Al Yellon has a post over at Baseball Nation that looks at the top 10 active leaders in hits and talks about which of those players have a chance of getting to 3000 hits, while also looking at the chance of three players outside the top 10 -- Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Starlin Castro.
Yellon works off of Bill James' "Favorite Toy" estimator system, and it inspired me to take a look at what Rangers have a shot at 3000 hits.
The obvious choice is Michael Young. Young, who turned 35 during the playoffs, is sitting at 2061 hits on his career, and his bounce-back 2011 season boosted his chances of getting to 3000 significantly, with the Favorite Toy giving him a 25.7% chance of reaching the milestone. After the 2010 season, the Favorite Toy gave him just a 16.2% chance of getting to 3000, and a repeat of 2011 would be a big boost to his chances.
The less obvious choice is Adrian Beltre. Beltre is 32 years old, and while he isn't a high average hitter -- last year's .296 average was the third-highest of his career, and he has a career .277 batting average -- he's sitting on 2033 hits for his career, just 28 behind Young. Beltre, unlike Young, got an early start to his career -- he was in the majors at age 19, and an every day player at age 20 -- so while he's never had more than 200 hits, and only had more than 166 hits twice, he's been registering a 150 hits per season for a long time. As a result, the Favorite Toy actually gives Beltre a very slight edge over Young when it comes to getting to 3000, at 26.9%.
If we take a step back from what the formula says, and just look at the two players, it is hard to say who has the better shot at reaching 3000. Beltre is two years younger than Young, and has much more defensive value, which should allow him to play for longer than Young. On the other hand, Beltre hits for less average than Young, which means that he gets fewer hits season to season -- Young averages 200 hits per 162 games over his career, while Beltre averages 168 -- and Beltre has missed significant time to injury in two of the last three years.
And the third Ranger who has a shot at 3000 hits? Its probably not who you think. Ian Kinsler has no realistic shot at getting to 3000, due to a relatively late start to his career and a lot of time missed because of injuries. Similarly, Josh Hamilton isn't in the mix...while he's just two years younger than Beltre, he's about 1350 hits behind him.
No, the third Ranger who has a shot at 3000 hits is Elvis Andrus. Yes, the same Elvis Andrus with the career .271 batting average and just 448 career hits. The Favorite Toy gives Andrus a 15.7% chance of getting 3000 hits for his career.
Why? Well, for essentially the same reason Beltre has such a (relatively) good shot right now...he was a major league regular at the age of 20, which gives him a big head start in the race to 3000. Andrus has accumulated a significant number of hits at an age when most players either haven't sniffed the majors, or have had nothing more than a cup of coffee in the bigs. And the Favorite Toy may be underestimating his chances, since like Beltre, Andrus is an excellent defender whose glove could keep him in the big leagues down the road at a time when his bat may no longer be an asset.
Think it is unlikely? Omar Vizquel, who didn't debut until age 22, and who lost time to a demotion in 1990, the strike in 1994, and an injury in 2003, is sitting at 2841 hits right now. Elvis is one of only 34 players since WWII to record at least 400 hits through his age 22 season, and the full list (which I'll share in a table at the end of the post after the jump) is a fascinating collection of players.
Based on the percentages above, there's a 53% chance that at least one of these three will reach the 3000 hit plateau. Which gives me an idea for a poll...which of these three players do you think has the best chance? Cast your vote below, and follow the jump to see the 400+ hit/age 22 club.