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Monday, September 18, 2023

Can Freddie Freeman Re-Open the 3,000 Hit Club?

What makes the nadir of the 3,000 Hit Club so jarring to a baseball fan is the newness of this phenomenon. The explosion of offense in the 1990s wasn’t just homers, but batting average as well. Even going back 10 years, there were always a lot of players with career hit totals somewhere north of 2,000.

In 2023, that number is seven, and that’s only because there were four new members this year: Freeman, Jose Altuve, Elvis Andrus, and Andrew McCutchen. (I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Evan Longoria won’t get 72 hits over the next two weeks.) Contrast that with 2004, which featured 27 active players with 2,000 career hits.

That brings us back to Freeman. While he was always good at hitting for average throughout his 20s, his hallmark was his year-to-year consistency rather than amassing batting titles. Batting average tends to peak rather early, and Freeman wasn’t at the top of the leaderboards in either hits or batting average over the first decade of his career.

As noted above, most players see big batting average dips when they cross 30. Even looking just at players who managed 3,000 hits, their batting averages in their 30s were about 20 points lower than their 20s. Freeman didn’t get the memo, however; the three best batting averages of his career have all come within the last four seasons, despite league batting average bottoming out. This year, he’s at .335, arguably a more impressive number than his .341 in the shortened 2020 season.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 18, 2023 at 05:25 PM | 39 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: freddie freeman

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   1. DCA Posted: September 18, 2023 at 05:38 PM (#6141674)
Freeman wasn’t at the top of the leaderboards in either hits or batting average over the first decade of his career.

Freeman led the NL in hits in 2018, his 8th full season (9th if you include a brief 2010 callup). Which is as many times as he's led the league since.
   2. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: September 18, 2023 at 06:31 PM (#6141677)
Most 3,000 hit guys weren't leading the league year-in, year-out. Freeman isn't that unusual in this respect.

You need some combination of skill, consistency, durability and longevity. So far, Freeman has had the first three. We'll see about the fourth.

It also helps to start early, which Freeman did (debuting at age 20 and being a regular at 21).
   3. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 18, 2023 at 07:05 PM (#6141681)
BB-Ref has Eddie Murray as Freeman’s most similar player at every age from 21-32, and Murray made 3,000 hits with room to spare (3,255), joining the club in his age-40 season. Murray had 2168 hits after his age-33 season, and if Freeman gets 15 hits in the Dodgers last 14 games he’ll be at 2113, a little behind Murray. Freeman is only signed through his age-37 season, so he’ll probably have to be productive enough to play a few season beyond that, but he has a decent chance.
   4. Howie Menckel Posted: September 18, 2023 at 07:19 PM (#6141683)
ok, you talked me into it:

1400+ Hits (hey, I liked the 1400-1500 group):

1. Miguel Cabrera (21, 40) 3165 11755

2. Joey Votto (17, 39) 2131 8720
3. Freddie Freeman (14, 33) 2098 8036
4. Elvis Andrus (15, 34) 2085 8571
5. Nelson Cruz (19, 42) 2053 8396
6. Andrew McCutchen (15, 36) 2048 8641
7. Jose Altuve (13, 33) 2031 7304

8. Evan Longoria (16, 37) 1928 8196
9. Paul Goldschmidt (13, 35) 1903 7600
10. Eric Hosmer (13, 33) 1753 6977

11. Manny Machado (12, 30) 1726 6842
12. DJ LeMahieu (13, 34) 1688 6407
13. Charlie Blackmon (13, 36) 1679 6278
14. Nolan Arenado (11, 32) 1669 6432
15. Michael Brantley (15, 36) 1652 6136
15. Carlos Santana (14, 37) 1652 8139
17. Mike Trout (13, 31) 1624 6521
18. J.D. Martinez (13, 35) 1622 6317
[19. Daniel Murphy (12, 38) 1572 5755]
20. Anthony Rizzo (13, 33) 1567 6961

