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INFIELD CHATTER: Beltre, Pujols look to improve historical ranking

Scott Holland
Scott Holland

With so much of spring training left to play out, not to mention a few key free agents yet unsigned, it’s a little too early to wade deeply into the waters of team win predictions. But for certain established players, now is a fine time to assess what might lie in store for 2018.

Specifically, late February is perfect for looking at all-timer leader boards to try to predict what kind of shakeups fans might see at the upper levels. Much of that discussion revolves around two of the game’s elder statesmen: the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre and the Angels’ Albert Pujols.

Beltre broke in with the Dodgers in June 1998, just a few months after his 19th birthday. Pujols, though only eight months younger, was the opening day left fielder for the Cardinals in 2001. Those two extra seasons give Beltre a serious leg up in the most obvious category: games played. Beltre has appeared in 2,814 games, 22nd most all time. If he plays all 162 in 2018, he’ll land between 10th place Barry Bonds (2,986) and Dave Winfield (2,973).

That durability correlates to two other lists: most plate appearances (11,649, 24th place) and at bats (10,635, 16th place). On the latter, he’s got a real chance to pass luminaries like Brooks Robinson, Paul Molitor, Craig Biggio, Willie Mays, Rickey Henderson, Stan Musial, Dave Winfield, Robin Yount and Derek Jeter, whose 11,195 rank seventh all time.

Pujols, however, has been much more efficient at the most important thing in the game: scoring runs. While Beltre is 77th on the career list (1,475, tied with Sammy Sosa), Pujols needs to score exactly 60 to move from 25th to 20th all time. He’s currently got 1,723 and Molitor has 1,782. Pujols also has 1,918 RBIs, 10th place, whereas Beltre has 1,642, 31st place. Pujols had 101 RBI in 2017, and needs only 79 to pass Barry Bonds (1,996) for fifth place.

Now is a good time to bring in someone else whose MLB debut was opening day 2001: Ichiro Suzuki, who last year added 50 hits to his career total — 45 fewer than in 2016 — to finish with 3,080, 22nd place all time. Another 50 would move him into 20th place, between Tony Gwynn (3,141) and Alex Rodriguez (3,115). If he could scrape out another 100, he’d move all the way to 16th place, just four hits behind Cal Ripken. Of course, he’s got to sign with a team first.

Beltre trails Ichiro by only 32 hits — he collected 106 last year — and 32 also is the number Pujols needs to reach 3,000 after knocking 143 in 2017. On the career doubles list, Pujols (619) and Beltre (613) are 12th and 13th. A great year by either could push them past Craig Biggio, who is in fifth place with 668.

Looking at some younger players, Joey Votto’s career on-base percentage is .4281, good for 11th place all time. Ted Williams leads with an astounding .4817 over 19 seasons, but Votto can crack into the top 10 by surpassing Jimmie Foxx, who is at only .4283. The only other active player on close to the same page is Mike Trout, at .4098, tied with Eddie Stanky for 34th place.

But on the slugging percentage leaderboard, Trout is the one at 11th, with his .5658 career mark placing behind Rogers Hornsby at .5765, while Votto is down at 33rd with .5405. Pujols is 15th at .5612. New Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton is in 22nd at .5544.

Mark Reynolds has 1,806 strikeouts, 18th place. He added 175 in 148 games last season, his 11th, and if he can whiff that many times in 2018 he’ll rocket all the way into seventh place, nudging out Jose Canseco, who had 1,942 Ks in 17 seasons. Andres Galarraga sits in sixth place with 2,003, but that’s certainly within reach as Reynolds struck out 204 times in 2008, 211 in 2010 and a staggering 223 in 2009.

Next week we’ll take a similar look at some pitching feats. In some of the rate statistics there could be a lot of action, with more than one hurler in line to take over the all-time lead in one specific category.

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