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Michael Young and the chase for 3,000 hits

Jan 30, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

Michael Young Getty Images

Michael Young led the American League in hits for the second time in his career in 2011, finishing with 213. That brought his career total to 2,061 through age 34, and despite a late start — he didn’t collect his first hit in the majors until age 24 — he appeared to have some shot at getting to 3,000.

Bill James has long had what he calls “The Favorite Toy,” a system that looks at the previous year’s results, career totals and age before spitting out a percentage score of a player’s chances of reaching a certain milestone. After the 2011 season, James had 12 players with at least a 20-percent chance of getting 3,000 hits, not including Derek Jeter, who was already there.

Alex Rodriguez – 94%
Johnny Damon – 86%
Vladimir Guerrero – 67%
Albert Pujols – 56%
Miguel Cabrera – 46%
Ichiro Suzuki – 38%
Michael Young – 34%
Adrian Beltre – 30%
Robinson Cano – 28%
Juan Pierre – 27%
Carl Crawford – 23%
Nick Markakis – 22%

Given the percentages James came up with, five or six of the above players should eventually get to 3,000 hits. And now, two years later:

Alex Rodriguez: 2,939 – suspended for 2014
Johnny Damon: 2,769 – out of baseball in 2013
Vladimir Guerrero: 2,590 – out of baseball in 2013, retired
Albert Pujols: 2,347
Miguel Cabrera: 1,995
Ichiro Suzuki: 2,742
Michael Young: 2,375 – retired
Adrian Beltre: 2,426
Robinson Cano: 1,649
Juan Pierre: 2,217
Carl Crawford: 1,765
Nick Markakis: 1,370

A-Rod need only come back for one more year to get 3,000. He should pull that off unless he’s blackballed. Despite his setbacks the last two years, Pujols should still have more than 653 hits left in him. He is signed for eight more years, after all. Cabrera remains very much on pace. Ichiro, though, is a big long shot now. Beltre is looking pretty good with 574 hits to go as he turns 35 in April. The same goes for Cano, though he’s just over halfway there at the moment. The bottom three all appear done for. Crawford may stay healthy enough to get to 2,500 or so, but 3,000 is out of reach.

So, that’s three likelies in Rodriguez, Pujols and Cabrera and two maybes in Beltre and Cano. Which isn’t so bad. Unfortunately, the reduction in teams willing to suit up pure DHs hurt the cause for Damon and Guerrero. Both were still decent hitters, but neither had the power to convince a team he was worthy of a few million dollars and a roster spot. I do believe that we’ll someday see the DH in both leagues. For better or worse, not having it now most likely cost Damon 3,000 hits, maybe Guerrero, too.

As for the now 37-year-old Young, well, there probably would have been more demand for his services with another 15 DH jobs open in the NL. However, he wasn’t likely to remain productive enough to get another 625 hits anyway.

In the old days, it seemed like quite an exception when a player was about as productive in his mid-30s as he was during his prime years. Then it wasn’t as much of an exception for a while, perhaps because of PEDs and amphetamines. Now it’s starting to look like an exception again.

  1. cohnjusack - Jan 30, 2014 at 7:45 PM

    Michael Young’s first season at age 24 (he technically came up at 23, but had just 2 PAs, so we’ll discount that)

    # of members of the 2000 hit club who pulled it off get that late of a start to their career?

    Only Wade Boggs managed to start that late and end up with 3000 hits. And even then, Boggs barely got over the hump, ending up with 3,010. Boggs had the benefit of being probably the best hitter in the game during his prime, being mostly healthy and hanging on til age 41.

    • cohnjusack - Jan 30, 2014 at 7:55 PM

      Boggs had the benefit of being probably the best hitter in the game during his prime

      Well, I certainly did Boggs a disservice there with the word “probably”.

      1983: .361/.444/.486
      1984: .325/.407/.416
      1985: .368/.450/.478
      1986: .357/.453/.486
      1987: .363/.461/.588
      1988: .366/.476/.490
      1989: .330/.430/.449

      During that time, Boggs posted a .446 OBP. 45 points higher than 2nd place Rickey Henderson.

      • foreverchipper10 - Jan 31, 2014 at 9:15 AM

        Good god man. Thank you for that. I have severely underrated Boggs in my own mind. In my defense. These seasons were my age 0-6 year.s on the planet so my baseball knowledge at that time was, well, zilch.

