Pacemakers: Historic numbers on the horizon
Davis, O's teammates among those on path to big-time statistical accomplishments
In springtime, there were lofty goals and aspirations floating in the breeze, but then real accomplishments started growing all over baseball as the regular season played into summer.
Now, the numbers that will define players and teams destined to make 2013 a season to remember are taking shape.
By the time fall arrives and the regular season concludes, we'll know if Chris Davis has the power to block Miguel Cabrera's historic bid for another Triple Crown, and we'll know how the Red Sox, Braves and Dodgers will conclude what have been remarkable seasons for different reasons.
With about one-tenth of the season remaining, here's a look at some of the impressive numbers being generated, the pace they're on for a full season and how they might stack up against history.
Beantown turnaround: The overhauled Red Sox already have won 19 more games than last year's 69, and they need only two more wins to eclipse the greatest turnaround in team annals. That one was turned in by the "Impossible Dream" team of 1967, which gained 20 games off the previous season at 92-70 en route to the World Series, which they lost in seven to the Cardinals.
Boston would have to win out to equal the Majors' all-time mark of 35 games of improvement set by the 1999 D-backs in that franchise's second year. Those D-backs added .216 to their winning percentage, while the Sox have added .177 to date.
Braves' saves: One of the key reasons the Braves have gotten back to winning like the old days of their runaway division titles is that the ninth inning has become a zero-tolerance zone.
Craig Kimbrel, the 25-year-old with 40-plus saves in each of his three full seasons in the Majors, has reeled off a club-record 36 consecutive successful save attempts since May 7, allowing just one run and 22 hits over 46 1/3 innings pitched, striking out 66 during that time. That's good for a 0.19 ERA and 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings as he leads the Majors' best bullpen.
Call him Crush: Roger Maris' American League record of 62 might be a bit of a long shot, so to speak, but Davis remains in pursuit of homer history.
The Orioles' first baseman has 49 homers and has been hitting bombs at a rate of one per every 12.2 plate appearances. With about 80-90 plate appearances remaining, he's on pace for another six or seven homers -- he'd have to really go off for another 13.
At his current rate, Davis might approach the most homers hit by an AL player since Alex Rodriguez hit 57 in 2002 for the Rangers, or at least the back-to-back 56-homer seasons by Ken Griffey Jr. for the Mariners in 1997-98. Davis is just two homers shy of besting Brady Anderson's 1998 club record of 50, and he is one double shy of the first 40-40 season in Orioles history.
No-E O's: One more Baltimore notable number is the 42 errors the team has committed this season, well on the way to a Major League record. The fewest errors in a 162-game season is 65 by the 2003 Mariners, and if the Orioles maintain their .992 fielding percentage they would eclipse the previous mark of .989 by the 2007 Rockies.
Crowning touch: Without the crushing presence of Davis, Cabrera would be very much in line for a second straight Triple Crown -- and he's not out of it yet with numbers on pace to eclipse his 2012 totals in all three categories. A second such feat would match him with Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Ted Williams and Frank Robinson as two-time winners, but none of them went back-to-back. There were Triple Crowns in consecutive years in 1933-34 (three) and 1966-67, but by different players.
Not to be left out, Mike Trout is doing it again, too. Put 2013 together with the best rookie season on record, and Trout is the youngest player ever to have two 20-homer, 30-steal seasons, and he's the first player ever to post 50 homers and 70 steals before turning 22, according to Elias.
Maxing out: The Tigers' Max Scherzer is three starts and counting into his 20-win watch, but really that began months ago. At 19-3, his winning percentage of .864 stands as the highest since Cliff Lee (.880) in 2008. It would take three more wins without a loss to match Lee at .880, four without a loss to pass him with an .885 percentage.
The Detroit right-hander is already out of the running to match Atlanta's Greg Maddux (.905) and Seattle's Randy Johnson (.900), who both put up those numbers in 1995. Oh, and this year, the Dodgers' Zack Greinke is right behind Scherzer at 14-3, .824.
Blue them away: The Dodgers have been sensational since the All-Star break, running away with the NL West while Yasiel Puig has become a household name and pitching is once again the name of the game for the Dodgers. At 38-12, for a .760 winning percentage, after the break, the Dodgers are second only to the 1954 Indians (55-16, .775) and 2001 A's (58-17, .773) in second-half success.
Extras, extras: Through Tuesday, there have been 217 games that have gone beyond the regulation nine, putting the 2011 single-season record of 237 extra-inning games in jeopardy. Even with the spate of late-late games last weekend, the pace has slowed a bit down the stretch, but the game is still on track for 242 games going into free baseball in 2013, which would set a new standard.
Runs away, runs away: As pitching continues to dominate, runs scored per game are down, back down after a mini-spike a year ago, and down all the way to levels not seen in two decades.
There were 4.19 runs scored per game in 2013 through Monday, a mark that is well below last year's 4.32, almost a run lower than the peak of 5.14 in 2000, and very much in the same ballpark as the most recent low-water mark of 4.12 in 1992. ERA as a whole is down, too, at 3.88, which would be the lowest since 1997's 3.75.
Talking #whiff: Another indicator of how the pendulum has swung toward pitching: the steady rise in strikeouts. And we're headed for a second consecutive record-setting season. Last year's total of 36,426 strikeouts, or 7.50 per game, set an all-time mark and continued a steady trend. Through Monday, there were 32,262 strikeouts, or an average of 7.51 per game.
Ouch: The Giants, currently 15 games under .500, stand to post the worst record for a defending World Series champion since the 1998 Marlins went 54-108. The Astros, meanwhile, appear destined to become the first team to lose 100 games three consecutive years since the 2004-06 Royals.
October glory: Lest we forget, two lengthy postseason droughts could come to an end. While the Pirates clinched their first winning season since 1992, they won't be satisfied until they reach the postseason for the first time in those same 20 seasons. If the Royals manage to keep pushing their way deeper into the AL Wild Card race, they'd end an even longer postseason drought, one of 27 seasons, dating back to 1985.
Nothing's settled yet, but some preseason aspirations are coming true as the season winds down, turning into season totals that will go into the books in bold letters and numbers.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.