We're quickly approaching the 2021 MLB season. While last year's season was shortened to just 60 games due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 season is set to return back to baseball's normal, 162-game length. That means some players' pursuits for career records and milestones will be more attainable than they were during the abbreviated season. There's a chance for history to be made in the upcoming campaign with several star players nearing significant career milestones.
Here are some of the milestones to keep an eye on as the 2021 season begins:
Pujols padding counting stats
Angels slugger and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols is entering his 21st year in the majors and the final year of his 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels. It could very well be his final season in the majors. In 2020, Pujols passed Willie Mays to take fifth place for most home runs all-time in Major League Baseball. This season could bring more milestones for Pujols, though he would need a strong year to catch A-Rod on the all-time home run list. Let's take a look at where Pujols currently stands.
Currently at 662, needs 35 home runs to move into 4th place all-time
1. Barry Bonds: 762
2. Hank Aaron: 755
3. Babe Ruth: 714
4. Alex Rodriguez: 696
5. Albert Pujols: 662
6. Willie Mays: 660
Currently at 2,100 RBI, needs 114 to move into 2nd place all-time (if you count pre-1920 stats)*
1. Hank Aaron: 2,297
2. Albert Pujols: 2,100
*Only the legendary Hank Aaron, who recorded 2,297 RBI in 23 seasons, stands in front of Pujols now. It should be noted, however, that MLB does not count RBI prior to 1920 because it was not yet an official statistic. Both Babe Ruth (2,214 RBI) and Cap Anson (2,075 RBI) are in the 2,000 RBI club when you count pre-1920 stats.
Currently 669 doubles, needs 31 to hit the 700-mark.
Currently 1,843 runs scored, needs one more to move into 15th place all-time.
14. Mel Ott: 1,859
15. Craig Biggio: 1,844
16. Albert Pujols: 1,843
Clearly, Pujols is going to the Hall of Fame. The milestones, at this point, are just additional marks of greatness for one of the best hitters in baseball history, and while his power has regressed as he aged, he'll still have a chance to add to his legacy this season.
Miggy closing in on 500 homers
Tigers veteran Miguel Cabrera could join the 500-homer club during the 2021 season. Cabrera enters the season with 487 homers, good for 30th all-time. Cabrera, who turns 38 in April, needs seven long balls to pass Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff to move into 28th place on the all-time list. Thirteen homers will get Miggy to 500 and 17 in 2021 will tie him with Eddie Murray for 27th all-time. Cabrera, who had a down 2019, hit 10 homers in 231 plate appearances last year.
Yadi eyeing 2,000 games caught
Longtime Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has a chance to surpass 2,000 games caught this season. The 38-year-old Molina is 11 games shy of reaching the 2,000 milestone mark. He could move into fourth all-time for games caught during the 2021 season if he stays healthy. Here's the all-time list:
1. Ivan Rodriguez: 2,427
2. Carlton Fisk: 2,226
3. Bob Boone: 2,225
4. Gary Carter: 2,056
5. Jason Kendall: 2,025
6. Yadier Molina: 1,989
The 2021 season is Molina's 18th year in the big leagues. The Cardinals re-signed the two-time World Series champion to a one-year, $7 million contract this offseason after his three-year, $60 million deal expired.
3K for Scherzer?
Max Scherzer could become the newest member of the 3,000-strikeout club in 2021. The Nationals ace enters the year with 2,784 strikeouts and needs 216 to hit the milestone. Scherzer has recorded at least 231 strikeouts in every full season since 2012, and he averaged 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings during the abbreviated 2020 season. Scherzer sits 23rd on the all-time strikeout list and is second among active players. He has a chance to move into first on the active list with Justin Verlander (3,016 career strikeouts) likely to miss the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Chapman trying to join 300-save club
Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman might be able to hit a milestone in 2021. Chapman, 33, currently has a total of 276 career saves. So, he's just 24 saves away from hitting the 300 career saves mark Only 30 MLB closers have ever saved at least 300 games. Two pitchers who have hit the 300-mark are still active in the big leagues: Craig Kimbrel (348, 12th all-time) and Kenley Jansen (312, 24th all-time).
Lester less than 10 wins away from 200
Nationals starter Jon Lester is nearing the 200-win mark. Entering the 2021 season, the southpaw has 193 wins. Lester, 37, has the third-most wins among active pitchers, Astros teammates Zack Greinke (208) and Justin Verlander (226) only have more. In last season's abbreviated campaign, Lester finished 3-3, but before that, he had won at least 10 games every season since 2013. The veteran starter is also nearing in on the 2,500 strikeout mark; he currently has 2,397 strikeouts.
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