Watch 'em fall! Records we want to see broken in '24

January 5th, 2024

MLB Network, launched on Jan. 1, 2009, is celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2024. Through Jan. 19, MLB Network will count down the top 15 moments it has covered in its history, via weeknight segments on MLB Tonight (6 p.m. ET), as well as across its social platforms. And don’t forget to catch MLB Network’s 15th Anniversary retrospective show – “MLB Network Legendary Moments” presented by Budweiser, with Greg Amsinger, Sean Casey and Harold Reynolds -- scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on Monday, Jan. 22.

The No. 11 moment on the countdown: Aaron Judge’s successful chase for an American League-record 62 home runs in 2022.

Records are made to be broken. And in 2022, Aaron Judge chased -- and broke -- a big one.

While the Major Leagues' single-season home run record had passed from Babe Ruth to Roger Maris to Mark McGwire to Barry Bonds, no American Leaguer had equaled, or topped, Maris. But then Judge came along and put together a season for the ages in 2022. Sixty-one years after Maris hit 61 in ‘61, the latest Yankees slugger launched 62, breaking the record in his club’s 161st game on Oct. 4 at Globe Life Field, the home of the Rangers.

That historic achievement got us thinking: What other records would we like to see chased down and toppled? That’s the question we posed to eight writers. Here are their responses, along with one candidate to get the job done this coming season.

Longest home run of the Statcast Era
Current record: 505 feet (Nomar Mazara, 2019)

Statcast began tracking everything that happens on a Major League field in 2015, and as a result, we now have nine seasons’ worth of data on home run distances. One lesson from that? When big flies are measured in objective fashion -- rather than via humans’ rough estimations -- they very rarely crack the 500-foot mark. (At least not in game action against live pitching. The Home Run Derby is a bit different, especially when held at Coors Field.)

Appropriately, it was preeminent slugger Giancarlo Stanton who hit the first 500-footer (504 feet, to be exact) at Coors in 2016. But there have been only two since: Another Coors-aided 504 by C.J. Cron in 2022, and then Mazara’s record. He hit it on June 21, 2019, at Texas’ now-defunct Globe Life Park, where abnormally windy conditions that day may well have given his ball a boost. That record has now stood for more than four years, and while Mazara was a top prospect who boasts legitimate plus power, he has never quite put things together in the big leagues. The time has come for a bigger star to top 505.

Top candidate: Shohei Ohtani, Dodgers. He certainly isn’t the only hitter with the thump to do it, but wouldn’t it seem right if he did? Ohtani, who launched the longest homer of 2023 (493 feet), will be a full-time DH in 2024 as he rehabs his pitching elbow. He also will get seven chances to take his cuts at Coors, now that he’s in the NL West.

-- Andrew Simon

Most strikeouts in a season by a rookie
Current record: 276 (Dwight Gooden, 1984)

Everyone likes to see a rookie dazzle the baseball world. That's what happened in 1984, when a 19-year-old Doc Gooden set the rookie strikeout record for MLB's modern era. The teenaged Mets phenom electrified New York with a Major League-leading 276 strikeouts in his first season. They called him Dr. K for a reason.

Gooden smashed through the previous record of 245, set by Cleveland's Herb Score in 1955. And since Gooden's '84 season, no other rookie pitcher has really come close. The only rookies since Gooden who've reached 200 strikeouts in a season are Hideo Nomo (236 for the Dodgers in 1995), Kerry Wood (233 for the Cubs in 1998), Yu Darvish (221 for the Rangers in 2012), Spencer Strider (202 for the Braves in 2022) and Kodai Senga (202 for the Mets in 2023). So who can challenge Dr. K?

Top candidate: Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Dodgers. There's a new phenom coming to the big leagues in 2024. He has a powerful fastball and signature rainbow curveball, just like Doc. He won't be in New York, but he'll be in L.A., playing for the team the Mets replaced in the city. And maybe he can have a rookie season just as magical as Gooden.

Yamamoto isn't as young as Gooden, having already spent seven seasons in Japan, but that just means he's smack in the middle of his prime, a 25-year-old who's dominated NPB like no other over the last few seasons. Early projections already see Yamamoto as being one of only 14 200-strikeout pitchers in MLB in 2024, alongside the league's best aces -- and projection systems can be notoriously conservative. Keep in mind, too, that three of the five rookies with a 200-K season since Gooden -- Nomo, Darvish and Senga -- are Japanese aces jumping from NPB to MLB. Senga just did it last year … and Yamamoto is better than Senga.

