Who has the best chance to reach MLB milestones? (Bill James Handbook excerpt)

The following is an excerpt from the 2020 Bill James Handbook, available now at ACTA Sports, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and wherever you buy your books

By Andrew Kyne
Bill James devised “The Favorite Toy” to estimate a player’s probability of breaking a record or reaching a milestone.

In last year’s Handbook, the highest probability of such an event belonged to Albert Pujols, who was projected to have a 97% chance to someday reach 2,000 career runs batted in. With 1,982 RBI entering the season, Pujols was very likely to not only reach the milestone, but to do so early in 2019. Sure enough, he notched his 2,000th with a solo home run on May 9 in Detroit.

This year, the highest probability of reaching a career batting target belongs to another generational talent, Miguel Cabrera. He is now estimated to have a 75% chance of reaching 3,000 hits. Although his power numbers were limited this season, Cabrera still hit for a .282 average and added 139 hits to his career ledger. He now sits 185 hits shy of 3,000.

Some records may never be broken, and the rest of the batting targets feature many longshots. But an obvious player to keep an eye on is Mike Trout, whose name can be found in several places in this section. After hitting a career-best 45 home runs in 2019, Trout is now projected to have a 43% chance to hit 500 home runs, a 29% chance to hit 600 home runs, and a 14% chance to hit more than 762 home runs, the all-time record.

Additionally, BIS has developed a system, separate from The Favorite Toy, that estimates the likelihood that a pitcher will throw a no-hitter. Free agent pitcher Gerrit Cole is currently the most likely to do so at an astonishing 62%, far ahead of any other pitcher. In 2019, Cole had two outings in which he allowed only one hit and three outings in which he allowed two hits. He also found his strikeout touch with the Astros, recording double-digit strikeouts in 21 starts this year.

A couple new names to watch on the most likely no-hitter list are Lucas Giolito (27%) and Luis Castillo (21%). Young pitchers Jack Flaherty (23%) and Blake Snell (23%) were featured on last year’s list as well.

Justin Verlander, Cole’s teammate in Houston, was listed as having a 32% chance at a future no-hitter in last year’s Handbook. Verlander held the Blue Jays without a hit on September 1 for the third no-hitter of his career. Only Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax have thrown more than three career no-hitters. With a 26% chance of another, it’s possible that Verlander could join them.

% Chance to Reach 762 HR
Name % Chance
Mike Trout 14%
Cody Bellinger 6%
Nolan Arenado 1%
Pete Alonso <1%
% Chance to Reach 800 HR
Name % Chance
Mike Trout 10%
Cody Bellinger 3%
% Chance to Reach 600 HR
Name % Chance
Mike Trout 29%
Nolan Arenado 21%
Eugenio Suárez 16%
Bryce Harper 16%
Manny Machado 15%
Cody Bellinger 13%
Francisco Lindor 11%
Pete Alonso 11%
Christian Yelich 10%
% Chance to Reach 500 HR
Name % Chance
Miguel Cabrera 68%
Edwin Encarnación 66%
Mike Trout 43%
Nolan Arenado 32%
J.D. Martinez 31%
Nelson Cruz 29%
Giancarlo Stanton 27%
Bryce Harper 26%
Manny Machado 24%
% Chance to Reach 2,298 RBI (Record)
Name % Chance
Albert Pujols 7%
Nolan Arenado 3%
Bryce Harper < 1%
% Chance to Reach 2,296 Runs (Record)
Name % Chance
Mookie Betts 11%
Mike Trout 6%
Francisco Lindor 1%
% Chance to Reach 793 Doubles (Record)
Name % Chance
Nicholas Castellanos 16%
Xander Bogaerts 14%
Mookie Betts 11%
Francisco Lindor 7%
Rafael Devers 6%
Alex Bregman 5%
Ozzie Albies 2%
José Ramírez 2%
Anthony Rendon 2%
Freddie Freeman 1%
% Most Likely To Throw No-Hitter 
Name % Chance
Gerrit Cole 62%
Robbie Ray 32%
Chris Sale 29%
Lucas Giolito 27%
Justin Verlander 26%
Blake Snell 23%
Jack Flaherty 23%
Max Scherzer 22%
Luis Castillo 21%
Yu Darvish 21%
% Chance to Reach 3,000 Hits
Name % Chance
Miguel Cabrera 75%
Nick Markakis 30%
Robinson Canó 26%
Starlin Castro 25%
José Altuve 24%
Freddie Freeman 23%
Elvis Andrus 20%
Eric Hosmer 20%
Nolan Arenado 19%
Manny Machado 17%
Christian Yelich 16%
Mookie Betts 15%
Xander Bogaerts 15%
Nicholas Castellanos 15%
Francisco Lindor 13%
Adam Jones 12%
Mike Trout 12%
DJ LeMahieu 10%
Jean Segura 9%
Bryce Harper 9%
Ozzie Albies 7%
Alex Bregman 7%
Cody Bellinger 7%
Rafael Devers 6%
Anthony Rizzo 6%
Andrew Benintendi 5%
Trevor Story 4%
Anthony Rendon 4%
Paul Goldschmidt 4%
Charlie Blackmon 3%
Javier Báez 2%
José Ramírez 2%
J.D. Martinez 2%
Trea Turner 2%
Ketel Marte 2%
Amed Rosario 1%
Ronald Acuña Jr. 1%
Eddie Rosario < 1%
Marcus Semien < 1%
Michael Brantley < 1%
Tim Anderson < 1%
Eugenio Suárez < 1%

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