Posts Tagged ‘Paul Konerko’

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In no other sport do “magic numbers” mean more than in baseball. And while if the validity of such automatic qualifier numbers is still current, or needs to be revised for today’s game is another debate completely, there are still round numbers that prove excellence has been met for a long enough time to take note.

Each new summer brings a chance for a new chance for certain career mile-markers to be met each summer. This summer is no exception, as a few standout marks will be met. On the heels of his recent announcement to retire following the season, Derek Jeter will put the finishing touches on his legacy, which will see him move through the top 10 all-time in hits—and potential reach an awe inspiring cap.

Likewise, Albert Pujols will begin to touch some of the hallowed marks that his effort has long forecasted, as will Miguel Cabrera. More surprisingly however, is what the summer could represent for Adrian Beltre, who is on the cusp of several numbers that will begin to create a completely different connotation for his body of work.

Here are the major career milestones that stand to be met in the 2014 MLB campaign.

HITS

3,500 Hits

3,316—Derek Jeter is 184 hits short of becoming the sixth player ever to reach 3,500 hits. He is 199 hits away from moving ahead of Tris Speaker for fifth place all-time (3,514).

2,500 Hits

2,426—Adrian Beltre will easily surpass the 2,500 level and enters an important year towards making a decisive push towards getting aligned for a shot at 3,000 in his late prime at age 35.

2,000 Hits

1,996—Miguel Cabrera is four hits (or a game and a half for him) away.

1,993—Raul Ibanez is seven hits short of the mark at age 41.

HOME RUNS

500 Home Runs

492—Albert Pujols has hit a home run one per every 14.9 per at-bats in his career, and enters the season eight shy. Not that there was any doubt about his legacy, but this is the first in a line of major posts to be met by the three-time MVP.

450 Home Runs

440—Adam Dunn is ten way, and has hit one per every 14.7 at-bats in his career. It is not certain if he’ll continue after 2014, but he would be safely in range of 500 if he plays through 2015.

438—Paul Konerko is 12 short, and has homered once per every 18.9 at-bats in his career, but will be in a part-time role.

431—David Ortiz is 19 short, and has not had a season with less than 20 in a year since 2001.

400 Home Runs

376—Adrian Beltre, and he has averaged 32 per season over the past four years.

365—Miguel Cabrera is 35 away and has hit not had season total below 44 since 2011.

RUNS BATTED IN

1,500 RBI

1,498—Albert Pujols will meet the mark easily.

1,000 RBI

966—Matt Holliday should meet the mark by the All-Star Break at the latest.

963—Ryan Howard (health abiding) should move past the 1,000 mark. He’s never had a season with fewer than 43 RBI.

500 DOUBLES

495—Adrian Beltre will easily surpass the next milestone in his signature hit in the first month of the year.

200 WINS

189—Bartolo Colon is 11 shy of hitting the 200 mark, due to his late career resurgence in Oakland.

186—Mark Buehrle enters the year 14 victories short of the level. However, if history speaks for the future, he’ll have to wait until next summer—he has won 13 in four of the past five years, and has not topped 13 since 2008.

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2,500 STRIKEOUTS

2,389—CC Sabathia will become the ninth left-hander ever to surpass 2,500 strikeouts this summer, joining Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Mickey Lolich, Frank Tanana, Chuck Finley, Tom Glavine, Warren Spahn and Jerry Koosman.

SAVES

350 Saves

341—Joe Nathan enters the year nine saves shy of becoming the ninth player to ever accumulate 350, and has a shot to reach as high as seventh all-time this summer.

300 Saves

286—Jonathan Papelbon stands to shoot up past the middle-tier of closers historically and into near elite standing this year. With his standard 30+ saves he not only passes 300, but to pass into the top 10 next year.

286—Jose Valverde he was signed by the Mets last week to provide bullpen depth, so there’s no clear road to 300, but if he somehow ends up in the role due to an injury to Bobby Parnell he could meet it.

