffman (601), Lee Smith (478), John Franco (424) and Billy Wagner (422), but could increase by two with active relievers Francisco Rodriguez (386) and Jonathan Papelbon (349) both within 51 saves of the coveted mark
It is unlikely fans will see Nolan Ryan’s strikeout total of 5,714 broken, but CC Sabathia could be the next member of the 3,000 strikeout club if he can get his career back on track as he enters the 2016 season with 2,574 lifetime Ks. But another fine milestone for a pitcher is 2,000 strikeouts, a feat accomplished by 74 mounds men. The hurlers arming to reach that career output this year include John Lackey (1,965), Justin Verlander (1,943), Cole Hamels (1,922), Zack Greinke (1,887), James Shields (1,842) and Clayton Kershaw (1,746).