How The 60-Game Season Affects Players' Milestone Pursuits
Baseball milestones echo through the ages.
As we approach the 100th anniversaries of Ty Cobb collecting his 3,000th hit, Babe Ruth hitting his 500th home run and Walter Johnson striking out his 3,000th batter—all in the 1920s—those achievements still resonate.
As we enter the 2020s, a number of the game’s brightest stars are on pace to one day reach those same milestones and enter the baseball pantheon.
But it wouldn’t be 2020 without a cruel twist. The coronavirus-shortened 60-game season announced on June 22 will affect players’ climbs to those peaks.
To get an idea of what the pandemic has wrought on the baseball record book, I determined how star players’ pursuits of 3,000 hits, 500 home runs and 3,000 strikeouts were affected by losing 102 games this season. Bear in mind that the 1994 strike and ’95 spring lockout cost players 66 regular season games.
In order to do so, I had to make a few assumptions. First, that active players would conform, more or less, with the median pace set by post-integration players who reached the above milestones. Second, that players would match projected 2020 totals established by the Steamer system, as found at FanGraphs.com
The tables below display players' career totals after 2019, their projected Steamer totals for 2020 and their milestone pace under three different scenarios for the 2020 season: zero games (if the season is canceled), 162 games (an impossibility) and 60 games.
The plus/minus numbers in the last three columns represent where each player is projected to stand on his way to said milestone under the various scenarios. For example, Manny Machado would still be +78 hits on his way to 3,000 (compared with post-integration historical standards) even in a 60-game season. In that scenario, Machado is credited with 37% of his projected hit total for 2020, because the season is scheduled to be 37% of its typical length.
|Player||Age||Hits||Steamer||0 G||162 G||60 G|
Because they debuted young and hit the ground running, Manny Machado and Mike Trout are both on a good pace for 3,000 hits. The shortened doesn't project to set them back much.
The climb becomes steeper for Jose Altuve as he enters his 30s, and for Xander Bogaerts, who very quietly collected his 1,000th career hit last season at age 26. Given the way he has been trending, Bogaerts has the time to get back on a 3,000 track.
500 Home Runs
|Player ||Age||HR||Steamer||0 G||162 G||60 G|
Baseball today is a power game. As such, a total of five young sluggers would still be on pace for 500 home runs even with no games played this season.
Nolan Arenado falls the farthest behind the pace with a shortened season, but he reached the major leagues young, is still highly productive and still calls Coors Field home, so he has many things in his favor.
|Pitcher||Age||SO||Steamer||0 G||162 G||60 G|
The amazing Clayton Kershaw should have no trouble sailing to 3,000 strikeouts to further his Hall of Fame credentials.
Max Scherzer is 35 and needs 308 more strikeouts to reach 3,000. His climb got a little steeper with the games lost this season, but he is just two full healthy seasons away from sealing the deal.