The fun of watching baseball this early in the season is that you can convince yourself that the way everyone’s playing now is the way they’re going to be playing all season. Unless you’re the A’s, this is a good thing. It’s more joyous to imagine the hot start to a season isn’t a fluke, but instead, it’s a sign that the breakout season you were waiting for is finally upon us. Six games in the middle of the season, you don’t even notice. But six games to start the season become our new reality.
Thus, the giddy ridiculousness of the “On-Pace-For Game.” That’s the game where you take an irresponsibly low number of games and expand them out through a whole season.
You can have so much fun with the On-Pace-For Game at this point of the season. Let’s look at my favorite such stats so far. Remember: Past results are not predictive of future performance, to say the least.
1. Nick Castellanos is going to hit 107 homers (and be involved in 27 dustups)
Castellanos is tied for the Major League lead with four home runs, all hit in his first six games. Because he still has his two-game suspension looming over him, he’s on a 160-game pace here, thus 107 rather than 108. The on-pace number for dustups is still dead-on, though. It is actually worth noting, however, that because of that suspension, he’ll end up in second place in the home run battle to a teammate who also has four homers, but no such suspension. Which brings us to:
2. Tyler Naquin will hit 108 home runs
You might find this absurd, what with Naquin’s career high of 14 homers heading into this year (hit way back in his rookie season of 2016), and that he already has as many homers (four) as he had all of last season. Also, uh, he’s obviously meant to be a fourth outfielder/utility type; he has played all three outfield positions for the Reds already. But hey: Bringing all that up is making you look like a Naquin doubter to me. If you don’t think Naquin, who turns 30 in two weeks and has 35 homers in 1,046 career plate appearances, is going to hit 108 homers this year, that’s your problem, not mine.
3. The Reds themselves are breaking records everywhere
Remember when the Reds couldn’t hit last year? Last year sure feels like a very long time ago. The Reds are on pace to hit 378 home runs and to score 1,539 runs. Both of which would destroy the existing records of 307 (the 2019 Twins) and 1,067 (the 1931 Yankees).
4. Nate Lowe is going to drive in 378 runs
Look out Hack Wilson: Your RBI mark just got obliterated! Lowe has a jaw-dropping 14 RBIs in just six Rangers games, and he’s five away from tying his career high of 19 back in 2019 (in 50 games). The Rays sent him to the Rangers in December, and here he is, just a few months later, changing the way we think about runs batted in. It has been quite a wild ride.
5. Ramón Laureano and Garrett Hampson are putting Rickey Henderson on notice
No one has come within 21 steals of Henderson’s single-season record of 130 steals in 35 years. (No one has come within 52 of Henderson’s record since Jose Reyes stole 78 in 2007.) But Laureano and Hampson have four in their teams’ first eight games, putting them on pace for 81. Laureano’s mark is especially impressive considering he has only played in five of the A’s eight games. Of course, this unsustainability is just another example of Henderson’s brilliance (and how much the game has changed): No one can keep up with his pace even for one week.
6. Tyler O’Neill and Miguel Sanó are making a run at Mark Reynolds.
Of all the single-season records of this era, Mark Reynolds’ 223 strikeouts in 2009 has always felt the most vulnerable. There are going to be a lot of candidates to pass him, but the two early competitors are the Cardinals’ O’Neill and the Twins’ Sanó, each of whom has struck out an average of two times per game, which would put them at 324 for the year. These two might really have a chance.
7. Rhys Hoskins is setting an all-time doubles record
The all-time record is 67 for Earl Webb back in 1931, but Castellanos made a run at it in 2019 with 58. Hoskins has six in six games, so he’s going to more than double the mark. For what it’s worth: Hoskins is the sort of hitter, in the sort of ballpark, where he could make a run at that number, no? That, or he’ll hit 45 homers.
8. Shane Bieber is passing Nolan Ryan
Seven pitchers tied for the lead with 34 games started in 2019, the last full season, which, for the sake of discussion, we’ll call our ceiling this year. Bieber has averaged 12 strikeouts in his two starts. If he keeps that up, that’s 408 strikeouts on the season, the most in the Modern Era, passing Ryan’s 383 in 1973. Gerrit Cole is right behind him with 357, for what it’s worth.
9. Madison Bumgarner is going to have a very unfortunate second act to his career
The most earned runs given up by a pitcher since 1900? Bobo Newsom, 186 in 1938. Bumgarner has given up 11 in his first two starts. Using that 34 starts figure, he’s going to end up giving up … 187, edging Newsom by one. It won’t make anyone forget his World Series heroics. But it’s not how you’d like to see this turn out either. For what it’s worth, if Bumgarner wants to feel better: Max Scherzer is on pace to give up 136 homers after allowing four in his first start. (The record is 50 allowed by Bert Blyleven in 1986.)
10. Every team in baseball is on pace to play 162 games
After last year, that might just be the most wonderful statistic of all.