A running joke on opening day is "Player X is on pace for 162 Home Runs!" Certainly, talking about what a player is on pace for is two things: dumb and fun.
Since it is fun, and since we are a little over the month into the season, it seems like the perfect time to see which players are on pace for unusual final season statistics. For example, before last night game Michael Pineda was on pace to give up 0 home runs this year. He is now on pace to give up ~10 home runs. For shame, Michael Pineda!
It doesn't mean that players can't accomplish some of these goals however. Who would have predicted Jose Bautista to actually hit 54 home runs last year? After May he was on pace for 48 HR. So, yeah.
Who can we keep an eye on after roughly 30 games into the season?
Player: Sam Fuld
The Number: 10 stolen bases
The Pace: 54 stolen bases
Fuld has played in 28 of 30 games for the Rays this year. Probably not slated to be a full-time player, Fuld forced his way into the everyday lineup by providing key hits and timely stolen bases. Between April 6th-April 18th, Fuld hit .420/.444/.640 with 7 stolen bases.
Accounting for the 2 games missed and assuming he played 150 games over the season, Fuld would be on pace for 54 stolen bases. That would be a lot.
Will it happen? Doubtful. Has the mystique of Fuld already worn off? Since he got the golden sombrero on April 24th, Fuld is hitting .081/.190/.135 and hasn't attempted a steal.
We shouldn't judge Fuld on his hot streak or his recent cold streak. He is probably qualified to be an everyday outfielder that finds himself somewhere in the middle with a decent number of stolen bases.
The Player: Alex Gordon
The Number: 13 doubles
The Pace: 70 doubles
Everybodys favorite former top prospect turned bum turned good again is on pace to break the single season doubles record. Is Gordon the next Josh Hamilton?
No. The record for doubles in a season belongs to Earl Webb, who hit 67 doubles in 1931. Only 6 players in history have topped 60 doubles, and 4 of them are in the Hall of Fame. Active players who have come closer are Todd Helton (59), Brian Roberts (56), and Lance Berkman (55)
Gordon has played in 29 of 30 games for the Royals, and assuming he gets only a couple of days off, over 158 games that equates to 70 doubles. Gordon had 8 doubles in the first 13 games, and has 5 doubles in the last 16. If he kept up hitting 5 doubles every 16 games, that's a 50 double/162 games season. If you hit 8 doubles every 13 games, thats a 99 doubles/162 games season. Interesting that while his start was torrid, he hasn't been slow on hitting doubles since.
The real threat to Gordon hitting 50-60 doubles is that he only has 2 home runs on the year. He's hitting few balls in the air. Will some of those doubles turn into home runs and flyouts once he stops hitting everything on the ground or on a liner? If Gordon hits 1 double every 3.5 games, he'll finish the season with a nice 50 doubles. Something only 88 players have ever done.
The Player: Alfonso Soriano
The Number: 11 HR
The Pace: 59 HR
The major league leader in HR belongs to the money pit known as Alfonso Soriano. He's played in 29 of 30 games for the Cubbies, and if he plays in every game on this pace, he'll finish 1 shy of 60.
Remember when 60 really meant something? I remember watching Griffey as a kid and thinking he could do it and always watching in awe. Now its more like you watch in yawn.
Soriano recently had 5 HR over a 5 game stretch, which gave him the lead league. He's always been a known power hitter, and his career high is 46. But his lack of patience at the plate, his low batting average, his now missing stolen base numbers, and the move from 2B to OF made him an afterthought to fantasy (and real) owners. Mostly seen as a disappointment around the league.
I don't think anyone would be surprised if Soriano hit 50 during a season. Afterall, it seems to be the only thing he cares about. He has 8 more home runs than he does walks and he's struck out 29 times in 29 games. Soriano is a sore spot in any lineup, fantasy or otherwise. But the home runs are for real.
The Player: Jose Bautista
The Number: 30 walks
The Pace: 180 walks
Mr. 54 hasn't slowed down in any category and only appears to be building off of last season, not regressing on the downward trend we all figured he would. Call it being pitched around, call it a good eye, Bautista is being patient and he's only been intentionally walked once this year. 8 times less than league leader Miguel Cabrera
Batista has missed 5 games, a few now for injury and a few for the birth of his first child. Bautista is expected back from a neck injury on Sunday, which is not thought to be serious. Over a 150 game season, at this pace, he will draw 180 walks, the third highest total in history. Joining Barry Bonds who currently holds 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the record books.
Frankly, Hall of Fame power sluggers almost exclusively get this kind of respect. How high can Bautista finish? Since Bautistas track record only goes back a year (in terms of THIS version of Bautista) its hard to say. But I like his chances to finish with a high number. If he grabs just 150 walks, he'll tie Babe Ruth for 11th all-time.
The Player: Lance Berkman
The Numbers: 9 doubles, 9 HR, 39 hits, 28 RBI
The Pace: 48 HR, 48 doubles, 208 hits, 150 RBI
So far the 2011 Comeback story is so far back that he's basically beyond anywhere he's been before. His numbers have been ridiculous and nobody expects him to sustain them. His .380 BABIP will come down and the hits and average will come down. But still, its interesting to see what he's on pace for if you estimate a 150-game season.
The 48 doubles would be the 2nd highest of his career, after the already mention 55 double season. The 48 HR would be a career high, he's topped 40 twice. The 150 RBI would easily be a career high, and he hasn't hit triple digits since 2008. He's never topped 200 hits before.
Berkman can just go ahead and be good from here on out and still finish with some numbers we haven't seen from him in 5 years.
By the way, a player has accumulated 200 hits, 40 doubles, 40 home runs, and 150 RBI just 9 times in history. If you want to know who those 9 players are, pay for my subscription to Baseball-Reference.