During the 2012 season, 38-year-old Derek Jeter has 168 hits through 123 team games. The shortstop has played in 121 of those games. With 39 more team games to play, Jeter is on pace for 221.3 hits this season. Incredibly, he could set a career high for hits in a season. The most hits Jeter has ever recorded in a single season was 219 in 1999.
More importantly, and with historical implications, Jeter enters Wednesday with 3,256 career hits -- 1,000 hits shy of tying Pete Rose on the all-time hits list. Rose finished his career as MLB’s all-time hits leader with 4,256.
Now that we enter the final 1,000 countdown ... is it realistic to think that Jeter can pass Rose to become baseball’s all-time hits king? Let’s break it down:
WHAT KIND OF PACE IS JETER ON?
Jeter has averaged 1.278 hits per game during his career. At that pace, he’ll need to play in 783 more games to collect the 1,000 hits he needs to catch Rose. Based on his career pace, if he plays every single Yankees game between now and the time he got his 1,000th hit, he’d catch Rose in the Yankees' 95th game of the 2017 season.
Jeter will turn 43 on June 26, 2017.
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With Derek Jeter a member of the 3,000-hit club, let's look back at The Captain's greatest moments in Yankees pinstripes. Photo gallery
Top 50 Yanks VoteA more realistic approach -- given age and usual decline in productivity late in a player's career -- is as follows. Since the 2008 season began, Jeter has played in 712 of the Yankees' 771 games. This means he has played in 92.3 percent of Yankees games over that time. Since he’s likely to take more games off as he gets older, let’s round it down to 90 percent for the purposes of this exercise.
Despite his success this season, let’s also assume a reduction in productivity at the plate. Conservatively speaking, a 20 percent reduction in hits per game would put him at 1.022 hits per game (this decline would be very drastic, but I’m using it to represent the far end of the spectrum).
At that pace, Jeter will need to play in 979 more games to collect the 1,000 hits he needs to catch Rose.
And if he’s only playing 90 percent of games over the rest of his career, he’ll need to be around for another 1,087 games on the Yankees' schedule.
Based on the projections of a 20 percent reduction in hits per game from his career pace AND the projection that he’ll play only 90 percent of team games for the rest of his career, Jeter would get his 1,000st hit in the Yankees' 75th game of the 2019 season.
Jeter will turn 45 on June 26, 2019.
Obviously, chances are (barring serious injury) Jeter would hit the number sometime between the projected dates -- with the far end of the spectrum being sometime shortly before his 45th birthday. Pete Rose got his final hit exactly four months after his 45th birthday.
WHAT HAVE JETER’S EXTENDED HOT STREAKS BEEN LIKE?
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the fewest games it has taken Jeter to accumulate 1,000 hits is 749. The most games it has taken him to accumulate 1,000 hits is 801.
Considering that 1,000 hits is a worthwhile CAREER for most players, the concept of measuring Jeter’s productivity by how quickly or slowly he accumulates 1,000 hits is almost unfair simply by definition. But that’s the standard he has set, and fans and historians barely have anything left to measure him by other than his potential pursuit of Rose’s record.
WILL JETER END HIS PURSUIT AT A DIFFERENT POSITION OR EVEN WITH A DIFFERENT TEAM?
2013 is the final year of Jeter’s current contract (he’ll make $17 million), although he does have a player option for 2014 at $8 million. Assuming he exercises that option, Jeter will enter the offseason before 2015 as a free agent.
In the past two seasons, Jeter has played 26 games as the Yankees' DH. In his previous 16 seasons, Jeter played 19 games as the Yankees' DH. Obviously, the Yankees are trending toward resting him from his shortstop duties more often. This could be expected to only increase as he gets older and if the Yankees develop a shortstop or sign a free agent.
But can the Yankees afford to put Jeter at shortstop? After this season, the Yankees still have five years and $114 million remaining on the contract for Alex Rodriguez. Given his recent history with injuries, it would appear that the Yankees will need to reserve much of that DH time for A-Rod. Rodriguez has played in 193 of the Yankees' 285 games over the past two seasons. That’s just 68 percent of games.
The Jeter contract situation will be very interesting to watch when it comes up. Rodriguez had plenty of “milestone incentives” put in his most recent contract. He can earn an additional $30 million by hitting his 660th HR, 714th HR, 755th HR and also tying and passing the all-time HR mark ($6 million for each milestone).
Would the Yankees take the chance of insulting their captain and five-time world champion centerpiece by not offering similar incentives as he climbs the all-time hits list and passes the big names? Rodriguez has only won one title with the Yankees and hasn’t been nearly the fan favorite that Jeter is. More importantly, would other franchises step to the plate after the 2014 season and offer those incentives if the Yankees won’t?
Clearly, as long as he wants to continue playing and chase Rose’s record, there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But Jeter is just 1,000 hits away. And if you think that’s a long time from now, consider that 1,000 hits ago was July 1, 2007. Was it really that long ago?