 

For the moments as they inevitably happen in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For more content, head to I70 Baseball and The Sports Fan Journal.

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The American League Central went a little differently than expected last year. Yeah, the bad teams were that and the good teams were that, but it took a lot longer road to figure it. The Chicago White Sox were legit for much of the season, behind an MVP-caliber early effort from Paul Konerko, Chris Sale’s emergence and bounce back campaigns from Alex Rios and Adam Dunn. In a division that was supposed to clearly belong to the Detroit Tigers, it seemed like a coup was on deck.

That was until Miguel Cabrera went into overdrive. The Tigers third baseman went on a second-half tear, and finished up the season by pulling his club to not only a division title, but to the World Series, and secured a first in 45 years Triple Crown for himself as well.

2012 Finish

1.                   Tigers (88-74)
2.                   White Sox (85-77)
3.                   Royals (72-90)
4.                   Indians (68-94)
5.                   Twins (66-96)

A year later, and the Tigers are perhaps better equipped than they left off, but it is not the same AL Central either. The Royals made a big, gamblers splash in the offseason, and are rounding into shape as legit competitors. Meanwhile the Cleveland Indians were a surprise aggressor on the open market, and have handed new manager Terry Francona a lot of weapons to utilize. For the first time in years, former MVP Justin Morneau is back to join Joe Mauer at the core of the Twins attack, and the White Sox are still in the fray as well. The Tigers had to fight their way to top last season, and if a similar bumpy road comes in front of them this time around, will a third consecutive division title be there for the taking this year?

All Division Team

Catcher: Joe Mauer-Twins

First Base: Prince Fielder-Tigers

Second Base: Jason Kipnis-Indians

Third Base: Miguel Cabrera-Tigers

Shortstop: Alcides Escobar-Royals

Left Field: Alex Gordon-Royals

Center Field: Austin Jackson-Tigers

Right Field: Josh Willingham-Twins

Designated Hitter: Billy Butler-Royals

In regaining his health, Mauer regained his bat as well. His .416 on-base percentage led the AL.

In regaining his health, Mauer regained his bat as well. His .416 on-base percentage led the AL.

Starting Pitcher: Justin Verlander-Tigers

Starting Pitcher: James Shields-Royals

Starting Pitcher: Chris Sale-White Sox

Starting Pitcher: Jake Peavy-White Sox

Righty Relief: Vinnie Pestano-Indians

Lefty Relief: Tim Collins-Royals

Closer: Chris Perez-Indians

Top 10

  1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
  2. Justin Verlander, Tigers
  3. Prince Fielder, Tigers
  4. Joe Mauer, Twins
  5. Alex Gordon, Royals
  6. James Shields, Royals
  7. Paul Konerko, White Sox
  8. Billy Butler, Royals
  9. Chris Sale, White Sox
  10. Austin Jackson, Tigers

Lineup

  1. Tigers
  2. Royals
  3. Indians
  4. White Sox
  5. Twins

The Tigers already could do serious damage with Cabrera and Fielder coming in behind Austin Jackson. Yet now the rich will get richer with Victor Martinez back from injury and Torii Hunter taking swings from the two spot, the Tigers 1-5 everyday lineup is ridiculous. Don’t sleep on the Royals either, with Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar all primed for breakthrough seasons.

Dunn and Konerko combined for 67 homers at the heart of the White Sox lineup.

Dunn and Konerko combined for 67 homers at the heart of the White Sox lineup.

Heart of the Lineup

  1. Tigers (Cabrera/Fielder/Martinez)
  2. White Sox (Konerko/Dunn/Rios)
  3. Twins (Mauer/Willingham/Morneau)
  4. Royals (Butler/Perez/Moustakas)
  5. Indians (Kipnis/Swisher/Santana)

There may not be a better 3-4-5 in baseball, depending on how well Martinez rehabs. However, the rest of the division is in good shape in the midst of their orders as well. The Indians are the relative worst in the division, with Nick Swisher, who hit 24 home runs last season, at the core of it. The entire fortune of the Twins rests on what Mauer, Willingham and Morneau are capable of pulling off each day.

