3K? Or No Way?

May 12, 2018
Article In a Nutshell, For Those Who Don’t Like Details
 
  1. Nick Markakis has more than 2,000 hits
  2. He’s off to an exceptional start this season
  3. People are noticing
  4. He has a chance to reach 3,000 hits
  5. I don’t think he’ll do it
  6. Even if he reach 3,000 hits, I don’t think he’ll make the Hall of Fame
 
 
What’s all the Hubub, Bub?
(You can’t go wrong with a Looney Tunes reference…..)
 
In the past week or so, there have been at least 2 articles written about Nick Markakis and his career hit total, each one addressing the possibility that he could reach 3,000 hits. There’s one at MLB.com, and one at The Sporting News. I’m not intending to be overly critical of either of these, and, to be fair, neither one "predicts" that he will reach that milestone. They merely highlight what he’s done so far in his career, and suggest that he has a pretty reasonable chance despite being fairly inconspicuous.
 
To be honest, I wasn’t surprised by the premise of these articles. In the context of something else I was looking at, I stumbled across Markakis’ record a while back, and I remember noticing that, to my surprise, he had over 2,000 career hits at the start of 2018 (2,052 to be exact). I was surprised because I hadn’t thought much about Markakis in several years. I thought he had kind of faded into obscurity years ago, just meandering along, especially after leaving the Orioles and signing with the Braves. I didn’t think he had accumulated anywhere near 2,000 hits. 
 
But there it is, in black and white on his playing record.  And, once you examine his record, it’s easy to see how he’s achieved that level. Markakis has missed very little playing time, and from a hit standpoint, he’s been very consistent. Aside from his rookie year (2006) and a year in which he only played 104 games (2012), he has essentially been cranking 160-190 hits annually, like clockwork. 
 
Despite that consistency, I think Markakis’ career has been somewhat disappointing in its arc. He essentially peaked at age 23 or 24:
 
  • His peak home run season was in his second season (2007), when he hit 23 at age 23. Since that time, he’s more or less been in the teens in home runs, and 2 of the last 3 seasons he’s been in single digits.

  • His peak in getting on base was in his third season (2008), when he drew 99 walks and exceeded a .400 on-base percentage at age 24. Since then, he’s generally been closer to about 60 walks a year, and OBP’s around .350. Not bad, but not what his promising start would have led us to expect.

  • He showed good speed early on, stealing 18 bases in 2007 at age 23. Since then, he’s been averaging around 4 steals per season.
 
I don’t mean to knock him. He’s been a good player. But he didn’t show the type of growth one would normally expect. He’s been pretty unremarkable.   The only categories in which he ever led the league in anything occurred in 2009, when he tied for the league lead in games played and sacrifice flies. He’s never been an All-Star, he’s never been mentioned on any MVP ballots. He’s not who we normally think of when we think of players who have crashed the 3,000 hit club. 
 
The Club
 
If Markakis were to reach 3,000 career hits, he’d have to be the unlikeliest member of that club, wouldn’t he? As a quick review, here are the 32 members of the exclusive 3,000 hit club (statistics of active players through May 11):
 
Color Coding:
Green=Hall of Famer
Red = Ineligible for Hall of Fame
Blue=Not yet retired
Yellow=Retired but not yet appeared on ballot
(I am considering Ichiro Suzuki to be retired, even thought he hasn’t made it official yet)
 
Player
Hits
Batting Average
rWAR
Pete Rose
4,256
.303
79.7
Ty Cobb
4,191
.367
151.0
Hank Aaron
3,771
.305
143.0
Stan Musial
3,630
.331
128.2
Tris Speaker
3,514
.345
134.1
Derek Jeter
3,465
.310
72.4
Honus Wagner
3,430
.329
130.9
Carl Yastrzemski
3,419
.285
96.4
Paul Molitor
3,319
.306
75.7
Eddie Collins
3,314
.333
124.0
Willie Mays
3,283
.302
156.4
Eddie Murray
3,255
.287
68.7
Nap Lajoie
3,252
.339
107.4
Cal Ripken Jr.
3,184
.276
95.9
George Brett
3,154
.305
88.7
Paul Waner
3,152
.333
72.8
Robin Yount
3,142
.285
77.3
Tony Gwynn
3,141
.338
69.2
Alex Rodriguez
3,115
.295
117.8
Dave Winfield
3,110
.283
64.2
Ichiro Suzuki
3,089
.311
59.4
Adrián Beltré
3,079
.287
94.2
Craig Biggio
3,060
.281
65.5
Rickey Henderson
3,055
.279
111.2
Rod Carew
3,053
.328
81.3
Lou Brock
3,023
.293
45.3
Rafael Palmeiro
3,020
.288
71.9
Cap Anson
3,011
.331
94.2
Wade Boggs
3,010
.328
91.4
Al Kaline
3,007
.297
92.8
Albert Pujols
3,005
.304
99.6
Roberto Clemente
3,000
.317
94.5
 
So, everyone in the 3,000 hit club is a Hall of Famer except for Rose (who is ineligible), Palmeiro (who has the steroid cloud surrounding him) and the ones who have not yet appeared on a ballot. I would have to say that, of the players yet to appear on a ballot, Jeter, Ichiro, Beltre, and Pujols are locks (barring any unforeseen scandals that might emerge). A-Rod….well, I guess we’ll have to see what the waters are like at that time. 
 
