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Beltre and the 3,000-Hit Club

August 7, 2017

On Sunday, during the fourth inning of a 10-6 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, Adrian Beltre hit a double down the third-base line to become just the 31st player to reach 3,000 career hits. He is the only player from the Dominican Republic and the fifth player not born in the United States to reach such an amazing feat.

Bill James created a method called "The Favorite Toy" that estimates a player’s chance to both meet career milestones and to break records. It uses the number of additional seasons a player is likely to play, the level of performance he needs in each of those seasons to meet a given milestone, and the rate at which the player has been moving towards the milestone thus far.

At the beginning of this season, per the Bill James Handbook 2017, here were the players who were most likely to reach 3,000 hits:

Player Percent Chance to Reach 3000-Hits
Adrian Beltre 95%
Albert Pujols 83%
Miguel Cabrera 64%
Robinson Cano 51%
Nick Markakis 27%
Jose Altuve 22%
Melky Cabrera 19%
Elvis Andrus 16%


At the end of this season, the above probabilities will be updated for the 2018 Handbook. However, here are the players with the greatest chance to join Beltre in the 3,000-hit club if we assume that players continue to hit at their 2017 season pace for the remainder of this season:

Player Percent Chance to Reach 3000-Hits
Albert Pujols 91%
Miguel Cabrera 66%
Robinson Cano 51%
Jose Altuve 26%
Nick Markakis 24%
Elvis Andrus 21%
Melky Cabrera 19%
Eric Hosmer 19%


While Adrian Beltre is the first player from the Dominican Republic to reach 3,000 hits, he will likely not be alone for long. Albert Pujols currently has a 91 percent chance of joining him. He has 2,918 career hits including his 93 so far this season, so is likely to reach this milestone during the 2018 season.

After Pujols, Miguel Cabrera is the most likely player to reach 3,000 hits with a 66 percent chance. He currently has 2,607 hits and is playing in only his 15th season, as opposed to the 17th for Pujols and 20th for Beltre. His 162-game average for hits of 193 is the highest of the three players. Pujols’ average is 187 and Beltre’s is 175.


COMMENTS (14 Comments, most recent shown first)

.....If I'm right in what I'm indicating about the formula (and remember, I'm not intending to suggest change or 'improvements' in it, just replying in terms of what has been raised), then what it would mean is that the formula could be better if it felt like looking at details like how close a player is to not being good enough to play regularly any more, including things like taking into account how his defense and his "speed" score are going.
9:14 PM Aug 9th
To reply in terms of what you're saying, I'm saying (sort of) that the formula misses stuff.

As I noted earlier, I realize that the formula is a rough thing. Yes, it shows us (or can show us) things we might not know intuitively. But I'm saying there are kinds of things where it's 'off,' and this seems a clear example.

Sure, as you say, it can happen that a player stays just as good (or at least close) till he's 40. But, it's not nearly common enough to justify a 19% chance. If you want evidence for it, again I'll refer to those top 10 comps on baseball-ref. None had more than about 2100 career hits. Markakis will have more, but (IMO) that's likely to have been 'artificially' assisted, as Melky's probably has been too. But screw that (if you wish); none of those guys did what you're banking on Melky doing, if you want to argue for his getting 3000 hits.
9:12 PM Aug 9th
The purpose of the Favorite Toy is to show us something that intuition by itself would not reveal. It's done that here, I think, and your insistence that it's wrong (even at great length) doesn't really tell us much. You've stated in multiple ways that you don't think Melky will make it to 40, and that's the entirety of your argument. Melky's career has already been a good deal more impressive than it was supposed to be.... he's probably a good guy in the clubhouse and he just might have a touch of the Beltre thing where they'll have to tear the uniform off his body. Melky's a lifer and plays every day. Those guys can sneak up on you. You think he's almost at replacement level, but he's clearly likely to hang on for at least another three years, and people's intuition (that word again) about whether someone will hang around 2,3,4,5,6,7 years is just lousy. 19% seems maybe a couple points high, but it just isn't this wildly off-base estimate. Bye for now.
7:49 PM Aug 9th
P.S. A little tangential, but.... I know that I've used that thing from Bill in the '84 Abstract as a model for other things, work-related and otherwise; I mean things in general, not just for baseball.