      • wjarvis - Jan 31, 2014 at 2:16 PM

        I think ‘probably’ may still be appropriate, during this time Mike Schmidt has to at least be in the conversation for best hitter. Boggs had a much higher average but lower slugging. I think Boggs was clearly the best at getting on base during that time frame, but if you compare the the OPS+ for Boggs from those years (re-ordered from highest to lowest) to those of Schmidt from 1980-1987 I think it’s tough to say he’s definitely the better hitter. The top three for Schmidt were 1980-82 so it’s a little biased, but Schmidt also did have 4 additional seasons with an OPS+ above 150 and 2 more above 140 where Boggs had a 140 and 142 as his only other seasons above 130. Obviously both were fantastic hitters for different reasons, I think Schmidt had the better career due to more consistency, but I think their peaks are comparable and happened about the same time.

        Boggs Schmidt
        174 198
        168 171
        157 161
        151 156
        150 154
        142 153
        125 149

      • cohnjusack - Jan 31, 2014 at 3:24 PM

        I specifically used the term “prime” to refer to Wade Boggs prime alone. Boggs was not a full time player until 1983 and I’m not attempting to argue his place among those before and after. Merely during the time when he was at his very best, not anyone else.

        So, if you’re looking to Schmidt, keep in mind that A). Schmidt was not nearly as good in 88 or 89, and B). They both had a 151 OPS+ from 83 to 87, but, a Schmidt’s was more SLG driven. wOBA has Boggs with a 15 points lead.

        For their whole career, certainly Schmidt was a better hitter(but very different) hitter and better at his peak to. Just that his peaked a little bit before.

    • braddavery - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:33 PM

      Boggs is dreadfully underrated in the modern baseball mainstream. He is the Greg Maddux/Randy Johnson of post-1980 hitters, meaning his statistical accomplishments rival guys who played in the late 1800s to early 1900s. But he doesn’t get the Maddux/Johnson recognition. He was a truly amazing hitter, one of the best ever who should be talked about alongside guys like Teddy Ballgame and the like.

      • dfj79 - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:34 AM

        I love Boggs, but his historical company as a hitter is Rod Carew, not Ted Williams. Guys like Boggs and Carew maximized what you can do as a hitter without having much home run power, but ultimately the lack of power keeps them out of that first tier of all-time great hitters.

        Frank Thomas in his prime was closer to being a Ted Williams type, but even he didn’t quite reach Williams levels of amazing.

      • cohnjusack - Jan 31, 2014 at 3:29 PM

        I love Boggs, but his historical company as a hitter is Rod Carew, not Ted Williams

        Fun fact: The difference in how often Boggs and Carew got on base is equal to the difference of how often Tony Gwynn and Adam Dunn got on base.

        I’m not saying you’re wrong (Boggs drew WAAAAAY more walks during his prime and Carew stole WAAAY more bases, otherwise that’s probably about as close of a comp as you can get), I just looked it up and found it to be a really fun little factoid.

      • braddavery - Jan 31, 2014 at 4:13 PM

        I agree that Carew is a very good comp to Boggs. The differences are there, but they each make up the difference in other ways. Carew could steal much better and Boggs could walk better. I would take Boggs though. He drove the ball better and played better defense. But yeah, maybe Ted Williams isn’t the best comparison for Boggs, but my point still stands about how he had insane old-time baseball stats in the modern age and is severely underrated nowadays IMO.

      • braddavery - Jan 31, 2014 at 4:17 PM

        Underappreciated, I should say.

      • dfj79 - Jan 31, 2014 at 6:09 PM

        Interestingly, per FanGraphs, Boggs and Carew both have a 132 wRC+ for their careers (and in a similar number of plate appearances). So yeah, even though Carew walked a bit less and struck out a bit more, once you make the park and era adjustments, their differences come out in the wash.

        Oh, and while we’re at it . . . Tony Gwynn also with a 132 wRC+ in 10,000 some-odd PA! Amazing.

      • braddavery - Jan 31, 2014 at 8:56 PM

        Using that info and taking everything into account, I believe Boggs was a significantly better defender and thus has the overall edge. That’s in an out-and-out comparison to Carew, and only Carew, but this isn’t really about that. This is more of a side-note situation. We kind of got off on a tangent unrelated to Michael Young. lol

    • dan1111 - Jan 31, 2014 at 5:33 AM

      However, five players had 3000 hits from age 24 onwards (including Pete Rose at 3947!), with several others coming very close. Jeter will likely also end up in that group. Ichiro could end up very close or even squeak in, despite starting at 27.