One other fun fact: If Yamamoto can chase Gooden's record, he'd also be chasing the single-season strikeout record for a Japanese pitcher in MLB. That mark, set by Darvish in 2013, is 276, exactly one strikeout more than Gooden's rookie record.

-- David Adler

Most stolen bases in a season
Current record: 130 (Rickey Henderson, 1982)

While it’s not likely anyone actually tops the legendary Henderson, it’s instructive to realize how he got to that number, which is that he got caught 42 times – that’s right, he tried to steal 172 bases, which is also a record. That one is unbreakable, but what about the steals record itself? Henderson was successful 75% of the time in a pre-rule-change era; the Major League success rate in 2023’s first year of major rule changes was 80%, an all-time high, and certainly not everyone attempting to snag a base ran like Rickey did.

That this is even a conversation that can be had would have been laughable just a few years ago, but if we learned anything in the new world of 2023, it was that teams and players weren’t running enough; when you’re setting the full-season, single-year success rate record, as the Mets did by swiping 118 times against just 15 times caught stealing, or when you were a perfect 30-for-30, like Trea Turner was, then you’re probably leaving steals on the table. That, we think, is the biggest lesson to take from last year, that Ronald Acuña Jr.’s 73 steals didn’t come so much because he was the fastest or the greatest, though he was indeed fast and great. It was because he was simply willing to do it, just like Rickey. Other players and teams will follow suit in 2024.

Top candidate: Corbin Carroll, D-backs. Acuña might seem like the obvious candidate, but the top of the Atlanta lineup is so loaded that there’s a point where him risking an out for a base just doesn’t make sense. Otherwise, Carroll checks all the boxes here, because he’s got elite top-of-the scale speed, he just proved himself a fantastic basestealer by going 54-for-59 (91.5% success rate), he’s on a good-not-great offensive team, and he simply gets on base more than other top stealers like Bobby Witt Jr., Esteury Ruiz, or CJ Abrams. He’s even young, just 23, or the exact same age as Rickey was in 1982. He can do it, if he wants to. He just has to want to.

-- Mike Petriello

Fastest pitch of the pitch-tracking era
Current record: 105.8 mph (Aroldis Chapman, 2010)

While handheld radar guns have captured faster readings in the days when velocity tracking was less precise, the current record holder for the fastest pitch dating back to 2008, the first year of the pitch-tracking era, is Chapman. Pitching for the Reds in 2010, the left-hander came two-tenths of a tick short of reaching 106 mph. Though average velocity continues to rise and pitchers who can get the ball into the upper 90s are now commonplace, Chapman’s mark has held steady for more than a decade.

Top candidate: Jhoan Duran, Twins. We could go with Jordan Hicks here, considering he’s the only other pitcher besides Chapman to reach 105 mph in the pitch-tracking era. But Hicks appears to be past his velocity apex. Since he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019, Hicks has reached 104 mph only once -- on June 18, 2023. Duran, meanwhile, continues to push the scales higher. After topping out at 103.8 mph as a rookie in 2022, Duran touched 104 mph nine times this past season, including a pitch that reached 104.8 mph on July 19. Does he have another gear?

-- Thomas Harrigan

Most consecutive games with a HR
Current record: 8 (Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly and Dale Long)

It’d be great to see someone make a run at Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, but no player has had a hitting streak of even 40 games since 1978 (Pete Rose). Only one player has surpassed a 35-game hitting streak since the turn of the century (Jimmy Rollins, 38 in 2005-06). But the home run streak? There have been plenty of close calls in recent seasons. Mike Trout had a seven-game streak in 2022. Joey Votto did the same one year earlier. Kendrys Morales had a six-game run for the Blue Jays in '18. This one is definitely within reach, and it feels like it’s only a matter of time until one of the game’s current superstars joins the above trio – or rewrites the record book altogether.

Top candidate(s): Judge or Ohtani. Let’s start with Judge. Not only did he set the AL record with 62 home runs in 2022 -- he then hit 37 in just 106 games last season, a 56-homer pace over a 162-game span. Judge’s longest streak (so far) is a five-game homer streak in 2020, but he’s a threat to go deep any time he steps in the box. As for Ohtani, he’ll be focused solely on hitting this season after undergoing a right elbow procedure. That's a scary thought for a guy who has averaged 41 homers per season over the past three years, even while balancing that with also pitching at an elite level. Ohtani has never homered in more than three consecutive games, but it’ll be tougher to pitch around him now that he finds himself in a stacked Dodgers lineup.

-- Paul Casella

Most strikeouts by a pitcher in a 9-inning game
Current record: 20 (Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Max Scherzer and Kerry Wood)

With all due respect to Tom Cheney -- who struck out an MLB-record 21 batters in 16 innings in 1962 -- we’re limiting this to a nine-inning effort. That record belongs to Clemens (twice), Johnson, Scherzer and Wood, who all struck out 20 hitters in nine innings. Clemens pulled off the feat in 1986 and 1996 with the Red Sox, which was even more impressive given that he didn’t walk a batter in either outing.

Scherzer is the most recent pitcher of the group to strike out 20 batters after doing it for the Nationals in 2016 against his former Tigers team. Johnson and Wood pulled off their 20-strikeout efforts at very different points in their careers. Johnson did so at the height of his powers in 2001 when he was 37 years old and in the middle of his stretch of four straight Cy Young Award-winning seasons. Wood, meanwhile, was a 20-year-old rookie when he burst onto the scene and punched out 20 hitters against an Astros lineup that included future Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio.

Top candidate: Spencer Strider, Braves. What better pitcher to approach or break this record than the game’s current strikeout machine? Strider has been nothing short of incredible since becoming a full-time starter for the Braves in 2022. The right-hander has punched out a combined 483 batters since breaking out in ‘22. Strider struck out a career-high 16 hitters at the end of the ‘22 season, and he has all of the stuff and pitchability to approach 20 strikeouts in a game.

-- Brent Maguire

Hardest-hit ball of the Statcast Era
Current record: 122.4 mph (Oneil Cruz, 2022)

As noted above, Statcast began tracking in 2015. Since then, we’ve seen 18 batted balls with at least a 120.0 mph exit velocity – all but four of them by Giancarlo Stanton. On May 12, 2015, he hit a 120.3 mph single, which stood as the hardest-hit ball for more than two years. Aaron Judge surpassed that with a 121.1 mph homer on June 10, 2017, but Stanton reclaimed the record on Oct. 1 of that season with a 122.2 mph single.

And there it stood, for a while. Nobody reached even 121.5 mph except Stanton himself, once at 121.7 mph in ‘18 and once exactly tying his record in ‘21 -- until the afternoon of Aug. 24, 2022, when Oneil Cruz walloped a single at 122.4 mph. Why do we care? Batters have exhibited otherworldly strength throughout the sport’s history. Now, as of 2015, we’re able to measure these feats of athleticism, allowing us to contextualize and further appreciate them. A ball hit this hard just sounds different. It’s incredible.

Top candidate: Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves. There are so many players to choose from here, from Stanton to Judge to Cruz, Ohtani and Elly De La Cruz – we could go on and on. But we’ll take Acuña, who became the newest member of the 120-mph club with a 121.2 mph homer this past September. It was the sixth-hardest-hit ball ever tracked, behind only Cruz’s and four from Stanton.

-- Sarah Langs

Most saves in a season
Current record: 62 (Francisco Rodríguez, 2008)

Rodríguez set the single-season record for saves with a dominant 2008 campaign, blowing past Bobby Thigpen’s previous mark of 57 set back in 1990. Pitching for the Angels, “K-Rod” appeared in an AL-high 76 games in 2008, and the 100-win Halos gave him a wealth of chances. Presented with 69 save opportunities -- the most in a season since 1969 -- Rodriguez saved 62 games with a 2.24 ERA and 77 strikeouts across 68 1/3 innings.

Since Rodríguez’s record-setting season, only Edwin Díaz has come anywhere close to the record, converting 57 saves in 61 save opportunities with the Mariners in 2018. But after a dominant 2022 with the Mets (although it featured only 32 saves), Díaz suffered a knee injury before the 2023 season, underwent surgery and missed the entire year, robbing one of MLB’s most dominant relievers of a chance to vie for the record.

Top candidate: Emmanuel Clase, Guardians. It won’t be easy for Clase to rack up as many save opportunities as Rodríguez did during his historic year, but the fireballing right-hander likely has the best chance of any current reliever to break the record. Clase led MLB in saves in each of the past two seasons, converting 42 of 46 chances in 2022 and 44 of an MLB-high 56 in 2023, playing for a competitive Cleveland squad that plays a lot of close games. Breaking the record will be an uphill battle for Clase -- although a potential trade to an elite club would help -- but he’s likely the best option. The Giants’ Camilo Doval and the Díaz brothers (Edwin Díaz and the Reds’ Alexis Díaz) are other possibilities.

-- Theo DeRosa