The New York Times ran an interesting graphic recently on the 27 major-leaguers who have gotten 3,000 hits – in anticipation of the Yankees’ Derek Jeter joining their ranks. A few things in the item jumped out at you:
● The First 13 members of the club are very different from the Next 14. Twelve of the first 13 – Cap Anson, Honus Wagner, Nap Lajoie, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Paul Waner, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline and Pete Rose – won batting titles. Nine won multiple batting titles. The only non-titlist: Eddie Collins.
● In the more recent group, only five of the 14 won batting titles – Carl Yastrzemski (3), Rod Carew (7), George Brett (3), Tony Gwynn (8) and Wade Boggs (5). Lou Brock, Robin Yount, Dave Winfield, Eddie Murray, Paul Molitor, Cal Ripken, Rickey Henderson, Rafael Palmiero and Craig Biggio didn’t win any – and neither has Jeter.
● By the same token, only Kaline (.297) in the first group didn’t finish with a career average of .300 or higher. Nine in the second group, on the other hand, finished below that level – Brock (.293), Yastrzemski (.285), Yount (.285), Winfield (.283), Murray (.287), Ripken (.276), Henderson (.279), Palmiero (.288) and Biggio (.281). (And eight of them, you’ll notice, finished below .290.)
The meaning of 3,000 hits, in other words, has changed over the years. No longer does it necessarily signify: This guy was one of the greatest hitters of his generation. More often now it signifies: This guy was a good-to-very-good hitter who enjoyed great longevity (and may have had some other things going for him – such as, in Lou Brock’s case, the ability to steal bases).
Brock’s career OPS+, after all, was a modest 109, and Biggio’s was 111. Kaline, meanwhile – the .297 hitter – checks in at 134.
Food for thought, no?