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Thursday, June 20, 2013
What's Wright way to 3,000 hits?

By Mark Simon

Entering Thursday's series finale against the Braves, David Wright was 50.03 percent of the way to 3,000 hits, or in simpler terms, 1,499 hits away. After getting one hit in Wednesday's loss to the Braves, he had 1,501 career hits, the most of anyone in Mets history.

Can Wright reach a statistical total that is considered a benchmark for all-time great status? That question has been posed in a couple of forums recently. Here's one more take on it.

Bill James has a statistical tool known as “The Favorite Toy” that projects a players' chance to reach a statistical benchmark, based on his pre-Thursday tally and his most recent three-year total. It gave Wright a 12 percent chance.

Dan Szymborski, who runs projections for ESPN.com using his ZiPS projection system gives Wright a 10 percent shot, and his mathematical simulations give Wright an average of 2,646 career hits, a total that puts him within striking distance, though a little bit short.

So what would Wright need to do to get to 3,000 hits?

Let's come up with what amounts to a best-case scenario that would give him a really good shot.

Wright had 178 hits last season. For the purposes of this exercise, let's give him an average or 178 hits from 2013 to 2015, the thought process being that he has three high-end All-Star caliber seasons remaining.

Let's then say he slows down a little bit and from ages 33 to 35, he totals 500 hits (166.7 per season), meaning he'd likely have to hit in the .280s and produce at a level resembling the three players 35 or older who totaled 167 hits or more last season -- Michael Young, Torii Hunter and Derek Jeter.

That would give Wright 2,460 career hits. He'd be 540 away at age 36. The odds get considerably better at that point. “The Favorite Toy” gives a player with those numbers a 58 percent chance at reaching 3,000 hits.

Indeed, 540 hits is doable for a really good player who stays healthy at that age. Cal Ripken Jr. and Gary Gaetti are examples of right-handed hitting third basemen who had at least 540 hits after turning 36.

Wright would have two seasons left on his current contract. At age 36, 540 hits will almost certainly be a number that takes four seasons to reach, meaning he's not getting there within this deal. And who knows what the Mets' state of affairs will be when Wright becomes a free agent at the end of the 2020 season.

I want to go back to the statistics for a moment now.

James has another methodology -- similarity scores -- which rates the players who are most statistically similar to the player you're looking at.

Of the top 10 players most statistically similar to Wright through the end of last season, five retired within the last 35 years -- Scott Rolen, Carl Yastrzemski, Chipper Jones, Gary Sheffield, and George Brett.

Rolen came up well short of 3,000 due to injuries. Jones and Sheffield got close but also got old and basically time ran out on their careers.

The two players from that group who did reach 3,000 hits were Brett and Yastrzemski, both of whom benefited from being able to DH as they grew older.

And therein lies what will be a very intriguing part of this story. Wright could have a reasonable shot at making some prominent baseball history. But his best chance of doing so might mean doing so as something other than a Met.