Who is the worst player among that group? Well, the lowest rWAR belongs to Lou Brock (45.3), but Brock was a helluva player who made his mark on the game. He had his share of shortcomings….he wasn’t great at getting on base, he had a lot of defensive deficiencies…..but he was one of the greatest base stealers of all time, and he was an outstanding performer in the postseason. In my opinion, he’s a very deserving Hall of Famer.
 
Who else might be considered the "worst"? Biggio? Perhaps. In the minds of many, his lasting image might very well be that he limped across the 3,000 hit threshold at age 41, and basically was a player without much value at that point. But at his best, he was pretty good player. Maybe you don’t think he’s a top-10 second baseman (and I don’t either), but I believe most would have him in the top 15. No MVP award, but three top-10 finishes, and a 7-time All Star.
 
Palmeiro? Yes, he certainly has his detractors and he wasn’t thought of as a dominant player either at his position or during his era, and his connection to steroids sunk his Hall of Fame chances, but he is one of only 6 players who combined the twin milestones of 3,000 hits and 500 home runs (Mays, Aaron, Murray, Pujols, and Alex Rodriguez being the others).
 
Anyway, the point is, Markakis, even allowing for the fact that his career is not over yet, really doesn’t have a career that stacks up to any of these players  - not in the stats, nor in his image, nor in prestige, nor in impact.  
 
Markakis’ career rWAR heading into this season was 29.8, and even though that will go up (he already has 2.1 in 2018 as he has been outstanding in the early part of this year), I would say he still projects as someone likely to end up under 40.0 by the time his career wraps up. Maybe he’ll even end up north of 40.0. But, he’s 34 years old, and his rWAR is currently only about half of the next lowest total after Brock (which would be Ichiro’s 59.4).   Even a strong surge in career stretch run would likely leave him well short of the career value that the others in the club have amassed. 
 
Markakis is just simply not in the same class as these players. But the question becomes….is Markakis well positioned to reach 3,000 hits?
 
Is He Likely To Do It?
 
The Sporting News article says that Nick Markakis has "more than a fighter’s chance to reach 3,000". The MLB.com article references the Bill James Favorite Toy tool, which assesses his chance at 28% (of course, that also implies a 72% chance that he won’t). The Favorite Toy projects Markakis to play 4.5 more years, and that he will end up with 2,796 hits. 
 
The MLB.com article mentions that Markakis is ahead of the pace of 9 players who eventually reached 3,000 hits (Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Lou Brock, Rickey Henderson, Ichiro Suzuki, Honus Wagner, Cap Anson, Craig Biggio, and Dave Winfield), although it also concedes that the first 7 of those are not really good comps for Markakis for a variety of reasons. That leaves Biggio and Winfield as the "closest" comps, while also acknowledging that Markakis’ track record is nowhere near even those 2 players. (The Sporting News article points out that Markakis is also ahead of the pace of a 10th member of the club, Rafael Palmeiro)
A couple of things to add from my perspective:
 
Winfield got his 3,000th hit in his age 41 season. He was able to play well into his 40’s because:
1)      He could still crank out home runs, and
2)      He was still "Dave Winfield"
What I mean by that last point was that Winfield was still a star, and as long as he still had the desire to play and he was still able to hit .270 and hit 20 homers a season, someone was likely willing to play him.   He was still well respected, and, even as late as age 40, he was still finishing high in the MVP voting. He was still a star.
 
Biggio was another one whose pace Markakis is ahead of. However:
1)      He could still crank out home runs
2)      He was still "Craig Biggio"
3)      He was the face of the franchise
On that last point…..Biggio, of course, was a one-team player, the one player who (with the possible exception of Jeff Bagwell) was the face of the Houston Astros franchise. He was going to be given every chance to reach 3,000, and he did, crossing the threshold halfway through his final season.
 
In short, I think Biggio and Winfield don’t make for good comps for Markakis when evaluating the likelihood of reaching the 3,000 hit level. Even as their skills diminished, they were able to keep playing enough at an advanced age to reach the 3,000 hit level.
 
The MLB.com article also makes a point that there are 93 players with 2,000 or more hits through age 33 (I actually get 92 when I pull the data, but, regardless), and of those, 25 made it to 3,000 hits (the article was written just before Pujols reached 3,000).   It also pointed out that Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano are on that list, so you can make a reasonable assumption that the success rate is/will be 28 out of 93.   That percentage (30%) happens to be right about what the Favorite Toy would imply as a probability of this happening for Markakis.
 
Of course, it should be said, that the list of 93 players includes the likes of Ty Cobb, who had almost 2,900 hits by that age. Cobb’s ability to reach 3,000 has no relevance for Markakis.
 
Or, Hank Aaron and Robin Yount, each with over 2,600 through age 33. Their success really has no bearing on Markakis either. They were better players, and much further ahead.
 
