Later this season, Scott Rolen, Adrian Beltre and Chipper Jones could all pass the 2000 mark for career games at third base. Actually, barring injury or retirement, it’s a virtual lock. How  unusual is that? Let’s find out.

Here’s the list of games played at 3rd base over a career. To focus on only games at a position, I’m using game data rather than season data, so this list and the ones that follow are for 1918 to the present.

Rk Player #Matching PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Brooks Robinson 2870 Ind. Games 11759 10631 2844 482 68 267 1355 860 991 .268 .322 .401 .723
2 Graig Nettles 2413 Ind. Games 9730 8543 2128 309 26 372 1240 1042 1117 .249 .331 .422 .753
3 Gary Gaetti 2282 Ind. Games 9226 8410 2160 424 36 339 1258 598 1510 .257 .310 .437 .747
4 Wade Boggs 2216 Ind. Games 10003 8531 2801 537 55 107 933 1337 675 .328 .417 .442 .859
5 Mike Schmidt 2213 Ind. Games 9414 7805 2076 381 54 512 1482 1422 1772 .266 .380 .525 .905
6 Buddy Bell 2184 Ind. Games 9292 8337 2344 393 54 187 1043 787 725 .281 .343 .409 .751
7 Eddie Mathews 2181 Ind. Games 9452 8007 2181 332 69 487 1367 1334 1383 .272 .376 .514 .889
8 Ron Santo 2130 Ind. Games 9021 7808 2177 355 64 338 1300 1072 1281 .279 .365 .471 .835
9 Tim Wallach 2054 Ind. Games 8400 7641 1987 411 35 250 1084 610 1221 .260 .318 .421 .739
10 Eddie Yost 2008 Ind. Games 9017 7215 1838 335 55 138 674 1589 905 .255 .395 .374 .769
11 Ron Cey 1990 Ind. Games 8188 7036 1841 322 21 312 1123 985 1191 .262 .354 .446 .800
12 Aurelio Rodriguez 1988 Ind. Games 7023 6553 1555 283 45 123 643 320 934 .237 .274 .351 .625
13 Scott Rolen 1965 Ind. Games 8280 7187 2017 506 41 308 1255 876 1366 .281 .365 .491 .856
14 Adrian Beltre 1952 Ind. Games 8041 7360 2033 429 28 307 1110 540 1211 .276 .329 .467 .796
15 Chipper Jones 1914 Ind. Games 8368 7092 2164 438 34 383 1314 1180 1093 .305 .401 .538 .940
16 Sal Bando 1897 Ind. Games 7905 6726 1705 276 37 235 1002 987 874 .253 .353 .410 .763
17 Robin Ventura 1888 Ind. Games 7896 6741 1800 327 13 284 1132 1029 1117 .267 .362 .446 .808
18 Pie Traynor 1863 Ind. Games 8097 7375 2363 364 162 57 1262 469 267 .320 .363 .437 .800
19 Stan Hack 1836 Ind. Games 8264 7064 2138 350 80 57 617 1067 449 .303 .396 .399 .795
20 Terry Pendleton 1788 Ind. Games 7410 6821 1842 345 38 138 914 471 937 .270 .316 .392 .708
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/17/2012.

It’s unusual that those three players would all reach this point in their careers at the same time. Why? Mainly because, age-wise, they are all at different points in their careers. Beltre is 33, Rolen 37 and Jones 40. Rolen has never played in the field at any other position and Beltre seldom has, but Jones has over 20% of his career games at other positions. Here are their career lines as of this writing.

Player G OPS+ From To Age PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Tm
Chipper Jones 2413 141 1993 2012 21-40 10272 8691 1578 2643 529 38 459 1584 1466 1370 .304 .402 .532 .934 ATL
Adrian Beltre 1993 110 1998 2012 19-33 8179 7489 1014 2071 438 28 317 1136 548 1232 .277 .329 .469 .798 LAD-SEA-BOS-TEX
Scott Rolen 1975 122 1996 2012 21-37 8289 7196 1191 2021 506 41 310 1259 876 1368 .281 .365 .492 .856 PHI-STL-TOR-CIN
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/17/2012.