      In other words, starting at age 24 is not an insurmountable barrier to being able to collect 3000. The reason it almost never happens is that great players rarely start their careers that late.

      • cohnjusack - Jan 31, 2014 at 8:44 AM

        Yes, BUT…

        Most of them came up at a much younger at because they were supremely talented.

    • braxtonrob - Feb 4, 2014 at 10:32 PM

      Great stuff @cohn, shines a light on the legitimacy of Young’s 2,300 Hits.

  2. NYTolstoy - Jan 30, 2014 at 7:48 PM

    I’m sure if Damon was given a chance to play he would of hit his peak like Barry Bonds did at age 36. You know when he hit 73 homeruns. Or was Bonds just drinking better shakes? Who knows. ..I was really hoping Damon and Guerrero were going to get to 3000 hits. Unfortunately father time caught up to them and without the help of old needle their abilities went with age.

    • cohnjusack - Jan 30, 2014 at 7:56 PM

      Newsflash! We are all aware that Barry Bonds used steroids. It is no longer necessary to mention it on posts that have nothing to do with him.

      • NYTolstoy - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:04 PM

        Damn all I stated is that time caught up with them…calm it down nancy no need to get all hit headed

      • asimonetti88 - Jan 31, 2014 at 12:36 AM

        I was actually unaware Barry Bonds did steroids until this informative post by NYTolstoy.

      • NYTolstoy - Jan 31, 2014 at 3:30 AM

        Then your welcome good sir. Glad I can pass on the good work

    • clemente2 - Jan 30, 2014 at 7:58 PM

      Check out Bonds’ 2004 and onward seasons to see if you really think the difference between him and Damon was ‘milkshakes’.

      • NYTolstoy - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:07 PM

        You mean when he hit 45 homeruns at age 40? Or only 28 at age 42?

    • braddavery - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:35 PM

      Yeah, but steroids didn’t help Bonds be the best. It was all in his head, according to many here. Steroids don’t do anything. They just make you feel like you are amazing, and then you are.

      • NYTolstoy - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:48 PM

        Well his head got bigger and so did his shoe size. That’s kind of odd. Braddavery you and me are both on the same page. Not sure how anyone can deny it helps you beat time atleast for a few years. How many 36 year olds can have that good of a production now? If he was able to play now at age 42 his 28 homeruns would of been third best in the league today. That’s insane and I really can’t stand the steroids don’t help you nonsense. His age and production says otherwise. He broke all his best career numbers ate age 34..then again at age 35…then again at age 36. I mean come on now.

  3. johnnysoda - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:08 PM

    On a mostly unrelated note, I would find it amusing to see the fan reaction if A-Rod was to get his 3,000th hit on the road.

    If he did it at home? I’m sure there would be some people who would cheer. On the road, however? Imagine a whole crowd of people booing a guy who just achieved a milestone like that. Pretty sad.

    • happytwinsfan - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:38 PM

      you betcha, even if he is a jerk.

  4. happytwinsfan - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:34 PM

    i read through this and asked myself why am i not seeing mauer’s name on these lists. i looked him up and joe’s got 1414 hits in his first ten years. the odds must be seriously against him, doggnoe it joe, do a carew. you don’t gotta squat down every day no more. it took me over half an hour just to shovel out my trash bins tonight.

    • braddavery - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:41 PM

      Did you somehow miss that he’s not playing catcher any longer? : )

      • happytwinsfan - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:48 PM

        that’s what i meant by by “do a carew. you don’t gotta squat down every day no more”

      • happytwinsfan - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:57 PM

        aren’t you drunk yet, or maybe only about 2/3 rds of the way there. that’s where i’m at (okay maybe 3/4ths).

  5. mtr75 - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:38 PM

    “Unless he gets blackballed”? How precisely is A-Roid going to get blackballed?

    • sportsfan18 - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:51 PM

      I’m not saying how likely this is or it if it will happen for sure, but when Arod is eligible to play again in 2015, the Yankees might/could just simply pay him to stay away. They’ll owe him like $61 million or whatever the amount is regardless.

      At that point, Arod would be free to sign with any other team and the blackball part comes in the way it did with Barry Bonds, NO other team would sign or want him even if they think he could help him for that one season (2015).