And so on…..a bunch of guys who were a whole lot better than Markakis, and several of whom had a whole lot more hits than he did.
 
The fact is that, of the players with 2,000 or more hits through age 33, Markakis is only #73 on that list, because the approach makes the mistake of setting the criteria with a near-minimum (2,000 hits) and with no maximum. So, the list is overflowing with a bunch of players who were a whole lot better and a whole lot further along than Markakis on the road to 3,000 hits.
 
Looking at the list of career hits through age 33 even closer…..
 
The 5 immediately above Markakis are Joe Kelley, Charlie Gehringer, Nap Lajoie, Ryne Sandberg, and Ken Griffey Jr. The 5 immediately below Markakis are Tim Raines, Bobby Doerr, Billy Williams, Tony Gwynn, and Del Ennis. All are Hall of Famers (except for Ennis), but Gwynn and Lajoie are the ones from that group who reached 3,000.  So, even among that exceptional group, most of whom were considerably better than Markakis, only 20% of them reached 3,000 hits. That should speak volumes about how difficult it is.
 
So, what would happen if you pulled a different list, of those who are much closer to Markakis’ total, one that puts Markakis more in the middle? What if you take those within 100 hits either direction (1,952 to 2,152) by age 33? That would give you, something we can label "Markakis career hits +/- 5%"
 
Narrowing the query to that range reduces the number from 92 to 57 players (with Markakis being 23rd on the list, much closer to the middle than the previous list). Here they are, sorted by hits through 33, with the eventual 3,000 hit club members highlighted in yellow, and Markakis in gray:
 
 
 
 
Player
Hits Through Age 33 Season
Joe Torre
2,149
Orlando Cepeda
2,144
Vladimir Guerrero
2,136
Sherry Magee
2,134
Ted Simmons
2,116
Buddy Bell
2,115
Carl Yastrzemski
2,112
Mickey Mantle
2,108
Johnny Damon
2,102
Brooks Robinson
2,099
George Brett
2,095
George Sisler
2,094
Charlie Grimm
2,092
Willie Davis
2,091
Eddie Mathews
2,088
George Van Haltren
2,086
Joe Sewell
2,083
Ken Griffey Jr.
2,080
Ryne Sandberg
2,080
Nap Lajoie
2,078
Charlie Gehringer
2,055
Joe Kelley
2,055
Nick Markakis
2,052
Tim Raines
2,050
Bobby Doerr
2,042
Billy Williams
2,040
Tony Gwynn
2,039
Del Ennis
2,038
Jimmy Sheckard
2,035
Arky Vaughan
2,032
Pie Traynor
2,030
Al Oliver
2,028
Joe Cronin
2,027
Jimmy Rollins
2,024
Alan Trammell
2,022
Don Mattingly
2,021
Juan Pierre
2,020
Keith Hernandez
2,010
Harvey Kuenn
2,004
Lou Brock
2,001
Rickey Henderson
2,000
Red Schoendienst
2,000
Dick Bartell
1,997
Kirby Puckett
1,996
Fred Clarke
1,987
Cesar Cedeno
1,983
Max Carey
1,980
Rafael Palmeiro
1,975
Jose Reyes
1,972
Steve Garvey
1,968
Clyde Milan
1,966
Wade Boggs
1,965
Bill Buckner
1,964
George Kell
1,962
John Ward
1,961
Sammy Sosa
1,955
Bill Mazeroski
1,955
 
Lots of good players of all shapes and sizes and talents. 31 of the 57 are in the Hall of Fame. But, only 8 of the 57 players on this list (about 14%) eventually reached 3,000 hits, or about half the likelihood implied by the Favorite Toy.   3 of the 22 above him reached 3,000 hits. That’s also 14%. 5 of the 34 below him reached 3,000 hits. That’s roughly 15%.
 
So, I think that’s a better indicator of his chances. I think 28%, in his case, is too high. 10-15% sounds more like it to me.
 
How about one more list…..looking at players what players did from age 34 on?
 
There are 56 players who collected 950 or more hits from age 34 to the end of their careers. Again, many of these players, like Pete Rose, Cap Anson, Ichiro Suzuki, Honus Wagner, Paul Molitor, Ty Cobb, etc., have very little to do with the chances of Nick Markakis. So who does? Who holds a reasonable model for Markakis to follow?
 
As one of the members in the Bill James Online Reader Posts thread on this topic suggests, Jeff Conine might be a good precedent. Conine was a good but not great player, and from age 34 on, he played another 8 seasons and just over 1,000 games and just over 1,000 hits, hitting .283 and getting about 12 home runs a season. Markakis is a better player than Conine, and he could follow that route.
 
Or, as the MLB.com article suggests, he could follow the precedent of Raul Ibanez, who had virtually no career totals before the age of 30, but was a very good player in his 30’s. Ibanez generated 1,198 hits from age 34 on. Of course, Ibanez had such a strange career arc, I’m not sure I’d model anyone after him.
 
Other non-Hall of Famers that provide hope for Markakis by getting 950 or more hits at age 34 or later include the likes of Mickey Vernon, Brian Downing, and Moises Alou. There are others of fairly recent vintage who would be in this category (including the likes of Brett Butler, Julio Franco, Dave Parker, Steve Finley, and Omar Vizquel) but I’m not sure that any of them are good comps for Markakis. 
 
