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The baseball record books could be rewritten this season
The boys of summer are back in action and with them come the history and tradition of those before them. Names like Gehrig, Ford, Jackson and Schmidt echo through the stadiums of Major League Baseball, each a founder, each a legend in their own right. But sometimes, even the marks of legends are made to be broken. Here are 10 records that could be broken in 2013, allowing for a new generation of names to join those before them.
All-time runs and doubles record for the New York Yankees
Current Holder: Babe Ruth (runs), Lou Gehrig (doubles)
On Deck: Derek Jeter
Jeter may not be the player he once was, but there’s no doubt he’s one of the greatest to ever step on a major-league diamond. For proof of this, look no further than the shortstop’s presence in the Yankees’ record books. Already the all-time leader in games played, hits and stolen bases, Jeter has a chance to add two more to his resume this season. Jeter needs just 92 runs to pass Hall of Famers and baseball legends Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth for the top spot in Yankee history. Even more impressive, the Yankees’ runs scored record would move Jeter into the top 10 all-time in baseball history. Even though Jeter could be slowed in his return from the broken ankle he sustained in the playoffs last season, he’s scored fewer than 92 runs just three times in 17 full seasons in pinstripes.
Another all-time Yankee mark a little closer on the horizon for Jeter is the doubles record. Lou Gehrig is the current franchise leader with 534 career doubles, which also places him 34th on the all-time list in baseball history. The man known as “The Iron Horse” amassed 5,060 total bases in his Hall of Fame career, which ranks him 17th all-time. The legend dipped below 31 doubles just twice during his time as the Yankees’ first baseman. Jeter needs just 11 more two-baggers to surpass Gehrig’s total, a mark he should surpass before the All-Star break, provided he’s healthy.
All-time strikeouts record for New York Yankees pitchers
Current Holder: Whitey Ford
On Deck: Andy Pettitte
Pinstripe legend Edward “Whitey” Ford spent 16 years in the majors, starting and ending his career with the Yankees. By the time he retired in 1967, a total 1,956 batters had made the humbling walk back to the dugout after striking out. The 46-year-old record could have had a chance to stand even longer had Ford not taken two years off to serve in the Korean War after his rookie season.
Like Ford, Andy Pettitte has been a crafty pitcher throughout his career. Entering his 18th season in the majors and 15th with the Yankees, Pettitte needs just 65 more punch outs to be claim the franchise’s all-time strikeout mark. Considering he was able to notch 69 strikeouts in just 12 games last season, this is one record ready to be broken. Depending on his health, Pettitte could also surpass Ford for the games started record. If he can make 31 starts this season, that record will also be his for the taking. Ford made 438 starts in his Hall of Fame career.
All-time WHIP mark in MLB history
Current Holder: Addie Joss
On Deck: Mariano Rivera
If you’re scratching your head on this one, that’s okay. Addie Joss was a pitcher for the Cleveland Bronchos (another way of spelling Broncos) from 1902 until 1910. During that span, he was among the greatest pitchers in the American League, never posting an ERA higher than 2.77 or a WHIP of more than 1.11. If you’re still scratching your head, WHIP is a relatively new stat that has gained in popularity with the introduction and adoption of sabermetrics that adds the number of walks and hits allowed by a pitcher and divide the total by innings pitched. Joss’ career WHIP of 0.9678 has stood for more than 100 years, but one final solid season from Mariano Rivera could change this.
Last season, which was cut short after he tore his ACL in May, Rivera posted his worst WHIP since 2007, and even then it was a microscopic 0.960. From 2008-11, Rivera’s WHIP was 0.905 or lower. In theory, if Rivera can simply repeat 2012’s performance in the category, he should move past Joss in the history books, providing today’s fan with a name they know. Another all-time list that Rivera should continue to climb this season is total games pitched. Should Rivera make another 60 appearances in 2013, which is about his average for a full season, the surefire future Hall of Famer will pass current Cooperstown members Hoyt Wilhelm and Dennis Eckersley for fourth place on the all-time games pitched list.
