Pitching Milestones Threatened by MLB Lockout

MLB players remain locked out by ownership. While there is plenty of reason for optimism that the 2022 season will be played normally, a shortened season could impact whether many players reach a variety of milestones and records. The batting milestones have already been covered, but many hurlers are closing in on significant pitching milestones as well.

Verlander Approaches 3,000 Innings Pitched

Justin Verlander signed a new contract with the Houston Astros before the lockout began. It includes a player option for the 2023 season as well, so he is likely to have a couple more seasons to make history. Still, Verlander will be 39 in February and missed all of 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Verlander should easily reach 3,000 innings pitched, barring a season-ending injury. He is only 12 innings away, currently second among active players.

However, Verlander needs 22 more wins to move into the Top 50 all-time. He has 226 wins and needs 248 to pass Bartolo Colon and Jack Quinn. If he regains his prior form, he should easily amass those wins over two years, but any missed games could leave him short of additional pitching milestones. Additionally, Verlander has 3,013 strikeouts. A strong return could put him alongside the likes of Bob Gibson and Pedro Martinez when he retires.

Wainwright Closes in on More History

The assumption going into the 2022 season is that it will be the last for Adam Wainwright. He has stated that he would like to retire when Yadier Molina does, and Molina plans to hang it up at the end of next year. This likely leaves Wainwright with only one more year to climb the leaderboards. He recorded his 2,000th strikeout late in 2021. Wainwright sits at 184 career wins. He certainly could reach 200 with a performance similar to his 2021 campaign. Any missed starts, due to injury or labor unrest, could leave him short.

Perhaps more of note is his quest with Molina to set the all-time record for games started by a battery. The duo currently has 305 starts together. They need 20 more to pass Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan for the top spot. They are currently in fourth with no other active battery above 200. If both stay healthy and a full season is played, they will easily set this one.

Scherzer and Kershaw Close In on 200 Wins

Wainwright isn’t the only starter eyeing 200 wins. Max Scherzer currently sits at 190 wins. He signed a three-year deal with the New York Mets in November. Ten wins will be no problem for the 37-year-old hurler. He’s reached double digits in wins every year since 2009 with the exception of 2020 when he only had 12 starts in a pandemic-shortened season. If Scherzer remains healthy, a delayed start to the 2022 season could impact his ability to reach 250 wins though. Scherzer is the active leader in strikeouts with 3,020.  Two more full, healthy seasons would likely place him in the Top 10. Scherzer is also only two starts away from 400.

Clayton Kershaw is currently a free agent, but he only needs 15 wins to reach 200. Where he will log that 15th win and whether it will be in 2022 or 2023 are the real questions. At only 33 years old, Kershaw likely has plenty of time to climb all of the leaderboards. He is 103 strikeouts away from cracking the Top 25.

Others Nearing Pitching Milestones

Jon Lester is just 12 strikeouts short of 2,500. He recorded his 200th win in 2021 as a Cardinal but is currently a free agent. The lefty started the year off poorly but was serviceable late in the year and should draw interest. He only needs a few starts to reach 2,500 strikeouts, but Lester is unlikely to log the 260 innings necessary to reach 3,000 career innings, regardless of whether the 2022 season begins on time.

Zack Greinke is also still a free agent, but he should draw plenty of interest once the lockout is over. The 38-year-old right-hander appears to be in decline, but he’s still a valuable asset. With 46 more strikeouts, he will enter the Top 20. He has enjoyed a relatively injury-free career and is only 12 starts away from 500.

Lefty Madison Bumgarner remains under contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks through 2024. He is 52 strikeouts shy of 2,000 and should reach that mark in 2022. At only 32, 2,500 strikeouts are within reach, but he hasn’t been as dominant over the last few years.

It’s far less certain whether Ervin Santana will reach 2,000 strikeouts. He is only 22 away, but the free-agent may not have many suitors. He only started two games last year for the Kansas City Royals to go with 36 relief appearances. Santana is unlikely to log the 14 starts necessary to have 400 for his career.

Pitching Milestones for Relievers

Two prominent relievers are nearing significant spots on the leaderboard in career saves. Craig Kimbrel has 372 saves. He is under contract through the end of next year with the Chicago White Sox. The biggest barrier for Kimbrel reaching 400 is teammate Liam Hendriks. If Hendriks continues as closer, Kimbrel won’t have many opportunities in 2022 to move up the list.

Whether Kenley Jansen will record the 19 saves he needs to move into the Top 10 will largely depend on where he signs. The 34-year-old reliever is still very effective and should be closing games out next season. If that is his role, he will pass Jonathon Papelbon who retired with 368 saves, assuming a full season of work.

Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images

Players Mentioned:

Justin Verlander, Bartolo Colon, Jack Quinn, Bob Gibson, Pedro Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Mickey Lolich, Bill Freehan, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester, Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner, Ervin Santana, Craig Kimbrel, Liam Hendriks, Kenley Jansen, Jonathon Papelbon