So, it’s been done, and it’s been done by players that can be considered to have been somewhat comparable to Markakis. But I think any way you reasonably approach it, I’d say it’s a longshot.
 
And What If He Does Make It?
 
If Markakis were to reach 3,000 hits, it would pose a bit of a dilemma for Hall of Fame voters. Would they really vote for Markakis simply because he reaches a threshold, even one as glamorous as the 3,000 hit club? I’m sure many would automatically and reflexively say "yes", that, barring steroids or cheating or some other similar misconduct, 3,000 hits represents a golden ticket to Cooperstown. 
 
In some weird way, I’m almost rooting for Markakis to get there because it would be interesting to see how the vote would go. Would a player who has clearly demonstrated that he’s not a Hall of Famer by any stretch of the imagination be able to get elected simply because he reached that particular milestone?
 
My guess is that he would not. 
 
I think there would be enough voters to see through the smokescreen. It reminds me a little of the concern that was unfolding about 3 decades ago, when Dave Kingman exceeded 400 home runs, and every other previous player who had achieved that level had been elected to the Hall of Fame. When Kingman came up on the ballot, though, he received less than 1% of the vote. The voters were aware of the milestone, but looked at the candidate in his entirety, and soundly rejected the candidate. Kingman may have achieved membership in an exclusive club, but he was no Hall of Famer. And now, even setting aside the cases of those with steroid connections, there have been several 400+ home run hitters who didn’t get much consideration from the Hall: Fred McGriff (although he’s still on the ballot, but with modest support). Carlos Delgado, Darrell Evans.   When Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Alfonso Soriano, and Mark Teixeira come up for consideration in the not-too-distant future, they surely won’t get much more than a passing glance by the voters. Andruw Jones has over 400 home runs, a stellar defensive record in center field, and over 60 rWAR, and he only received about 7% of the vote. The 400 home run threshold was blasted out of the water years ago, and we haven’t looked back since.
 
Although I think the 3,000 hit club is more prestigious than the 400 homer club ever was, I do think the same thing will apply to Markakis if he reaches 3,000 hits. I think some voters would automatically vote for him because that, but I think most wouldn’t. 
 
Hall of Famers aren’t just about numbers or milestones.   They have to appeal to us in some way that makes them worthy of a special kind of remembrance. Even in Bill James’ Hall of Fame Monitor (at least in the version still used on baseball-reference.com), a player receives 40 points for 3,000 career hits. Now 40 points in the context of that tool is a lot. But it doesn’t get you all the way there by itself.
 
Unless he achieves something amazing over the next few seasons, I think Markakis will fall well short by that standard. I trust the voters will use good sense and reject the notion of him as a Hall of Famer even if he joins the 3,000 hit club.
 
Wrapping it Up
 
Markakis strains our concept of what a 3,000 hit player could be. The evidence is that everyone in the 3,000 hit club can be reasonably described as, at the very least, a very good player. Markakis is certainly not outstanding. I wouldn’t even describe him as "very good". He’s good. He’s a good player. But I question whether he will be able to get there. 900 hits is a long ways to go.
 
Of course, none of know what will happen for sure. I don’t disagree that Markakis has a shot. I just don’t think he’ll get there. 
 
Here’s what I think….I think he’ll be in the "close but no cigar category". I’m thinking Al Oliver. I’m thinking Johnny Damon. I’m thinking Rusty Staub. I’m thinking Bill Buckner. I’m thinking Harold Baines. I’m thinking Vada Pinson.   These are all players that ended up with 2,700 – 2,900 hits. They all gave it a bit of a run, but they all ended up between 5-10% short. I think all of those players are much better comps for Markakis than anyone that’s in the 3,000 hit club. And none of them made it.
 
Below are the top 10 comps through age 33 for Markakis using Similarity Scores. As you know, Similarity Scores look at basic hitting stats and make some adjustments for defensive position. I used the list on Seamheads.com (which differs slightly from the one on baseball-reference.com) because I find it easier to work with the results:
 