All-time hits and doubles record for the Philadelphia Phillies
Current Holders: Mike Schmidt (hits), Ed Delahanty (doubles)
On Deck: Jimmy Rollins
Mike Schmidt, the and three-time NL MVP and 12-time All-Star racked up 2,234 hits over his 18-year Hall of Fame career with the Phillies. The third basemen impressively totaled less than 129 hits in a season just five times. Schmidt is no doubt the greatest player to don a Phillies uniform, but Jimmy Rollins could grab the franchise hits record from him this season. Rollins needs 211 hits for the mark, which might be a stretch given he’s averaged 155 over the last two seasons. That said, Rollins did post 212 hits in 2007, a year in which he amassed 716 at-bats. On the other hand, the Phillies’ all-time doubles record is considerably closer, as Rollins needs just 22 more to surpass Hall of Famer “Big” Ed Delahanty’s total of 442.
All-time home run and total bases records for the Chicago White Sox
Current Holder: Frank Thomas
On Deck: Paul Konerko
It’s hard to believe it’s only been five seasons since Frank Thomas last swung the bat. The two-time AL MVP and four-time Silver Slugger somehow never led the league in home runs, but he did leave his mark with the White Sox. During his 16 years with the team, Thomas cleared the fence 448 times and amassed 3,949 total bases. Both records could be broken this season.
Paul Konerko needs only 34 more home runs to pass Thomas on the White Sox all-time list. Though he hasn’t topped that number since 2010, he’s still managed to bash 57 dingers over the past two seasons combined. That includes 26 in 2012, despite having the second-fewest at-bats since the 2004 season. If he can stay in the lineup, there’s no reason the White Sox won’t be crowning a new home run king in 2013. Konerko also needs just 172 total bases to pass Thomas in that category as well.
All-time double plays turned as left fielder record in MLB history
Current Holder: Bibb Falk
On Deck: Alfonso Soriano
Falk spent his first nine seasons with the Chicago White Sox before finishing his 12-year career with the Cleveland Indians from 1929-31. While he never held any batting titles, Falk was known for his defense. The left fielder turned a record nine double plays in 1927 and led American League players at the position in games played four times. That extra time on the field culminated with a record 34 double plays turned from left field.
Alfonso Soriano is better known for his bat, but his arm has been a source of pain for base runners. Soriano has posted 28 of his own double plays from left field and needs just seven more to take the all-time record from Falk. The 14-year veteran turned six last season and nine in 2006, so the numbers he needs for the record could be there if he gets the opportunity this season.
All-time strikeouts by a batter record in MLB history
Current Holder: Reggie Jackson
On Deck: Jim Thome
Jackson might have been known for turning it on during the postseason, one of the reasons why he will forever be known as “Mr. October,” but among his many accolades, this one is often forgotten. In Jackson’s 21-season career, the slugger posted 11 campaigns with more strikeouts than hits. His worst season came in 1968, his second year as a professional. Jackson amassed 171 strikeouts compared to 138 hits. Still, the combination of speed, power and playoff prowess more than made up for his 2,597 career strikeouts.
He has yet to sign on with a team for the upcoming season, but Jim Thome still believes he can help a club should they call. The veteran is reportedly staying in top condition with the hope he hasn’t swung at his last pitch. If he does get the call, it won’t take long for him to be crowned baseball’s all-time leader in strikeouts by a hitter. If he whiffs just 50 more times, the “honor” will be all his. Given his recent ratios, Thome will need around 150 at-bats to claim this throne. If Thome doesn’t play this season, both Alex Rodriguez and Adam Dunn are less than 600 strikeouts away from passing Jackson for the top spot on the list. After notching 222 punch outs in 2012 alone, Dunn appears to be the leader in the clubhouse over Rodriguez, whose season debut will be delayed as he recovers from offseason hip surgery.
Other Franchise Records That Could Be Broken in 2013...
All-time saves record for the Cleveland Indians
Current Holder: Bob Wickman
On Deck: Chris Perez
Like many closers, Bob Wickman started his career in 1992 with the New York Yankees as a starting pitcher. He made the transition to closer for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1997, recording 25 saves. It wasn’t until 2001 that Wickman solidified his job as closer for the Cleveland, one which he would keep until 2006. Though he hovered around the 30-save mark for most of his career, his best season with the Indians came in 2005 when he recorded a career-high 45 saves. His franchise total of 139 saves has been the benchmark since 2006.
