Dodgers star Matt Kemp is the early favorite to contend for the 2012 home run crown. But any player with designs on setting the record has a long way to go to catch Barry Bonds' mark of 73 single-season homers set in 2001.
Other long-standing baseball milestones will probably never be matched. Let's take a look...
Mariano Rivera, the Yankees' ninth-inning wonder is the all-time saves record holder at 608. He passed Trevor Hoffman's astonishing record of 601 on Sept. 19, 2011. Rivera's next closest active competitor, the Reds' Francisco Cordero, is only slightly over halfway to this total. Rivera has averaged 40 saves per year during his 17-season career. He suffered a torn ACL early in the 2012 season and his season, and career, are now in jeopardy. The liklihood of another closer having the consistency and longevity (he pitched into his 40s) to reach Mo's mark is slim.
.400 or greater single season batting average
Ted Williams entered the final day of the 1941 season with a .399 average, which would have been rounded up. Manager Joe Cronin let Williams decide whether to play in the Red Sox's doubleheader. He got four hits in the first game and went 2-for-3 in the second to finish the season at .406. The closest any player has come since 1941 is Tony Gwynn, who was hitting .394 when a labor strike halted the 1994 season on Aug. 11.
Consecutive games hitting streak
Joe DiMaggio's streak of 56 games was set in 1941. The closest any player has come to matching it was the 44-game streak by Pete Rose in 1978. Of active players, the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins came the closest, with 38 games, spanning the 2005-06 seasons.
Single season and career walks
Because of that other record Barry Bonds holds (762 career home runs), the slugger also received an astronomical number of base on balls. His 2,558 career walks is the record. Bonds broke the 78-year-old single season record of 170 (set by Babe Ruth in 1923) in 2001, walking 177 times. He broke his own record in 2002 (198) and set the all-time record of 232 in 2004. The next closest in career total walks is Rickey Henderson with 2,190. Among active players, the Phillies' Jim Thome is the closest, with a distant 1,725 going into the 2012 season.
Nolan Ryan holds the record for career strikeouts with 5,714. The pitcher who came the closest to matching that was Randy Johnson who fanned 4,875 batters in his career. Even 3,000 career strikeouts seems an unattainable goal in today's game; the latest to achieve that mark was Pedro Martinez, who last pitched in 2009. The active player who's closest is the Miami Marlins' Javier Vazquez, who has just over 2,500 going into the 2012 season.
Single season earned run average
Bob Gibson finished the 1968 season 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA, surpassing the 1.14 ERA recorded by Christy Mathewson in 1909 and tied by Walter Johnson in 1913. Only two pitchers have a better single-season ERA: Mordecai Brown (1.04 in 1906) and Dutch Leonard (0.96 in 1914). The closest any pitcher has come since is Dwight Gooden's 1.53 ERA in 1985.
Career and single-season stolen bases
Rickey Henderson stole 1,406 bases in his career and 130 in 1982. The next closest on the all-time list is Lou Brock with 938, who is also second among modern-era players in the single season mark, with 118. Among active players, Juan Pierre has the closest total, with 554 going into the 2012 season. That seems paltry by comparison.
Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's 78-year-old record of 4,191 on Sept. 11, 1985, and went on to finish his career with 4,256. Among active players Derek Jeter is the closest to that mark, cracking the top 20 on the list and knocking number 3,000 during the 2011 season.
Nolan Ryan pitched seven no-hitters in his remarkable career. Ryan pitched his first two no-no's in the same year — May 15, and July 15, 1973 — while with the California Angels. He pitched two more as an Angel — Sept. 28, 1974, and June 1, 1975. His fifth, on Sept. 26, 1981, while with the Astros, broke Sandy Koufax's 16-year-old record of four no-hitters. Ryan's sixth and seventh no-hitters came with the Texas Rangers on June 11, 1990 and May 1, 1991. The latter occurred when he was 44 years old, making him the oldest pitcher to throw a no-hitter. He never threw a perfect game. Active pitchers with more than one are the Marlins' Mark Buehrle, the Phillies' Roy Halladay and the Tigers' Justin Verlander, who each have two.
Cy Young, the man for whom baseball's most coveted pitching award is named, won an astonishing 511 games in his 22-year MLB career. Next closest on the list is Walter Johnson with 417. The 300-win club has 24 members, the most recent to join was Randy Johnson in 2009. Even that milestone seems unattainable now. Among active players, 49-year-old Jamie Moyer, who is headed to spring training vying for a spot with the Rockies, is closest with 267.
Consecutive games played
Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig's 56-year-old record of 2,030 consecutive games on Sept. 6, 1995, to become baseball's new Iron Man. His streak ended at 2,632 games when he voluntarily asked to be removed from the lineup for the final Orioles home game of the 1998 season. His streak spanned 17 seasons, all with the Baltimore Orioles. Dodgers CF Matt Kemp racked up 399 consecutive games before going on the DL in May 2012. Nobody else is even close.