FanPost

Jose Altuve and the 3000 hit club

Jose Altuve will almost certainly not get 3000 hits in his major league career.

OK - now that we have made that clear, a different point can be presented: Jose Altuve is the type of player who, 1) if he stays injury free and 2) if he achieves a high level of performance over a long period of time, actually has a shot at reaching 3000 hits.

Not all successful players with long careers reach 3000 hits. Look at guys like Reggie Jackson, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff, and Steve Garvey, for example. Certain other factors beyond long-term success come into play. Here are six advantages Jose Altuve may have that would work in his favor towards reaching 3000 hits in the very rare event that he has a long, injury-free, and successful career:

1) Getting regular playing time starting at a young age.

Jose Altuve is 21 years old. If all goes well, he will have his first full season as a regular at the age of 22. This gives him a good head start for accumulating counting stats. A look at the 3000 hit club (with a focus on more recent players) shows that getting an early start is common in the group.

Yount had his first full season as a regular at 18; Kaline at 19; Henderson and Clemente at 20; Brett, Ripken, Carew, and Murray at 21; Winfield and Jeter at 22; Brock, Gwynn, Palmeiro, and Biggio at 23; Boggs at 24.

This is one thing that hurt Steve Garvey. He played some in his early 20's but did not put in a full season until he was 25. Likewise, Jeff Kent did not play in 150 games in a season until his 29 year-old season. The Astros' lack of major league talent will probably help Altuve avoid a similar fate.

2) Hitting for a relatively high average.

Guys like Boggs, Carew, Gwynn, Clemente, and Jeter relied on high batting averages to reach the 3000 hit level. But there were also guys like Biggio (.281), Henderson (.279), and Ripken (.276) who show that you don't have to be a regular contender for the batting title to reach 3000 hits.

Jose Altuve has a minor-league track record that suggests that a relatively high batting average is a possibility for him. And so far this year in the majors, he is hitting comfortably above .300. But even if he were to settle into the .280-.290 range, he could still have a small shot at reaching 3000 hits.

Reggie Jackson's .262 lifetime batting average helped doom him in the pursuit of 3000 hits. Jackson was a great player, just not a 3000 hit type of player.

3) Not drawing high numbers of walks.

Putting the ball in play (and thus maximizing one's hit-per-plate appearance ratio) increases a player's likelihood of reaching 3000 hits. A player who hits in the .280 to .300 range needs between 10,000 and 11,000 at bats to achieve 3000 hits. Drawing lots of walks keeps the yearly AB numbers lower and creates a higher need for longevity and a high batting average).

A caveat here applies though. A low walk rate is a deficiency in a player's game (minimizing outs is an essential skill), so the player must still do enough in other areas of the game to warrant regular playing time.

Altuve may have enough other skills (good contact rate, speed, defensive ability at a skills position) to secure regular playing time year in and year out, if he is performing successfully. His expected low walk totals will actually help him towards the specific goal of reaching 3000 hits.

Lou Brock was a low walks guy whose low walk total helped him reach 3000 hits. Even though he lacked power and his defense was poor, his relatively high average (.293) and great speed made teams perceive that he was an asset, allowing him to play regularly for many years and accumulate 10,332 AB and 3023 hits.

Reggie Jackson's high walk totals were another hindrance to him for accumulating lots of hits. Fred McGriff also drew too many walks to give him a strong shot at 3000 hits.

4) Hitting at or near the top of the order.

This is a relatively minor factor, but it certainly doesn't hurt a guy like Altuve, whose speed and contact skills make him a good bet to hit near the top of the order. Biggio, Brock, and Henderson were  helped by this as well. McGriff, Jackson, Garvey, and Kent were slightly disadvantaged by hitting later in the order. They had fewer plate appearances and thus fewer opportunities to get hits.

5) Having skills high enough above replacement level talent to maintain regular playing time well past peak performance years.

This can be done in at least two ways. First, a player can have an outstanding skill (such as Carew's hitting) that allows him to still add value to a team even when his performance begins declining. The second way is to be a well-rounded player who adds value in a number of smaller ways and/or at a skills position. In a best-case scenario, Altuve would fit this category (along with players such as Yount, Biggio, Brett, and Boggs). At his best, Altuve would provide value in the field, on the bases, and at the plate and would be well-rounded enough to be seen as valuable even well beyond his peak years.

6) Being well-loved by the fans.

This factor is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it did help Biggio! The Astros gave him regular playing time in his decline phase in part because he was such an icon in Houston (and, of course, because he was pursuing the 3000 hit club!). Altuve has already captured the hearts of many fans in Houston, so he is off to a good start. Going forward, he might want to think about staying with the Astros throughout his career to boost his fan value so that he can continue playing even when the results suggest he should retire or move to a part-time role.

Summary: Again Jose Altuve will almost certainly not get 3000 hits. But if he accomplishes his best-case scenario - an injury-free career with consistently strong results, he could find himself tallying quite a few hits. If he is really lucky (and good), I could see him matching most closely with Brock or Biggio among 3000 hit club members. Neither Brock nor Biggio hit for extremely high averages, both were top-of-the-order hitters, both had their first full season of regular playing time at age 23 (Altuve has a year's head start, if all goes as planned next year), and neither guy took that many walks (though Biggio HBP totals presented a higher challenge for him - another potential advantage for Altuve).

Brock had 10332 AB's with a .293 BA, and Biggio had 10876 AB's with a .281 BA. At an average of 600 AB per year, Altuve would need to play regularly (and injury-free) until he was about 39 years old (to reach 10,500 AB), with a .286 career batting average. That would give him 3003 hits.

But enough of the crazy talk. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

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