Age aside, a lot of similarities between Beltre and Rolen. Rolen takes more walks and has more doubles (hence, the higher OPS+), but otherwise eerily alike. Jones is on another level and appears bound for Cooperstown. The other two may get there too - Rolen by dint of being regarded as the outstanding defensive third baseman of his time, and Beltre by compiling some serious counting numbers which, given his age, he might very well do (which would be particularly impressive considering he has played most of his career in pitcher-friendly parks).

But, back the original question. How unusual is it for contemporaries at a position to reach 2000 games at the same time? Interestingly, this isn’t the first time there have been three active third basemen at this level. Graig Nettles, Mike Schmidt and Buddy Bell were all active and past the 2000 game plateau in 1987 and 1988. So were Gary Gaetti and Wade Boggs from 1997 to 1999, Bell and Schmidt in 1989, and Brooks Robinson and Ron Santo in 1973 and 1974.

What about other positions? Here are the shortstops.

Rk Player #Matching PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Omar Vizquel 2702 Ind. Games 11226 9875 2690 427 76 77 901 974 996 .272 .338 .354 .692
2 Luis Aparicio 2583 Ind. Games 11220 10220 2676 394 92 83 790 736 741 .262 .311 .343 .654
3 Ozzie Smith 2511 Ind. Games 10718 9344 2450 400 69 28 790 1066 585 .262 .338 .329 .667
4 Derek Jeter 2427 Ind. Games 11172 9890 3105 496 64 243 1199 992 1649 .314 .384 .451 .834
5 Cal Ripken 2302 Ind. Games 10060 8964 2486 471 40 346 1330 948 1004 .277 .346 .455 .801
6 Larry Bowa 2223 Ind. Games 9091 8402 2190 262 99 15 525 472 566 .261 .300 .321 .621
7 Luke Appling 2218 Ind. Games 9620 8302 2594 420 93 43 1054 1238 488 .312 .402 .401 .803
8 Dave Concepcion 2177 Ind. Games 8823 7990 2137 355 45 98 889 664 1102 .267 .322 .360 .682
9 Alan Trammell 2142 Ind. Games 8888 7848 2241 384 53 177 945 810 814 .286 .352 .416 .768
10 Edgar Renteria 2116 Ind. Games 9026 8105 2317 436 29 140 918 716 1167 .286 .343 .399 .742
11 Bert Campaneris 2097 Ind. Games 9081 8186 2104 290 79 78 606 587 1080 .257 .310 .340 .650
12 Barry Larkin 2087 Ind. Games 8955 7851 2320 438 75 196 945 925 804 .296 .371 .445 .816
13 Royce Clayton 2053 Ind. Games 8126 7348 1898 362 55 110 719 559 1407 .258 .312 .367 .680
14 Roy McMillan 2027 Ind. Games 7570 6680 1625 252 35 66 587 657 698 .243 .315 .321 .636
15 Pee Wee Reese 2014 Ind. Games 8993 7641 2076 322 79 122 843 1167 845 .272 .369 .382 .752
16 Garry Templeton 1965 Ind. Games 8013 7538 2060 323 105 69 716 365 1057 .273 .306 .371 .677
17 Don Kessinger 1957 Ind. Games 8186 7343 1862 247 77 14 506 652 728 .254 .315 .314 .629
18 Miguel Tejada 1947 Ind. Games 8324 7609 2188 434 23 292 1214 522 985 .288 .339 .466 .805
19 Mark Belanger 1942 Ind. Games 6536 5724 1307 174 33 20 388 574 825 .228 .301 .281 .582
20 Chris Speier 1900 Ind. Games 7351 6454 1589 269 49 96 641 769 861 .246 .327 .348 .675
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/17/2012.

So, we had three together (Vizquel,  Jeter, Renteria) in 2010 and 2011, and almost a fourth last year with Miguel Tejada. There were also three in 1995 and 1996 with Cal Ripken, Alan Trammell and Ozzie Smith. Just Trammell and Smith were also above 2000 from 1991 to 1994, as were Vizquel and Jeter in 2009 and this year, Vizquel and Royce Clayton in 2007, Vizquel and Barry Larkin in 2004, Dave Concepcion and Larry Bowa in 1985, and Bowa and Bert Campaneris in 1983.

