- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Joey Votto may be among the very few players in the majors today -- hell, maybe even in baseball history -- who don't define themselves by the statistics they generate. Votto doesn't set numerical goals, he explained earlier this summer. Rather, his goal is to have the best plate appearance he can as often as he can.
But Votto is more Platonic in his world view than his peers, most of whom are attracted by statistical benchmarks like a politician to a television camera.
Buster Posey acknowledged the other day that he understands that 100 RBIs isn't necessarily something that defines him -- but he wanted to reach that benchmark, and he did.
With four days left in the season, some players have opportunities to reach big, round numbers.
40 homers: Adrian Beltre and Giancarlo Stanton each have 36, so both would have to go on a crazy tear over the next 100 hours to make it happen. And as we know, they're both fully capable of doing that.
30 homers: Prince Fielder, Billy Butler and Mike Trout are all within one homer of hitting this milestone. For Fielder, it would be his sixth consecutive season with at least 30 homers; it would give Trout a shot at a 30-50 season (he has 47 stolen bases).
100 RBIs: Sixteen players already have hit this mark this year, and a few more could join: Adam LaRoche (99), Granderson (98) and Jay Bruce (98). A group of four players sit at 94: Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman, McCutchen and Freddie Freeman.
50 doubles: Albert Pujols has 48 doubles to go along with his 30 homers. It could be his first 50-double season since 2004.
A .300 batting average: There are a handful of players hovering right around that number: Dexter Fowler (.300), Austin Jackson (.299), Aramis Ramirez (.299); Paul Konerko, Adrian Gonzalez and David Freese all sit at .296. Fowler is locked in because he's been shut down for the rest of the year with an injury.
20 wins: Johnny Cueto and David Price each have 19 victories, and both make their last scheduled starts of the season today. For Price, in particular, this could be nice window dressing to have in the Cy Young award conversation -- like putting a plastic cover on a book report. Price tells Marc Topkin he wouldn't mind getting No. 20, but says he isn't focused on it.
50 saves: The Orioles' Jim Johnson has 49. Adding another would be the capper to an incredible season for him.
A 3.00 ERA: Chris Sale sits at 3.05, and in order to get under 3.00, a series of events would have to happen. First, there would have to be a one-game playoff for the AL Central title on Thursday; second, Robin Ventura would have to elect to start Sale; and third, he would have to generate a strong pitching line, of zero or one earned run in at least four innings. But that's the least of the White Sox's worries these days.
• Here's a pretty cool number: We have four days left in the AL schedule and not one playoff spot has been clinched. Four champagne celebrations could happen today.
From ESPN Stats & Information, how Verlander won:
A. With seven lefties in the Twins' lineup, Verlander threw 33 changeups, his most in a start since July 2007.
B. Verlander had three strikeouts on his changeup and two more that were set up by a changeup on the previous pitch.
C. For the fifth time in six September starts, Verlander's fastball averaged at least 95 mph (95.2 on Saturday). He averaged 95 mph just twice in 27 starts prior to September. The big jump in his velocity has been early in the game, where he was averaging 93.5 before the seventh inning and has been averaging 95.3 this month.
• Sale was hammered, and now the White Sox will need a lot of help if they're going to win the AL Central.
• Manny Machado homered to push the Baltimore Orioles into a first-place tie with the Yankees, Eduardo Encino writes. Jason Hammel continues to try to work his way back from injury, as mentioned within this Dan Connolly notebook.
Best winning percentage in one-run games (since 1901):
2012: Orioles -- .757
1981: Orioles -- .750
1908: Pirates -- .733
1970: Orioles -- .727
Here's a scary number: David Robertson -- so crucial to the success of the Yankees' bullpen -- already has 29 appearances in August and September, and scouts are reporting that his stuff appears to have regressed. His fastball velocity is down almost 4 mph from his season high of 94.6 early in the season.
From the Elias Sports Bureau: Alex Rodriguez, who was 0-for-3 with two walks on Saturday, has not driven in a run in 10 straight games. That's his longest streak without an RBI in more than seven years -- since an 11-game drought in May/June 2005.
The Angels sat around and lost ground, Bill Plunkett writes.
• Wild times could be ahead for the Angels, writes Jeff Fletcher.
From his story:
- The Angels could play on Wednesday in Seattle, Thursday in Oakland, Friday in Baltimore and Sunday in Anaheim.
- "That's a lot of road games, huh?" Angels outfielder Mark Trumbo said. "Until things become a little more clear I'd rather not spend too much time spinning the wheels on all the combinations."
• Posey has widened the lead for the NL batting title, Alex Pavolic writes.
3. Eric O'Flaherty is nursing a sore back and will be rested down the stretch.
Moves, deals and decision
2. Terry Francona will interview with the Indians in the week ahead.
4. Robin Ventura wants to continue managing.
Dings and dents
• The Red Sox continue to have really bad luck against the Orioles. Boston has been unlucky in 12 of 17 games against Baltimore.
• The Royals ended their losing streak.
From ESPN Stats & Info, how Minor beat the Mets:
A. Minor threw fastballs on 49 percent of his pitches, his second straight start and just the fifth of his career in which he threw more offspeed pitches than fastballs.
B. Mets hitters were 1-for-13 with four strikeouts in at-bats ending with a Minor offspeed pitch. He had two strikeouts on both his curveball and slider, the first start of his career he's had at least two strikeouts with each.
C. Minor started 16 of 21 hitters (76 percent) with a first-pitch strike, his highest percentage this season and second highest of his career.
• The Cardinals lost in extra innings; they're still in the driver's seat for the second wild-card spot.
• Andrew McCutchen lightened the mood in Pittsburgh.
• The Reds are not hitting that well, writes Hal McCoy.
• The Cubs lost their 99th game.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info
9: Fastball strikeouts by Marco Estrada on Saturday, tied for the third most by any pitcher this season.
14: Walkoff wins by the A's this season, matching their total for the previous three years combined.
24: Home runs by Cabrera in games won by Verlander since the two became teammates in 2008. According to Elias, that's the highest such total for any batter-pitcher combination in the majors during that span.
93: Two-strike hits for Martin Prado this season, which leads the majors; he had two two-strike hits in the Braves' win Saturday.
- When asked recently to evaluate his six years in Boston, and more specifically whether he agrees with the popular consensus that he has been a disappointment, Matsuzaka requires no such deliberation.
- "I believe it's exactly that," Matsuzaka said quickly through interpreter Jeff Cutler. "I really haven't done much over the past three years. I'm really disappointed in myself that I wasn't able to do much to contribute to the team."
- On Wednesday night, Matsuzaka is scheduled to make what will almost certainly be his final start as a member of the Red Sox. It will cap a tumultuous tenure for the right-hander in Boston -- one that began with sky-high expectations and will end in that agreed-upon disappointment.
• Cabrera is the MVP, writes Jerry Green.
• The Twins have rotation issues going into 2013, writes John Shipley.
• Homer Bailey says no one is paying attention to the Reds. For the record: He's pitched on "Sunday Night Baseball" three times this year, including last week. Maybe that's why he didn't hear the praise being heaped on the Reds.
• For Homer, it has been an odyssey, writes John Fay.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Buster Olney writes about Mike Trout -- who has a shot at a 30-50 season -- and others who are chasing statistical benchmarks as the 2012 regular season winds down.