Twenty eight players have accumulated 3,000 hits or more. Twenty five players have hit 500 home runs or more. Pete Rose tops the hit list with 4,256, Roberto Clemente finished with exactly 3,000. Barry Bonds is the all time home run leader with 762, Eddie Murray squeaked over the line finishing with 504.
I wanted to take a deeper look at the 3,000 hit and 500 home run clubs to see what group actually produced the better hitters and overall players.
Below is a look at the 3,000 hit club.[gview file="http://www.replacementlevelpodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/3000-hit-club1.pdf" save="1"]
Are those twenty eight hitters the best hitters of all time? Some of them are, but some of the best hitters to ever play fall short of the mark including; Barry Bonds (2,935), Babe Ruth (2,873), Lou Gehrig (2,721), and Ted Williams (2,654).
The twenty eight members of the 3,000 hit club produced an average career slash line of .311/.382/.468. That’s an OPS of .851 with an OPS+ of 134. Those numbers all exceed the overall Hall of Fame averages of .303/.376/.461 with an OPS of .837 and a OPS+ OF 128.
Including Deacon White, there are now 146 position players enshrined in the Hall of Fame because of their MLB playing careers. That group of 146 produced an average WAR (Baseball-Reference) of 63.1 The average WAR for the members of the 3,000 hit club is 91.3.
Not surprisingly the members of the 3,000 hit club were better hitters than your average Hall of Famer, the grotesque WAR difference suggests they were also better overall players.
But are they better than the 500 home run club?[gview file="http://www.replacementlevelpodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/500-HR-Club1.pdf" save="1"]
Clearly this list features many of the best hitters ever to play, but there are some notable omissions as well. Ty Cobb played before home runs were really a thing, he finished with “only” 117. Gehrig falls just short of list with 493 homers, as does Stan Musial who hit 475.
The twenty five members of the 500 home run club produced an average career slash line of .292/.394/.550. That’s an OPS of .943 with an OPS+ of 152. Those numbers not only exceed the Hall of Fame averages, they top the numbers produced by the 3,000 hit club as well. The 3,000 hit club got more hits (obviously) yielding a higher batting average (.311-.292), however the sluggers drew more walks producing a higher OBP (.394-.382). Slugging percentage is a runaway for the home run group (.550-.468), as in OPS+ (152-134). The average WAR of each group is almost identical (91.3/90.5). If you prefer looking at the median of the groups, the 3,000 hit club gets the edge in WAR (87.9/79.2).
Each group produced a similar quality of overall players, however the 500 home run club produced the better group of hitters. Is there another group that perhaps bests them both?
Twenty one players finished their career (min 5,000 PA) with a batting average of .300 or more, an on-base percentage of .400 or higher, and a slugging percentage of .500 or greater.
Here is a look at the .300/.400/.500 group, sorted by plate appearances.[gview file="http://www.replacementlevelpodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/300_400_500-Club1.pdf" save="1"]
Like the 3,000 hit and 500 home run clubs, this group includes many of the best hitters to ever play, and also has some notable omissions. Barry Bonds just missed (.298 AVG), as did Mickey Mantle (.298 AVG), and Jeff Bagwell (.297 AVG). Some of the other notable misses include Willie Mays (.384 OBP), Hank Aaron (.374 OBP), and Alex Rodriguez (.384 OBP). No hitter appears in all three groups.
The twenty one members of the .300/.400/.500 club produced an average career slash line of .330/.425/.563. That’s an OPS of .987 with an OPS+ of 161. Wow! The .300/.400/.500 group tops the 3,000 hit club in every rate stat including batting average (.330-.311). They top the 500 home run group in every rate state including slugging percentage (.563-.550). The .300/.400./500 club produced an average OPS+ of 161, only thirteen players in MLB history (min 5,000 PA) exceed that mark, nine are in this group.
Even though this group produced the better hitters or at least the better hitting numbers, the average WAR (91.8) is almost identical two the other two clubs (91.3/90.5). If we use median the 3,000 hit group ranks first in WAR (87.9), followed by the .300/.400/.500 group at (81.5), and the home run group at 79.2
The players of the 3,000 hit group played longer than the other clubs and thus have more plate appearances and at-bats. The members of the slash line group on average had shorter careers resulting in fewer plate appearances, allowing their rate stats to stay higher.
In case you were wondering, it’s not like 5,000 plate appearances was some sort of magical cut off to prove a point. Drop the PA’s to a minimum of 3,000 and you only add another two players.
Lefty O’Doul played from 1919-1934 and finished his career with a slash line of .316/.415/.553 but did so in only 3,563 career plate appearances. O’Doul played in 100 games or more only six times in his career (28-33).
Joey Votto has a career slash line of .316/.415/.553 but has done so in only 3,064 plate appearances. Votto is still active, and still performing at his peak. Votto will not always be this good, but he does have enough of a cushion in all three categories that he will likely retire as the 22nd member of the actual group.
Alex Rodriguez will eventually become the 5th member to join both the 3,000 hit and 500 home run clubs. His hit total currently sits at 2,901. He should be a lock to eventually get to 3,000, but didn’t we used to say the same thing about him reaching Bonds’ career home run total?
Albert Pujols has a reasonable chance at becoming the first member of all three groups. His slash line of .325/.414/.608 gives him plenty of room to age and regress and still meet standards. Barring an injury or a career low home run total, he should join the 500 home run club late next season. Pujols currently has 2,246 hits. He is under contract for nine more years, he just needs to average 84 hits a season to reach the 3,000 hit plateau by the end of his contract. That seems very doable.
One other note, because the numbers used to the compile the averages are MLB stats only, it makes it impossible for me to include players who played exclusively in the Negro Leagues. Nothing has diluted stats and the integrity of the game like the exclusion of black players for over fifty years. While I can’t include them with these averages, I encourage you to visit the websites for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame to find out more about the many great players who were shamefully excluded from the game because of the color of their skin.
It’s also worth noting that sometimes FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference have slightly different numbers for the same player. For example, FanGraphs has Willie Mays with 12,493 plate appearances, Baseball-Reference has him at 12,496. These slight differences are common with historical players, the differences aren’t enough to skew the averages but it’s worth mentioning that the statistics represented in the charts above were compiled using data from Baseball-Reference.
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Originally posted 12/17/12