#
Players
Pos
Score
G
AB
H
HR
RBI
BB
SB
BA
OBP
rWAR
 
Nick Markakis
RF
1,000
1,839
7,135
2,052
165
876
762
63
.288
.358
29.8
 
Average of top 10 comps
 
 
1,812
6,808
1,962
162
873
596
221
.288
.345
41.3
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
Cesar Cedeno
CF
918
1,858
6,936
1,983
190
921
633
535
.286
.347
52.1
2
Johnny Damon
CF
916
1,845
7,303
2,102
166
843
731
333
.288
.353
42.2
3
Buddy Bell
3B
903
1,978
7,500
2,115
157
918
659
48
.282
.340
61.2
4
Al Oliver
CF
893
1,734
6,699
2,028
180
999
367
71
.303
.342
37.2
5
Gary Matthews
LF
888
1,724
6,318
1,806
197
869
802
178
.286
.365
30.4
6
Melky Cabrera
LF
884
1,676
6,250
1,786
131
768
473
98
.286
.335
21.0
7
Carney Lansford
3B
883
1,722
6,646
1,943
144
798
510
217
.292
.345
37.9
8
Willie Davis
CF
880
1,952
7,495
2,091
154
849
350
335
.279
.312
54.4
9
Keith Hernandez
1B
875
1,875
6,677
2,010
146
989
998
96
.301
.391
58.7
10
Claudell Washington
RF
874
1,757
6,255
1,751
150
773
437
295
.280
.328
18.3
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
You probably already noticed three things about that list right away:
1)      None of his top 10 comps reached 3,000 hits
2)      Markakis is, overall, not as valuable of a player (at least according to rWAR) as most of his top comps.
3)      None of his top 10 comps are in the Hall of Fame
The first 2 (Cedeno and Damon) I don’t think are great comps since speed was a big part of their games, but they do compare well in the hitting categories. Just in eyeballing the list, I think Al Oliver is actually the best comp, taking everything into consideration (although Markakis certainly drew a lot more walks).
 
Oliver is an interesting comparison, though, so let’s take a closer look. He had 2,028 hits heading into his age 34 season, essentially the same as Markakis. 
 
Starting from that point in his career, over his next 3 seasons (ages 34-36), had a nice little run. He made the All Star team 3 times, led the league in doubles twice, RBI once, won a batting crown, and finished as high as 3rd in the MVP voting. His age 35 season (1982) may have been the best of his entire career. It was a nice run. 
 
Guess what? Even with that stretch of years in his mid-30’s, he still didn’t reach 3,000 hits, and didn’t even get particularly close. He ended up with 2,743. He hit .300 at age 37, but basically didn’t have power left. He played one more year at age 38, and that was it. No one could use him anymore.
 
Now, Markakis isn’t doomed to Oliver’s fate. That’s one case, and no two players are identical. But, that seems to me to be a more likely path for Markakis, that he’ll hang around, and maybe have another good season or two. Maybe he’s changed. Maybe he’ll have a renaissance.   Maybe he’s become a much different and more valuable player on the heels of his recent launch angle change. Or, maybe his hot start to this season is just a hot start and nothing more, and he’s likely to come up short.
 
There are a few things to point out:
1)      It’s a long way to Tipperary (it’s a long way to go)
2)      It’s a long way to the top (if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll)
3)      It’s a long way to 3,000 hits when you’re a nondescript player in your mid-30’s and you still have 30% left to go to reach your destination
 
I wish Nick good luck. But, I’m betting against him.
 
Thanks for reading,
 
Dan
 
 
 

COMMENTS (37 Comments, most recent shown first)

areuss44
I find this sentence pretty strange: "But at his best, [Craig Biggio] was pretty good player." Craig Biggio is a Hall of Famer. The author of this article suggests that he is the 15th best second baseman of all time. His career WAR is in the top 1% of all players in MLB history. His top ten comps include 7 Hall of Famers (with Jeter, a certain future inductee, and Whitaker, an deserving candidate, being two of the three others). He had seven consecutive years over which he averaged WAR of 6.0. At his very best, he led his league in offensive WAR (once). I'm not even a fan of Craig Biggio, especially, but it seems to me that the scale is way off if that is the description of a "pretty good player" (at his best, no less). I'd describe him as a player who, at is best, was great. For his entire career, I would certainly grant, he was not "historically great" if we reserve that term for the Mount Rushmore players at each position. He was merely "outstanding" or "excellent" or something like that.
8:55 PM May 19th
 
MarisFan61
.....gotta say, Markakis has just been doing even better since then.

(now going over to the Betts article to say the same thing) :-)
10:04 PM May 18th
 
MarisFan61
Bob: Good info, but I wouldn't have thought it's a surprise if people would see them as Klamb said, which I do too and which I'd guess most fans do. I agree that Markakis has been a very good player -- "solid" seems to be a good word -- but I think that rightly or wrongly, Jones has been seen as a star or near star, and Markakis not quite.

Look at these things:

Jones: 5-time all star
Markakis: 0-time all star

Jones: MVP votes 3 times (6th, 13th, 14th)
Markakis: no MVP points ever (he's on course for a few now)

Their HR's might have a lot to do with it.

I think of Markakis as sort of in the Bobby Higginson-Nick Swisher group (a group I just made up).
Jones is in.....dunno.....the Adam Jones group. :-)
Dunno who else would be in it, but feels a notch higher than Higginson-Swisher.

BTW, funnily, Markakis and Jones are ranked exactly equally (78th) at their positions on baseball-ref.com.
10:15 PM May 17th
 
BobGill
klamb: I don't know why you wouldn't have thought Markakis was anywhere close to Jones. I just did a quick check on this very site, and during their seven years as teammates Jones picked up 127 win shares, while Markakis compiled ... 127. Seems pretty close to me.
12:46 PM May 17th
 
klamb819
The Steve Sax test has worked well on Johnny Damon, Jamie Moyer and Adan Dunn (or was it the Kingman test for Dunn). I was thinking about who might be next, and I was surprised to see that Markakis has 400 more hits than Adam Jones, in the same number of years, although Jones hardly played in his first two seasons. Jones has been durable, too. They were Orioles teammates for seven years, and I don't think I ever considered Markakis anywhere close to Jones, even though I always thought Markakis was underrated.

