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Thursday, April 1, 2010
Sure things for 2010

By Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Info

What are the surest things in baseball for 2010?

This question came up in our "Baseball Tonight" meeting on Tuesday, sparked by a recent request from one of ESPN.com’s writers related to Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

Rivera’s streak of 13 straight seasons with at least 25 saves might be the most impressive current streak in baseball (more on Rivera in the very near future on the new ESPNNewYork.com). But we wanted to find some other sure things for the upcoming season.

For that, there’s a nice, free tool, an online baseball encyclopedia called the National Pastime Almanac. Spending a few minutes with its utility, we came up with some other sure things of significance stat-wise for 2010. They’re listed below.



PITCHING
The surest thing for a starting pitcher is that Roy Halladay will win at least 15 games. He’s done that in each of the past four seasons, a total that seems rather puny compared to Greg Maddux’s run of 17 straight from 1988 to 2004.


Only one pitcher has a current streak of three straight seasons with 200 strikeouts: new Yankee Javier Vazquez. Tom Seaver’s record of nine straight seasons seems pretty safe unless Tim Lincecum can stay healthy long enough to pose a challenge.

Looking at things the other way, as long as Livan Hernandez is on a roster, it seems as though we can count on him to lose at least 10 games. Hernandez has done that in 12 straight seasons. In the modern era, only three pitchers have had longer runs.

HITTING
Remember that it took Alex Rodriguez until the final day of the 2009 season to reach 30 home runs and 100 RBIs for the 12th straight season, matching Jimmie Foxx for the best run ever. Albert Pujols’ run of nine straight seasons is impressive, more so when you realize it’s the third-best ever.

Pujols and Ichiro also share the longest current stretch of seasons with a .300 batting average, with nine each. Matt Holliday, David Wright and Derek Jeter also would seem to be sure things, but not to that level. They’ve each managed five straight .300 seasons.

Forty stolen bases, a number easily tallied by the likes of Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines in the 1980s, is now such a rarity that only three players have managed that number in consecutive seasons: Jacoby Ellsbury, Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton. If you halve the required minimum to 20 steals, the list fills out a little easier, with a surprise name, Bobby Abreu, at the top.


Abreu stands highest on another list, albeit one of a negative nature. An even surer thing than Abreu stealing 20 bases in 2010 is that Abreu will reach triple-digits in strikeouts. He’s done so in each of the past 12 years.

Abreu’s team, the Angels, may be challenged to reach the surest thing among team marks. They’re one of two teams, along with the Red Sox, to win 90 games in each of the past three seasons. But make the standard merely a winning record, and the Yankees are the standard setters, with 17 straight. Whenever you talk sure things, it always seems to come back to them.