The conventional wisdom for second basemen is that they lack the staying power of the left-side infield positions, possibly because they are, presumably, more easily replacable since a rifle arm is not a prerequisite. Let’s see.

Rk Player #Matching PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Joe Morgan 2527 Ind. Games 11154 9134 2489 445 96 267 1117 1835 995 .272 .393 .430 .823
2 Roberto Alomar 2322 Ind. Games 10270 8957 2692 499 78 207 1110 1019 1119 .301 .372 .443 .815
3 Lou Whitaker 2310 Ind. Games 9825 8453 2336 413 65 240 1059 1177 1080 .276 .363 .426 .789
4 Nellie Fox 2295 Ind. Games 10275 9163 2650 353 112 35 787 716 215 .289 .348 .364 .712
5 Charlie Gehringer 2206 Ind. Games 10089 8722 2800 568 146 181 1408 1177 360 .321 .405 .482 .887
6 Frank White 2154 Ind. Games 8080 7489 1916 394 54 158 854 400 983 .256 .294 .386 .680
7 Willie Randolph 2153 Ind. Games 9385 7953 2194 314 64 54 681 1235 666 .276 .373 .352 .725
8 Bill Mazeroski 2094 Ind. Games 8293 7676 1999 293 62 137 847 441 703 .260 .300 .368 .668
9 Jeff Kent 2034 Ind. Games 8630 7691 2247 512 45 357 1418 723 1368 .292 .358 .510 .868
10 Ryne Sandberg 1995 Ind. Games 8674 7820 2228 378 71 277 1009 732 1171 .285 .346 .458 .804
11 Craig Biggio 1990 Ind. Games 9076 7823 2232 497 44 226 884 895 1277 .285 .372 .447 .819
12 Bobby Doerr 1852 Ind. Games 8022 7089 2042 381 89 223 1244 807 606 .288 .362 .461 .823
13 Ray Durham 1843 Ind. Games 8116 7139 1988 427 75 185 840 787 1156 .278 .353 .437 .790
14 Red Schoendienst 1833 Ind. Games 8170 7496 2180 383 67 79 683 556 299 .291 .341 .391 .732
15 Billy Herman 1812 Ind. Games 8208 7337 2244 461 78 46 789 682 407 .306 .367 .409 .776
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/17/2012.

Conventional wisdom would appear to be supported. There’s only Lou Whitaker and Willie Randolph in 1992. Randolph was within 50 games of 2000 when Frank White retired after the 1990 season.

At  first base I’m expecting a whole bunch. Let’s see.