      Now, I don’t know if this is possible as he has a contract. I suppose if the Yanks pay him all he is due there should be a way to free him up from the team…

      Again, I don’t know if this can or will happen but that is what was meant by that person’s comment.

      • sawxalicious - Jan 31, 2014 at 1:05 AM

        The Yankees wouldn’t simply “pay him to stay away.” I don’t think they would release him outright, but might work a trade to another team in which they pay the vast majority of his contract. The Marlins specifically come to mind, as that might be the one area of the country where A-Rod might get some fan support (when Yankees fans hate, they hate hard). I would not foresee any high-level prospects going to the Yankees, just PTBNL types. The Marlins only have a couple marketable players worth going to see, Fernandez and Stanton. Stanton will soon be on his way out, either via trade or free agency. No way he’s staying in that situation.

      • dan1111 - Jan 31, 2014 at 1:32 AM

        @sportsfan, yes, it is possible to just release him and eat the rest of his contract. That happens frequently (though usually with much smaller contracts).

        I don’t see it happening, though.

    • paperlions - Jan 31, 2014 at 7:35 AM

      The same way that Bonds did. His last season, Bonds was one of the 10 best hitters in the league, the next year not a single team offered him a contract, even when he offered to play for anyone for the minimum, no one would even talk to his agent. It is obviously the league black balled him, there is a 0% chance that every team independently decided they couldn’t use a cheap great hitter…because the object is to win.

      If ARod is released and the Yankees eat the last $61M on his deal, it is highly likely that the league black balls him, there is a 0% chance that at least one GM wouldn’t offer him a chance to play if the choice was up to them.

      • mtr75 - Feb 19, 2014 at 8:28 AM

        You do realize he is under contract, correct? Bonds was a free agent. The Yankees are not going to be eating $61 million.

      • paperlions - Feb 19, 2014 at 9:41 AM

        It isn’t clear what will happen in a year. I agree that I don’t think the Yankees will eat that money. The comment was within the context of if the DO dump him, would any other team pick him up? If that happened, I do think that teams would be interested in picking him up, but it would not be beyond MLB to black ball him.

      • mtr75 - Feb 24, 2014 at 7:14 PM

        So if the DO do something they’re never, ever going to do, it might happen? Ok.

  6. rgledz - Jan 30, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    It is ludicrous that this a$$ clown doesn’t have Mauer on this list. He has over 1400 hits, he can play for another 10 years and he’s not catching anymore. Some expert. File this list in the trash.

    • tuberippin - Jan 30, 2014 at 11:50 PM

      Joe Mauer is not going to get 3,000 hits.

      • dan1111 - Jan 31, 2014 at 8:11 AM

        24 players have gotten at least 1586 hits from age 31 onward. While not likely, it could happen.

      • tuberippin - Jan 31, 2014 at 8:30 PM

        ^I’m not saying it’s an impossibility. I just don’t think Mauer is going to play that long, nor want to play that long. He’s an outstanding hitter (being the first catcher to win three batting titles and all), but he’s never had a 200-hit season, even the year he hit .365 and won the AL MVP. To get to 3,000 hits from the ~1400 he has thus far, he’d need about eight 200+ hit seasons from here on out, or play another dozen years at his current hitting rate. The latter would require him to sustain an average of .325 or higher for most of that period of time to get near 3,000 hits.

      • happytwinsfan - Jan 31, 2014 at 8:32 PM

        the odds are against him, but if i were you i wouldn’t bet against joe mauer. he graduated from cretin durham high. i know some of the boys who came out of there at the same time that mauer did. they grow them straight and true there.

      • dan1111 - Feb 1, 2014 at 2:04 AM

        @tuberippin, the move away from catcher is the key to his chances, as he should be able to play more games. He has averaged about 200 hits per 162 games for his career, and his best few seasons would probably have topped 200 if he had not had reduced games due to playing catcher.

        If he averages .300 the rest of the way, he can get there in 5300 at bats, which for him would equal about 140 games a year for 10 years. Given that his career average so far is .323, that seems plausible even with a decline as he ages. Of course it depends on him staying healthy and productive, but it is not an outlandish possibility.

    • asimonetti88 - Jan 31, 2014 at 12:39 AM

      Yeah man, Bill James, what a clown. That guy is a total joke.

    • dan1111 - Jan 31, 2014 at 1:56 AM

      Maybe read more closely next time? This list was done after the 2011 season, at which point Mauer had only 1096 hits and was expected to remain at catcher for the foreseeable future.