Table Setters

  1. Tigers (Jackson/Hunter)
  2. Royals (Gordon/Escobar)
  3. Indians (Bourn/Cabrera)
  4. White Sox (De Aza/Keppinger)
  5. Twins (Mastroianni/Carroll)

Once again, the Tigers rule. Jackson was a terror last season, hitting double digits in doubles, triples and home runs, and topped 100 runs scored for second time in three years. By adding Bourn, the Indians add the most dynamic stolen base threat in baseball over the past five years. Alejandro De Aza is coming into his own as well, getting on-base at .329% clip.

Bench

  1. Indians
  2. Tigers
  3. Royals
  4. White Sox
  5. Twins

Quintin Berry is capable of producing anywhere in the Detroit outfield, and Ramon Santiago is capable at every position in the infield. In Cleveland, Terry Francona will be able to split time in multiple areas, with a very diverse bench of Mike Aviles, Ryan Rayburn and Lou Marson.

Rotation

  1. Tigers
  2. White Sox
  3. Royals
  4. Indians
  5. Twins

Justin Verlander, winning of 41 games since 2011, is a great start, but Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and the resigning of Anibal Sanchez gives them a glutton on riches. A bounce back effort from John Danks would go a long way towards giving the Sox one of the better AL rotations. The addition of James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis has completely revamped the Royals attack as a team.

The durable Shields was brought in to be both an example and stabilizer atop the Royals rotation.

The durable Shields was brought in to be both an example and stabilizer atop the Royals rotation.

1-2 Punch

  1. Tigers (Verlander/Scherzer)
  2. White Sox (Sale/Peavy)
  3. Royals (Shields/Guthrie)
  4. Indians (Masterson/Jimenez)
  5. Twins (Worley/Correia)

While there’s no question who’s the top dog in the D, Sale and Peavy are both capable of anchoring a very competitive club, as they proved last season in combining for 28 Chicago W’s. The Twins see a lot of potential in Vance Worley, as he inherited the top spot in their rotation from the second he was acquired. The Indians have a ton of potential, which has struggled to move past being only that in the inconsistent Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson

Bullpen

  1. Royals
  2. Indians
  3. Tigers
  4. Twins
  5. White Sox

One of the quietest, dominant units in baseball is the KC pen. They have 4 hurlers in Greg Holland, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera that can throw pure smoke. They are very versatile, and can be deployed in a variety of situations. Vinnie Pestano finished second in the AL in holds last season for Cleveland, while Glen Perkins limited left-handed hitters to a .192 average in Minnesota.

Defense

  1. Royals
  2. White Sox
  3. Indians
  4. Twins
  5. Tigers

The biggest Achilles for the Tigers is the fact their defensive often makes their potent lineup and pitching staff work too hard for wins. That’s not a problem that the Royals, as Gordon and Francouer are arguably the best defensive corner outfielders in baseball, while Escober, Hosmer, Moustakas and Getz are the best defensive infield in the game. The White Sox 70 errors were the fewest in MLB as a team.

Bourn pushes both the Indians extra base (42 steals) and defensive potential (2 Gold Gloves) to a new level.

Bourn pushes both the Indians extra base (42 steals) and defensive potential (2 Gold Gloves) to a new level.

Speed

  1. Royals
  2. Indians
  3. White Sox
  4. Tigers
  5. Twins

There’s not a bad runner on the team in KC, save for Billy Butler, but he’s not paid for that gig. In Cleveland, Bourn and Stubbs are fast enough to play a two-man outfield if needed (I’m sure of it). Between Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, DeWayne Wise and DeAza combined for 81 steals a year ago, and the best team defensive percentage .

Manager

  1. Jim Leyland, Tigers
  2. Ron Gardenhire, Twins
  3. Terry Francona, Indians
  4. Robin Ventura, White Sox
  5. Ned Yost, Royals

Leyland and Francona have a combined four World Series wins, and are two of the greatest motivators in the game…albeit in very different fashions. Ventura jumped from college baseball analyst to an 85-win MLB rookie manager last year. Also, there’s a reason why there’s no talk of trouble around Gardenhire despite two consecutive 90-loss seasons; it’s scary to think how bad it could be WITHOUT him.