21. Xander Bogaerts (11, 30) 1561 5999
22. José Abreu (10, 36) 1560 6050
23. Jean Segura (12, 33) 1545 5937
24. Jason Heyward (14, 33) 1506 6604
25. Bryce Harper (12, 30) 1502 6409

26. Christian Yelich (11, 31) 1495 6037
27. Mookie Betts (10, 30) 1473 5703
28. Starling Marte (12, 34) 1470 5608
29. Justin Turner (15, 38) 1454 5735
30. Giancarlo Stanton (14, 33) 1450 6413
31. Nick Castellanos (11, 31) 1441 5660
32. Salvador Perez (12, 33) 1403 5582
   5. Walt Davis Posted: September 18, 2023 at 08:39 PM (#6141690)
Machado would seem to have the slightly better chance. He's 372 hits behind Freeman but 3 years younger and signed through age 40. It would be a long slog but he's got a decent shot at 11,000 ABs (ABs not just PAs). The BA is not impressive at all but if he gets that many ABs, even a 270 BA puts you in the hunt.

I'm a bit surprised Mookie is as low as he is, Xander might have a better shot, I wouldn't have guessed that. Mookie's had a big bounce back in BA after a couple of down seasons but he'll need to keep that up. Altuve of course is the other obvious guy with a shot.

   6. Walt Davis Posted: September 18, 2023 at 08:57 PM (#6141692)
And as always ... today's fans just need to be older. Nobody crossed 3,000 hits between 1925 and 1942. It was another 16 years before it happened again (obviously the war didn't help) then another 12 years after that. Since Aaron in 1970, I don't think we've had a gap larger than 7 years (Carew 1985, Yount 1992) so I know the kids are spoiled. If Freeman or Altuve make it, it will probably be 7-8 yaars after Miggy. At the end of 1985, Yount had just 1856 hits and Brett (also 1992) was at 1967. At the end of 2022, Freeman was at 1903 and Altuve at 1935 so both in the right range. Murray and Molito passed in 1995 and 1996, at the end of 1985 they were on 1528 and 1080 (Murray on 1679 and Molitor on 1367 after their age 30 seasons if you prefer) ... that looks about right for Mookie and X.

Obviously we'd rather have 10 30-year-olds around 1500 hits to improve our chances so if somebody wants to look at 1985 in that regard, that would be lovely. It may be a tug-of-war between every team knowing old players suck now and, for some reason, teams having little reluctance to sign guys through age 39-40. But if Mookie and X stay in the lineup through the life of their contracts, they've got good shots. Altuve may have to keep hitting like a DH to stick around long enough.
   7. NaOH Posted: September 18, 2023 at 09:45 PM (#6141701)
Obviously we'd rather have 10 30-year-olds around 1500 hits to improve our chances so if somebody wants to look at 1985 in that regard...

Through players' age-30 season, where some names in the vicinity of 1,500 hits were and where they ended (of course the catchers had no chance at 3,000):

Brett: 1676/3154
Rice: 1620/2452

Hernandez: 1486/2182
Carter: 1365/2092
Parrish: 1338/1789

Claudell: 1455/1884
Dawson: 1434/2774
Randolph: 1375/2210
Lemon: 1328/1875

Yount: 2019/3142
Murray: 1679/3255
Templeton: 1578/2096
W. Wilson: 1457/2207
Murphy: 1388/2111
Clark: 1213/1826

Whitaker: 1480/2369
Lansford: 1467/2074
Molitor: 1367/3319

Seeing the player pages, the early starts they all had are as noticeable as anything. Everyone listed got their first hit sometime before their age-22 season. Raise another toast to Ichiro.
   8. John Northey Posted: September 18, 2023 at 09:55 PM (#6141702)
I love playing with the Favorite Toy to get an idea on these things. I suspect many of today's kids have a shot. As a Jays fan I checked (assuming no more hits this year which hopefully is wrong) Vlad Guerrero (15% at 3000), and Bo Bichette (12%).

