Who’s On Deck for 3,000 Hits?

Barring major surprises this year, the 2015 season will begin with no active player owning 3,000 hits. That’s not unusual (see end of post), but it naturally makes us wonder who’ll be the next to that milestone. Who do you think has the best shot at 3,000 hits? The obvious candidates, and more, after the jump:

 

One “favorite toy” for this task is the Bill James Career Assessment Tool, which uses the player’s current age, distance from the goal, and last three years’ production. (Here’s the formula.) The C.A.T. estimates for those five players, in ascending order:

  • Ichiro, 42%
    Only 258 hits away, but he turned 40 last fall after a season of sharp decline. His estimated chance has actually gone up from 38% two years ago. But starting in MLB at 27 meant astronomical odds against 3,000 hits; only Pete Rose ever collected 3,000 hits from 27 onward, and Sam Rice was the lone other with 2,800. Even opening with an unprecedented 10 straight 200-hit seasons (averaging 224 safeties) only lifted Ichiro’s odds to 36%. Playing regularly these last three years has helped his estimate more than his falling batting average has hurt; Ichiro’s 498 hits from age 37-39, though short of his prior standard, are still 9th-most in history.

 

  • Pujols, 44%
    Albert is now in a zone of great volatility for career projections. His injury-wracked 2013 slashed his 3,000 hits estimate by one-third, from 66% to 44%. A 2014 return to his 2011-12 output of 173 hits would spike it up to 79% — but another 101-hit campaign would trim it to 32%.

 

  • A-Rod, 60%
    The C.A.T. is simply not built to see through Alex’s complex situation. If you just plug in his current numbers, it spits out 97%, the maximum allowed by the method. But what use is a current estimate, when he can’t play at all this year? Looking forward from 2015, based on his hits for 2012-14 (126, 38 and a presumed zero), drops the estimate to 60%, and I think that’s the best this method can give. Yet I don’t think any C.A.T. estimate for A-Rod is especially useful right now, since so many divergent scenarios remain plausible.

 

  • Cabrera, 68%
    Miggy ranks 10th all-time in hits through age 30, and 14th in hits through 11 seasons. But he still needs 1,005 hits; and of the nine above Cabrera by age 30, only three got 3,000 (with A-Rod hanging fire). Falling short were Rogers Hornsby, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Joe Medwick and Vada Pinson. Willie Keeler was just 40 hits behind Cabrera at 30, with a 62% estimate, but wound up 68 hits shy; and Edgar Renteria(!) was only 61 behind (45% estimate), but didn’t reach 2,400. A year of 101 hits like Pujols had last year would plunge Miggy’s estimate to 42%.

 

  • Beltre, 81%
    Surprised? Beltre led the league in hits last year, for the first time. He’s averaged 196 hits the last two years (2nd to Cabrera), and 182 over the last four seasons (4th). Through age 34, his 2,426 hits ranks a modest 28th all-time. But he’s climbed fast the last four years, up from #51 at 30 and #41 at 32, and now sits in good company. Six of the prior 11 men within 60 hits of Beltre at 34 did reach 3,000: Paul Waner (+47), Al Kaline (+20), Rod Carew (-32), Eddie Collins (-44), Willie Mays (-45) and Cal Ripken (-55). For whatever it’s worth, turning the same lens on Pujols (2,347 hits through 33) shows just four of the prior 15 reaching 3,000: Roberto Clemente (+37), Derek Jeter (+9), Pete Rose (-10) and Kaline (-25).

 

Of course, these are just estimates, produced by a one-size-fits-all method. For any player, a strong case can be made for a different projection. If Ichiro remains even passably useful this year, it’s likely he’d get the opportunities needed for another year or two to bang out number 3,000, especially since he’s so highly respected. For A-Rod, just 61 hits away and still a decent hitter last year when he could get on the field, it might seem inconceivable that he doesn’t get to 3,000. But if the Yanks eat his contract, as some people expect, what team is likely to sign up a two-time PED user with so much additional baggage?

Besides Cabrera, only four other active players are 32 or under this year and are halfway to 3,000 hits:

  • Robinson Cano, 1,649 hits through age 30, estimated 35% chance of 3,000. Should he make it, Cano would be the 4th second baseman with 3,000 hits; Craig Biggio was the 3rd, ending a 77-year drought since Eddie Collins retired. By the way, he’s hit .309 in 40 games at Safeco, averaging 190 hits per 162 G.
  • Jose Reyes, 1,597 hits through age 30, estimated 13% chance of 3,000. A season of 184 hits (matching 2012, his best of the last 5 years) would raise him to 22%.
  • David Wright, 1558 hits through age 30, estimated 9% chance of 3,000. A season of 178 hits (matching 2012, his best of the last 5 years) would raise him to 21%. Brett and Boggs are the only career third-sackers with 3,000 hits.
  • Carl Crawford, 1,765 hits through age 31, no estimated chance of 3,000. Three years ago, Crawford rated a 30% shot. Now, even a return to 185 hits (his best of the last 5 years) would only restore him to 16%.

How about a dark-horse candidate? Starlin Castro rates a 23% chance; I’ll save a soft hat, just in case. Elvis Andrus measures up at 20%, though he can’t expect Ron Washington to manage forever. And while Mike Trout‘s just at 15% now, a third straight year of 180+ hits would vault him to 26% or beyond … with over 2,400 hits still needed. Sure, it’s foolish to forecast 10 years ahead; but if we can’t dream in March, what’s the point of living through winter?

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Assessing the Career Assessment Tool

From age 33, where Pujols stands now, how well has the C.A.T. predicted 3,000 hits? It might be the best simple method available, but I wouldn’t want to take it to Vegas.

