Michael Young and the chase for 3,000 hits

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Michael Young led the American League in hits for the second time in his career in 2011, finishing with 213. That brought his career total to 2,061 through age 34, and despite a late start — he didn’t collect his first hit in the majors until age 24 — he appeared to have some shot at getting to 3,000.

Bill James has long had what he calls “The Favorite Toy,” a system that looks at the previous year’s results, career totals and age before spitting out a percentage score of a player’s chances of reaching a certain milestone. After the 2011 season, James had 12 players with at least a 20-percent chance of getting 3,000 hits, not including Derek Jeter, who was already there.

Alex Rodriguez – 94%
Johnny Damon – 86%
Vladimir Guerrero – 67%
Albert Pujols – 56%
Miguel Cabrera – 46%
Ichiro Suzuki – 38%
Michael Young – 34%
Adrian Beltre – 30%
Robinson Cano – 28%
Juan Pierre – 27%
Carl Crawford – 23%
Nick Markakis – 22%

Given the percentages James came up with, five or six of the above players should eventually get to 3,000 hits. And now, two years later:

Alex Rodriguez: 2,939 – suspended for 2014
Johnny Damon: 2,769 – out of baseball in 2013
Vladimir Guerrero: 2,590 – out of baseball in 2013, retired
Albert Pujols: 2,347
Miguel Cabrera: 1,995
Ichiro Suzuki: 2,742
Michael Young: 2,375 – retired
Adrian Beltre: 2,426
Robinson Cano: 1,649
Juan Pierre: 2,217
Carl Crawford: 1,765
Nick Markakis: 1,370

A-Rod need only come back for one more year to get 3,000. He should pull that off unless he’s blackballed. Despite his setbacks the last two years, Pujols should still have more than 653 hits left in him. He is signed for eight more years, after all. Cabrera remains very much on pace. Ichiro, though, is a big long shot now. Beltre is looking pretty good with 574 hits to go as he turns 35 in April. The same goes for Cano, though he’s just over halfway there at the moment. The bottom three all appear done for. Crawford may stay healthy enough to get to 2,500 or so, but 3,000 is out of reach.

So, that’s three likelies in Rodriguez, Pujols and Cabrera and two maybes in Beltre and Cano. Which isn’t so bad. Unfortunately, the reduction in teams willing to suit up pure DHs hurt the cause for Damon and Guerrero. Both were still decent hitters, but neither had the power to convince a team he was worthy of a few million dollars and a roster spot. I do believe that we’ll someday see the DH in both leagues. For better or worse, not having it now most likely cost Damon 3,000 hits, maybe Guerrero, too.

As for the now 37-year-old Young, well, there probably would have been more demand for his services with another 15 DH jobs open in the NL. However, he wasn’t likely to remain productive enough to get another 625 hits anyway.

In the old days, it seemed like quite an exception when a player was about as productive in his mid-30s as he was during his prime years. Then it wasn’t as much of an exception for a while, perhaps because of PEDs and amphetamines. Now it’s starting to look like an exception again.

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.

Manny Machado teaches us to never give up

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The Rays beat the Orioles last night, but the play of the game belonged to an Oriole defender.

Evan Longoria was batting and he chopped a ball foul down the third base line. At least it started out foul. As we all know, however, it doesn’t matter where the ball starts, it matters where it is when it crosses the bag.

Manny Machado knows this and didn’t give up on the ball despite it starting several feet in foul territory. He watched it come back, stayed with it and threw out Longoria who, unlike Machado, did give up on it, assuming he’d merely get a strike and another hack. Watch:

Longoria would get Machado back, however, fielding a ball Machado smoked to third base in the ninth inning, recording the second to last out of the game.