Acuña Jr. comes to mind too (9% - hurt by his time off in 2021/22), Soto (5%), Tatis Jr (0% thanks to his PED suspension), Trout (0% due to his injuries), Freeman 47%, Machado 20%, Betts 11%, Bogarts 16%
   9. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: September 18, 2023 at 10:28 PM (#6141709)
Vlad? He got started young, but, man, the past couple seasons have not been impressive. For the sake of baseball, I hope I'm wrong, but a fluke season and then washing out young doesn't sound impossible to me.

Altuve and Machado are obvious candidates. As noted above, Freeman is a Murray clone. For the genuinely young guys, I think you just have to bet on the field. Someone will make it, but no way to say who.
   10. Howie Menckel Posted: September 18, 2023 at 11:58 PM (#6141725)
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that a close pal of mine who loves baseball but not any of the SABR stuff - we were talking at a ballgame about Freeman and he asked, "Is he like Eddie Murray, then?"

I remarked in another thread that I never had that thought before - too different (no, no, the batting stances!).

then I saw the eerie parallels, per favorite toy.

damn, he should been an old-school scout !
   11. baxter Posted: September 19, 2023 at 12:15 AM (#6141728)
Altuve's hitting the stuffing out of the ball this year; but missed significant time w/the WBC injury + in season injuries; does he have the durability? One factor in his favor, he does not walk that much, 66 high 2x; would think a player who put the ball in play and had a high BA would have a better chance at 3K. 2nd basemen seem not to last as long.

Betts interestingly averages 191 hits per 162; problem is he doesn't come close to playing 162; he might get to 150 this year; fantastic player whether he makes it to 3k or not.

Freeman doesn't miss many games; he'd easily be over 2,200 but for that shortened 2020; damn good to be compared to Murray.

   12. John Northey Posted: September 19, 2023 at 12:59 AM (#6141730)
Vlad's trick is he is still hitting the ball hard, his problem has been too many on the ground or right at someone. His xwOBA suggests he has been EXTREMELY unlucky this year (his wOBA normally is in eyeshot of his xwOBA but this year is a big spread - getting smaller lately now 378 xwOBA vs 339 wOBA - every other season was within 5 points, normally his wOBA being higher) His xwOBA is 15th in the majors, between Yandy Diaz and Bobby Witt Jr. but his wOBA is 64th tied with Jack Suwinski and Masataka Yoshida and just 1 point back of Fernando Tatis Jr. Very odd year for him, but he is getting hot now - 269/345/615 in the past 7 days - not 2021 hot, but a 960 OPS I'll take anytime.

Vlad is also a good reminder of the value of an early start - he was just 20 when he played everyday in the majors. 2020 hurt his totals (and every other young player) more than the 81 or 94 strikes hurt players stats back then (still got 100+ games both of those years). The total odds added for those guys I listed is 135% so odds are 1 or 2 of them will get to 3000 hits. Freeman has to be the favorite. Wouldn't be shocked if as his contract runs out he goes and signs with the Jays to try to crack 3000 (he plays for Canada in international competition so I could easily see him coming here to play at the end for a reasonable price).
   13. NaOH Posted: September 19, 2023 at 01:16 AM (#6141733)
Vlad is also a good reminder of the value of an early start - he was just 20 when he played everyday in the majors.

Of the 33 who reached 3,000 hits, not many had turned 22 when they made their MLB debuts:

Ichiro: 27y, 162d
Boggs: 23y, 299d
Wagner: 23y, 145d
Waner: 22y, 362d
Biggio: 22y, 195d
Brock: 22y, 84d
Gwynn: 22y, 71d

Rose, Palmeiro, and Lajoie were within weeks of their 22nd birthdays. And Rice essentially reached 3,000 while debuting at 25y, 168d.

