Eric Hosmer And The Chase For 3,000 Hits

Last Sunday, Eric Hosmer yanked a curveball into the right-field seats at Kauffman Stadium, tucking it neatly between the foul pole and the visitors’ bullpen. Not only did the home run give the Royals the lead for good, it was the 800th hit of Hosmer’s career.

Baseball loves it some round numbers. Heck, people in general love round numbers. Seeing that double zero in Hosmer’s hit total made me start thinking about the ultimate baseball round number. Yep, 3,000. As in hits.

Yes, it’s probably way too early to assess Hosmer’s chances of reaching that milestone. Then again, it’s fun to dream (here, I refer you to the great philosopher Denny Matthews and his famous line “If you want to dream a little…”). And there’s no harm in it. Plus, it’s late April, and it’s a long season, so why not look ahead a bit?

The bad news for Hosmer, of course, is that it’s really hard to get to 3,000 hits. Only 29 players have ever done it, with Ichiro Suzuki knocking on the door and Adrian Beltre likely going to get there sometime next year. Any number of calamities can befall a player’s career before they reach that hallowed number.

For instance, one bad season. Hosmer played 152 games in 2012. He managed just 124 hits in 598 plate appearances. Considering the other full seasons of Hosmer’s career, that’s probably 30-40 hits he missed out on if he’d just had a year like the other ones he’s had. The year before, his rookie season, Hosmer had 29 more hits in 35 fewer plate appearances.

However, Hosmer does have a few things in his favor. First, he started his career at an appropriately young age. Part of the key to getting to 3,000 hits is simple longevity; everybody in the club played at least 18 years in the majors, and most played 20 or more seasons. To do that, you have to reach the majors around the time you can legally drink (Ichiro is going to be a notable exception). Only two players (Wade Boggs and Honus Wagner) began their careers after their 23rd birthday and made it to 3,000 hits. Hosmer made his debut as a 21-year-old.

Second, so far in his career Hosmer has been durable (knock on wood). After his callup in May 2011, Hosmer played in 128 of the team’s 131 remaining games. In three of his four full seasons so far, he’s played in at least 150 games. His only extended absence from the lineup came in August 2014, when he missed 28 games with a broken hand. As a first baseman, Hosmer is largely protected from crashing into outfield walls and base runners sliding into him, so his odds of staying healthy are good. And, like all players in this era, he has the advantage of better nutrition, better training, and better medical care. Those can add quality years to a career.

Third, and most important, is that Hosmer is a good enough hitter to get there. It helps that he strikes out about 15% of the time (a number that has gone down in three straight seasons, by the way), and he can hit line drives with authority, even though he tends to hit more grounders. Consider that his career BABIP is .313, but that is dragged down by his .255 BABIP for the 2012 season. Since that year, his BABIPs in order are .335, .312, .336, and .369 this year. That’s extra hits over the average .300ish BABIP. In this regard, his home stadium is a help; Kauffman’s spacious outfield has lots of room for line drives to drop in. Plus, Hosmer’s skill set is less likely to diminish rapidly with age. He runs well, but his game is not dependent on speed. He has power, but that’s not the entirety of his value.

With those factors in mind, let’s compare Hosmer to some of the 3,000-hit club members at the same age. Hosmer will turn 27 in late October, so let’s make the comparison to those hitters through the last full season they were 26.

First up, the only Royal to reach 3,000 hits, George Brett, who made his debut at age 20 but wasn’t a regular until he turned 21. From 1973 through 1979, Brett had 1082 hits in 3815 plate appearances. Hosmer is on pace for 194 hits and 672 plate appearances this year—let’s give him 190 and 660, respectively. That would give him 969 hits and 3715 plate appearances at the end of the season. That’s not too far off Brett’s pace.

Next, let’s look at Roberto Clemente, who famously got to 3,000 hits on the dot before his tragic death. Clemente reached the majors at age 20 in 1955, but it took him a few years to establish himself as a star. Through the 1960 season, he had 861 hits in 3179 plate appearances. Hosmer’s hits compare favorably, but note that he would have almost a full season’s worth of extra plate appearances. Still, that should give us some hope in this exercise. Clemente reached the magic number by compiling 200 or more hits in four of the next seven seasons after that 1960 season. On the other hand, I would expect Hosmer to play past age 37, a chance Clemente did not get.

If you really want to feel good about Hosmer’s chances, take a look at Eddie Murray. The Orioles great is a fine example of what a long career, playing almost every day, and hitting around .300 can do. Murray played 21 years, and except for the strike-shortened seasons of 1981 and 1994, he played in fewer than 150 games just three times. Murray was a regular as a 21-year-old rookie in 1977. In his first six seasons, he collected 997 hits in 3775 plate appearances. That’s a really close match with Hosmer. Murray never got 200 hits in a season, but he was usually good for 170-175. Hosmer is currently averaging 174 hits a year. If you average 174 hits for 17 years, you’re almost there.

There are plenty of other good comparisons in that 3,000-hit club. Derek Jeter was at 3565 plate appearances and 1008 hits after his age-26 season. Rod Carew was at 2984 and 845. Rafael Palmeiro had 2948 and 805. Tony Gwynn had 3270 PAs and 988 hits through six seasons, and he turned 27 during that last season. Cal Ripken had 3562 and 927. Dave Winfield had 3183 and 796.

It would be foolish to predict with certainty that any one player who is not yet 27 will join the 3,000-hit club. Too much can happen, even to someone who seems like a sure bet. But I do think that if he can stay healthy, he definitely has a chance. Even if he falls short, I could see him piling up 2,500 hits or so, which, of course, is an excellent career.

Photo credit: Kelvin Kuo, USA TODAY Sports

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2 comments on “Eric Hosmer And The Chase For 3,000 Hits”


Just for Interest Sake
Hits up until 27th birthday by non-Hall of Famers who did not end up with 3000 hits:

1381 Vada Pinson
1266 Orlando Cepeda
1255 Edgar Renteria
1245 Cesar Cedeno
1190 Sherry Magee
1160 Ruben Sierra
. . . . . .
969 Eric Hosmer


Ha! Cannot even keep my own list straight – Orlando Cepeda is who I first thought of, and then made the list non-Hall of Famers but mistakenly still kept him listed. Arggh, the writers union will never take me now.

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