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    Tuesday, May 25, 2021

    The Future of the 3000 Hit Club, 2021 Edition

    Last time, I used Miguel Cabrera’s various milestone bids to investigate which younger players might one day be making their own attempts at 500 home runs. While Miggy is much closer to that mark, he’s also within spitting distance of the other big offensive milestone, 3000 hits. So today, let’s apply those methods once again to look at who might one day be approaching that other mark.

    As a quick catch-up, we’re essentially looking at how many hits each member of the 3000 Hit Club had at each age, compared to how many non-3000 Hit players matched them at those ages, to determine a current player’s chance of one day joining the former group. If you want a more specific example of this, feel free to refer to the last article. Also, as mentioned last time, Baseball-Reference changed their search feature since the last time I looked at this, so for now, I’m stuck reusing my numbers from a few years ago (although the actual values likely haven’t changed much in the years since, for what it’s worth).

    With that out of the way, let’s dive in!

    Age 22 Median: 323 Hits, 14.16% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 22 Third Quartile: 118 Hits, 4.01% of players go on to 3000 hits

    It doesn’t necessarily mean a lot at this age, but Juan Soto is already pretty far ahead of the 3000 club median, with 361 hits to his name, and that total will only increase in the coming months. And while it’s not the most meaningful milestone, it’s also true that a 14% chance isn’t anything to sneeze at either, especially for players this young! Elsewhere in the league, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (238) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (202) are also above the third quartile mark already, and while Tatis is a bit of a stretch, Vlad could definitely still pass the median before the season is over. Dylan Carlson (66) also has a decent chance to reach the third quartile milestone this year.

    Age 23 Median: 477 Hits, 15.24% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 23 Third Quartile: 282 Hits, 5.97% of players go on to 3000 hits

    With 385 hits already, Ronald Acuña Jr. should manage to reach the 477 mark before the year is out, pending good health. However, his runner-up here is a little further away than what we saw in the age-22 bracket (Bo Bichette, 148).

    Age 24 Median: 586 Hits, 11.59% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 24 Third Quartile: 432 Hits, 7.16% of players go on to 3000 hits

    Ozzie Albies (491) and Rafael Devers (480) are both around 100 hits shy of the median, while Gleyber Torres (342) is around 100 shy of the third quartile mark.

    Age 25 Median: 810 Hits, 18.18% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 25 Third Quartile: 617 Hits, 8.92% of players go on to 3000 hits

    Like in home runs, Cody Bellinger leads his age bracket. However, with only 498 hits so far, his lead is less dominant, and his historical comparisons are much less impressive.

    Age 26 Median: 996 Hits, 21.33% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 26 Third Quartile: 801 Hits, 11.54% of players go on to 3000 hits

    Carlos Correa leads here, but he’s about as far away from the third quartile as Bellinger is, with 672 hits.

    Age 27 Median: 1179 Hits, 24.62% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 27 Third Quartile: 974 Hits, 12.90% of players go on to 3000 hits

    Francisco Lindor is in the lead here, but he actually has a chance to reach one of the milestones listed here. With 924 hits, the third quartile should be easily reachable this year, assuming decent health.

    Age 28 Median: 1341 Hits, 23.19% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 28 Third Quartile: 1139 Hits, 14.12% of players go on to 3000 hits

    The age 28 group gives us not just our first player with 1000 career hits, but our second, third, and fourth as well! Manny Machado leads the charge with 1304 hits, meaning that he should be above the 3000 Club’s median by the All Star Break. Bryce Harper is next; he’s already cleared the third quartile mark with 1159 hits, but making this year’s median isn’t going to happen. Surprisingly, third place isn’t Mookie Betts, but rather Xander Bogaerts, who’s just a hair above the third quartile mark at 1142 hits. Betts is the other player over 1000 hits, though, with 1069, meaning he also should make it to that 1139 mark before the season ends.

    Age 29 Median: 1523 Hits, 27.12% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 29 Third Quartile: 1266 Hits, 13.04% of players go on to 3000 hits

    It’s not going to happen given his recent injury, but Mike Trout was within striking range of the 3000 Hit median, at 1419. While he’ll fall short of the median this year, he’s already over the third quartile mark, and extremely close to passing the third quartile mark for next year. After him, there’s Christian Yelich, who has 1122 hits and has seen his chances fall precipitously due to his struggles over the last year and a half.

    Age 30 Median: 1678 Hits, 26.67% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 30 Third Quartile: 1431 Hits, 15.48% of players go on to 3000 hits

    Nolan Arenado leads this group, but his hit totals aren’t as strong as his home run totals. With 1258 hits at the moment, he’s well behind where he needs to be right now.