But the high hit totals start young. Drop the threshold down to 2,600 and the list of players debuting at 22 or older doesn’t grow by much:


All told, 85 players have reached 2,600 hits and 70 of them hadn’t turned 22 when they debuted.

A guy like Vlad looks like he has the pieces in place so far—early start, little IL time, no crazy-high walk totals.
   14. DL from MN Posted: September 19, 2023 at 09:45 AM (#6141742)
The loss of 100 games is going to hurt this entire cohort.
   15. BDC Posted: September 19, 2023 at 10:23 AM (#6141743)
Looked at another way, 53 batters in major-league history have had between 1,999 and 2,199 Hits through age 33 (Freeman has 2,099 right now). Seven of the previous 51 reached 3,000 (only one other, Altuve, is active). Unless I'm forgetting somebody. I always forget somebody, so let's say eight to be safe :-D But the seven I remembered are Lajoie, Yastrzemski, Brock, Brett, Murray, Gwynn, and Henderson.

7/51 doesn't seem like a lot. Most of the time, age and injury just catch up to players. 900 hits is a lot of hits. OTOH, 7/51 also represents an excellent chance. Very few guys playing at age 33 have any chance at all. A lot of players aren't even in baseball anymore at age 33, let alone batting .335 in the major leagues.
   16. Nasty Nate Posted: September 19, 2023 at 10:37 AM (#6141744)
There's a chance one of these falls short by a slim margin caused by the shortened 2020 season.
   17. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: September 19, 2023 at 11:02 AM (#6141746)
#15 I bet if you looked only at the guys who had also averaged 180-200 hits per year from ages 31-33, the odds would go up significantly. I'm guessing that's in part how #8 gets to a 47% chance for Freeman.

Freeman also has the benefit of the DH slot being available.
   18. BDC Posted: September 19, 2023 at 11:17 AM (#6141749)
f you looked only at the guys who had also averaged 180-200 hits per year from ages 31-33

It is a little more marked. Of guys who averaged 180-200 hits per year, ages 31-33, 9/51 before Freeman reached 3,000.

The intersection of the lists (reached 1.999-2.199 at age 33 with 180-200 per year from 31-33) is Freeman, Guerrero, Rice, Brock, Billy Williams, Sisler, and Van Haltren: thus only one 3,000-hit guy. But again, one out of six is actually an excellent precedent for Freeman's chances.

Again, I've probably forgotten somebody in each list, so mark them up a batter or two … this is not airtight peer-reviewed research here, it's me :)
   19. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: September 19, 2023 at 12:12 PM (#6141759)

18, interesting, thanks.
   20. Darren Posted: September 19, 2023 at 04:02 PM (#6141795)
7/51 doesn't seem like a lot. Most of the time, age and injury just catch up to players. 900 hits is a lot of hits. OTOH, 7/51 also represents an excellent chance. Very few guys playing at age 33 have any chance at all. A lot of players aren't even in baseball anymore at age 33, let alone batting .335 in the major leagues.

of those hitters, how many hit .320 averaged 190+ hits from ages 31-33 like Freeman did? The odds are against him but I think he's in a lot better shape than a lot of the guys on that list.


A couple examples, age 31-33:

Cepeda .280, 389 hits
Santo .277, 431 hits
Bell .273, 473 hits


Freeman .320, 575 hits

   21. Walt Davis Posted: September 19, 2023 at 05:15 PM (#6141799)
The role that long-term contracts play may be interesting to watch. At age 36, Pujols put up a 113 OPS+. In the old days, that guy definitely gets another shot at age 37 but that year he put up just an 80 OPS+. That year still featured 23 HR and 101 RBI but even oldest of old school guys knew a 241/286/386 line was not good. Potentially that could have been the end of the line -- probably not, he had 2968 hits, somebody would have given him a part-time role at least. So he comes back at 38 and limps over the 3000 hit line.

