It’s an exciting time to be a baseball fan.
With the MLB postseason right around the corner, the most important time of the MLB year is rapidly approaching, with several races yet to be decided.
In the American League, the Yankees have seen their once insurmountable lead dwindle to 5.5 games, still substantial but far from decided.
But beyond the playoff possibilities, there are several other fascinating chases to watch over the remaining few weeks of the season.
Albert Pujols has woken up from a retirement tour to become one of the most feared hitters in baseball, hitting 12 home runs in just 103 at bats in the second half of the season.
That torrid pace has pushed him to the brink of history, standing just three home runs shy of 700 for his career.
In fact, Pujols just surged past Alex Rodriguez for 4th on the all-time home run list:
He’s not likely to reach Babe Ruth’s 714, but getting to 700 would put him in the same elite historic company as Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds.
Each day, it seems like he’s hitting another homer, making every at bat must-see tv.
While Pujols is approaching legendary career numbers, another hitter has a single season landmark in his sights.
Aaron Judge has already had a remarkable season, hitting .308/.411/.679, translating to an absurd 1.090 OPS. His batting line is 105% better than the league’s average hitter, and the .679 slugging percentage places him among the top 90 individual slugging seasons in MLB history.
On top of that league leading slugging percentage, he’s also tops in the American League in runs, runs batted in, walks, on base percentage, OPS, OPS+, total bases, and of course, home runs.
Judge has already accumulated 56 homers, hitting another one in Tuesday’s game against the Red Sox, placing him just four short of the all-important 60 home run mark. That level has only been reached by five hitters in MLB.
Projection systems predict he could reach 60, or possibly go even further and tie or exceed Roger Maris’s legendary 61 mark from 1961.
With plenty of time left to get there, each one of his at bats over the next few weeks will certainly be filled with drama.
Individual achievements are obviously fun to watch, but an entire team is also staring down the possibility of incredible new heights.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been baseball’s most successful franchise over the past 10 years, making the postseason 10 consecutive times and winning 100 games in three of the past four full seasons.
In the lockdown-shortened 2020 season, the Dodgers won nearly 72% of their games, a pace that would have meant 116 wins over a 162 game season.
Sure enough, this year, they’re at it again.
While it would require an extremely successful close to the year, the Dodgers still has an outside chance at tying or exceeding the Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs 116-win record.
They’re currently 97-43, so with 22 games remaining, they’d need to go 19-3 to reach 116, and 20-2 to exceed it and set a new record.
That may seem like an impossibility, but the Dodgers have, unbelievably, gone 52-15 since late June.
Their “expected record” for the year, essentially the calculation of how many wins and losses they should have based on their run differential, is 102-38.
That would be a .728 winning percentage, which means they’ve technically been playing better than the MLB record.
Doesn’t seem so impossible now, does it?
What to Watch For
The last few weeks of the season will have multiple fascinating storylines to watch, both at an individual level and with one team’s chase for greatness.
While some of these landmark numbers might be harder to reach than others, they’re still distinctly possible.
Baseball’s long history and reverence for statistics and records is one of its best qualities, and there are few things more exciting than those records being chased down.
With just three weeks left before the playoffs start, there will still be many must-watch at bats coming.
Follow Ian Miller on Twitter: @ianmSC
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