Markakis is two months younger than Votto and nearly 500 hits ahead of him, even though Markakis also has a high walk rate. That's one way to appreciate how much higher than high Votto's walk rate is. Besides, Markakis got nearly a two-year head start.

I would rank Early Wynn the third best pitcher of the 1950s, behind Spahn & Roberts in whichever order, but ahead of Pierce, Lemon and maybe Ford, Newcombe & Antonelli. He won 20 games 5 times, was top 6 in 3 MVP votes, won a Cy Young and had only 3 ERAs above 3.20. He's remembered now for whiffing so often on that 300th win, but after he got it, Cleveland kept him the whole 1963 season and he wound up with a 2.28 ERA. The other knock he got was for 244 losses, but that was because he went 72-87 with a lot of bad Washington teams before going to Cleveland at age 28. He didn't hang on, and his 300th win was seen as a rung ABOVE the Hall of Fame, not something he needed to get there.
6:36 AM May 17th
 
aagcobb
Markakis has been a remarkably durable and consistent player virtually any team would be happy to plug into their lineup without having anything remotely resembling a HOF career. If his hot start this year continues and he can get 200+ hits that would improve his odds of making 3k; but his consistency and durability would still have to hold up through the rest of his thirties and that just isn't likely. He reminds me of Buckner, though Markakis is better and more durable, who played until he was 40 and ended up with 2,715 hits. I remember an article Bill wrote about Biggio saying he was the best player of the nineties. Biggio's hitting stats were hurt by playing in the Astrodome and he was one of those players who was good at every aspect of the game without being a league leader in the triple crown stats that get players noticed.
12:30 AM May 15th
 
MarisFan61
(The link does work if we copy/paste it into the address bar.)

For some reason it's like that with most links that we try to put in the article Comments.
7:14 PM May 14th
 
pbspelly
link may not work, but the article was called N. Crabcakes, and was pretty interesting.
3:45 PM May 14th
 
pbspelly
Dave Fleming wrote a piece several years ago about the similarity between young Markakis and young Yaz. Obviously, Markakis's career went in a different direction

https://www.billjamesonline.com/article1571/

3:42 PM May 14th
 
MarisFan61
I doubt there's much doubt about Early Wynn making it even if he'd stopped at a Tommy John or Jim Kaat-type number.
He had "it." :-)

Granting that I was 9 years old at the time, my impression was that he was a "Big Name" in a way that guys like John and Kaat weren't; even in a way that Sutton and Biggio weren't.
3:19 PM May 14th
 
evanecurb
Sutton and Biggio have been mentioned as players whose Hall of Fame votes were greatly enhanced by their achievement of milestones. I'll add Early Wynn to that list. Not sure he would have made it without getting to 300 wins.
1:50 PM May 14th
 
smbakeresq
The benchmark of 3000 hits and others were established when players did it in a shorter time frame before injury and age got them. The older players who hit those milestones got there in a more compressed time frame.

Today, advances in conditioning and injury treatment extend playing time and age that those benchmarks are getting blurrier over time. One thing I think is just incredible about a player mentioned above is that Ichiro got to 3000 hits with 0 hits through his age 26 season. Sure he hung on to get them, but then he was prevented from playing in MLB until age 27 by rules he did not create.

11:42 AM May 14th
 
smbakeresq
Nothing wrong with being a fine player for a long time, but greatness is very different.
11:34 AM May 14th
 
mikeclaw
I went through similar machinations several years ago with Johnny Damon. He had a very realistic shot at 3K at that point, and yet my friend in baseball research told me: "He won't make it, because no one of his caliber has ever made it." Didn't make sense to me at the time, but I came to understand what he meant - that no matter what the statistics are and the projections, historically guys like Damon and Markakis simply haven't sustained that level long enough to cross the finish line. Fine players, fine careers, but ...

That said, at some point someone will get there.
11:31 AM May 14th
 
MarisFan61
.....about Biggio in those 2B rankings: in fairness to him, take Lazzeri off that list of lower-ranked guys who we might consider to be even with him or ahead.
But it sure does look like #15 is fair, if not a little generous.
12:41 AM May 14th
 
OldBackstop
By the way, four (4) Black Inks for Markakis.
8:51 PM May 13th
 
MarisFan61
sorry, glitch: "on the other hand" belongs with that last paragraph
2:29 PM May 13th
 
MarisFan61
It looks to me like his #15 ranking (by "WAR" criteria) is awfully close to spot-on.
If anything I'd slip him down a few spots. It's very hard for me to see how one might really consider him much better than #15 unless you put very great weight on 'accumulation.'

Look at the players ranked around him. First, the ones ahead of him: Do we really think he should be ahead of any of them??
I suppose some people might. But I sure wouldn't. There are a couple who I'd say I might flip behind Biggio (Whitaker, Utley) but basically I consider those too close to call. But on the other hand

Taking it from #14 on down: Alomar, Whitaker, Jackie Robinson, Frisch, Sandberg, Utley, Grich, Cano, Gehringer, and 4 more that needn't be listed.