Finances

  1. Tigers
  2. White Sox
  3. Indians
  4. Royals
  5. Twins

The Tigers played it cool for the most part on the market, outside of keeping their club intact for another run. They’ll need to hold funds back for the always needed in-season addition mid pennant chase most likely, especially with their current bullpen condition. The Indians had a surprisingly aggressive spending run this offseason, which could see them as sellers if it doesn’t payout by mid-summer.

Impact Additions

  1. James Shields (Royals from Rays)
  2. Michael Bourn (Indians from Braves)
  3. Nick Swisher (Indians from Yankees)
  4. Torii Hunter (Tigers from Angels)
  5. Wade Davis (Royals via trade)

The Royals made the ballsy move of the winter in trading everybody’s top prospect in Wil Myers to the Rays for Shields and Davis. It is a huge “win now” move from a franchise that hasn’t been in a position to do that in some time. The Indians core was rebuilt starting with Swisher, and later Bourn. Add in Trevor Bauer and Mark Reynolds, and it was an interesting winter in AL Ohio.

The continued growth and experience of Hosmer and Perez is at the heart of the Royals rise this summer.

The continued growth and experience of Hosmer and Perez is at the heart of the Royals rise this summer.

Leap Forward Candidates

  1. Salvador Perez,Royals
  2. Eric Hosmer, Royals
  3. Jason Kipnis, Indians
  4. Anibal Sanchez, Tigers
  5. Greg Holland, Royals

The time is finally here for the Royals window of competition to open. A key component will be Perez rising up to the elite producers at catcher this summer. He’s hit .311 in first 115 games, and should rise over 20 homers as well. If Hosmer can rebound from his down sophomore effort, the everyday lineup will have a lot more punch. Kipnis has a chance to ascend into the upper tier of second basemen in baseball this season.

Rookies/Prospects to Watch

  1. Trevor Bauer (Pitcher, Indians-MLB)
  2. Bruce Rondon (Pitcher, Tigers-MLB)
  3. Nick Castellanos (Third Base, Tigers-AAA)
  4. Aaron Hicks (Center Field, Twins-MLB)
  5. Francisco Lindor (Shortstop, Indians-A)

The biggest question mark for any serious competitor may be the Tigers’ closer situation. Rondon blew through the minors, and has been in the mix for the final frame in the Majors as well. If he takes on the role this year, he could be in the mix for AL Rookie of the Year. Hicks has blown up on the scene this spring and looks ready to step in and live up to his former Top 10 prospect potential.

2013 PREDICTIONS

  1. Tigers
  2. Royals
  3. Indians
  4. White Sox
  5. Twins

The Central is a division in transition…in the middle. Kansas City has improved each of the last three seasons, and is primed to make a major leap to league-wide respectability. This is due in part to the focus of management to add impact players to their maturing core, as well as a very balanced development of young talent both developed and acquired over the past few years. A run into the Wild Card picture should be expected, and a surge similar to last year’s Oakland Athletics should shock nobody.

Behind them, the margin between the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians is close. Where Cleveland is strong at the plate, Chicago is tough one the mound. The margin of difference could come down to the better equipped system of the Indians vs. the barren Sox farm. The Indians have the pieces to add to their push from within, while the Sox do not. Cleveland’s lack of pitching will keep them from truly pushing the Tigers, but a rise 10 game improvement or should be in the cards.

The Twins are in the midst of a long and drawn out rebuilding phase that has finally hit its bottom floor, and is ready to look up again. An influx of youngsters around their lineup should make things exciting occasionally, but frustrating more often than not. Another 90-loss year is on deck.

