Ichiro Suzuki

Which of these 6 MLB records could be broken in a shortened 2020 season?

Which of these 6 MLB records could be broken in a shortened 2020 season?

Last summer, one of the many running jokes we had during Phillies games in the NBC Sports Philadelphia newsroom was that Scott Kingery was going to hit .400. Kingery, you may recall, was hitting .406 at the end of April and .347 on June 1 (in only 80 plate appearances).

Every time Kingery got a knock, our producer would yell over, "Scotty's assault on .400 continues!"

Fun can be had with small sample sizes. Of course, we all knew that Kingery wasn't going to hit .400 over a full season.

But what about a half-season?

We could see some MLB records "fall" in 2020. They would likely be accompanied by an asterisk, but tell me you wouldn't be interested in a player battling in the final weeks to hit .400, or a starting pitcher maintaining an ERA right around 1.00?

Batting average

The single-season record in the live-ball era (post-1920) belongs to Rogers Hornsby, who hit .424 in 1924. The last time anyone hit .400 was when Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941.

But did you know that in the final 81 games of the 2004 season, Ichiro hit .425? The 2020 season could end up being 82 games, and you don't even have to go back two decades to find the last time a player could have "set the record" in that many games.

Of course, there is no Ichiro in today's game. In fact, over the last five years, only 11 players have even hit .330 in a season, Bryce Harper being one of them in 2015. Jose Altuve is the only one to do it twice within the last five seasons. It's such a different game than in 2004 when Ichiro did his thing, mostly because strikeouts have skyrocketed and balls in play have plummeted.

The likelihood of anyone hitting .400 this season (and perhaps ever again) is remote, even in 82 games or 400 plate appearances. Last season, the closest anyone was to .400 through 80 to 82 games was Cody Bellinger at .346.

ERA

The modern record belongs to Bob Gibson, who had a 1.12 ERA in 1968, a putrid offensive season leaguewide. A year later, the mound was lowered by five inches.

Could a starting pitcher post an ERA below 1.12 in a shortened season?

If the season is 82 games, a starting pitcher could make a maximum of 16 regular-season starts. Starting pitchers will not be going as deep into games because they will not be built up the way they usually are. You'd think six-inning starts would be rarities, especially in the early going.

So let's safely assume that a starting pitcher will end up with around 90 innings. Posting an ERA below 1.12 would require allowing no more than 11 earned runs over those 90 innings. 

Doable? Yeah. Almost every year we see a starting pitcher dominate for a half-season. In 2019, Hyun-Jin Ryu had a 1.26 ERA through his first 14 starts and 93 innings. Two fewer earned runs would have had him at 1.06.

The year before, Jacob deGrom had a 0.90 ERA over a 70-inning stretch and a 1.28 ERA over a 100-inning stretch.

It could happen, though Dan Haren's got a good point.

You also have to consider the pressure of doing so. Pitching seven scoreless innings in July to lower your ERA to 1.06 in a normal year is not the same as needing to pitch seven scoreless at the end of an abbreviated season to have the lowest ERA in decades.

OBP and slugging percentage

Yeah ... no. Nobody is outslugging Barry Bonds' .863 from 2001. As amazing as Bellinger's 2019 was, he was slugging 160 points lower halfway through the season.

And nobody is going to come within 100 points of Bonds' record .609 OBP in 2004. My favorite part of that number is that Bonds' NON-on-base-percentage that year was .391, which would lead the league in OBP in most years itself.

WHIP

The modern record is 0.73 by Pedro Martinez in 2000 at the height of the steroid era. Totally absurd. 

This is another record that could be bested in a shortened 2020 season. Justin Verlander had a 0.80 WHIP just last year, the second-lowest mark in the last 107 seasons.

Nobody really remembers who has the WHIP record, but it could fall this season based on how much less contact there is in the sport. The guys who miss bats and live in the strike zone like Verlander of Cliff Lee in his prime are the likeliest candidates. 

Had Verlander's 2019 season ended after 90 innings, he'd have been decimal points better in WHIP than Pedro in 2000.

Strikeout-to-walk ratio

The record belongs to Phil Hughes, who walked one batter for every 11.63 he struck out in 2014. He also posted this picture the other day.

In 2010, Cliff Lee's strikeout ratio was at 14.8 when he was traded from the Mariners to the Rangers. His season was 104 innings old. 

This baby could fall, though even one start with two or three walks would likely close the door for a candidate.

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Justin Bour takes lessons learned from Ichiro, others into new role with Phillies

Justin Bour takes lessons learned from Ichiro, others into new role with Phillies

SAN DIEGO — Justin Bour boarded a 5 a.m. flight in Miami for a cross-country flight to San Diego on Saturday morning.

Yeah, it made for a long day but it was well worth it for a journey to first place.

“This is why you play the game of baseball,” the newest Phillie said upon arriving in the clubhouse before Saturday night’s game against the Padres. “You play the game of baseball for these last couple months where you’re making a playoff push and you’re playing meaningful games. It’s definitely a change of pace that I’m very much looking forward to.”