There are 29 players who were estimated at 50% or better after age 33, who have retired or reached the goal. Only 11 actually got 3,000 hits — 38% of the pool. The worst fall-offs:

  • Sam Crawford, Willie Keeler, Rogers Hornsby and Mel Ott all rated the maximum 97% chance, with projections of at least 3,234 hits. The first three came within 70 hits of 3,000, while Ott fell 124 short; all missed their career projection by over 300.
  • Jesse Burkett (94% chance, 3,268 projection), Jimmie Foxx (91%, 3,200) and Roberto Alomar (90%, 3,268) fell short by 150, 354 and 276 hits, respectively.
  • Ed Delahanty, Lou Gehrig and Harry Heilmann were all rated 80% or better, projected for about 3,200 hits, but came up far short.

Meanwhile, nine who were rated under 40% did make 3,000. Eight of them rated 21%-39% — Lou Brock, Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, Nap Lajoie, Tony Gwynn, Al Kaline, Carl Yastrzemski, George Brett — while Rickey Henderson overcame a 6% estimate to bag #3,000 at the end of his age-42 season. Obviously, longevity is the key factor in exceeding C.A.T. forecasts. From age 33, the system projects every non-catcher to have exactly 4.5 more years of production at the rate established in the prior three seasons (weighted 3-2-1 from most recent to least). The nine listed here all played regularly through at least age 39, and seven had at least one year of 120+ games at 40 or older.

Pujols is now rated at 44% to reach 3,000 hits. Of the 22 who rated within 10 percentage points at the same age and are now retired, six made the club, while two more came within 70 hits (Frank Robinson and Jake Beckley).

Moving beyond 3,000 hits to a broader picture of C.A.T. accuracy … There are 83 retired players who had 2,000+ hits by age 33. The C.A.T.’s absolute error rate in predicting their future hits was almost 51%. Projections generally erred on the high side, as the group achieved just 73% of the total projected hits. On average, 710 more hits were predicted, but only 517 came; the average was -193, but the median was -317. Six had a shortfall of 600+ hits (Hornsby, Stuffy McInnis, Bobby Doerr, Ed Delahanty, Billy Herman and Keith Hernandez), and 29 in all fell at least 400 short of their estimates. Just three exceeded projections by 600+ (Rose, Yaz and Cobb), and just six in all beat the estimate by 400+ hits.

Military service accounts for some of this group’s gap between projected and actual hits. But even narrowing the pool to the 44 players who debuted in 1946 or later, the combined C.A.T. estimates come out 15% high, with an average shortfall of 104 hits between projected and actual (689-584) and a median of -192.

By the way, I can find only two players whose wartime service clearly cost them a shot at 3,000:

  • Ted Williams (346 hits short) is the clearest case, missing 3 full years in WWII and most of 2 more in Korea.
  • Luke Appling (251 hits short) missed all of 1944 and most of ’45, after averaging 173 hits in the prior 3 years.

There are some speculative cases wherein wartime service disrupted a career that was off to a flying start. Cecil Travis, for instance, had 1,370 hits through age 27, the 18th-most of all time, then missed almost 4 years and never got back on track. But Williams and Appling are the only ones for whom I see a reasonable case that the missed time alone cost them a shot at 3,000 hits.

__________

Waiting for Mr. 3,000

Since Stan Musial‘s retirement, these are the years with no active player owning 3,000 hits:

  • 1964-69 (Aaron and Mays both reached in 1970, and Hank played through ’76)
  • 1977 (Rose got there in ’78 and played through ’86)
  • 1987-91 (Yount and Brett crossed in ’92, and seven more kept the string alive through 2003)
  • 2004 (Palmeiro joined in 2005, his final year)
  • 2006 (Biggio joined in 2007, then hung ’em up)
  • 2008-10 (Jeter made it in style in 2011, then led MLB with 216 hits the next year)

Only Jeter, Cobb and Rose had a 200-hit season after the year they reached 3,000 hits. All three did it the very next year, while Cobb also did it his third year after.

There’s space below for your thoughts, screeds, tangents and anecdotes. Have at it!


Comments

Who’s On Deck for 3,000 Hits? — 67 Comments

  1. Beltre started early and has gotten better with age.
    Even if he recedes to league-average player right now, his counting stats will end superlatively.

    WAR average, by age clump:

    20-24 2.7
    25-29 5.5
    30-34 5.9

    • Beltre’s counting stats are already outstanding, for a third baseman — 6th in total bases, 7th in HRs, 5th in doubles and extra-base hits, 7th in WAR.

    • Beltre seems like the best shot. Hard to see him missing, barring injury.

      A-Rod is likely to end up like Bonds – wants to play and could play, but nobody willing to touch him.

      I don’t see Ichiro getting two more years unless … he has a big comeback this year. Don’t see it happening, though.

      Another guy hurt by military service (I think) was Buddy Lewis. He had 1112 hits thru age 24, then missed most of the next 3 seasons. CAT projected only 2669 hits and a 34% chance at 3000, BUT that was based on playing only 9 more seasons (don’t know why so few). Of course, Lewis got injured (I think) at 30, so it turned out to be moot anyway but, barring war and injury, would have been interesting to see what might have happened.

  2. Carl Crawford was 32 at the end of last season, not 31.
    ____

    The best value the Dodgers have gotten out of that massive trade has come from Nick Punto, who clocked 2.2 WAR as a 3-position infielder, for a food-stamp level 1.5 million bucks.

    And they just let him walk as a FA.

    • Sorry, Voomo. I forgot the usual preface that all ages referenced would be “seasonal ages.” Carl Crawford turned 32 last August, so his seasonal age was 31 last year, 32 this year.

        • Voomo, seasonal age is measured as of June 30. Reyes’s birthday is June 11, so for these purposes, he was 30 last year, 31 this year.

          But keep looking for errors — I’m sure there are some, and corrections are always welcomed.

