MLB Record Watch and Some Fun With On Pace Numbers

Scott Halleran

Looking at some on-pace totals, what Major League records are in danger of falling this season?

Although the snapshot nature of "on pace" numbers render them rather meaningless, I have always found some enjoyment in the full year lines of players that have not yet played out the full season. Early in the season the numbers may look outlandish, but with each day that passes they become more valid and realistic. Now, while we've still got a long way to go in the 2013 season, I want to take a look at three players who surprisingly each have a shot at setting a Major League record this season.

To do so, I simply used on-pace numbers for Manny Machado, Chris Carter, and Jason Grilli, taken on the morning of June 16, 2013 before any games had started. This is important, because one plate appearance will change the pacing totals that we are examining. Also, as I alluded to above, this is meant more for fun than for practical purposes, but I have included the ZiPS projections to give some perspective on where each player may finish the season. With that, let's look at our record challengers.

Manny Machado's Doubles

Despite his history as a top-prospect and his impressive late season callup last year, no one would have been surprised if the 20-year old struggled a bit in his first full season in the Majors. Rather than struggle though, Machado ranks among the top-10 hitters in terms of WAR. A large part of his success has been his propensity for doubles, hitting them in bunches since the beginning of the season.

Current total on 6.16.2013: 31 doubles

On pace for: 72 doubles

  • 72 doubles would break the all-time single season record of 67, set in in 1931 by Earl Webb.
  • With 29 more doubles, Machado will become the first player to hit 60 doubles in a season since Charlie Gehringer in 1936.
  • Machado's current walk rate is 4.4%, his strikeout rate is 13.8%, and his doubles rate is 9.7%.
  • Machado's 72 doubles would be 13 more than anyone has hit in the 2000's.
  • The total would be 21 more than Alex Gordon's league leading total of 51 from last season.
  • Since 1900, only 88 players have hit even 50 doubles in a season, a number Machado might reach by August.
  • Machado is on pace for just 12 home runs and 5 triples, giving new life to the term "doubles power".

ZiPS is currently projecting 53 doubles for Machado at season's end.

Chris Carter's Strikeouts

Chris Carter has always known how to swing and miss, evidenced by his 31.9% strikeout rate last year, but this season he has taken that skill to a new level. Now nearly half through the season he is taking aim at Mark Reynold's strikeout record set just 4 years ago. The real question with negative records like this is if the playing time will remain to have a shot, and luckily for Carter, he plays for an organization that is going to give him the opportunity to take down the mark.

Current total on 6.16.2013: 97 strikeouts

On pace for: 224 strikeouts

  • Carter's 224 strikeouts would best Mark Reynold's 2009 single season record by a single punchout.
  • As a rate stat though, Carter's 38.2% strikeout rate would be the highest single season number by nearly 3% over Reynold's 2010 season.
  • In fact, his 38.2% would not only be the best single season mark for hitters, but it also would best Pedro Martinez's 1999 37.5% mark for qualified pitchers, the best rate in the last 30 years.
  • During the first 3 years of his career, Albert Pujols had 2,036 plate appearances and struck out 227 times. Carter is on pace to strike out 3 less times in 1,449 fewer trips to the plate.
  • Unfortunately, with on pace totals of 32 home runs and 62 walks he would rank just 27th all-time in single season "three true outcomes". Mark McGwire's 1998 season still holds the standard there with 387 combined home runs, walks, and strikeouts.
  • Again though, Carter is better on a rate basis as his 54% TTO rate would rank in the top-10 in history.

ZiPS is currently predicting a reduction in the frequency of strikeouts, projecting 203 strikeouts and a 34.9% rate.

Jason Grilli's FIP

Jason Grilli is one of the great stories of the 2013 baseball season. For much of his career, he was just a replacement level reliever, but over the last two years he has transformed himself into a dominating pitcher with the Pirates. Because he's a reliever we have to focus on the rate stats, which really don't leave much to the imagination with pacing. Regardless, Grilli make us all forget how well Craig Kimbrel and ARoldis Chapman pitched just last year.

2013 total on 6.16.2013: 0.47 FIP

On pace for: 0.47 FIP

  • If he does finish the season with a sub-0.50 FIP, he will be the first pitcher (minimum 50 innings pitched) to do so.
  • If he regresses a bit, he has some room to break the all-time single season of 0.78 mark set by Craig Kimbrel in 2012. Kimbrel and Eric Gagne (2003) are the only two pitchers to ever have FIPs under 1.00.
  • A big part of his success has been an outstanding strike out rate, currently sitting at 43.4%. That mark would be tied with Billy Wagner for the fifth highest mark ever.
  • If you like (K-BB)/PA, and here's why you should, his 38.1% would put him third all-time, just behind Kimbrel and Gagne, and right ahead of Aroldis Chapman's 2012 season.
  • Oh, and he's also on pace for 57 saves, which would tie him for the second most in a single-season ever.

ZiPS predicts his final year FIP to be 1.45, phenomenal, but not record setting.

So will any of the three records be broken? I say at at season's end all three shall stand, despite solid efforts from each player. But although this was an exercise done for entertainment more than anything, I certainly will be following Machado, Carter, and Grilli as they chase history in the second half of the 2013 season.

Andrew Ball is a writer for Beyond the Box Score, Fake Teams, and Fantasy Ninjas.

You can follow him on twitter @Andrew_Ball.


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