The Phillies acquired Bour, a 30-year-old, left-handed power hitter, from the Miami Marlins for minor-league pitcher McKenzie Mills on Friday.

Bour hit .227 with 19 homers, 54 RBIs and a .759 OPS for Miami this season. Four of those homers came against the Phillies. Last season, he hit .289 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs.

Bour had been a regular in Miami, but the Phillies will use him as a “weapon” off the bench, to use manager Gabe Kapler’s description (see story).

That’s OK with Bour, who went from 23 games under .500 and last place in the NL East to first place in the division with the trade.

“I’m excited to be here,” Bour said. “There’s a great vibe here.

“They’ve been great communicating with me, letting me know what my role is. All I want to do is come in and help the team win, if that’s as a bench guy or playing here and there, whatever the team needs to win, I’m all in on that.”

Bour has a pretty good idea of how a pinch-hitter should operate. He is 14 for 56 (.250) with five homers, 17 RBIs, 10 walks and a .894 OPS in his career as a pinch-hitter. He’s also watched former teammates like Ichiro Suzuki and Jeff Mathis handle the role.

“I’ve learned from some greats,” Bour said. “You can’t compare yourself to Ichiro, but I sort of watched how he continually moved, continually was stretching, stuff like that. 

"I’d say the best piece of advice I got was from Jeff Mathis. He taught me to watch the game, see what was going on, think ahead of the bench coach, think ahead of those guys, always be ready and never find yourself in a situation where you’re being ambushed, and always be ready to go.

“I’m excited to help out any way I can.”

Bour has put up some big numbers in his career against the NL East, and that did not go unnoticed by the Phillies front office when it claimed Bour on waivers and pursued a deal.

Against Atlanta, he has a .302 batting average, 13 homers, 42 RBIs and a 1.023 OPS. Against the Mets, he has a .276 batting average, 9 homers, 29 RBIs and a .870 OPS. Against Washington, he has a .232 batting average with 11 homers, 37 RBIs and a .745 OPS.

The Phillies have 10 games remaining against the Mets, nine against the Nationals and seven against Atlanta.

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Odubel Herrera is making good on his 'bet on me' prophesy

Odubel Herrera is making good on his 'bet on me' prophesy

Odubel Herrera wasn’t messing around when he said, “Bet on me,” as he showed signs of breaking out of a lengthy slump last week.

Since Herrera uttered those words, the Phillies are 4-2 and Herrera has delivered 11 hits, including five homers, and seven RBIs. He had his fourth multi-hit game in the span Wednesday and provided the big blow — a booming, go-ahead homer off the scoreboard in right in the seventh inning — to key a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Herrera's bat is ablaze and if you did bet on him — as he urged — you’re cashing checks.

“When I told you that you should bet on me, I meant it, because I knew that I was getting close to being my regular self and I'm going to keep working to stay positive and stay doing what I'm doing,” Herrera said.

The slump took Herrera from an NL-best .361 batting average on May 17 to .283 in 23 games.

Wednesday’s single-double-homer performance left him at .299 and had people comparing him to Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers.

Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta compared Herrera to Vladimir Guerrero for the way he can square up any pitch.

Manager Gabe Kapler used Ichiro Suzuki as a comp.

“They’re different style hitters, but not that different, though,” Kapler said. “It doesn’t matter where the baseball is. They have unique bat-to-ball skills.”

Herrera’s eyes lit up when he heard Kapler’s Ichiro comp.

“It's amazing to hear that because Ichiro is a legend,” Herrera said. “To be compared to someone like him is an honor. It's great.”

Herrera is not a legend, but he's colorful and his confidence is well established.

“I’m coming,” he said with a laugh. “I’m coming.”

Herrera pounded a go-ahead homer to right off Sam Tuivailala in the seventh, a half-inning after the Cardinals had tied the game on Yadier Molina’s two-run homer against Arrieta. The bullpen made the lead stand up (see game recap).

Herrera crushed the ball. It left the park in the blink of an eye at 109 mph and was projected to travel 422 feet.

“Fresh,” said Herrera, describing the feel of the ball impacting his bat.

As Herrera’s ball climbed out of the yard, Kapler made eye contact with Scott Kingery in the dugout.

“We were standing on the steps, and we just kind of looked at each other in awe,” Kapler said. “It was one of those, ‘Wow!’ moments. He’s so hot, but he’s such an incredible athlete. What he’s doing, I don’t remember seeing. It’s really special. It’s really elite barrel accuracy. I really don’t know how to describe it. He just knows how to find the barrel, knows how to find the sweet spot and it’s really impressive.”

How did it turn for Herrera?

“I kept working in the cage and now things are working out for me,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an adjustment. I’m just making good contact again and trying not to think about it too much.”

Herrera has heated up just in time for one of the Phillies' most important series of the season. After Thursday's off day, they will play at NL East rival Washington on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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