Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mr. 3000?

With steroids, increasingly smaller ball parks, a higher mound and all the what-have-yous, it seems there are few hitting benchmarks that still really matter. Home runs are a relative joke in terms of gauging greatness now-a-days, since the number 500 has become nearly meaningless in recent years.

That being said, the golden standard of 3000 hits still seems to hold up well. Over the long haul park-size and steroids won't do someone much good when it comes to this benchmark, because what it really takes are a solid mixture of longevity and talent (sometimes more of one than the other). Although it is true that 11 of the 27 players who have reached the milestone have done so in the last 16 years, that probably has more to do with the lowered mound (admittedly a problem when gauging career stats) and players having longer careers over the last few decades. It is true that only 8 guys did it before 1970 (all of them playing at least 20 years), but by and large, the benchmark still remains elite.

Long story short, I thought it be interesting to see who among current players has the best shot to get to 3000. There's two obvious Yankees, but otherwise it's all guess work. Still 14 guys seem capable of getting it done (13 are within 1000 and one is Albert Pujols).

Sure Things: Jeter and A-Rod

The prestige-iest ones

These two are virtual locks. 34-year-old Jeter will need just 500 more after the 2008 season. Barring injury, he'll do it in 3 seasons, a pretty nifty accomplishment for such a young age.

At 33, A-Rod's just as well off. He's going to need about 600 after this year. As a result, there's a possibility that the left side of the Yankee infield could both get to 3000 in the same season. Not a Yankee fan, but damn that'd be cool if A-Rod could just pick up his hit pace a little bit.

Another thing worth mentioning is that A-Rod, if he stays healthy, has the best chance of any current player to get a sort of career triple crown (hits subbing for avg). Hank Aaron's RBI total (2297) will be less than 700 RBIs away by the end of this season, making it attainable within six seasons, and Barry Bond's 762 homer record is almost a lock (A-Rod will need a little over 200 by year's end). The daunting task will be Pete Rose's hits record (4256), but if he's willing to and capable of playing into his mid-40s A-Rod will take the top spot.

Pretty Good Bet: Ivan Rodriguez

While he may be the best catcher of his era, the newly pinstriped Yankee isn't necessarily a lock. At 36-years-old, Rodriguez could be hampered by the wear-and-tear of the catcher position. Still, the guys still going to get over 140 hits this year, and that'll mean he needs less than 400 to get to the magic number. It's not guaranteed, but I wouldn't count I-Rod out if he can stay off the DL.

Looking Ahead to a Youngin': Albert Pujols

Although he's only half-way there,
Pujols is the best of his age group

I admit the big man is pretty far away, but he's been one of the best in the game for several years, and it's hard to imagine him slowing up. He'll already be half way there by the end of this season, and he's only 28. Pujols never hit below 177 hits in a season, but even if he only averaged 150 from here on out (or got hurt for extended time), he'd still get there by 38.

Relatively Good Shots: Vladimir Guerrero and Johnny Damon

Now the waters begin to get a bit murky. To get 3000, the 32-year-old Angel would need another 900ish hits after this season. I'm not going to say it's going to be easy, but given the fact that Guerrero consistently around 180 each year, this seems well within his reach.

Damon is about 150 hits closer, but also two years older, which gives Guerrero a bit of an edge. Still in his worst complete season he still hit 130 hits (and that was over 10 years ago), so even at that pace he'd get to 3000 by age 40. Look for it to happen sooner than that -- within four seasons without injury.

2/3rds of the Way: Edgar Renteria, Todd Helton, Bobby Abreu, and Miguel Tejeda

Could the little heralded, but highly
compensated Abreu sneak into the Hall?

Renteria's 33, and considering he needs less than 1000 he should get there. Not much to say on this one... thought he was a lot older. Should do it if he plays several more years as a starter.

Meanwhile, at 34-years-old, Helton, Abreu and Tejada are gonna need to really perform to get to 3000. Helton's closest with about 1000 to go, but Abreu and Tejeda are both within 100 of him so, while they are the long shots of the list (any one of them could hit a wall in the next few seasons), they still have a chance. What it's really going to come down to is playing time. If these guys can stay on the field in starting roles through the age of 40, they can all do it (I'm a broken record with this point, but it's true).

There's no guarantee, but wouldn't it be hilarious, as a Phillies fan, to see Abreu hit 3000. While I think he's a good player, his success would raise some eyebrows, especially since he's not as pedigreed as most 3000 hit guys. He's just a two-time all star with one silver slugger and gold glove to his name, so the legitimacy of 3000 could be called into question if Abreu got there (especially since I highly doubt his greatest accolades are still to come). That being said, he is a .300 hitter and has a shot to be one of the all-time doubles leaders if he actually does stay competitive through 40 (he'd likely end up in the top 15).

The Old Cronies: Manny Ramirez, Chipper Jones, Garret Anderson

All three of these guys are already 36, but there also all within 600-700 hits.

Manny's going to do it. He's gonna need a little over 600, but he's still playing at an extremely high level. It's a done deal. Barring injury, there's almost no doubt that he'll be over 3000 hits, 600 home runs, 600 doubles, and 2100 RBIs by the age of 40, which will make him one of the best offensive threats of all time. He'll still be a bad teammate though.

Jones will probably do it as well. He'll need 700 hits, but considering how great he's been at redefining himself as a tremendous average hitter, it just seems like a sure thing, doesn't it. Injuries could derail him, but the future Hall of Famer, will probably hang in there to get it done.

Anderson's gonna have the toughest time getting there, but he could hit 650 in five or six years if he can actually stay in a starting lineup (he's a little worse off than the guys in the last category should be by 36, but like them, if he plays until 40 or so, he'll do it). Much like Abreu, he'd raise eyebrows if he did, because his accolades don't scream hall of fame: three all-star appearances, two silver sluggers. But also like Abreu, his average hovers right around .300 and he's a doubles machine.

?: Ichiro Suzuki

Already at 3000 hits between two countries,
Ichiro will need to retain his speed to have a shot

I saved the most interesting for last. Suzuki hit the 3000 mark this year, but the problem is he did it between two countries. That should still be enough to get him into the Hall (even if he doesn't hit 3000, he will likely get the same courtesy Puckett did for having limited time to work his mojo). nevertheless, if Suzuki doesn't lose his speed for a few more years, he might do it anyway (he needs just 1250, which would come pretty easy for a guy who always gets 200 hits minimum).

1 comment:

Sam Fran said...

with bernie mac being deceased, i think your subject is offensive.

but i liked the piece. i think it'd be tough for ichiro to get 3000 mlb hits. if he does, though, i think it'll be one of the more remarkable achievements in recent MLB history