      I do think Mauer has an outside chance if he puts up a few big seasons after moving off catcher. However, he is behind other guys not on the list, like Robinson Cano, David Wright, and Jose Reyes.

      • jwbiii - Jan 31, 2014 at 2:18 AM

        Right, dan. In 2011, Mauer had only 85 hits and at that point had no chance of reaching 3,000. He has reestablished himself at 144 hits (that he had 144 hits last season is coincidental), which gives him an outside chance, 4.5% by James’ method.

      • jwbiii - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        What the heck. Slow news day. Let’s take another look.

        68% Adrian Beltre
        68% Miguel Cabrera
        38% Albert Pujols
        35% Robinson Cano
        20% Prince Fielder
        20% Mike Trout
        17% Jimmy Rollins
        15% Adrian Gonzalez
        14% Nick Markakis
        13% Jose Reyes
        9% David Wright
        5% Alex Rios
        5% Joe Mauer
        1% Matt Holliday

        Expect Mike Trout to increase his chances, as he had only 27 hits in 2011 and his hit rate should increase. Bryce Harper will likely be here next year, good health permitting. James’ formula has no more idea what to expect from Alex Rodriguez than you or I do, so I omitted him.

  7. 461deep - Jan 31, 2014 at 12:11 AM

    Pro or con views aside, Bonds has 2,935 hits so being denied 1 more year cost him the 3,000 hit mark. A-rod will play somewhere in 2015 I believe. Albert needs to rebound some and play 4-5 more make it. Only rapid decline stops Miggy. Being primarily a pitcher for his first 5 years cost ‘the Babe 3,000. Also, he only had 49 HRs those years plus only 25 in 1925 the famous belly ache year so that probably cost him the 800 HR mark as he finished with 714.

  8. cur1968 - Jan 31, 2014 at 1:51 AM

    No more “PADMY”? But what’s a Turbo Nerd to do now?

  9. tcostant - Jan 31, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    Nick Markakis – really. I have as good as chance to get 3,000 hit as Nick Markakis and I’m in my mind 40’s…

    • tuberippin - Jan 31, 2014 at 8:34 PM

      Not saying I have any belief that Markakis will get 3,000 hits, but the main thing he’s had going for him over his first 5 years in the league was his health: he got 500-750 PAs his first six seasons in the league and had no less than 175 hits per season during that span. He should have 1600-1700 hits by his 10th year in the league. He’ll probably finish out his career like Johnny Damon did, in the hunt for 3,000 but still a fair ways off.

  10. largebill - Jan 31, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    Reading this article it makes me think back to a month ago when a few people were knocking Biggio as a poor Hall of Fame choice and so on. While their comments were laughable in several ways, the worst were the comments regarding 3,000 hits not being a sign of greatness. Reality is, staying in the lineup and being productive for a long time at the highest level of the game is very difficult. For every Biggio who makes it past 3,000 there are a dozen guys we thought were going to get to 3,000 who fall short. Between injuries, performance decline, loss of playing time, etc, etc a lot of things conspire against guys in their mid-30’s. In 1999 no one would have bet against Robbie Alomar getting to 3,000 yet he didn’t get close.

  11. ctony1216 - Jan 31, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    Looking at athletes like Michael Young, my guess is that in the future there will be an emphasis on how to create off-season training programs and diet regimens that help athletes maintain peak performance into their 40s — without PEDs.

    When you’re young, you can spend an off-season drinking beer and eating donuts and playing Texas hold ’em with your buddies, and then show up at spring training ready to light the world on fire. As you get older, you really, really need to train and diet year round, and the type of strength training and conditioning you do is different. Guys like Jeter and Jose Bautista are already doing this, but I imagine they all will eventually do it if they want any kind of longevity in the sport. Especially for a guy like Miguel Cabrera, whose body started to break down at the end of last year. He could be great for many more years with the right diet and year-round training regimen.

    • spursareold - Jan 31, 2014 at 10:37 AM

      Miggy broke down playing 3rd base, something he won’t be doing from now on. In fact, I see him transitioning to DH in the not too distant future. Miggy’s going to get to 3000. He’s too far along and his swing is too sweet not to. Even if he loses some power, he can still bash the ball all over the place in the field of play.

  12. braxtonrob - Feb 4, 2014 at 10:40 PM

    Who were we talking about? Oh yeahhhhhhhhhh, Michael Young!

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