The actual Pujols of course played from 38-42, adding over 400 hits and 89 HR in about 3 full seasons of play. That surprising swan song added nicely to his totals over those years.

So Altuve's contract runs out after next year. Barring a major collapse/injury, he'll certainly get some sort of contract but even if he does well next year, it's hard to see him getting more than 2-3 years (coveraing ages 35+). But he's going to need anoteher 2-3 years after that to reach 3,000 and nobody is obligated to pay him, he'll have to keep earning roster spots. His defense is somewhere between perfectly fine (+3 for 2022-23 at statcast) and atrocious (-26 in those same years per DRS). So who knows but I'd still guess that he'll have to make it over the line as a mostly DH which means he'll need to hit. But then the Astros had no problem keeping Biggio in the lineup for one of that all-time great slogs over the 3,000 hit line.

Freeman's contract runs out after his age 37 season. You couldn't pick a worse age to be an FA searching for 3,000 hits -- true enough, $300 M in career earnings probably takes a bit of the sting out of it. Amazingly (esp given the era) he's still cranking out nearly 200 hits a year. Assuming reasonable health, he'll certainly be at 2700 hits and probably pushing 2800. The end can come quickly at those ages -- Carew was cruising along putting up 120+ OPS+s for ages 35-37, then dropped to 100 and added "just" 222 hits at 38-39 in about 900 PA to end up at 3053. Eddie Murray had a terrible age 38 but a huge comeback at 39 to make it over the line (and was more than good enough to get another year plus to make it over 500 HR).

That's an advantage that Machado, X and Mookie have. The first two are signed through age 40 and Mookie through 39. If they're healthy and not terrible, they'll get the playing time. It still doesn't look too good for Mookie, he will probably need another year or two to make it to 10,000 AB and his career BA is slaready below 300 so he's gonna need more than that. (He is at 5000 AB right now in 9+ seasons, hard to see him compiling the same playing time from 31-39 much less maintaining that BA.)

Machado isn't close from a BA perspective (just 279) but he'll be over 6200 AB when the season ends. With 10 guaranteed years, 11,000 AB looks pretty doable and, with a 270 BA, that's 2970 hits. Even if he slacks off to a 250 BA from here, just another 5100 AB will do it. I'm not sure what the lowest BA among 3,000 hitters is (ideally at the time of their 3000th) but Ripken ended at 276, Biggio ended at 281. Machado might do it with about a 265 BA (11,320 AB). Even Brooks added 1211 hits after age 30 (of course Brooks remained an outstanding defender which it seems Manny will not) -- he made it to 2848 hits on a 267 career BA. Anyway, all Machado needs is the playing time and he's got the contract to provide it, then he just needs to not suck for 10 years. I'm told that's easier said than done.

Xander ... all he needs to do is exactly reproduce his 20s. :-) That would give him 12,000 PAs, 10,500 ABs and 3100 or so hits. Ripken (1422 hits 31-40) is the obvious comp; Jeter added over 1700 but also hit over 300 in his 30s. Yount got a big head start on everybody but over the last 10 years (28-37) he added 1600 hits; even just for ages 31-37, Yount added 1100+ which would put X a little over 300 away with 3 years left on his contract.
   22. Walt Davis Posted: September 19, 2023 at 05:22 PM (#6141801)
#20 ... see #18.
   23. Walt Davis Posted: September 19, 2023 at 05:29 PM (#6141802)
Also ... whether positive or negative ... Freeman has 575 hits from 31-33 ... some others

F Alou 585
Mo Alou 513 (that's 31-34 since he missed all of 32)
Ma Alou 554

That's just one family!! :-)

Felipe hit 308, Moises 331 and Matty 306
   24. The Duke Posted: September 19, 2023 at 06:12 PM (#6141807)
Freeman woikd have close to 100 more hits receptor for the pandemic which would take his odds much higher. I suppose that we have had other shutdowns too but this was 100 games
   25. Walt Davis Posted: September 19, 2023 at 06:26 PM (#6141809)
That surprised me about Felipe but he led the league twice in those years, is #6 on the all-time list for 31 and #10 for 33 -- he had a bad age 32 or he'd be over 600.