The idea of looking at an unlikely prospect in terms of what things would need to happen for it to occur, and what's the chance of all those respective things... It's not far from ways of thinking that I knew academically. But, I'd never come across or thought of it being applied to practical things. (Was that education's failing, or mine?) Bill's thing in that '84 Abstract was an eye-opener, a direct way of trying to get a fix on the chance of some outcome. It's a way that can make us realize that a thing we regard as quite possible isn't really -- 'hey, you'd need this and this AND this to happen, and what's the chance of all that'; or to realize that a thing that feels extremely unlikely ISN'T -- 'hey, if that and that and that happens, this thing might well happen, and that's not all that unlikely'....
3:44 PM Aug 9th
Re wovenstrap and bearbyz suggesting that the 19% estimate sort of agrees with what I said, because we're both saying he very probably won't make it:
NO. :-)

It's a question of difference in order of magnitude. I'm saying 19% is WAY high. I didn't give a percentage chance for what I think, because (for better or worse, mostly the latter) I don't deal in such specifics. But, if I had to say what's the chance of the phenomena that would need to occur for Melky to reach 3000 hits, I'd say it's about 3%, at the most.

To summarize: He'd need to remain a good enough player to play regularly for at least 5 more years, conservatively; probably more like 6-7, not to mention that he'd have to be a quite good regular for the entire period. Considering that he's 33, I don't see how one would believe the chance is anywhere close to 19%.

It's maybe nice to see agreement even when there's real disagreement but, what it reminds me of is what Bill said (here I go again) :-) .....I think it was in his great article in the 1984 Abstract where he suggested that the Cubs were a great candidate to be a "miracle team," as they indeed turned out to be. He spent a paragraph or more saying that while it's not uncommon for teams to be considered 100-1 shots (or longer) to win the pennant, it's probably never really the case that they are. He went through some detail in saying what kinds of things could happen in the Cubs' division that year that would allow the Cubs to win it -- which I may have sort of used as my model for what I said below, I don't know -- and wound up concluding that the chance that all those things would happen seemed to be far less unlikely than what the odds showed.

That's what I did here. Bill didn't disagree that it was unlikely for the Cubs to win the division or the pennant, just that the official odds were way too long. Yes, the article implies it's unlikely that Melky will reach 3000 hits; I just think the implied odds are way too short.
3:03 PM Aug 9th
The name "Mike Trout" seems to be missing from this list. As of the start of this season, which he entered with 917 hits, the favorite toy gives Trout a 25% shot at reaching 3,000 hits, which seems mildly conservative to me. My primary reason for saying that is the toy's projection for Trout to have 9 more seasons. That would have him out of baseball by 2025, which seems unlikely if he avoids injury. The toy thinks his eventual hit total will be 2471.
6:12 AM Aug 9th
You can look at it this way Maris, there is an 81 percent chance he won't make it. That sounds a lot worse.
9:54 PM Aug 8th
Albert Pujols current line is 228/272/379 for an OPS+ of 75 in a year in which he's stayed off the disabled list. He's 37 years old, and he's already reached the milestone he was shooting for---600 home runs. The Angels still owe him a ton of money and are likely to keep him around if only to squeeze whatever value they can about his crawl to 3000 hits, but he's a very proud man, and there's no guarantee he'll want to come back next year as a shell of his former self.
8:25 PM Aug 8th
Sometime around 2009 or 2010 I posted on an Orioles messageboard that I thought there was a 1-in-3 or 1-in-4 chance of Nick Markakis getting 3000 hits and having a HOF career. I was mostly called bad names.

It's kind of odd and interesting that he's seen his career peak early and has had maybe five years of being just another random player, but he still has about a 1-in-4 chance at 3000 hits.
11:36 AM Aug 8th
Missing from this list: Starlin Castro.

Castro is five months younger than Eric Hosmer, and has 169 more hits (1244 to 1075). Castro's chances have dropped a bit because he's playing on a team with a lot of good top-of-the-order candidates, so he doesn't get as many at-bats. If he goes somewhere and gets to be a #2 hitter again, he should get back on track.