Right-hander Chris Perez will be looking to surpass Wickman in just his fourth season as the Indians’ closer. Powered by back-to-back seasons of 36 or more saves, Perez is just 41 shy of breaking Wickman’s record, which would be a career-best for him. A shoulder strain currently has his Opening Day prospects in limbo, but with the offseason acquisitions of Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Drew Stubbs and Mark Reynolds, Perez could see the most save opportunities of his career in 2013.
All-Time Stolen Base record for the Texas Rangers
Current Holder: Elliot “Bump” Wills
On Deck: Ian Kinsler
From 1977-82, second baseman Bump Wills was among the top ten American League base-stealers in all but one season. For the Rangers, Wills stole less than 28 bases just once in his five-year tenure. Though Wills still holds the teams’ single-season record with 52 swipes in 1978, his career record of 161 stolen bases is in jeopardy of being broken this season.
Current second baseman Ian Kinsler needs just five more steals to become the Rangers’ all-time thief. Kinsler has already posted five seasons with at least 21 steals, even if it will take him a little more than seven seasons to unseat Wills. It may not matter, however, since teammate Elvis Andrus isn’t too far behind with 123 stolen bases in just four seasons. Andrus, who had a season-best 37 stolen bases in 2011, is probably the bigger threat to Wills’ franchise single-season record of 52 as well.
All-Time saves record for the Milwaukee Brewers
Current Holder: Dan Plesac
On Deck: John Axford
It’s hard to believe, but Dan Plesac recorded at least one save in all but two of his 18 seasons as a pitcher. The three-time All-Star started his career with the Brewers in 1986, sticking with the team until after the 1992 season. Out of 178 save opportunities, Plesac was able to seal the deal 133 times, a franchise record which has stood for 20 years.
As good as Plesac was at converting opportunities, John Axford has been better. Out of 120 opportunities, Axford has shut the door 106 times. His success rate has him just 28 saves away from Plesac’s record, all with just three full seasons as the Brewers’ closer under his belt. Considering Axford totaled 35 saves last year, this should be a record broken and piled on for years to come.
All-time wins and strikeouts record for the Colorado Rockies
Current Holders: Aaron Cook (wins), Ubaldo Jimenez (strikeouts)
On Deck: Jeff Francis
The Rockies have been around for just 20 seasons and haven’t exactly developed a reputation for pitching, so it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise that the franchise leader in wins is just 72. That total belongs to Aaron Cook, who accumulated these over nine seasons with the Rockies. He has started more than 30 games just twice in his entire career, both of those seasons coming in Colorado. His peak came during the 2008-09 seasons, which saw Cook post a combined 27-15 record. Current Rockies pitcher Jeff Francis needs just 12 more wins this season to surpass Cook in the franchise record books. The problem is that since injuring his shoulder in 2009, Francis hasn’t been the same pitcher. He’s only averaged around five innings per start, an issue that has kept him out of action for all of 2009 and from winning six or fewer games his last four seasons. However, a new manager (Walt Weiss) and a pitching coach (Bo McLaughlan) who believe in Francis could help put this record within reach. He did win a total of 44 games from 2005-07 after all.
Francis also is just 95 strikeouts shy of breaking Ubaldo Jimenez’s club record of 773. Jimenez, who was shipped to Cleveland at the trade deadline in 2011, was in many ways the anti-Cook, posting three-straight seasons of 30-plus starts from 2008-10. Though he only was with the team for less than five full seasons, it was still all the time Jimenez needed to set the current club record for strikeouts. Francis should be able to surpass Jimenez in the category, as he’s posted five seasons with 91 or more punch outs. From 2005-07, Francis averaged nearly 137 strikeouts for the Rockies.
All-time home runs record for the Tampa Bay Rays
Current Holder: Carlos Pena
On Deck: Evan Longoria
The Tampa Bay franchise has only been in existence for 15 seasons, so the current home run leader is Carlos Pena with 163. He collected those in five seasons, including a career-high 46 in 2007. Third baseman Evan Longoria will be looking to take the lead from Pena in his sixth season in Tampa Bay. “Longo” needs 34 home runs to surpass Pena, but it’s his health and not his skill that will likely be the determining factor if this is the season he accomplishes the feat. Longoria has played just 207 total games the last two seasons, but did manage to hit 48 bombs during that period. Whether it’s this season or early in 2014, the franchise home run mark will eventually be Longoria’s, and considering he’s signed through 2023, there’s a good chance it will remain his when his career in Tampa Bay is over.
—By Adrian Mojica