Some others at that age ... some promising, some less so:

Yount 583 (not as promising a comp as it looks, only 540 hits left)
B Williams 572 (definitely a negative comp for Freeman)
Ordonez 571 (ages 32-34)
Carew 557 (missed 40 games at 33)
Vlad 550 (but showing cracks at 33)
J Rice 543
Oliver 538 (and had a league-leading 204 at age 35)
Bernie 535
Palmeiro 520
Damon 510
Markakis 505

Which isn't to deny that's a sizable counting gap and quality gap between Markakis and Freeman.

Through age 33:

Billy W 295/360/502, 134 OPS+, 2040 hits, 52 WAR
Freeman 301/388/514, 142 OPS+, 2099 hits, 56 WAR (Freeman has 270 more PA which would even up the hits and some of the WAR diff)

Ages 31-33:

Billy W 306/376/522, 135 OPS+, 572 hits, 14 WAR (and about to have a huge age 34)
Freeman 320/404/528, 151 OPS+, 575 hits, 17 WAR (24 fewer PAs)

Despite that huge age 34, Williams had just 671 hits left and last played at age 38. He was probably good enough at 38 that he'd have gotten a job if he'd been on the verge of a major milestone.

And a reminder that, technically speaking, BA isn't what you want, what you want is hits/PA (or if you prefer hits/AB and the AB/PA rate). Guys who walk a lot can carry a high BA without getting lots of hits. Bonds the extreme case of a 298 BA but 233 H/PA rate. Freeman is in a pretty sweet spot right now in terms of both BA and walk rate so he can still crank out 190 hit seasons while walking 80 times a year.

Bonds' hit/PA rate is only a little better than Mark Trumbo's career 231 and well below Juan Gone's 271. For the next time you come across somebody who doesn't think walks are important. (Note, Bonds had a career 6.0% HR/PA rate; Gonzalez 6.1% ... the primary difference really is walks. OK, Trumbo only 4.9%.)
   26. Walt Davis Posted: September 19, 2023 at 06:45 PM (#6141811)
A scary factoid from my b-r diving today:

Alfonso Soriano's career strike out rate was 21.5%; the 2023 average is 22.7%.

An astounding factoid:

Bonds had 1.4% of all MLB walks in 2004 (1 out of every 70). He only started 139 games that year.
   27. Darren Posted: September 20, 2023 at 09:05 AM (#6141854)
#20 ... see #18.

Yup. Hadn't refreshed. Good points BDC.
   28. Darren Posted: September 20, 2023 at 09:10 AM (#6141855)
Also ... whether positive or negative ... Freeman has 575 hits from 31-33 ... some others

F Alou 585
Mo Alou 513 (that's 31-34 since he missed all of 32)
Ma Alou 554

That's just one family!! :-)

That's awesome, as is the Bonds factoid.
   29. Darren Posted: September 20, 2023 at 10:09 AM (#6141857)
The intersection of the lists (reached 1.999-2.199 at age 33 with 180-200 per year from 31-33) is Freeman, Guerrero, Rice, Brock, Billy Williams, Sisler, and Van Haltren: thus only one 3,000-hit guy. But again, one out of six is actually an excellent precedent for Freeman's chances.

I still think this misses something. First, I wouldn't include Van Haltren or really anyone from before, say integration. I would also not limit it to players with 1,999 to 2,199 career hits, then look at how many hits they have from age 34 on.

Since integration, top 10 players in hits from age 31-33:

Suzuki 668
Jeter 622
Rose 613
L Gonzalez 596
Brock 595
[Freeman 590 proj]
Biggio 589
Musial 589
Puckett 589
Groat 586
F Alou 585

First of all, great company! Second, who invited Groat? How did these guys do from age 34 on?

