Saying that a team or player is "on pace" to record any certain number of counting stats is a dicey proposition. Rate stats like ERA, batting average, slugging percentage, etc., are paces in and of themselves. But when you talk about a player being "on pace" to record a certain number of wins, strikeouts, home runs, etc., you wander into an assumption that they will continue to do what they've already done, which is almost never true. It's even worse when you're talking about a small sample, but the Orioles have almost half of their season in the books, and there are two players chasing some really meaningful milestones. It's probably still too soon to talk about them, but here we go anyway. All statistics are as of the close of Sunday's play.
Chris Davis is on pace to break the Orioles single-season home run record
The Orioles team record for home runs in a single season stands at 50, set by Brady Anderson in his breakout 1996 season. Brady edged out Frank Robinson's 49 home runs from 1966, and no other Oriole has come close to the milestone since. Chris Davis has clocked 27 home runs in 76 games, which sets a pace for 57.5 home runs on the year. Put another way, Davis can hit "just" 24 home runs in the season's last 86 games and still set the franchise record. Breaking the franchise record won't sniff any of the league records set during the steroid-fueled 1990s, but if it happens, it will still be a noteworthy achievement. Nothing like this is ever for sure, but if Davis stays healthy and avoids any prolonged funks, he looks pretty good for this one. Likelihood: Medium
Manny Machado is on pace to break the Orioles single-season hits record
Cal Ripken's 211-hit campaign in 1983 stood as the Orioles record for over 20 years, until Miguel Tejada edged him out with 214 hits in 2006. Well, Manny Machado seems to have something to say about this, rapping out 104 hits in 76 games, good for a 221.6-hit pace. With this potential record as well as the big one below, there's a lot of uncertainty. Manny Machado is still a very young hitter, which means that Orioles fans can expect several more cycles of adjustment between Machado and opposing pitchers. This offers two possibilities: 1) That Machado will go through a slump of some kind and fall off pace for historic milestones (even if he still finishes as an excellent hitter), or 2) That Machado will start drawing more walks (he has only 15 so far), which will keep him in elite territory but reduce his ability to accumulate counting stats. Likelihood: Low
Manny Machado is on pace to break MLB's single-season doubles record
This is the big one. Franchise records are all well and good, but league records are league records for a reason - they represent exceptional seasons that are hard to replicate. Earl Webb's 67-double season in 1931 is an exemplar. The 1930s were a huge era for doubles -- eight of the top twelve seasons for doubles took place in the decade. The closest that anyone has recently come to Webb's record is Todd Helton's 59-double campaign in 2000. With 33 doubles in 76 games, Machado is currently on pace for 70.3 doubles, a pace that's actually come down a bit in the last week or so. Unfortunately, that dip may be a sign of things to come. As exciting as it could be to watch a 20-year-old Machado chase down an 82-year-old record, it would be pretty anomalous. Doubles are currently representing a disproportionate amount of Machado's times on base. Webb's record season included 14 home runs and 70 walks, whereas Machado is on pace for 10.6 and 31.9, respectively. If Manny's numbers start to balance out over time (which is what these things tend to do), the single-season doubles mark would fall quickly out of reach. There's no doubting the legitimacy of Machado's gap power and line-drive ability, but to see those continue to translate into so many doubles above all else would be incredibly fluky. Likelihood: Low
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Counting records are fun and everything, but let's not take anything away from the excellent seasons that Machado and Davis are racking up, no matter what. Hitting a specific number of home runs, base hits or doubles is far less important than being an all-around solid baseball player. It's hard to envision where the 2013 Orioles would be without the offensive (and in Machado's case, defensive) contributions of these two players, and indeed, they've already logged more than eight wins above replacement players at their respective positions. Anchoring the corners of your infield with a 16-win pair is nothing to sniff at, records or no records. But the records will be fun to watch as the season wears on.