Sunday, May 28, 2006

3,500 Hits

On Friday night I was in attendance for Derek Jeter's 2,000th career hit. Because we had to wait for the official scorer to decide if it was a hit or an error, there were over 50,000 fans all staring at the scoreboard to figure out if they should cheer or not. It was unusual.

What also is unusual is a Major League player making it to 3,500 career hits. The list of players who have accomplished that feat is as follows:
Pete Rose
Ty Cobb
Hank Aaron
Stan Musial
Tris Speaker

That's it. Five guys. Amazingly there are two current New York Yankees who have as good a chance as anybody in years to join this list: Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

While Derek just got his 2,000th hit, before he reached his 32nd birthday, A-Rod will be joining him on that list, right around the time he hits his 31st birthday.

Let's look at Jeter. In the 9 seasons in which Jeter did not dislocate his shoulder on opening day, he has averaged 196 hits per season. He is showing no signs of slowing down, as he had 202 hits last season, and is on pace for 230 hits this year.

Let's say his pace slows down this season, and he ends up with a more than respectable 206 hits. That would put him at 2,142 for his career.

If he can continue his 196 hit pace for 3 more seasons after this one, he will be at 2730 hits during the season in which he turns 35 years old. This would leave him 770 hits shy of 3,500.

He would then need to average 154 hits over the next five seasons, bringing him to the year that he turns 40 years old.

That's pretty reasonable.

Will he play to age 40? Yes he will. How do I know this? Of the top 24 players all-time in hits, Robin Yount is the only one who did not reach age 40. The other 23 all did, and averaged playing until age 42. The three active players above 2,500 hits (Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, and Julio Franco) have all reached their 40th birthday. It's actually surprisingly safe to assume Jeter and ARod will too.

If they do reach age 40 they will most likely become a part of a very exclusive club, the 3,500 hit club, and be the first teammates to do so.

1 comment:

Warren said...

Jeter had 1936 hits after his age 31 season. If we take all players within 100 hits of Jeter at the same age, we have 20 players (excluding Jeter, A-Rod and Griffey): Roberto Alomar, George Davis, Curt Flood, Frankie Frisch, Lou Gehrig, Al Kaline, Willie Mays, Joe Medwick, Eddie Murray, Vada Pinson, Frank Robinson, Pete Rose, Ron Santo, Al Simmons, Tris Speaker, Rusty Staub, Arky Vaughan, Lloyd Waner, Paul Waner and Robin Yount. Only two of the twenty (Rose and Speaker) made it. If you throw in the three guys who weren't in this group but got 3500 hits anyway, then it's 5 of 23.

If you only include guys who averaged at least 180 hits per season for their age 29-31 seasons, then you're left with only six players - Frisch, Gehrig, Mays, Rose, Simmons and Paul Waner. One out of those six made it. Simmons, for example, was 60 hits ahead of Jeter at the same age, and had been averaging 205 hits per season over the past three years, and he didn't even make it to 3000.

A-Rod had 11 players within 100 hits of him at age 30: Alomar, Ashburn, Crawford, Foxx, Kaline, Keeler, Medwick, Pinson, Speaker, Vaughan and Yount. A-Rod has averaged 182 hits over the past three seasons - if we only include guys who averaged at least 170 hits, then we're left with Ashburn, Crawford, Foxx, Keeler, Medwick and Speaker. Like Jeter, one in six made it. Although, of this group, only Keeler had more hits at age 30 than A-Rod. Although as another cautionary tale, Ashburn was about 50 hits behind A-Rod at the same age and was also averaging about 180 hits per year. He barely made it 2500 hits.

I'm not sure this is a big surprise - it's an uphill battle for both of them, but it's certainly possible that they'll make it. If I had to wager, I'd bet neither of them make it, but they'll both clear 3000 hits easily.