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Milestones: What We Will See In The 2021 MLB Season

Lynne Sladky/AP

In 2020, we saw Albert Pujols tie and then pass Willie Mays for fifth-most home runs all-time and Mike Trout reach 300 career home runs to become the Angels’ all-time leader, among various career milestones.  Here is a look at some major milestones on the horizon for 2021.

Max Scherzer: 3,000 strikeouts

Scherzer enters the year 23rd on the all-time strikeout list, with 2,784. Scherzer needs 216 strikeouts for the 3,000 strikeout milestone, which seems quite likely barring anything unforeseen. Other than 2020, the last time Scherzer failed to strike out 216 batters was in 2011, when he had a 4.43 ERA in his second season with the Tigers and fourth in the Majors overall.

When Scherzer reaches 3,000 he would move from 23rd to 19th on the all-time strikeouts list. Most notably with his first 20 strikeouts this year he will pass Cy Young. The 3,000 mark is certainly elite territory: Of the 18 pitchers to reach it, the only ones not in the Hall of Fame are Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling, plus CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander, who are not yet eligible.

Clayton Kershaw: Dodgers’ all-time strikeout leader

Kershaw is approaching Don Sutton’s franchise record in strikeouts. Sutton notched 2,696 during his time in Dodger blue. Kershaw enters the year at 2,526, having surpassed the 2,500 strikeout milestone in 2020. The only active pitcher who is his team’s franchise strikeout leader is Stephen Strasburg, at 1,697, more than anyone else in a Nationals or Expos uniform.

Since 2009, Kershaw has struck out 172 batters in each season except for 2018 and the 2020 shortened season. He isn’t the lock for a 200-strikeout season that he used to be, but if he stays healthy this is a milestone he should reach.

Albert Pujols: ninth all-time in hits, third in total bases, and third in extra-base hits

Pujols is approaching the top 10 all-time in hits and top three for both total bases and extra-base hits. He enters 2021, 14th in hits, with 3,236. He needs 84 hits to vault from 14th all-time to ninth, passing Paul Molitor. The next few names on the list, according to the Elias Sports Bureau:

  1. Carl Yastrzemski: 3,419
  2. Paul Molitor: 3,319
  3. Eddie Collins: 3,314
  4. Willie Mays: 3,283
  5. Eddie Murray: 3,255
  6. Nap Lajoie: 3,252

Pujols enters the year with 5,923 career total bases, trailing only Barry Bonds (5,976), Mays (6,066), Stan Musial (6,134), and Hank Aaron (6,856). Even though his production has fallen off in recent years, Pujols averaged 210 total bases per season in 2017-2019. That total on the dot would give him 6,133, putting him one total base from tying Musial for second-most.

Pujols has 1,347 career extra-base hits, fifth behind only Babe Ruth (1,356), Musial (1,377), Bonds (1,440), and Aaron (1,477). Similarly, his 2017-19 average of 41 extra-base hits per year would give him 1,388, which would be good for third on the list behind only Aaron and Bonds. He’s 10 shy of passing Ruth and 31 shy of passing Musial.

Yadier Molina: 2,000 games caught

Molina caught all 42 games he played in 2020, bringing his career total to 1,989 games caught. He’s sixth all-time on the list, after passing Tony Peña last season.

Molina enters the year 11 games shy of 2,000 caught for his career, 37 shy of passing Jason Kendall for fifth all-time and 68 shy of passing Gary Carter for fourth.

Molina will turn 39 in July, which is certainly a consideration here, but all indications are that Molina is the Cards’ primary catcher again this year -putting 2,000 games and moving up the list very much within reach, barring injury.

Aroldis Chapman: 300 saves

Chapman enters 2021 with 276 career saves, third-most among active pitchers behind Craig Kimbrel (348) and Kenley Jansen (312). He enters the season 24 saves shy of 300, which seems like a realistic mark to reach and surpass in 2021. Chapman’s career-high saves total was 38 in 2012 and ’13 with the Reds, and he had 37 as recently as 2019. Those 24 more saves would make him the 31st pitcher to reach at least 300 career saves.

Jon Lester: 200 wins

Lester recorded three wins in 2020 and enters the season with 193 victories in his career. Lester is seven wins shy of reaching 200, which seems like a fair mark to expect in 2021. He’s part of the Nationals’ rotation and can expect the usual 25-plus starts if all goes well. As noted above, he won three of his 12 starts in 2020, but prior to 2020, he hadn’t won fewer than seven games in a season since 2007, when he had four wins in his second year in the Majors. If the Nationals are to compete in 2021, Lester being a solid part of the rotation will likely factor in, and it could facilitate this milestone happening.

Joey Votto: 300 home runs, 1,000 RBIs

Votto enters the year with 295 career homers and 966 RBIs. He’s already second among Canadian-born players all-time in home runs, but reaching an even 300 would put him in rarefied air on the list with Hall of Famer Larry Walker, who hit 383. The only year he has hit fewer than 5 homers was his rookie debut year.

Votto is third on the all-time RBI list among Canadian-born players, trailing Justin Morneau (985) and Walker (1,311), so he could be the second to reach the round-number mark of 1,000 here, as well. He needs 34 RBIs to reach 1,000, and considering that he racked up 22 in 54 games in 2020, it seems likely. He’s had at least 47 RBIs in each year of his career when he played 100 or more games.

Miguel Cabrera: 500 home runs, 3,000 hits

These two milestones were on the list for Cabrera last year, too, but both were long shots in a 60-game season. This was covered in February by Vendetta.







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