Suzuki 1,735
Jeter 1,315
Rose 2,104
L Gonzalez 959
Brock 1,022
Biggio 1,380
Musial 1,212
Puckett 308
Groat 316
F Alou 591

That looks a lot more promising. Seven out of ten have more than that ~900 hits Freeman needs to reach 3,000. One remaining shortcoming remaining is that most of these hitters are quite different from Freeman. The closest are maybe Puckett and Musial?

   30. Darren Posted: September 20, 2023 at 10:12 AM (#6141858)
FWIW, in the comments of the linked article, Dan provided Freeman's "large cohort of similar players at similar ages":

Paul Waner
Keith Hernandez
Dixie Walker
Stan Musial
John Olerud
Rod Carew
Edgar Martinez
Lou Gehrig
Paul Molitor
Mark Grace
Zack Wheat
Joey Votto
Augie Galan
Lefty O’Doul
Julio Franco
Bill Terry
Harry Heilmann
Riggs Stephenson
John Kruk
Minnie Minoso
Frank Thomas
Pete Rose
Don Buford
Paul O’Neill
Brian Giles
Monte Irvin
Roy White
Al Kaline
Paul Goldschmidt
Gary Sheffield
Johnny Mize
Pedro Guerrero
Luis Gonzalez
Wes Parker
Enos Slaughter
Matt Holliday
Eddie Murray
Magglio Ordonez
Adrian Gonzalez
Chipper Jones
   31. DCA Posted: September 20, 2023 at 11:26 AM (#6141861)
RE: 29

Luis Gonzalez (Arizona version) seems like a very good offense-only comp to Freeman.
   32. Walt Davis Posted: September 20, 2023 at 04:06 PM (#6141889)
It's a tautology but one thing the lists in 29 and 30 show is that you have to play for a long time to make it. Most of the time that means you need to keep playing well. But there are also names in the list, especially Brock and Biggio (and Ichiro and Rose) in #20 where teams decided the player was so iconic that they would keep playing long after they were good to get over the line. OK, maybe not Brock who had a big bounce back at 40 but was really quite unproductive at 38-39 (-2.7 WAR) that it's far from clear he "deserved" to be brought back at 40.

So Freeman becomes FA at age 38. If he's coming off a strong age 37 then no problem -- he'll probably be around 2800 hits and easily deserving of a job. But suppose at ages 36-37 he puts up seasons like Votto at 35, 36 or 38 (Votto was big at 37). If he's just put up a 110 OPS+ at 36 and a 100 at 37, then maybe he's at around 2700 hits, looks like an average or below 1B and needs at least two full seasons to get over the line. Will the Dodgers give him the chance? Will the Braves bring him back? Will the Royals or Pirates figure they have nothing to lose? Maybe 1B/DH in particular but at age 38, a hitter like this is either "obviously" worth signing to a 2-year contract (e.g. Beltran after age 36) or is about 2-3 bad months from being out of the game.

From the lists, these strike me as the recent (kinda) similars and their hits from 38 on. Note I'm making no effert to see if they were similar at 31-33 which I agree makes sense:

Edgar 509
Molitor 672 (led the leage at 39!)
Thomas 332
Giles 43 (an all-time cliff dive -- he had a full-time 138 OPS+ at 37)
Sheffield 299
Gonzalez 377
Holliday 15
Ordonez 0
AGon 0
Chipper 320

That's quite promising as long as he makes it to 2700 through age 37. That seems a pretty good bet as long as he doesn't miss most of a season. That will NOT be easy though. His career hit/PA rate is about 261 so 600 more hits means about 2300 PAs -- that's a lot of PAs for ages 34-37. He's very durable of course so clearly possible but it's also assuming he maintains that career rate.

