Fernando Tatis Jr.'s first 162 games made history — even over three seasons

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Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY
·3 min read
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With his handful of national endorsement deals, his ability to command the nightly highlight shows with stupendous athleticism and the baseball-loving public's thirst to celebrate his many feats, it's easy to forget that Fernando Tatis Jr. has yet to even complete a full season in the major leagues.

His three years with the San Diego Padres have been curtailed by hamstring, back and wrist injuries sandwiched around the COVID-19 pandemic that limited the 2020 season to 60 games.

Yet Tatis, now 23, is approaching a milestone — 162 games played — that makes his accomplishments easier to contextualize.

And they are historic.

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San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. reacts as he looks into the dugout after hitting his second home run of the game against Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer on April 24.
San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. reacts as he looks into the dugout after hitting his second home run of the game against Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer on April 24.

Tatis on Sunday played his 158th career game and it was a memorable one — he homered for the fifth time in three games at Dodger Stadium and stole a base that set up the go-ahead run in the 11th inning as the Padres won another epic over the Dodgers.

Now, 158 games in, Tatis' career totals would make for a phenomenal season: 46 home runs, 31 stolen bases, 107 RBI, a .957 OPS, a 156 adjusted OPS.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tatis is the only player in history with at least 40 homers, 100 RBI and 20 stolen bases through his first 162 games.

Indeed, Tatis' career production would rank among the finest seasons ever by a shortstop, up there with Alex Rodriguez's 2003 AL MVP season in which he hit 47 home runs and produced a .995 OPS and 147 adjusted OPS — all admittedly chemically-enhanced.

"I truly believe he's the best talent in baseball," teammate Eric Hosmer said after Tatis took reigning Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer deep twice on Saturday night. "I'm enjoying every piece of history he's a part of."

Now, the challenge: Keeping it all together for a single, 162-game season.

Tatis' 2019 rookie season was curtailed at the front and back end — a hamstring injury he suffered in his 27th career game, and a stress reaction in his back that ended his year in mid-August, after just 84 games.

Tatis did play in 59 of 60 games in 2020, but after batting .314 with a 1.068 OPS in his first 43 games, tailed off badly, batting .164 with a .533 OPS over his final 62 plate appearances, though he finished with a .933 OPS.

This year, a left shoulder injury put him in a 3 for 18 tailspin coming out of the gate before suffering a subluxation, leading to an injured list stint and worries he may need significant surgery.

Instead, the rest did Tatis plenty of good, as he's produced a 1.133 OPS in 10 games and slugged six home runs, all against the Dodgers.

Tatis is still just 22 and his game must continue to grow, particularly on the defensive end, where he's committed a major league-high nine errors and occasionally exhibits poor judgment trying to make a play.

Yet that growth seems inevitable if paired with good health, so far the only impediment to Tatis fulfilling his destiny as a superstar, with the skills that compelled San Diego to sign him to a 14-year, $340 million extension in the offseason.

They expect more than a decade of greatness. So far, he has delivered them one phenomenal season — even if it's come in fits and starts.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fernando Tatis Jr.'s first 162 games made history with Padres