          • Dammit Autin, I just spent an hour and a half talking to my woman.

            And I come to my mancave to discover that Im wrong again. Thanks.

  3. Elvis Andrus is 24.
    He’s likely to get better right about now.
    But, as you point out, another manager is likely to move him out of the 1-2 hole, which will take away 70-100 PA per year.

    So, just projecting that he maintains his current production for another 10 years, that puts him at 2,400 hits at age 35.

  4. I think that historical data is going to prove less useful in predicting older player because of multi-year contracts. Albert, so long as he can physically get out there, even in a limping Harold Baines kind of way, is going to make 3000 because he’s going to be paid for the next eight years. A-Rod is a bizarre situation, but I don’t think the Yankees are going to want the legal exposure in cutting him loose. They will let him get on the field, make his next incentive, and watch him peter out. Beltre’ late career performance is a little startling. He has two more years plus an option on his contract.

    • I don’t see the Yankees just cutting A-Rod loose, owing him $61M, then having to go out and pay millions more to replace him on the roster with another player, all while still absorbing the $27.5M AAV luxury tax hit, without even seeing what he might have to offer.

      Add in that the man is an attraction. He will sell tickets and increase ratings. With Derek Jeter retiring, I suspect that Yankees will grit their teeth and welcome A-Rod back. They have a year to smooth over relations.

      • MikeD, I surely don’t know whether A-Rod is still a seat-filler, but I strongly believe he’s irrelevant in that respect. And I think Jeter’s absence will only deepen the fans’ animosity.

        I think the reason they bailed on their plan to get under the luxury tax was to give some new stars a year to grow Yankee roots before Jeter’s gone.

        If I had to bet, I’d guess the Yankees will take A-Rod back — but only because they think it makes financial sense for their winning percentage. Not to boost ratings.

        • They’re likely to offer him an aggressive buyout. Arod’s still got an ego and he might take it thinking he can make money in free agency. If he’d take 40m to go away, the yankees would probably do it. I think there’s a real chance Arod is stupid enough to take them up on it.

          If he doesn’t, I agree. We’ll see him in a yankees uniform at the start of the 2015 season. If he doesn’t produce though, I bet they try to embarrass him into taking a buyout by shipping him to AAA. You KNOW that contract passes through waivers no problem 😉

          • Mosc, I disagree about shipping A-Rod to Triple A, because it opens them up to a lawsuit on the incentives. Buying him out will be trouble, because he’s going to insist on every penny, including the incentives. The difference between the A-Rod and Barry Bonds situations is that Bonds was off contract, and could easily just be ignored. A-Rod can’t. The best course of action might just be to play him as full time as he can be played. If he’s decent, maybe 2 WAR, they fill the slot. If he stinks, he either spends more time on the bench, or he decides he can’t take the constant booing and he works something out with them. But I do think A-Rod believes that he can make 714 HRS in three seasons. He’s not going to go quietly into the night. The Yankees made a monumental blunder with this guy–not just performance, but character–and they are going to keep paying for it.

        • JohnA, it’s an open question to me.

          My note really is about the collective reasons why I don’t think the Yankees will simply cut A-Rod once his suspension is over, as much of the media seems to believe. It really is impossible to say right now, because I doubt the Yankees have given much thought to it yet.

          Ultimately, if he is on the 2015 Yankees it’s because they think he can contribute, and the only way they’ll find that out is by playing him. From everything I’ve read about Hal Steinbrenner, I just can’t see him throwing his hands up in defeat, and paying A-Rod $61M to not play without knowing what he can or can’t do, all while still absorbing the luxury tax hit and paying another player to replace A-Rod.

          The ratings/draw factor is just icing on the cake. It won’t control the decision, but it may factor in on some small level. He may not be the draw he once was because of his playing skills, but he does create buzz. YES’ ratings did increase after A-Rod returned last year. He is one of those players, you can love him or hate him, but you can’t ignore him. As he marches or limps in toward 3,000 hits and 660 HRs, I think he will contribute some uplift as a draw. But, no, that won’t be the real reason he is back. There are $61m other reasons he’ll be given a chance.

  5. What’s interesting about this list is there not a clear candidate of a player to get to 3,000. A-Rod should be the slam dunk, but he has to hope the Yankees don’t cut him; otherwise, his career and chase for 3,000 will end like Bonds’.

    Pujols seem logical based on skill and length of contract, but he’ll have to show he’s not in a rapid fade.

    Despite Ichiro wanting to play for “many more years,” I think this will be his last.

    I think Cabrera and Beltre will get there. In the next group down, I wouldn’t bet against Cano.

    • For Ichiro, I think it depends on what he means by “play for many more years”. If he’s willing to accept not being a regular and earning about 1-1.5 million a year then I think he can play a few more years, like Rickey Henderson or Julio Franco. Ichiro’s still in good shape (like Henderson and Franco were – and probably still are) and still has some useful skills, and he’s only 258 hits away.

      Franco, from age 40+ (really from 39+ as he had one MLB PA between ages 39-41) racked up 409 MLB hits (in addition to hits in Japan, Mexico, and Korea – to me Franco is baseball’s version of “most interesting man in the world”). Henderson racked up 377 over his 40+ years. So I think it depends on what type of role Ichiro is willing to accept.

      • A problem for Ichiro as a role player could be the lack of specialized skills. He’s a poor hitter now; his OBP and OPS+ for 2011-13 were in the bottom 10 of the 104 guys with 1,500 PAs in that time. He’s hit RHPs worse than lefties, and who has a role for a reverse-platoon LHB? He can steal a base, but last year he tried a steal in just 10% of SB opportunities.

        As a pinch-hitter, his skills no longer fit either a rally-starter or rally-finisher. He used to have a good BA with RISP, but in the last 3 years it’s been .255, and his singles tend not to score a man from 2nd base.

