300+ PA, 32 SO or less (2011)
Juan Pierre (1 HR)
Jose Reyes (4)
Albert Pujols (22)
Ryan Theriot (1)
Placido Polanco (4)
A.J. Pierzynski (4)
Yadier Molina (8)
Miguel Tejada (4)
Angel Pagan (4)
Pujols has been doing this his entire career (a Musial-esque 430 HR and 676 SO), and he's continuing it even in a down year. It continues to be one of the most impressive things to watch year after year in major league baseball.
The Pirates are going into the Break within a game of 1st place in the NL Central after having their worst season (57-105) since 1954. Astonishingly, they're over .500 on the road (24-21) after having one the worst road records in ML history in 2010 (17-64). Their offense has improved a bit, going from 29th in runs to 24th. The real reason for the improvement, though, is the pitching, going from 30th to 8th.
What's interesting is that they appear to be struggling in a number of key areas, including strikeouts, WHIP and batting average. They are maintaining an excellent team ERA despite allowing a lot of baserunners and not striking out many hitters.
Based on these numbers, it looks like a lot of their team success is riding on the pitchers continuing to not allow extra base hits. They've kept it up this long, so it does not look like a fluke, but it's not a lot to hang a playoff run on. In their last 18 games, they have improved their offense (12-6, 5 r/g), which shows that they might be on the right track (35-37, 3.66 r/g in their first 72 games).
Derek Jeter reached 3000 hits at age 37, which gives him the opportunity to keep racking up hits for a few years and get into the upper reaches of 3000 hit territory. He's the 28th player with 3000 hits, but there are only 8 with 3400 (Rose, Cobb, Aaron, Musial, Speaker, Anson, Wagner, Yaz). Even if he's done hitting .300 every year, he has a good shot at getting another 515 hits,w hich would make him 5th all time.
What other active players have a realistic chance at reaching 3000 hits in the next few years? Active players with at least 2500 hits:
Ivan Rodriguez (2842)
Omar Vizquel (2831)
Alex Rodriguez (2762)
Johnny Damon (2662)
Chipper Jones (2562)
Vladimir Guerrero (2513)
Of these players, A-Rod is the only one that seems like a lock. I-Rod is close, but he's hitting .214 this year, has only 25 hits, is going to be 40 later this year and was just placed on the DL today. Vizquel is 44 and is not an everyday player anymore. It looks like the only way for him to get 3000 is to be play into his late 40's like Julio Franco or Jamie Moyer. He is hitting .269, so he can still hit, but it seems like a longshot.
Damon is an interesting case. He's only 37 (putting him ahead of Biggio's pace at a similar age, as he didn't reach 3000 until he was 41), and only needs 338 hits. He's hitting .279 this year and has only missed 6 games. If he has a strong finish in 2011 and has a typical Damon season next year (about 150 hits these days, he could be about 100 hits away by the beginning of 2013 (when he'll be 39). It's beginning to look very doable if he stays relatively healthy and doesn't have a huge fall off in production.
Chipper is going to be 40 before the beginning the beginning of next season and there were plenty of reports that he would retire last year. He's hasn't missed a lot of games this season, but he's only hitting .259 and doesn't seem like a good candidate to get another 438 hits.
Vlad is only 36 and has stayed productive, although he might never again hit .330 with nearly 40 home runs. If he just keeps cranking out hits at a decent pace, he could easily be withing shouting distance of 2900 by the beginning of 2014 (when he would be 39).
The Twins are winning right tonight, so they have a shot at being 42-47 going into the break. They have gone 22-11 since the beginning of June, salvaging a miserable season in the process. If they follow their 2nd half average since 2002 (and win out until the break), they would finish 84-78. That would be a remarkable turnaround for a team that was 12-27 and 17-37 at various points this season.
Unfortunately, that would probably not be quite enough to win the AL Central. Even in a weak division, the winner usually has over 84 wins. If they go 45-28, though, that would give them 87 wins (I'm assuming they'll sweep the White Sox, but they would need an even better 2nd half if they don't).
If the Indians or Tigers can win 90 games, it's going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible for the Twins to pull off another stunning comeback this season and make the playoffs. The Indians have shown enough flashes of brilliance this season that they probably should be able to win 90 games. The Tigers also have plenty of talent, but they have a history of falling off in the 2nd half.
The Twins were 7 games out on September 6, 2009 (26 games to go), and still ended up in the playoffs (with 87 wins). Considering their recent history in the 2nd half (and the fact that they finally have Joe Mauer back and hitting), the Twins do have a shot at the playoffs, although they'll need a lot of help from the Indians and Tigers.