Milestone watch: How Astros stand in '20

July 10th, 2020

HOUSTON -- The chases for milestones and records aren’t on the minds of Astros players as they prepare for their July 24 season opener against the Mariners. Safety and health remain at the forefront as they deal with the coronavirus pandemic that shut down the sport for more than three months.

When the regular season starts, it will consist of 60 games, which means pursuits for career records and milestones will be that much more difficult to achieve, in addition to team records. The Astros were trying to become the first team to win 100 games in four consecutive seasons, a feat which is now impossible.

Last year, the Astros updated the record books at breakneck pace. They won a franchise-record 107 games, homered in a club-record 25 consecutive regular-season games, set a Major League record with a .495 slugging percentage and won a franchise-record 60 home games. Meanwhile, notched his 1,500th career hit and recorded his 3,000th career strikeout.

Here’s how this season’s shortened schedule affects some Astros’ pursuit of career milestones.

José Altuve, 3,000 hits
Altuve reached the halfway point to 3,000 last year in his age-29 season, which leaves him plenty of time to continue to chase the milestone. He’s currently at 1,568 hits. Before the pandemic trimmed more than 100 games off the 2020 schedule and cost Altuve at least 100 hits, he was coming off a pair of seasons in which he played 137 and 124 games because of injuries. He hasn’t had a full season since 2017.

If the second half of last year was any indication -- Altuve led the American League in hits and total bases after the All-Star break -- a healthy Altuve remains one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. He’s motivated, maybe more than ever, and figures to play another 10 years if he wants. He’s averaged 204 hits over 162 games in his career.

Prediction: Barring injury, Altuve reaches 3,000 hits in the 2029 season, which means he’d have to average 170 hits a year after the ’20 season.

Justin Verlander, 300 wins, 4,000 strikeouts
In addition to winning his second AL Cy Young Award, throwing his third no-hitter and reaching 300 strikeouts in a season for the first time, Verlander reached 3,000 career strikeouts in his final start of the 2019 season. He enters this year with 3,006 strikeouts.

The 37-year-old is a long way from 4,000, but he's aiming to play 8-10 more years, which would give him a shot at both 4,000 strikeouts and 300 wins. That has been accomplished by only four men in history, including three former Astros: Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Steve Carlton. Verlander has 225 wins entering ’20.

Prediction: Verlander will get to both milestones. He would have to average 15 wins and about 200 strikeouts in five full seasons, which is doable, considering he’s thrown at least 200 innings in 13 of his last 14 seasons and is as competitive as they come.

Zack Greinke, 250 wins
Wins aren’t as highly regarded as they once were in terms of a player's legacy, but Greinke has piled them up consistently in his 16-year career. Verlander (225) and Greinke (205) are the only active pitchers with 200 wins. Unlike Verlander, Greinke, 36, doesn’t appear poised to pitch much beyond the end of his current contract, which ends after the 2021 season, and certainly not into his 40s like Verlander wants to do.

If Greinke reached 250 wins, it would seriously strengthen his Hall of Fame case. He could be within 40 wins after this season. Will he want to play long enough -- likely three more years -- to reach 250? Of course, two 20-win seasons could get him there after this year, but he’s won more than 18 games in his career only once (19-3 for Dodgers in 2015).

Prediction: Sorry, Zack. Greinke falls short of 250 wins.

Manager Dusty Baker, 2,000 wins
Baker, 71, enters the 2020 season 137 wins shy of 2,000 for his career, a mark that only 13 men have achieved in baseball history. Reaching 2,000 wins could cement his case for induction into the Hall of Fame, considering his impressive resume as a manager, as well as a distinguished 19-year big league career.

Baker still has a shot to reach 2,000 wins next year, if he returns as Astros manager. The Astros signed him to a one-year contract with an option for ’21, and it would be hard to imagine the club wouldn’t allow him to return next year. If the loaded Astros can win, say, 40 games this year, that would leave Baker 97 wins shy next year.

Prediction: The Astros win at least 40 games this year and Baker returns to record his 2,000th win late in the 2021 season.