MLB Lockout Puts Batting Milestones in Jeopardy

A number of batting milestones are likely to be reached in the upcoming season. With players currently locked out by ownership, there is no guarantee that the 2022 baseball season will start on time. Of course, an agreement and normal season is the most likely scenario. Peace is profitable in professional sports and both sides have every incentive to prioritize playing games over winning negotiations. However, the possibility exists that one side, or both, will draw a line in the sand, and the season will be delayed. Much is lost when baseball isn’t played, and these milestones may be affected.

Cabrera Closing In

Miguel Cabrera sits on the doorstep of 3,000 hits. He needs 13 more to hit the historic milestone. He will likely only need a dozen or so games to pass the mark, so barring a tragic end to his career, labor unrest won’t impact that piece of history.

After joining the 500 club in 2021, Cabrera is nine home runs away from moving into the Top 25 and 19 away from the Top 20. Cabrera hit 15 home runs last year, so a significantly shortened season might prevent either of those in the near term. He is signed through 2023 and has vesting options through 2025, so it still seems likely that he will reach each of those marks. However, that doesn’t mean a stoppage won’t impact his final place on the leaderboard. Cabrera currently has 1,804 RBI. He needs 24 to move into the Top 20. While this is likely, driving in 118 more runs to tie Jimmie Foxx in the Top 10 is a tall order.

Pujols to Pass A-Rod?

Albert Pujols is only 17 home runs away from tying Alex Rodriguez for fourth place. He managed to hit 17 long balls last year, so it’s within reach if he plays a full season in 2022. He needs 35 home runs to tie Babe Ruth. It’s possible, but the aging slugger will need to play two more seasons or return to his 2015 form to do it. Similarly, he’s only 18 hits away from entering the Top 10 in career hits. A current free agent, Pujols will need to sign with a team before he can pass Eddie Collins and Paul Molitor on the leaderboard. He would need multiple seasons to accumulate the 118 hits necessary to catch Carl Yastrzemski and move into ninth. Any significant drop in regular season games threatens Pujols’ quest.

Pujols has 2,150 RBI and needs just 64 to tie Ruth for second on the all-time list. He needs 147 to match Hank Aaron as the career leader. That record appears out of reach, though tying Ruth is conceivable. Pujols is 128 runs scored away from 2,000 for his career. These batting milestones are likely out of reach even without a labor stoppage as well. He is currently 14th all-time and could pass Tris Speaker with 11 runs. To reach the Top 10, he will need to unseat fellow St. Louis Cardinals‘ legend Stan Musial, who scored 1,949 times. Pujols only scored 29 runs in 2021 and needs 77 to catch Musial, which seems unlikely unless Pujols can hang on for three more seasons.

Other Players Nearing Batting Milestones

Nelson Cruz could reach the 2,000-hit milestone. Cruz is 41 and a free agent. However, Cruz should have no difficulty finding work. He needs 87 more hits to reach 2,000. He racked up 136 hits in 2021, so a shortened season or age-related decline could threaten Cruz’s ability to get to 2,000. Likewise, Cruz should easily hit his 450th home run this year, as he only needs one, but his path to 500 home runs is far less certain.

The Washington Nationals have expressed interest in re-signing Ryan Zimmerman, but he remains a free agent with retirement as a possibility. He still needs 154 hits to reach the 2,000 mark. He would need two more seasons to do it. Zimmerman is 16 home runs short of joining the 300-home run club and 37 runs away from 1,000 for his career. If Robinson Cano can come back after losing 2021 to a PED suspension, he would need 16 home runs to reach 350. Yadier Molina should manage the two RBI necessary to get him to 1,000 in his final year.

Younger Players May Fall Short

It’s impossible to know with certainty everything that was lost in 1994. Tony Gwynn was threatening .400. The Montreal Expos were World Series favorites. The missed opportunity for counting stats isn’t always evident at the time. But the lost games in 1994 and 1995 kept both Cal Ripken Jr. and Jim Thome from retiring with 1,700 RBI. Barry Bonds only needed four RBI to retire with 2,000. Bonds also may have been able to catch Ty Cobb in runs scored—he only needed 18 more—if the full season would have been played.

If the season is shortened, it may be years before we know the impact on stats for players who aren’t nearing retirement. Giancarlo Stanton will certainly reach 350 home runs—he only needs three more. A strike-shortened season could make a difference in his final tally. Elvis Andrus is 136 hits away from 2,000. He’s only 33 and likely to reach the milestone with relative ease, assuming his production doesn’t go off a cliff. But a significant stoppage might cost him 2,500. Time will tell if negotiations are fruitful, baseball resumes on time, and lots of history is made in 2022.

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Players Mentioned:

Miguel Cabrera, Albert PujolsAlex RodriguezBabe RuthEddie CollinsPaul MolitorCarl Yastrzemski, Hank AaronTris SpeakerStan Musial, Nelson Cruz, Ryan Zimmerman, Robinson Cano, Yadier Molina, Tony GwynnCal Ripken JrJim ThomeBarry BondsTy CobbGiancarlo StantonElvis Andrus