    Age 31 Median: 1848 Hits, 31.37% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 31 Third Quartile: 1622 Hits, 18.90% of players go on to 3000 hits

    This group is where we finally break the halfway-to-3000 mark, with a quartet of players over 1500 hits. Starlin Castro is actually still in first place at 1677; I thought for sure he would have fallen off by now, but he’s still just chugging along, providing a mostly decent bat up the middle and picking up over a hit per game. It’s hard to see someone who is that unremarkable sticking around long enough to reach 3000, but you never know, maybe he can actually pull it off somehow. Jose Altuve is just after him with 1657, and even with his bounceback start to the year, it’s basically impossible to see him making up the rest of the difference between him and the median in 2021. But I like his chances to pass Castro in the near future, at least. After those two, we have a pair of first basemen in Freddie Freeman (1564) and Eric Hosmer (1536), both of whom should at least be able to hit the 1622 mark this year, at least.

    Age 32 Median: 2027 Hits, 36.36% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 32 Third Quartile: 1800 Hits, 22.43% of players go on to 3000 hits

    Of course, at least Starlin Castro has still been a league-average hitter for the last few years. Elvis Andrus hasn’t been league-average at the plate for nearly half a decade, and he still leads this age group, with 1769. Technically, he could still pass the third quartile mark this year, although given that he’s currently hitting a dismal .177/.222/.224 (good for a 30 OPS+), it’s probably fair to wonder if he’ll even rack up enough playing time this season to make it to 1800 hits. I wouldn’t be shocked if DJ LeMahieu passes him at some point before they’re both done, but with 1339 hits, he still has a ways to go. Getting an early start (Andrus was a starter at 20, while LeMahieu wasn’t called up until 22 and didn’t get a full season in the majors until 25) is still a big factor in reaching 3000 hits. Or you can stay good well into your 30s. The point is, you need a lot of playing time.

    Age 33 Median: 2205 Hits, 42.11% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 33 Third Quartile: 1988 Hits, 26.37% of players go on to 3000 hits

    Justin Upton is behind even Andrus, with only 1707 hits, but he still leads this section.

    Age 34 Median: 2376 Hits, 48.48% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 34 Third Quartile: 2149 Hits, 29.36% of players go on to 3000 hits

    Andrew McCutchen is still a good hitter this year, and yet, he still isn’t quite up to Andrus’s lead, 1751 to 1769. Elvis really built up quite a lead on his early, good years. Meanwhile, McCutchen’s chances of 3000 seem fairly remote, current success notwithstanding.

    Age 35 Median: 2523 Hits, 50.00% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 35 Third Quartile: 2311 Hits, 35.29% of players go on to 3000 hits

    Age 35 leader Evan Longoria is finally ahead of Elvis Andrus. Unfortunately, Longoria is still shy of 1800 hits, with only 1784 to his name.

    Age 36 Median: 2670 Hits, 55.17% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 36 Third Quartile: 2489 Hits, 43.64% of players go on to 3000 hit

    Ryan Zimmerman is a bit ahead of Longoria, and has even reached 1800 hits, but only just (1809). Obviously, that’s still well behind the pace.

    Age 37 Median: 2816 Hits, 69.57% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 37 Third Quartile: 2642 Hits, 50.00% of players go on to 3000 hits

    Joey Votto is in the lead here, but once again, he’s well behind what we would expect from a player who was likely to reach 3000 hits. With 1932, he should reach 2000 later this year, which is still significant! As other Hall of Fame researchers have noted, 2000 hits serves as something of a hard line for whether players get any consideration once they hit the ballot (more on this in an upcoming article).

    Age 38 Median: 2929 Hits, 88.89% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 38 Third Quartile: 2803 Hits, 64.86% of players go on to 3000 hits

    We once again return to the inspiration for the last two articles, Miguel Cabrera. This doesn’t seem like as sure a thing for him as 500 homers did, but right now, he still has 2889 hits. Over half of the players in the club still hadn’t reached 3000 by this point, and quite a few weren’t as far along at this point as Cabrera is now. Even if the march to 3000 ends up being a bit of a slog, he’d hardly be the first member of the club where that was the case. He’s still under contract for a few more years, and the Tigers aren’t expecting to compete this year at least, so the only timer really ticking is whether his heart is still in it.

    Robinson Canó would also probably be drawing close to 3000 hits right now in a universe where he got to play a full, non-pandemic season in 2021, and, you know, also hadn’t been suspended twice for PEDs. As is, he has 2624 and will stay there until the start of his age 39 season, so 3000 hits seems out of reach now.