I'd say we have to wonder big-time if Biggio really belongs ahead of these lower-ranked guys:
Gordon (16), Doerr (22), Fox (23), Lazzeri (24), Evers (29), Mazeroski (really) (50).

2:28 PM May 13th
 
Hal10000
"Maybe you don't think he’s a top-10 second baseman (and I don't either), but I believe most would have him in the top 15. "

He's ranked about 15th by B-R but I think that vastly under-rates him. At his peak, he was one of the best players in the game.
1:33 PM May 13th
 
MarisFan61
No, 'the number' is "Do I consider him a great player." :-)
1:29 PM May 13th
 
OldBackstop
Something like 16 of 20 guys over 2770 and less than 3000 hits are in, and one of those is Bonds. Then only something like 6 of the 15 between 2700 and 2773 are in. So maybe that is the number.

Numbers rough because I am squinting at a droid.
1:09 PM May 13th
 
MarisFan61
(sayhey: I thought you were just seconding what Dan wrote!
Hadn't looked weird to me, and I'd guess not to others. You coulda got away with it.) :-)

I had felt similarly about Kingman and 500: wished he'd get there, not just to see if he'd make the HOF but because I thought it was very likely he still wouldn't -- and that would have immediately debunked the common wisdom about that benchmark and maybe all the others too.

I never thought the "benchmarks" were truly automatics for the Hall of Fame; I thought it was sort of coincidence that all the players who had reached them were in. It so happened that all the players so far who had 3000 hits or 500 HR's or 300 wins were great players, which makes sense because this would be very very likely for someone who does, but I didn't think it meant that if someone reached one of those numbers without having been perceived as great, he'd necessarily make it too. Of course to some extent this became circular: if someone reached the numbers, a lot of people thought that meant he is a great player (Sutton benefited from that; btw I know that Bill's more recent work has shown that Sutton truly was better than how he was seen by many) -- but I figured that's not enough people, and that it would mostly dissolve if someone like Kingman reached 500.
11:40 AM May 13th
 
Riceman1974
Christ. I had no idea Mak had 2,000 plus hits. But I agree he has no chance for all reasons listed above and below. He'll get to 2700 and then fade away.

I love the Al Oliver comp. Al was a better player than Mak, but like Mak a solid player you never considered a potential HOFer. Bill Madlock was also like that. Im old. Good times.

Not to keep knocking on Mak, but in 4 years of playing Draftkings and entering 300 MLB lineups, I think I picked Mak twice. Too pricey for his talent level, and there are so many more outfielders to choose from.

Great article.​
9:15 AM May 13th
 
DaveNJnews
Strikes me that Markakis could end up like Del Ennis, a consistent player from 1946 (one of the first Phillies Whiz Kids, though no one called him them that at the time) til 1957, then had an awful year in 1958 and saw his career end.

That’s a knock on either one. I expect if it does happen that way, in 10-20 years, people will look back and say, “Markakis was really pretty good, wasn’t he?”


8:46 AM May 13th
 
jeffburk
Who else might be considered the "worst"? Biggio? Perhaps. In the minds of many, his lasting image might very well be that he limped across the 3,000 hit threshold at age 41, and basically was a player without much value at that point. But at his best, he was pretty good player. Maybe you don't think he’s a top-10 second baseman (and I don't either), but I believe most would have him in the top 15.

You may be spending too much time thinking about the likes of Markakis if your understanding of Biggio is this limited.
8:41 AM May 13th
 
DMBBHF
Thanks for all the comments, guys.

Maris,

Thanks for the comments on the article and the approach. You may be right that, even at 10-15%, I'm overstating his chances, but I still allow for the possibility that he could string it out. Put another way....I thought I was doing it justice taking it down into the neighborhood of the probability of Sandy Koufax getting a base hit.....but you want to knock it all the way down to Ron Herbel territory. :) Fair enough.

Also....I don't think Bill has updated the Favorite Toy formula. Anytime I search for it on various sites, it seems to be the same calculation.

OBS,

Well, I think it needs to be greater than 0%, but I do agree that Markakis may be moving on from the Braves after this year even if he does continue to play well. They are certainly going young, and with Markakis once again reaching free agent status in 2019, they may move on from each other.

I do think if he continues to have a good year, though, I have to think he'll end up somewhere. My thought is that he'll hang on for a few more years, but that it will come to a pretty sudden end where he simply has no more value left, and end up at least a couple of hundred hits short. I think his end is still at least 3 or 4 years away.

Thanks,
Dan
7:09 AM May 13th
 
MattGoodrich
That's what I love about these forums - I didn't realize Markakis had that many hits. I'm now rooting for him to get 3000. I don't think he'll make it, but I'll root for him.

It's pretty common to disparage Kingman and I will too, but in my old age I've come to appreciate him for his unique abilities. I was at game and saw him bat and foul off a couple pitches that must have gone 1000 ft into the air. I kid you not - I have never seen a foul pop up to the stands go so high. He was pretty one dimensional, but that one dimension was very impressive. It's a more interesting world with that sort of player around.


