MLB -- Who will be next to 3,000 hits and when they'll get there

MLB -- Who will be next to 3,000 hits and when they'll get there

Albert Pujols finally collected hit No. 3,000, on Friday against the Seattle Mariners, perhaps one of the last highlights in a career that will result in a quick trip to Cooperstown five years after he hangs up his spikes. We're used to home run milestones in the present era, but Pujols is only the fourth player to amass 3,000 hits and 600 home runs, joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez. Rumor has it those other three guys were pretty good, too.

The fact that Pujols joined the 3,000-hit club is not in itself all that surprising. After his age-30 season in 2010, Pujols had already delivered 1,900 hits, which was good for the 13th-highest total in baseball history reached by that age. (Miguel Cabrera subsequently passed Pujols with 1,995 hits to rank 10th all time, knocking Pujols down a peg.) What is surprising is the actual date he accomplished the feat, because 2010 turned out to be the last all-caps ALBERT PUJOLS season, our final look at one of the most feared all-around hitters of our generation at the top of his game.

In the end, getting those 1,100 hits to reach 3,000 took Pujols seven years and an extra month or so of an eighth season. While the gigantic contract he signed after 2011 was never projected to end well for the Angels, the rate at which one of baseball's most feared hitters declined was surprising. Most of the time, when a star drops off this quickly in the second half of his career, it takes the pattern of Ken Griffey Jr.'s decline, in which the hitter's similarly disappointing 30s had a lot to do with a constant series of injuries, in this case limiting Griffey to just three 130-game seasons in his 30s.

In this case, Pujols, while having his share of nagging injuries, has generally been healthy enough to take the field, but playing well below his usual standards. Some players' bats age like fine wine, like that of David Ortiz. Pujols, not so much. There are 63 players in the Hall of Fame who had at least 2,000 plate appearances from their age-35 season to the end of their careers (Pujols passed the 2,000 mark a couple of weeks ago). Honus Wagner tops the list with 43.5 WAR (Baseball-Reference) starting at age 35; the median Hall of Famer contributed 14 wins at these ages. So far, Pujols stands at 2.6 WAR, worse than all 63, the current worst being Rabbit Maranville at 3.6. If Pujols plays out his contract, his WAR is expected to decline, not surpass that diminutive shortstop.

As a result, Pujols, despite getting plenty of playing time, joined the 3,000-hit club later than expected. Knowing how often he'd take the field, ZiPS expected after 2010 that Pujols would get hit No. 3,000 during the 2016 season. Unlike Adrian Beltre, who reached 3,000 hits last season and now projects to finish with more career WAR than Pujols, The Machine had to limp beyond this particular finish line. It may even be the least interesting number in his Hall of Fame portfolio, which rests upon his legendary first decade in the majors.

But for other players, getting to 3,000 hits may still be the capper on a Cooperstown career, as it is for Beltre. Pujols never needed to get to 3,000 to make the Hall, but despite the long-term trend for even writers to shy away from quick milestones in their voting, 3,000 still holds sway over anyone who cares about baseball. It's a number not being cheapened by an environment that makes it easy to collect hits, because batting averages are near their historical nadir right now. So for fun, let's also project some dates for who will get there next, just in case you want to start planning your vacations for 2024 because you have a shockingly cruel human resources department at your workplace.


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Publish date : 2018-05-05 12:33:42
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