Just me, I'd take the infielders over the OF/1B candidates. Easier to stay employed if you can stick somewhere on the infield.
9:24 AM Aug 8th
The optimist might say Melky's number is too low.
9:13 AM Aug 8th
I'm not hugely bullish on Melky myself (I know Bill is), but I think your analysis misses a few things. First, 19% is a rather small chance, a 1 in 5 chance. It's stating what you keep saying, which is that he probably won't do it. So in that sense you and the assessment agree. Melky has 1735 hits right now. He has an established hit level of about 165 per season. He needs to keep going for about 7-8 seasons to get to 3000. Melky is very durable and has been playing as a regular since he was 22. He was never incredibly fast but if you divide all of baseball up into two groups, fast/slow, he'd be in the fast group, and we all know that fast players age well.

The player we're talking about happens to be on pace to break his previous high for HRs, so there doesn't seem to be any reason to discuss his tailing off or anything. I think 19% is a decent estimate.
7:08 AM Aug 8th
Steven Goldleaf
Altuve, Markakis, Andrus, Melky Cabrera, and Hosmer combine for 109%, which means roughly that one of them will succced and four of them will fall short. They're bunched up pretty tightly between 26% and 19% so it's really anybody's guess.
5:23 AM Aug 8th
I have no hesitation to say (then again I had no hesitation to say that there was no way Trump would become president) that the Melky number is way high, in part because of a failure to take into account what we might put broadly under the rubric of Forensic Sabermetrics but which I'd say is pretty close to plain logic. But mainly for simpler reasons.

The main reason it's way high is just that he's not a good enough player to play regularly long enough to approach 3000 hits unless he has some way to keep from becoming a drop worse in the next few years. And he's already 33. (I know I'm jumping the gun by 4 days on that.) :-)
Look at some of his (don't pass out, folks) metrics.

His OPS+'s in the past 3 years are 97, 118, 109. Superficially that looks pretty good; it looks stable. But, take account of his age, and I think it leads to the above.

If you don't think that does, take this:
His WAA's (Wins Above Average) are -1.1, +0.4, and (so far this year) -0.4.
He shows much better on Win Shares, but with fielding totals that are just fair-to-middling in recent years, and (I'd say) with little room for decline if he's going to be continuing to play regularly.

....and there's more: His regular play depends to a fair extent on speed. He's far from 'fast' any more, as you can see from his numbers; he's probably 'OK.' But again, if he drops even a little.....well I don't have to tell you that this would contribute to both offensive and defensive decline. I don't think he has much room, if any, for drop-off in speed in order for him to keep being a regular.

What it comes down to is, whatever percentage chance you think might exist for his reaching 3000 hits relies on his somehow hardly declining at all in the next few years.
Does anyone think the chance of that is anywhere near as high as 19%? I doubt anywhere near 19% of players manage that.
Well why not look at what was the story for his "by-age" comps on
None got anywhere close to 3000. The highest has been 2109 (Chris Chambliss). Markakis is on the list, and he has just over 2000. He'll probably wind up with the highest total of these guys, but he won't reach 3000 either.

Oh -- where does the 'forensic sabermetrics' come in?
We know that he used 'stuff' in the past, and I think it's safe to figure that his performance was enhanced by it, so, some of his performance to date depended on a factor that presumably isn't continuing.
But forget that; we don't need it.

I love the "Favorite Toy" projections. They were one of my most favorite features of the old annuals -- those and the "Tracers" were probably my two favorites. And I understand (actually I should say I guess) that the formulas for them are necessarily a bit simplistic; it's probably not worth trying to take account of the kinds of things I talked about here for a "toy." I'm not suggesting that the formula should include things like how fast the guy still is and how good his fielding still is and how close he is to no longer being even an average player (or already below average, as is arguably the case here).

But all I'm saying is what I'm saying. :-)
The number for him is way high. If you think it isn't, it means you think there's a 19% chance he'll defy aging till he's at least 38 or so, and there isn't.
8:37 PM Aug 7th
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