Rk Player #Matching PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Eddie Murray 2413 Ind. Games 10346 9119 2631 462 30 409 1567 1108 1189 .289 .363 .480 .843
2 Fred McGriff 2239 Ind. Games 9469 8146 2339 407 24 464 1465 1213 1701 .287 .379 .514 .893
3 Mickey Vernon 2237 Ind. Games 9665 8581 2454 481 119 169 1284 936 840 .286 .359 .429 .788
4 Mark Grace 2162 Ind. Games 9206 7995 2428 509 45 173 1134 1065 627 .304 .384 .444 .827
5 Rafael Palmeiro 2139 Ind. Games 9328 8103 2355 451 27 441 1428 1047 1064 .291 .373 .516 .889
6 Lou Gehrig 2137 Ind. Games 9611 7953 2705 531 162 493 1987 1506 780 .340 .448 .634 1.081
7 Charlie Grimm 2129 Ind. Games 8692 7869 2294 393 108 78 1071 573 404 .292 .342 .399 .741
8 Jeff Bagwell 2112 Ind. Games 9363 7742 2299 483 32 449 1519 1393 1542 .297 .408 .542 .949
9 Andres Galarraga 2106 Ind. Games 8628 7838 2269 429 32 389 1388 563 1925 .289 .348 .501 .849
10 Steve Garvey 2061 Ind. Games 8728 8152 2428 406 38 256 1236 432 904 .298 .332 .451 .783
11 Joe Kuhel 2057 Ind. Games 9051 7950 2209 412 111 131 1048 971 604 .278 .359 .407 .766
12 John Olerud 2053 Ind. Games 8481 7095 2107 474 12 239 1158 1200 914 .297 .400 .468 .869
13 Willie McCovey 2045 Ind. Games 8381 7057 1914 311 38 449 1333 1195 1323 .271 .378 .517 .895
14 Todd Helton 2029 Ind. Games 8743 7334 2367 559 35 347 1319 1261 1042 .323 .422 .550 .972
15 Keith Hernandez 2015 Ind. Games 8473 7302 2168 423 58 160 1063 1059 997 .297 .385 .436 .821
16 Chris Chambliss 1962 Ind. Games 8039 7326 2054 379 42 179 929 608 891 .280 .335 .417 .752
17 Norm Cash 1944 Ind. Games 7765 6582 1796 240 40 373 1089 1027 1061 .273 .375 .491 .867
18 Jimmie Foxx 1918 Ind. Games 8470 7110 2319 398 107 481 1690 1290 1137 .326 .430 .615 1.046
19 Wally Joyner 1913 Ind. Games 7905 6942 2013 402 25 201 1089 810 790 .290 .363 .442 .805
20 Gil Hodges 1908 Ind. Games 7601 6577 1811 280 43 349 1205 896 1041 .275 .362 .490 .852
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/17/2012.

Actually, rather less than I would have guessed. Probably because, while we associate first base with aging stars, often those aging stars relocate to first from another position. Anyway, there were four together (McGriff, Galarraga, Palmeiro, Bagwell) in 2004 although, for the record, Galarraga played exactly one game at first base that year. There were three together (Bagwell, Palmeiro, Olerud) in 2005, and also in 2002 and 2003 with Grace, McGriff, and Galarraga. Grace and McGriff were also past the 2000 game milestone in 2001. But, aside from that considerable “flurry” in the first half of the last decade, nothing.

Finally. catcher, where I’m expecting very few, if any.

Rk Player #Matching PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Ivan Rodriguez 2430 Ind. Games 9974 9316 2765 552 51 306 1300 498 1427 .297 .334 .466 .799
2 Carlton Fisk 2226 Ind. Games 8961 7947 2173 380 43 356 1222 790 1236 .273 .346 .466 .813
3 Bob Boone 2225 Ind. Games 8079 7181 1819 300 26 104 815 660 602 .253 .315 .346 .661
4 Gary Carter 2056 Ind. Games 8334 7382 1939 349 29 301 1132 768 901 .263 .334 .440 .774
5 Jason Kendall 2025 Ind. Games 8558 7498 2169 391 35 74 732 710 677 .289 .367 .380 .748
6 Tony Pena 1950 Ind. Games 7036 6454 1680 298 27 107 705 453 840 .260 .309 .365 .674
7 Brad Ausmus 1938 Ind. Games 7081 6261 1577 270 34 80 606 632 1030 .252 .325 .344 .670
8 Jim Sundberg 1927 Ind. Games 6859 5986 1484 242 36 94 620 694 958 .248 .326 .347 .674
9 Al Lopez 1919 Ind. Games 6562 5875 1533 204 43 51 640 550 533 .261 .326 .336 .662
10 Benito Santiago 1917 Ind. Games 7407 6856 1805 319 41 213 900 418 1244 .263 .306 .415 .721
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/17/2012.

So, as expected, only 5 players have caught over 2000 games but, surprisingly, all were contemporaries of one or more of the other four. So, we had Fisk and Boone in 1990, Fisk and Carter in 1991 and 1992, and Kendall and Rodriguez in 2010.

Clearly, more teams, a longer schedule, better conditioning and training, and bigger paycheques have all contributed to players playing longer than in the past. Still, it’s interesting to see times when all-time greats at a position are contemporaries.

I’m going to do a bit of digging and see if I can find the games where opposing starters at a position had the most career game experience. And, I’ll also take a look at the outfield. Meanwhile, let me know your thoughts. Any surprises?

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