Still, most of those guys made it to 300+ hits, Freeman has a good chance of being at 2700, so the Toy estimate looks about right. In a way, Luis Gonzalez is the most promising comp. He was something of a vagabond, became something of an icon in AZ. He was OK at age 38 with a 99 OPS+ and 1 WAR. Maybe surprisingly, the Dodgers gave him 526 PAs to be replacement level and pick up 129 hits at 39 then, less surprising, the Marlins gave him 387 PA of below-replacement for another 89 hits. If that version of Gonzalez can get that many PAs of sub-par performance not even chasing a mileston (2500 hits) then Freeman seems at least as likely to receive the same treatment.

Holliday is not so great -- he was a beast from 31-33 and very good at 34 but ages 35-37 were a classic exampele of decline with missed time and declining performance. AGon is not promising but he was clearly worse for 31-33.
   33. jingoist Posted: September 20, 2023 at 06:11 PM (#6141904)
Interesting discussion.
I wonder what affect these huge salaries will have on various players drive for 3,000 or any plateau.
If you are 37 or 38 and getting worn down from the day to day of playing 2,500 games and you nave $50M+ in investments, will you want to keep playing?
A few will; many more will say, “I’m richer than I ever conceived I would be 20 years ago, I want to watch my kids play ball, or go on vacation, etc.”
I think money will take some of the edge off for certain players.
Guys like Jeter or Cal that never happened, but they are the minority.
   34. jingoist Posted: September 20, 2023 at 06:12 PM (#6141905)
That’s effect not affect, sorry
   35. GregD Posted: September 20, 2023 at 06:24 PM (#6141906)
Interesting discussion.
I wonder what affect these huge salaries will have on various players drive for 3,000 or any plateau.

Makes sense yet people have been saying this since the 80s and most great ballplayers stick around forever. So it’s possible this recent salary level will change it, but for now this seems like something that could plausibly have an impact but actually doesn’t
   36. NaOH Posted: September 20, 2023 at 06:48 PM (#6141909)
Mike Mussina is the only player I can remember in the age of enormous salaries who walked away near a plateau. He’d earned about $145M and his final year was his first 20-win season, he reached 200 IP, an ERA+ of 131, and was at 270 career wins. Any pitcher at that age (39) can cliff dive at any moment, but he was looking about as good as anyone could reasonably hope to see for a pitcher approaching 300 wins.

Obviously, if he goes for 300 it will take at least two seasons—he averaged just over 15 wins per year in his eight NY years—so this wasn’t a one-year “Oh, I’ll give it one more shot to shoot for that milestone” situation. Notably, too, Mussina was always someone who enjoyed the game and playing but was very clear that he saw more to life than being a pro athlete. Maybe he’s not the best example, then, but I can’t think of anyone else who had earned ridiculous sums and voluntarily retired when near a plateau/milestone.
   37. Cris E Posted: September 20, 2023 at 06:52 PM (#6141910)
I wonder how things will be affected by smarter FO not throwing away AB on 40 year olds when much cheaper 22 year olds are around to improve while taking up those 250AB. And another question: do these widespread and preposterously high velocities provide a different kind of challenge for older guys who might be losing some bat speed? Being canny can only take you so far when the league knows you can't catch up to 97.
   38. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 20, 2023 at 07:50 PM (#6141912)
Not that many high earners in other professions retire as soon as they can comfortably do so, and MLB baseball is a lot more fun than most jobs. Watch the players on a game winning hit or play in the field - lots of happiness that doesn’t seem fake. Sure, not everyone will take a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, but players who can command a guaranteed multi-million dollar contract aren’t that likely to quit just because they can live on what they already earned.
   39. baxter Posted: September 20, 2023 at 09:35 PM (#6141925)
32. Rose gets bashed enough; he a good enough player when got to 3K hits, still 3 WAR, lousy to get to 4K hits; I don't think Freeman will have that problem (getting to 4K hits)

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