1:45 AM May 13th
 
sayhey
My comment below must look bizarre--you talk about Kingman in the article! Sorry, hadn't read the whole thing when I posted.
12:56 AM May 13th
 
sayhey
"In some weird way, I’m almost rooting for Markakis to get there because it would be interesting to see how the vote would go."

In 1986, during his mini-resurgence with the A's, I was rooting for Kingman to get to 500 HR for exactly the same reason. There was nobody alive who thought Kingman was even remotely qualified for the HOF, but the significance of 500 HR hadn't yet been diluted, and he had a legitimate shot--coming out of the '86 season, he was 37, had 442 HR, was coming off seasons of 35/30/35, and seemingly had a secure job DH'ing with Oakland. He seemed to run into a) owner collusion, and b) the reality that he was Dave Kingman, and he never played again after '86.

Like you with Markakis, I just wanted to see how the HOF voting would unfold for a 500-HR Dave Kingman.
5:58 PM May 12th
 
3for3
The whole 3000 thing is a Hof standard because you need to be great to play long enough to get to 3000. Therefore Markakis won’t make 3000 because he isn’t great...
4:30 PM May 12th
 
sansho1
One thing in his favor is the special dispensation he seems to have to play every single day.
2:54 PM May 12th
 
OldBackstop
I'd put this at 0.0%. Moe likely he will be out of the league in a year or two.

He is a free agent after this year. He will be a 35 year old OFer who has no speed, no power, negative dWAR the past five years. The guys that have done this are often beloved franchise icons or, as you says, Winfield level superstars.

Markakis may not even get a contract from the going young Braves.

He's played a handful of games at first....all OF. Not exactly a retirement plan for an old OF with negative dWARS .

DH? Who is going to hire a guy with no power for DH?

His career is notable only by counting stats, he has shown up for 150+ games every year.

I'd pose this question -- who will even sign him next year? He is a 35 year old who only has played OF, negative dWARs, never any power, never any speed.

Will he even be playing in 2019, never mind getting 1000 more hits.
2:03 PM May 12th
 
Manushfan
I picture him winding up with about 2500 or so hits for some reason. He's okay but he just won't last long enough for the 3000. I liked the Oliver comp that one's not bad though Oliver was in the batting crown run much more.
1:07 PM May 12th
 
MarisFan61
re Those's posts: (BTW, I always pretty much assumed it was about Steve Sax but didn't know it was known to be.)
I thought the friend's comment was very apt, and it seemed very right as a shorthand that covered the subject. But, while it's not that I think Markakis has any great shot and I'm about to say that I think even Dan is overestimating the chance, I don't think the old comment still applies. As always, such statements depend on 'barring major changes in the game.' Likewise the Favorite Toy, which didn't and couldn't have had any idea of what to do with an era when there was a new underlying aspect of the game which came and (presumably, hopefully) went, followed by a time when there were such changes in how pitching staffs are used and how fielders are positioned, and apparently in what kinds of offensive players were valued. I don't think the comment of that friend would rule out someone like Markakis in the way that it would have back then -- but I also don't think the Favorite Toy (and its favorable figure for him) much applies either, unless Bill has updated the method any time recently, which I'm not aware that he has.

Dan: You cover this terrifically. I love especially the principles in how you narrow down the supposed "comps." I do think that even your reduced likelihood figure is way generous. The main thing I think tells the story is to look at his career path of recent years, especially taking account of year-by-year quality and the trend in various skills, and to consider what's the likelihood of such a player to be a regular player long enough to get what he needs. In order to do that, he'd have to either suddenly be a much better player at age 34½, which indeed is suggested by this year so far but which is a kind of thing we tend to doubt, or to extremely defy usual aging patterns. I'd say the chance of that is more like low single digits. I know that views on this could differ.
11:54 AM May 12th
 
rwarn17588
I think the comparison of Markakis:3000 and Kingman:400 is a good one. The Baseball Hall of Fame voters take a lot of crap for their votes (sometimes rightfully so). But snubbing Kingman for the HOF was a sound decision. And if Markakis gets 3,000, he'll get the Kingman treatment (unless he turns into Adrian Beltre or something like that in his final years).
9:20 AM May 12th
 
those
One correction: Sax was 32 heading into the 1992 season.
9:16 AM May 12th
 
those
In the 1992 Baseball Book, Bill had an article where he quoted a friend who had a simple rule that, "No one gets 3,000 hits unless he's a great player." Bill wrote something like, "I couldn't think of an exception, and the player, whoever he was, saw his chance go from 40 to 0 within a few years."

The article was about Steve Sax. At that time, Sax had 1,781 hits, and he was 31 years old. He hit .304 with 198 hits and 31 stolen bases in 1991, and was showing a legitimate chance to get 3,000 hits (about 33 percent, if I figured it correctly using The Favorite Toy on BR-Bullpen).

Anyway, that's who I thought of when I read about Nick Markakis getting 3,000 hits. He's not a great player, so my feeling is he won't get there.
8:43 AM May 12th
 
 
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