        And bench roles are scarcer now than 10 years ago. It seems more likely that he’ll find a team that would play him regularly for the P.R. of a 3,000-hit chase.

        BTW, has anyone limped to 3,000 as a bench player? Rickey’s BA was way down, but he was still a decent offensive player in 2001 when he got #3,000. The other guys who just cleared 3,000 — Clemente, Kaline, Boggs, Palmeiro, Brock, Carew, Biggio — were all regulars in their last year, and all but Biggio were productive.

        It will be interesting to see how Ichiro’s situation plays out. Especially with no clear role for him this year with the Yankees. After a year as a part-timer, he might have a different outlook on how long he wants to play. But I’m rooting for him.

          • Richard, good find on Paul Waner, who was definitely slowing down in the years leading up to #3,000. Still, in the year he crossed 3,000 hits, he had 404 PAs, 114 games and 89 starts. That was 1942, with the first wave of service departures leaving more spots for older players.

  6. Just throwing this out there, Nick Markakis is only 3o years young and going into his 9th season he only needs 130 base knocks to reach 1500 safeties. He should be just entering his best years and if healthy should be able to reach 3K in his next 10 seasons, might be a dark horse but worth keeping an eye on? He would have to average about 150 hits a season from here till the end of his career. Lastly really like articles like this JA, really gets me fired up about the season and who to watch for, any more stories like this coming HHS way? maybe a look at pitchers wins, strike outs, or how about the next hits men to reach the 500 HR plateau?

    • John Z, Markakis is an interesting candidate. With 1,370 hits through age 29 and last 3 years of 172, 125 and 182, the C.A.T. gives him a 13% shot at 3,000 — not great, but not negligible. Nine of the 28 guys with 3,000+ hits had fewer than 1,370 through age 29.

      Markakis debuted at 22. I would have guessed that the majority of 3,000-hitters debuted by age 20, but only 12/28 did so. Eight broke in at 22 or older.

      But Nick needs to regain his power, I think, if he’s going to last long into his 30s. His defensive metrics have been bad for several years, so he has to do much better than last year to keep playing full time.

  7. An interesting way to answer this quesiont might be by thinking about it like this: “If these guys averaged only 120 hits/year from this point forward, what age would they be when they reached 3000?” 120 hits, after all, is not very many. It’s a non-full-time player (400-500 ABs) hitting .240-.300, which is a reasonable estimate for “level at which these guys could keep playing in the majors.” I don’t know. Anyway, you could take this method, and figure out who would be the youngest, and derive from that who the likeliest is to get to 3000.

    Cabrera, Beltre, and Pujols all clock in at somewhere during their age-39 season. A-Rod would as well, since he’ll be sitting out his age-38 season.

    The way I figure, A-Rod is pretty much a lock. He’ll almost certainly play another season, and barring a catastrophic early-season injury or a relegation to pure pinch-hitting duty, he’ll manage 61 hits, even at age 39, even coming off a year off.

    I don’t like the prediction about Beltre, though. It assumes too much that he’s invulnerable to drop-off. Most guys, sometime in their early-to-mid-30s, experience a sudden and major drop-off, which is often unforeseen. The idea that somehow Beltre has found the magic elixir that makes him immune to aging is a pretty suspect idea, in my opinion. Two years ago, he had 216 hits. Then he had 12. Now he’s retiring. That could happen to Beltre, too. I guess I just don’t see him as being twice as likely as Pujols to get there.

    • Wait, you’re talking about Jeter when you say the 216 and 12 hits, right?

      I dunno, I like the prediction about Beltre better than any of the other ones. There are established trends for a player’s decline, and usually it’s after age 30-31 (or even earlier, as I vaguely recall a John Autin post from over a year back charting player WAR per year; I think the peak was around 28, no?) I think there’s a good historical precedent for players who play strongly past that age being good producers for awhile – it’s not a ‘magic elixir’, it’s just evidence of longevity that is an outlier in the normal distribution of things. I would include Jeter in that bunch – heck, he only had about 100 hits more than Beltre after his age 34 season, and depending on how this year goes, he’ll finish 4-500 over 3000. Beltre doesn’t have to be Hank Aaron to stick around for 5 more years and collect 120 hits per year, right? He doesn’t even have to be Derek Jeter. And the fact that he’s been strong in the last 3 years when players are usually declining would suggest that he’s past the point where there should have been a gradual dropoff, so if that gradual dropoff happens later, he’s got a good shot at being a good producer.

      I don’t have any numbers to back me up, but my feeling from just looking at career paths of great players is that the ones who are still incredible at age 34 are a lot more likely to reach certain career milestones than ones who are incredible or even otherworldly at age 28-29.

      • Beltre at 34:
        .315/.371/.509/.880 (2426 total)
        Here’s a guy on either side of your theory
        .306/.398/.520/.918 (2427 total, would hit 516 more and not make it)
        .259/.353/.358/.711 (2098 total, would hit 912 more and make it)

        The guy who dominated at 34 but didn’t make it is Frank Robinson, the guy who showed an enemic ISO of <0.100 at 34 and was 328 behind but did make it was the Wade Boggs.

        Beltre has got his chance but nobody's a lock at 34. Arod was the closest we've had with 2672 hits and plenty of power. Forecasting careers is fun but not productive.

        • Wait — who’s Frank Robinson? :)

          mosc, FWIW, the C.A.T. rates F-Rob a 52% shot at 3,000 hits, measured from age 34. Much lower than Beltre, because of much lower recent hits totals.

          For sure, no one’s a lock when he’s 500 or more hits away — just look at the 10 guys I highlighted under “Assessing the C.A.T.”, who all rated over 80% by age 33 (seven of them over 90%), and fell short.

          • One thing that seemed to stand in the way of Frank Robinson the player getting 3000 hits (and possibly 600 HRs) was his manager at the end of his career – Frank Robinson.

            Robinson batted 228 times over the 1975-1976 seasons. Now, he didn’t “hit” well (only a .232 batting average) but he did hit 12 HRs in those 228 PAs and post a .366 OBP and a .454 SLG, good enough for a 136 OPS+, which was worth 1 WAR. In 1975 he had the 4th most Rbat on the Indians and he only had 149 PAs (14th on the team, and 75 less than 13th place).

            Looking at his game logs he may have gone on the DL in the beginning of July 1975, but even up to that point he had played less than half of the team games. It looks like he just didn’t put himself into the lineup, even though he was probably a better option than some of the other players.

          • John Autin in #42:

            I mistakenly believed/incorrectly recalled James was taking 3x most recent year’s HR total + 2x prior year’s total + total of year prior to that and dividing by 6. He suggested it was possible to take that number (of established production)and project it out to age 38 to get a potential career maximum:

            1986-33 HR x 1 = 33
            1987-31 HR x 2 = 62
            1988-42 HR x 3 = 126 (age 23 season)

            Grand total of 221/6 = 36.83 x 15 remaining seasons through age 38 = 552 additional home runs for the steroided RF’er. Coupled with his career total of 111 to that point gives him a maximum career total of 663.

            I believe James’ theory was outlined in the 1985 abstract after Mattingly knocked in 145 runs thanks to Rickey Henderson having the greatest year by a leadoff hitter since the days of Red Rolfe

        • I believe that Canseco was a lock for 600 HRs based on “favorite toy” productions after age 23 and Juan Gonzalez (and/or Don Mattingley – per Bill James) was going to drive in 2,000

          • Yeah, that’s “projections”….

            “productions” might include but not necessarily be limited to plays, movies, and dog and pony show press conferences featuring our favorite athletes and their new employer’s management team

          • Paul E, FWIW — I don’t know the favorite toy formula James was using when Canseco was 23. But using the current formula, Canseco’s highest projection during his 20s was 506 HRs, with a 26% shot at 600 and a 52% shot at 500 HRs.

            Those local highs come after age 26. After age 23, he projected at 461 HRs, a 40% shot at 500 and a 22% shot at 600.

            His career high in C.A.T. odds of 600 HRs was 36%, after age 34, when he had 431 HRs and had hit 80 over the past 2 years.

            He finished with 462 HRs, one more than his C.A.T. projection through age 23. If we’re looking to knock early-career projections, we’ll have to look elsewhere.

        • Yeah, for sure no one’s a lock. I was just talking about trends, not certainties for individual players. Like I said, based on the fact that he’s not showing a ton of/any decline at an age where people usually do, I’d give him a good chance. Looking at Robinson, he definitely had fewer hits than Beltre in his age 32-34 season, but the WAR isn’t a ton different (17.0 vs. 18.3), so yeah, at 34 Robinson looked like a good producer. I probably would have made a similar comment about him if this blog (or type of analysis) was around back then. The odds were in his favour. And I wouldn’t have been far off – I mean, he finished 57 hits short. He was no Griffey Jr or anything. Long contracts and established name value as incentives for playing someone muddy the waters a bit, but as a player, I like his chances better than Pujols.

      • Yes, I’m talking about Jeter. Whoops. My brain was moving faster than my fingers.

        I mostly agree with mosc – “Forecasting careers is fun but not productive.” I mean, I would put Beltre at a coin flip right now. And injury at, say, age 37 could COMPLETELY derail his career and any chance he has. I think A-Rod is the only one even close to a lock. It’s just my opinion. It’s probably wrong. But I’ve seen way too many guys who were “locks” to reach certain career milestones fall short. It’s a helluva lot harder to reach them than people think.

  8. Jeter’s homer last year off Matt Moore allowed him to extend his streak to 18 seasons. This season, he will make it 19 to tie Alan Trammell and Barry Larkin for most by a shortstop.

    Barring injury, he will also pass Honus Wagner in hits, probably some time in July, to move him to 6th all-time. He would need a 200 hit season (199 to be exact) to pass Speaker in 5th spot.

    Jeter will also likely pass Speaker, Gehrig and A-Rod in runs and, if he stays healthy, has a good chance to also pass Musial to move to #8 all-time.

    • Jeter’s long career of being a singles hitter has clouded the fact that he absolutely mashes left handed pitching and always has to the tune of .338/.408/.503/.911 with a PA/HR rate of 35! Not one of history’s best line but amazing considering that Jeter is such a prolific ground ball hitter against RHPs. Compare to, say, our currently discussed power hitting shortstop Ernie Banks who has almost no platoon split and had a PA/HR rate against LHP (or RHP) of 20. If anything for Jeter the trend has grown even more pronounced. Here’s his 2012 line against LHP: .364/.399/.542/.941 with a Banks-esque PA/HR of 29.

      Jeter is so clearly not a good leadoff hitter anymore it’s not even funny. He should hit third against LHP and 9th against RHP, to give him more chances against LHP after the starter is pulled!

  9. 30 homers by Pujols will move him 11 spots ahead on the all-time list and into 17th, passing Gehrig, Ott, Mathews, Banks, Williams, McCovey and the Big Hurt, among others.

    25 doubles will similarly move Pujols ahead 11 spots on that list and into a tie for 15th with Chipper Jones, and past the likes of Griffey, Williams, Robinson, Gehrig, Simmons, Winfield, Rajah and Manny. Jeter is currently one double ahead of Pujols so those two may be tracking each other pretty closely as they climb this list.

    And, 90 RBI will move Albert (you guessed it) 11 spots on the RBI list and into 32nd place, passing Mantle, DiMaggio, Stargell, McCovey, Kaline, Killebrew and Hornsby, among others.

    • Miggy Cabrera has been about 100 doubles behind Pujols for a few years now. In fact, Cabrera’s counting stats now are quite comparable to Pujols at the same age:

      Pujols thru age 30: 426 doubles, 408 HR, 1230 RBI, 1900 hits
      Miggy thru age 30: 412 doubles, 365 HR, 1260 RBI, 1995 hits

  10. FWIW, A-Rod’s expected return at age 39 has some precedent, but not much. Three players have had less than 60 hits in MLB at age 37-38 combined, then collected 50+ hits from age 39 onward.

    — Luke Appling spent age 37 and most of 38 in the service, then piled up 668 more hits.

    — Bob Thurman was a longtime Negro Leaguer who reached MLB at 38 and bagged 130 hits from 39 onward (but never 50 in a season).

    — Chuck Hostetler debuted at age 40 as a WWII replacement, and lasted parts of 2 seasons, 86 hits.

    I think it’s likely that A-Rod remains a MLB-caliber player at age 39, but it’s no sure thing. Adding the question of whether anyone will want him, and I would bet “no” on him getting #3,000 in 2015.

    I wouldn’t guess at the odds of the Yankees releasing him. But if that happens, I think he’s done. I think he’s as toxic now as Bonds was when the Giants chose not to re-sign him — as toxic, and not as talented. Bonds couldn’t get a job the very next year after hitting 28 HRs with a .480 OBP, 1.045 OPS. A-Rod would be looking for a job fully 2 years removed from his last productivity.

    Bonds, by the way, finished with 2,935 hits — 4 more than Alex has now.

    • Miguel Tejada almost qualified for your list: 77 hits at age 37, none at 38 and 45 hits at age 39 (of course, would likely have been considerably more absent his suspension).

    • I’m betting the over on Jeter beating the record for most hits at age 40 after playing and having 30 or less at age 39.

      There were 85 such hitters since 1901, 66 of whom had no hits at age 40. The most for the other 18 players (besides Jeter) was 45 by Gabby Hartnett.

      This doesn’t capture players (like Chuck Hostetler) who did not play at all at 39 and came back at 40. Mark Grudzielanek is another who fits that mold (he had 30 hits at age 40). Don’t know what others there might be.

        • These are the others who missed age 39 entirely and came back at age 40, since 1901.

          Rk Yrs From To Age ▾
          2 Jack O’Connor 1 1906 1906 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          3 Hughie Jennings 1 1909 1909 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          4 Lou Criger 1 1912 1912 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          5 Fred Clarke 1 1913 1913 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          6 Cy Seymour 1 1913 1913 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          7 Kaiser Wilhelm 1 1914 1914 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          8 Tommy Leach 1 1918 1918 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          9 Johnny Evers 1 1922 1922 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          10 Vean Gregg 1 1925 1925 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          11 Benny Meyer 1 1925 1925 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          12 Al Nixon 1 1926 1926 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          13 Lena Blackburne 1 1927 1927 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          14 Bobby Schang 1 1927 1927 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          15 Grover Hartley 1 1929 1929 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          16 Mike Gonzalez 1 1931 1931 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          17 Ray Hayworth 1 1944 1944 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          18 Chief Hogsett 1 1944 1944 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          19 Chuck Hostetler 1 1944 1944 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          20 Pepper Martin 1 1944 1944 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          21 Earl Caldwell 1 1945 1945 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          22 Red Ruffing 1 1945 1945 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          23 Yogi Berra 1 1965 1965 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          24 Vic Davalillo 1 1977 1977 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          25 Dave Stieb 1 1998 1998 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          26 Reply
        • The rest of the list.

          Rk ▾ Yrs From To Age
          2 Kent Mercker 1 2008 2008 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          3 David Cone 1 2003 2003 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          4 Julio Franco 1 1999 1999 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          1 J.T. Snow 1 2008 2008 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          2 Ken Takahashi 1 2009 2009 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          3 Jim Edmonds 1 2010 2010 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          4 Mark Grudzielanek 1 2010 2010 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          5 Andy Pettitte 1 2012 2012 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          6 Ramon Ortiz 1 2013 2013 40-40 Ind. Seasons
          Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
          Generated 3/3/2014.
        • For what it’s worth, players who miss a season for reason other than injury or military service often come back at a lesser performance level. Bill James writes about this with reference to Home Run Baker—whose WAR dropped by about half each of the two times he absented himself for a year. Ryne Sandburg is another whose level of play dropped considerably after a year off. And these two were far younger than A-Rod will be, although he has the advantage of the latest training practices. My bet is he will be a shadow of his former self if he plays, and not just because he isn’t using the stuff any more.

        • I think there is a big difference between Bonds and A-Rod – and that difference is that A-Rod will have done some time in baseball jail.

          Yes, some people just want A-Rod to go away like Bonds went away. And yes, for some people PEDs are a non-issue. But I think Bonds not doing any time really upset people. Look at Ryan Braun – he has two stains on his career now (the “chain of evidence” issue and the Biogenesis issue), but he has now done time in baseball jail and is headed back. Other players do their time and then come back (Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Mike Morse). Granted, they are not A-Rod or Bonds talents but many people like to see the PED users face some punishment.

          A-Rod could be a nice redemption story (in the way that Darth Vader could be considered a “nice redemption story”). I imagine he’ll be under very watchful eyes, and if he doesn’t have a positive test then I think he’s much more likely to be forgiven than Bonds because he served a suspension.

          • Dave Winfield missed his age 37 season and had 689 more hits possible losing a few more to the strike season. A-Rod seemed to be regressing at a fast rate the last couple of years, but maybe the year off could help him heal and bounce back like Winfield did.

        • He may not be the multi-tool player that one marks out for a likely long career, but Billy Butler has racked up the hits over his years in the majors thus far. If I’ve run the numbers correctly the C.A.T. puts him at around a 23% chance at 3,000.

          • I get 21% for Billy Butler, which is still significant.

            By the way, the lowest average runs per 200 hits among 3,000-hit men is Tony Gwynn’s 88; 24 of the 28 averaged 100 or better. Butler is currently at 79 runs per 200 hits.

            I kind of like him, though. And suddenly, I could go for some pancakes.

        • Dark horse nominee.

          Carlos Beltran. 772 hits shy entering his age 37 season. But he enters it with a lucrative 3 year contract and has played 140+ games each year leading in. He also plans to some DH’ing, and he’s been a good enough hitter to transition to full time DH if he wants to. He averaged 156 hits/year the last 3 years, and he’s moving to a great lefty hitters park and will bat in a very good lineup. If he can average 150 hits per year for his current contract, he’d be 332 hits shy entering his age 40 season. Potentially to resign as a DH.

          A longshot for sure. What’s his estimate?

          • It’s a tough ask for Beltran to get 772 hits from age 37-on. Only seven players have done that–Rose, Sam Rice, Honus Wagner, Vizquel, Yaz, Molitor, and Pudge Fisk.

          • Jimbo, CAT rates Beltran at 11% for 3,000 hits. Should he get 160 hits this year, his CAT odds would rise to 15%; another 160-hit year would put him at 21%.

            Or, let’s say he matches his 2011-13 hit counts in 2014-16. That would leave him 305 hits shy entering his age-40 season, with CAT odds of 27%.

        • I ran the 3,000-hit odds for everyone who played in 2013 and has 500+ career hits. Those who scored at least 10%:

          Odds … Player … Career Hits … Age (in 2013)
          97% … Alex Rodriguez … 2939 … 37
          81% … Adrian Beltre … 2426 … 34
          68% … Miguel Cabrera … 1995 … 30
          44% … Albert Pujols … 2347 … 33
          42% … Ichiro Suzuki … 2742 … 39
          35% … Robinson Cano … 1649 … 30
          29% … Michael Young … 2375 … 36
          24% … Jimmy Rollins … 2175 … 34
          23% … Starlin Castro … 692 … 23
          21% … Billy Butler … 1124 … 27
          20% … Elvis Andrus … 796 … 24
          19% … Prince Fielder … 1352 … 29
          18% … Adam Jones … 988 … 27
          17% … Dustin Pedroia … 1218 … 29
          17% … Andrew McCutchen … 814 … 26
          16% … Adrian Gonzalez … 1472 … 31
          13% … Jose Reyes … 1597 … 30
          13% … Nick Markakis … 1370 … 29
          12% … Justin Upton … 886 … 25
          11% … Ryan Zimmerman … 1266 … 28
          11% … Carlos Beltran … 2228 … 36

          And here are all actives with 1,500+ hits, and their CAT odds at 3,000:

          Hits … Player …… 3000 Odds … Age (in 2013)
          2939 … Alex Rodriguez … 97% … 37
          2742 … Ichiro Suzuki … 42% … 39
          2426 … Adrian Beltre … 81% … 34
          2407 … Miguel Tejada … 0% … 39
          2347 … Albert Pujols … 44% … 33
          2297 … Paul Konerko … 0% … 37
          2228 … Carlos Beltran … 11% … 36
          2217 … Juan Pierre … 0% … 35
          2175 … Jimmy Rollins … 24% … 34
          2170 … Torii Hunter … 2% … 37
          2142 … Placido Polanco … 0% … 37
          2045 … Alfonso Soriano … 0% … 37
          2045 … Aramis Ramirez … 0% … 35
          2023 … David Ortiz … 0% … 37
          2002 … Jason Giambi … 0% … 42
          1995 … Miguel Cabrera … 68% … 30
          1993 … Raul Ibanez … 0% … 41
          1811 … Rafael Furcal … 0% … 35
          1794 … Vernon Wells … 0% … 34
          1782 … A.J. Pierzynski … 0% … 36
          1765 … Carl Crawford … 0% … 31
          1681 … Matt Holliday … 4% … 33
          1649 … Robinson Cano … 35% … 30
          1597 … Jose Reyes … 13% … 30
          1588 … Mark Teixeira … 0% … 33
          1558 … David Wright … 9% … 30
          1542 … Alex Rios … 7% … 32
          1537 … Adam Dunn … 0% … 33

          • Adam Dunn and 3,000 hits: a comical notion. Lowest career batting averages for players with 1,500 or more career hits:
            .236 Dave Kingman
            .237 Aurelio Rodriguez
            .238 Adam Dunn
            .2427 Roy McMillan
            .2434 Germany Smith

            • Watch out, Kong: here comes Dan Uggla. Uggla’s got over 1100 hits, and, after channeling Rob Deer last year (.179 BA), his career BA has dipped to .246.

              Not sure Uggla can stay in the league long enough to get to 1500 hits.

          • John this is another great read. Doug mentions Hall of Fame catcher Gabby Hartnett @ 27 and your list here @ 48 show A.J. Pierzynski with 0% chance at 3,000. Very tough for catchers to be on any hit lists. The list for catchers to finish a season in the top 5 in their league for hits (with at least 100 games caught) is a very short one. I think Munson holds the best finish in 3rd just 5 hits shy of the title in 1975. Also had it not been for losing time to military duty in 1971 and his tragic plane crash in 1979 he would have been in the top 10 in all of MLB for hits in the decade. I think he finished 11th.

            I believe Ichiro will get to 3,000 and Beltre continues to amaze and I think he does it as well.

            • Ted Simmons (also in 1975) finished fourth in the NL in hits, with 193. He was runner-up to Bill Madlock for the batting title that season. Manny Sanguillen had a good year, also, hitting .328. Strong seasons by catchers in the National League not named Bench.