That just leaves the Tigers in the end, and the question is more not where they’ll finish in the first 162, but if they finally have the legs to win the last four of the last series of the season. They are a study in extremes: huge bats/terrible defense, great starters/questionable bullpen end. These are the type of issues that separate a club from the other elite teams in the league in the end, not so much the division. They will win the Central by more games than any other divisional champ, and could produce both an MVP, Cy Young winner, Comeback Player of the Year and maybe even a Rookie of the Year. Those would-be accolades aside, the difference is in the details for Leyland’s club. And it will take the full stretch of games to see if this “win now” club gets over itself, to rise above everyone else.

Last week, I started bringing the baseball season with the first section of the top 100 MLB players. Since the first part of the list dropped, pitchers and catchers have started to drop into camps down in Florida & Arizona. Also, keeping with the theme of the offseason, the unexpected has continued to rule as the Oakland Athletics pulled the upset and signed a big name, big money international free agent.

I’m sure that the next 25 players below will continue that theme as well. There were already a few claims of “There’s no way he’s that low!”, as well as a few “Overrated” calls that have started up, and now the gripe is sure to get a bit deeper. It has no choice but to when below there is a former Cy Young winner, a World Series MVP, Rookie of the Year, owner of a 30 game hit streak and the youngest hits king ever, all before I even crack the top 50.

So with no more delay, and no more intro intrigue, here are the 75th through 51st best players in baseball today.

75. Dan Uggla, Braves: Is feast WHILE famine possible? Well Uggla, who knocked out 30 homers for the 5th straight year last summer (the only second baseman to ever have 30 or more in three seasons), would know. He built up a 33-game hitting streak last summer….but didn’t hit .200 during the duration of it.

 

74. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers: When he finished with 207 strikeouts last summer, he hit the mile marker for the third time before his 25th birthday, becoming only the third pitcher to achieve this in the last 25 years.

73. Carlos Santana, Indians: His tear through the AL his rookie year in 2010 ended when he tore his ACL, but he still didn’t miss a step. He hit 27 home runs in his first complete season, the type of numbers that will make his move from catcher to first base this year seem natural.

72. Alex Avila, Tigers: Speaking of backstops swinging big sticks, Avila took a huge step into the forefront a year ago, hitting .295. With his 2010 mate in catching Victor Martinez out for this summer, another campaign like the breakout he came off of.

71. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks: He’s the run-producing heart of baseball’s fastest risers in Phoenix. A complete bat with 30 double power & a strong arm in the field, he’s the field general for a very talented young pitching staff with arms like…

70. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks: …the most surprising 20-game winner in the game a year ago. He epitomized the spirit of Arizona club that took down the World Champs and pulled a last-to-first turnaround: 2010 (in 32 starts) 9-10, 3.80 ERA. One year later (in 33 starts) 21-4, 2.80 ERA.

69. Paul Konerko, White Sox: He doesn’t age does he? Either that or he’s drinking that water Ponce De Leon found. Regardless of how his method, Konerko keeps swatting, and at 36 he’s coming off yet another 30 homer/100 RBI year.

Since turning 30, Konerko's hit at least his age in homers four out of six seasons.

68. Shane Victorino, Phillies: In the middle of a star studded Phillies club, he may be the most balanced overall threat they have. There aren’t too many switch hitting, Gold Glove holding, 30 base stealing, double digit triple totaling, All-Star players on any team.

67. Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians: The Indians surprised the baseball world prying the sensational Jimenez out of the Rockies last summer. They paid a high price, but got a dynamic talent back: He threw 1,342 pitches OVER 95 mph, and his 97 mph average is the hardest average in the game.

66. Jose Valverde, Tigers: It was dramatic at times, but results are results. The uber-eccentric Valverde took the ball in 49 save situations and saved 49 games for the Tigers last year. He brings a 51 game streak into 2012.

65. CJ Wilson, Angels: The Angels paid a big price to lure him from the rival Rangers, but they got one of the toughest lefties in the game. In just his second full year starting, Wilson won 16 games and ERA below 3.00. His game is rising right along with his income.

64. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: It’s a bit hidden because he’s showcasing his talents in the longtime baseball Siberia of Pittsburgh, but McCutchen is one of the most dynamic talents in the game, at only 25. Last year, he top 20 homers & 20 steals and the number in front of those zeros could get much higher.

If he didn't spend most of his time in Pittsburgh's outfield, McCutchen's talents would be much better known.

63. Nelson Cruz, Rangers: Nobody has better long ball timing than Nelson. Just last year he became the first player to hit a walk off grand slam in a postseason game. Then two games later, he hit another game winning shot to become the first player to ever hit two game winning, extra inning homers in the same postseason series.

62. Starlin Castro, Cubs: There’s hasn’t been a whole to get excited about around North Chicago baseball recently, outside of their 21 year old shortstop. He’s kicked his career off with a tool set similar to a young Derek Jeter, and led the NL in hits a year ago with 207; becoming youngest hits king in MLB history.

61. Ben Zobrist, Rays: If intangibles had another name, it would probably be Zobrist. Tampa’s ultimate weapon can take a glove to any position, and few players do more to push their team to the next level. Last May, he turned in a 10 RBI double header performance.

60. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: The Massachusetts on-base machine had his year ended early, but a return back to even part of his usual form makes him one of the most dangerous bats in the game. His 3 year average from 2008-10: .308, 25 homers & 90 RBI, with a robust .404 on-base percentage.

59. Dan Haren, Angels: A workhorse, definitely not the quarter variety. Haren simply throws quality inning on top of quality inning, and when he’s right, there’s little that can be done. He went over 30 starts and 200 innings for the 7th consecutive year in 2011 and tossed a career high three shutouts.

58. Neftali Feliz, Rangers: It looks like he’ll take his dominant stuff to starting games instead of finishing them in 2012. Not that that status quo was a problem; in his first two seasons he saved 74 games with him high 100 mph fastball/low 90’s slider mix.

More than one inning of Feliz per game may have to be investigated as cheating. Seriously.

57. Tim Hudson, Braves: He’s frustrated batters into 33 wins games the last two years, and it’s really no surprise. Wins are what he’s all about: he’s only once not won at least 60% of his games in a season.

56. Elvis Andrus, Rangers: Watch enough Rangers games and you’ll realize that anything not hit straight down the first base line could potentially be Andrus’ property. That same speed he uses to steal hits also gets him over 30 base thefts annually as well.

55. Zack Greinke, Brewers: Zack locked the gates of Miller Park in his debut year in the National League, going 11-0 at home. Overall, he won 72% of his starts, and despite missing the first month of the year, he struck out 200 batters as well. This full year he’s about to get could be scary.

54. Lance Berkman, Cardinals: Please, don’t call it a comeback. The Big Puma finished in the top 10 in the NL in virtually every category that matters after nearly not even getting an invite to join a team headed into the season and having to fit into the outfield. His reward this year: getting to change positions again…and replace Albert Pujols.

53. Craig Kimbrel, Braves: He made being a “rookie” look like a mere formality, because his year one reset the record books. His 46 saves destroyed the former NL rookie record by 10 & passed the MLB mark by six. If this wasn’t enough, he struck out 127 batters in just 77 innings and set the consecutive scoreless innings mark for the season too.

In one season, Kimbrel dominated to the point of making a legit claim to best closer in the game.

52. David Price, Rays: 41 wins & two All-Star games in three seasons of starting don’t tell the full story of Price. His repertoire is so devastating that he often doesn’t even need to change speeds, because often…it’s really not necessary. He cracked 200 strikeouts for the first time last year, and he’s just getting a hold on this starter thing.

51. Cole Hamels, Phillies: There’s not a better third best starter on any team than Hamels is on the Phillies, because really, there aren’t many 1’s or 2’s better on most other squads. An artist on the mound, moving the ball in and out, he averaged less than one base runner per inning last year.

 

For more debate as the bottom 50 wraps up and moves into the Top 50 best ballplayers in the world, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatfan.