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?

__________

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.

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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!

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

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Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

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

Doug
Guest
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… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

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.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

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.

Mike L
Guest
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… Read more »
MikeD
Guest

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
Guest

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.

Artie Z.
Guest
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… Read more »
John Z
Guest
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… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
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… Read more »
bells
Guest
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… Read more »
mosc
Guest

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.

Paul E
Guest

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

Paul E
Guest

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

bells
Guest
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… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
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… Read more »
Doug
Editor

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.

mosc
Guest
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… Read more »
Doug
Editor
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… Read more »
bstar
Guest

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

birtelcom
Editor

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.

Jimbo
Guest
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… Read more »
bstar
Guest

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
Guest

The only other darkhorses I could nominate would be Aramis Ramirez, and Bryce Harper.

Prince Fielder?

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