              • In addition to finishing 3rd in 1975, Munson also finished in 4th in 1976 and 4th in 1978. Piazza had a 3rd place finish one year, 20 hits behind the leader.

            • Ivan Rodriguez was 5th in hits in the AL in both 1997 and 1999.

              Most hits over the two-decade period 1990-2009:
              1. Craig Biggio 2,920
              2. Derek Jeter 2,747
              3. Ivan Rodriguez 2,711
              4. Ken Griffey Jr. 2,643
              5. Omar Vizquel 2,619

              Most career hits while in the game as a catcher:
              1. Ivan Rodriguez 2,749
              2. Jason Kendall 2,160
              3. Carlton Fisk 2,145

              These are the only three guys with over 2,000 career hits as a catcher. Pierzynski is moving towards that though — currently at 1,725 hits as a catcher.

            • Munson was 12th in hits from 1970-1979 with 1536. However he was just as far away from number 5 (Bobby Bonds, with 1565) as he was from number 13 (Bob Watson, with 1507).

              Looking at the list of hit leaders from 1970-1979, only 5 of the top 20 are in the HOF (Carew, Brock, Perez, Yaz, and Morgan). Going to the top 50 only adds 3 (Reggie, Bench, and Stargell). So that’s 8 of the top 50, or 9 if you want to count Rose who would be there if not for his banishment. That seems low. Even through the top 82 (everyone with 1000+ hits for the decade) only adds Brett and Billy Williams.

              From the 1960s, of the top 20 only Pinson, Wills, Flood, Felipe Alou, Callison, and Bill White are NOT in the HOF. So that’s 14 of the top 20. Going out to the top 50 gets Killebrew, McCovey, Mantle, Mathews, and Rose.

              Even the 1980s do better than the 1970s – Yount, Murray, Boggs, Dawson, Henderson, Rice, Brett, Winfield, and Molitor in the top 20. Ripken, Sandberg, Ozzie in spots 21-23. Gwynn, Schmidt, Carter, Puckett in the top 50. And some of these guys are still on the ballot (Trammell, Raines).

              Even the 1990s have 7 players out of the top 50 already elected (Gwynn, Alomar, Ripken, Molitor, Thomas, Larkin, Boggs). Biggio and Griffey should make it soon. Then there’s I-Rod, Bagwell, Edgar, and of course Bonds and Palmeiro and Sosa.

              • Great stuff Artie and thank you for that info. I think if Munson doesn’t lose time in 1971 to his Army duty he cracks the top ten for the decade and that’s pretty darn good for a catcher. A lot of people don’t realize that he had that obligation in his sophomore season.

              • Artie Z, could be a lot of things at work in the low rate of HOF admissions for 1970s hits leaders. For one thing, it wasn’t a high-offense decade — higher than the ’60s, yes, but lower than what’s come afterwards — and the HOF voters still look at batting average first.

                We’ve shown here before that, by WAR standards, the 1970s are under-represented in HOF selections.

                • Actually, I think the 1970s guys get double-whammied. Everyone is likely familiar with the increase in offense in the 1990s causing the 1970s players to look “less great,” at least when unadjusted for context.

                  However, while offense may have been down in the 1960s, the rate of HRs per game in the 1970s was generally lower than in the 1960s (save for an oddball year like 1968). In the AL, between 1950-2003 (which is when I looked at this for a SABR-L post) the two lowest HR/G season were 1976 and 1972 (even worse than 1968).

                  The NL picture isn’t as clean, but basically 1967 was a better HR year than 1974, 1975, 1976, or 1978 – and 1967 was a bad year for HRs in the 60s, with only 1968 being worse.

                  Aaron, Mays, Robinson, Killebrew, Mantle, McCovey, Banks, Mathews – all of those guys played through the 1960s and hit 500+ HRs (and all are up in the top 50 in hits in the 1960s – with Mantle coming in at number 49). Then the 1970s comes along and other than the tail end of some of those careers, Reggie, and the beginning of Mike Schmidt there are no 500 HR guys.

                  And so there seems to be a double whammy that goes a little bit unnoticed because the 1960s, while they may have been a low scoring decade (at least the last few years) they really weren’t a bad HR decade when compared to pretty much everything that followed until 1993. HRs/game in the AL from 1961-1964 were basically higher than at any point in history and would be the peaks until the 1985-1986 seasons barely edged them out (and then 1987 was all sorts of crazy). The NL had some high HR/game rates in the mid-50s, but the levels in the early 1960s were just a bit under that. In 1955 the NL actually averaged over 1 HR/game (and by “game” I mean “team game” – there were 1263 HRs hit in 1232 games) which is the highest level it would be at in the NL until 1999 and higher than any level in the AL until 1994 (except for the craziness of 1987).

                  I would guess that the HOF voters also looked at HR totals (they love their triple crown stats) and the 1970s players paled in comparison to the really top end 1960s players.

            • Mike Piazza was second in hits with 201 in 1997 when he caught 139 games.

              Joe Torre caught 90 games in 1970 and finished 3rd in hits with 203. He was also 6th with 193 hits in 1964 when he caught 100 games.

              • Doug I have Piazza in 3rd in 1997. Gwynn 220, Walker 208, Piazza 201. Munson comes closest for catchers to winning the hit title in 1975 only 5 hits behind champion George Brett and 2 behind Carew for second spot.

                • Thanks Tuna,

                  Their leagues didn’t match but worth noting that Ted Simmons had 180 NL hits in 1972 when the AL Hit leader Joe Rudi had only 181.

                  Also, Torre’s 203 hits in 1970 were only two behind the 205 by NL joint leaders Pete Rose and Billy Willliams.

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