7 strange milestones to look out for in 2020

January 12th, 2020
Tom Forget

Recent seasons have brought us a number of players hitting significant statistical milestones. Last season, both Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia eclipsed the 3,000-strikeout mark for their careers. You don't have to look too far in the past to have seen Albert Pujols, Ichiro and Adrian Beltre reach 3,000 career hits. These all received a ton of attention as each player cemented his place among the greatest players of all time in reaching them.

We don't welcome a new member of the 500-home run, 3,000-hit, 300-win or 3,000-strikeout clubs every season. Nevertheless, nearly every season sees some historical milestones or major shuffling of all-time leaderboards. You just need to venture off the beaten path a bit.

It should be no surprise, then, that 2020 is all set to provide some historical fun. Here's what quite possibly lies ahead.

Anthony Rizzo and Shin-Soo Choo -- Top 20 all-time hit-by-pitches

In 2019, Choo became the 23rd player in history to be hit by 150 pitches in his career. Meanwhile, Rizzo led MLB with 27 HBP, putting himself within five plunkings of the big 150. He'll easily join Choo in the 150 HBP club in 2020.

More importantly, both should move into the top 20 all time. Former Cardinals and Brewers second baseman Fernando Vina sits 19th all time with 157 plunkings. That means both Choo and Rizzo are in line to pass him. With that kind of milestone on the line, each bruise will come with just a little side of glory.

Pujols -- First to ground into 400 double plays

Albert is already the all-time leader in double plays grounded into with 395. He's the only player to ever exceed 350 double plays -- Cal Ripken Jr. is in second with exactly 350. With just 5 GIDPs in 2020, Pujols will become the first player to join the 400-GIDP club.

It's probably not the sort of milestone he began his career hoping for, but he's still top 10 in career home runs and RBIs, so it's a fair tradeoff.

Miguel Cabrera -- Climbing the GIDP leaderboard

Pujols' all-time lead is safe -- he's 77 double plays clear of the second-most double-play-prone active player -- but there could be some significant movement behind him on the all-time leaderboard.

Cabrera currently sits in seventh all time with 318 double plays grounded into. While he probably won't catch Ripken and move into second all time -- he'd have to set a career high in GIDPs to get there in 2020 -- he should be able to pass Hank Aaron (328) for fourth and, with a pretty "good" year -- I mean, we're talking about hitting into double plays -- he could catch Ivan Rodriguez (337) and move into third behind Ripken.

Ron Gardenhire -- Top 5 in managerial ejections

When you think of managers prone to getting ejected, images of Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella and Earl Weaver likely come to mind.

While the Tigers skipper has only led the Majors in ejections twice during his 15-year managerial career, he's been a consistent presence in the top 5. That consistency has paid off, as he currently sits seventh all time with 83 ejections. With just four more in 2020, he will pass Tony La Russa and Frankie Frisch to become the fifth-most-ejected manager in history.

Joe Maddon and Kevin Cash -- Race to the 300th managerial challenge

In September 1998, fans everywhere tuned in to watch Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battle it out in their quest to be the first to break Roger Maris' single-season home run record and end the season as the new all-time home run king. In all likelihood, the 2020 season will also be remembered for a record chase between two of the best to ever do it.

I'm speaking, of course, of the race to be the first manager to reach 300 career replay challenges. Both Angels manager Joe Maddon and Rays manager Kevin Cash are on pace to eclipse that threshold in 2020, with Maddon entering the season holding a slim three-challenge lead (267 to 264). However, Cash is much more aggressive with his challenges -- Cash started managing in 2015, a year after MLB instituted replay challenges -- averaging 52.8 per 162 games to Maddon's 44.5.

It'll be interesting to see if Maddon can hold Cash off long enough to become the inaugural member of the 300-challenge club. Keep in mind, that there's nothing stopping either skipper from getting competitive and challenging something every game. This race could get wild.

Dee Gordon -- 100 times caught stealing

In recent years, players have stopped trying to steal bases. For an illustration of that, look no further than the all-time caught stealing list. Over the entire history of the sport, 128 players have been caught 100 or more times in their careers. Only two of those players are currently active -- Rajai Davis, a 39-year-old free agent who played only 29 games in 2019, and Elvis Andrus.

Only one player is poised to join that club in 2020: Mariners second baseman Dee Gordon. He'll enter the season having been foiled 98 times in his nine-year career. Though his stolen-base attempts are down in recent seasons, he should easily become the 129th player to be caught 100 times.

Pujols -- Top 5 career sacrifice flies

After he makes history with his 400th GIDP, another milestone likely awaits Pujols in 2020: moving into the top 5 all time in sacrifice flies. He enters the season only seven away from history.

It'll be close. Pujols hit eight sacrifice flies in 2019, but averages only seven per 162 games for his career. So, he may need to wait another year to move into the top 5 of this list. But, if he gets hot -- or happens to come up a lot with a runner on third and fewer than two outs -- he could join some elite company. Everyone in the current top 5 is in the Hall of Fame.