    And lastly, we may as well talk about Yadier Molina, since there are so few players even in the league at this age and we have time. He has no chance at 3000, having only recently reached 2000 (he’s now at 2032). However, there really wasn’t a chance he would reach the milestone in the first place, since no catcher in history has reached 3000 hits. Given that context, though, his total is pretty impressive! Right now, he’s tenth in history at the position, and he should become just the seventh catcher in history to reach 2100 by the year’s end. He still has a lot to go to reach Ivan Rodriguez’s record for backstops (2844), and even second place Ted Simmons and third place Carlton Fisk are pretty far (2472 and 2356, respectively), but if he sticks around another year after this, he could definitely pass Jason Kendall, Yogi Berra, and Mike Piazza, who all fall between 2100 and 2200.

    Age 39 Median: 3028 Hits, 100% of players go on to 3000 hits
    Age 39 Third Quartile: 2932 Hits, 88.89% of players go on to 3000 hits

    We don’t have any 39-year-olds to cover, so we’ll use this space to talk about the league’s pair of 40-year-old position players. First up, with 3258 hits, Albert Pujols has overshot 3000 and I guess needs to find a way to lose a couple hundred to reach 3000 exactly? Kidding aside, Albert is currently in thirteenth place all-time, and passing Willie Mays (3283) is the next step. After that, Eddie Collins (3315) and Paul Molitor (3319) are a little farther away, and I’m not sure what his playing time will look like the rest of the way, but if he can make it that far, that’s two spots he can easily jump to reach the all-time top ten. Anything above that is probably out of reach, though, as Carl Yastrzemski is another 100 ahead of Molitor, and I really can’t see Pujols playing in 2022. But who knows, I also didn’t see the Dodgers picking him up a few weeks ago. I’d still be treating the rest of this year as the deadline to move up the list if I was him, though.

    Our other candidate is Nelson Cruz, with 1819 hits. Zero chance of 3000, but likely to hit 2000 if he sticks around long enough for 500 homers (see last time for his surprisingly good chance at that). And if that happens, it might be funny to see how his Hall case plays out, with his big home run milestone, decent value stats, and minimum number of hits to merit any consideration from the stricter voters. I know there was some concern a few years ago over how David Ortiz would be handled when he reached the Hall ballot. But, based on writers’ reactions to the end of his career, I think his last few seasons in the majors made it clear that he was both a huge talent and unique player in the game’s history, and would thus be getting extra consideration from them when the time came.

    But Nelson Cruz could end up the real stress test of that type of candidacy, a David Ortiz minus all of the mystique and clutch. Of course, he also has that failed PED test (Ortiz was only rumored to have failed a test, never confirmed and definitely never suspended; that will absolutely make a difference come voting time), so he likely just gets ignored, ultimately. I bet he still gets a surprising number of votes in that case, though, and sticks around the ballot for at least a couple of years. And who knows, Hall voters’ attitudes are pretty clearly still developing with regards to steroids (I still can’t fully explain why Gary Sheffield’s total has grown to the degree it has the last two years), so maybe we’re in store for even more surprises with a 500-homer Cruz. I wouldn’t count on it, though.

    And, to finish this out, a look at how the actual 3000 Club fared the rest of the way. By the end of their age-39 seasons, twenty-three 3000-hit players had reached the mark, with nine still shy of it. Three of those nine (Honus Wagner, Lou Brock, and Rafael Palmeiro) reached 3000 in their age-40 season. Craig Biggio, Dave Winfield, and Wade Boggs joined as 41-year-olds. Boggs is especially notable because, for a long time, his debut at the age of 24 marked the oldest any future 3000-hit player had been at the time of their first game. And the two oldest members of the club joined at the age of 42; Cap Anson, who was the founding member and needed to play later to make up for the shorter seasons of the 1800s, and Ichiro Suzuki, who took the crown for latest debut away from Boggs when he joined the Mariners at the age of 27. That record feels like it’s going to stand for a long time, at least until we have players with, like, cybernetic limbs hanging around into their 50s or something.

    Overall, the prospects for upcoming 3000 hit club players look a little slimmer than the ones for 500 homer players, but that makes sense, given the trend in batting averages versus the long-term trend in home runs. Even so, we aren’t totally without hopes for another 3000 hit player. These things sometimes just come and go in waves, and we’ll go a few years between new members joining. It’s also worth pointing out that there’s been at least one eventual 3000 hit player active every year dating all the way back to 1871, and I don’t see a reason to expect that to change just yet.

    Right now, as to who that next member might be, Mike Trout is an obvious favorite, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if one of Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Francisco Lindor, Jose Altuve, Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, or Xander Bogaerts makes it as well, and there are also a lot of players 24 and under worth keeping an eye on. It’s like I said with 500 home runs: none of their individual chances are super-likely, but that’s a wide enough net of talented players with a current 10-to-30% chance that it’s not unreasonable to expect at least one of them stays healthy and good into their 30s, and makes it to 3000 hits eventually. Even if we don’t know exactly which ones just yet, that’s a very strong list of candidates, so I also wouldn’t be shocked if a few of them join the club.

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