Pace Car: Pujols, Teixeira, Lincecum, and others chase history, Gehrig, and burgers

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Plenty has been written and said about the season that Albert Pujols is having, but this nugget might be my favorite: he’s on pace for 60 HR and only 64 K. Incredible. In similar fashion, Roger Maris
only struck out 67 times during his 61-homer season in ’61. Others have
actually finished with more homers than strikeouts, notably Lou Gehrig (twice in three years: 49 HR, 31 K in 1934 and 49 HR, 46 K in 1936). Joe DiMaggio did it seven times in his career, with the craziest one coming in 1941, when he hit 30 bombs and struck out only 13(!) times.

Speaking of Yankees, Mark Teixeira is on his way to 41 HR and 43 doubles. He would become only the 34th player to have a 40-40 year (he also did it back in 2005), and the first Yankee since Gehrig (did it 3 times) in 1934.

Interestingly, the feat was accomplished 11 times from 1921 through 1940, and then didn’t happen again until Willie Stargell in 1973. Then there was another long drought until Albert Belle’s historic 50-50 season in 1995. Since Belle, 20 players have done the 40-40 thing, most recently Alfonso Soriano,
who actually reached the 40-40-40 club (41 steals to go with 46 HR and
41 doubles). Ironically, Soriano’s .911 OPS was the lowest of anyone in
this group.

(And for those wondering, Pujols is only on pace for 39 doubles).

As we pointed out in The Show this week (see below), Mark Reynolds
is in the middle of one of the most dynamic seasons ever. At this rate,
Reynolds will finish with 31 doubles, 44 homers, 113 RBI, 27 steals,
100 runs, 224 strikeouts (easily a MLB record), and 27 errors. THAT is
the definition of filling up the scoresheet.

In less spectacular fashion, Bobby Abreu has an
outside shot at putting up 100 in runs (on pace for 91), RBI (110), BB
(97), K (103), and In & Out Burgers (quantity unknown).

After fanning 10 more batters Friday night, Tim Lincecum is
on track for 289 strikeouts this year. So he’ll need to pick it up over
his last 15 or so starts to be the first guy to 300 since Randy Johnson in 2002.

Last year, Pedro Feliciano set a Mets record
with 86 appearances. He’s on pace for 90 this year, which would tie him
for sixth all-time (and the most by a lefty). The record is 104
appearances by Mike Marshall in 1974. Marshall also had three seasons of 90+ games.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.