Anderson's pursuit of 3,000 hits … call it a fantasy

November, 26, 2008
From Dylan Hernandez in the Los Angeles Times, a typically silly bit of statistical advocacy from Scott Boras:

    Garret Anderson should be able to play another four years, according to agent Scott Boras, who added that any team that signs the 36-year-old outfielder to a deal that long will get to see him collect his 3,000th career hit in its uniform.

    "He's in the class of player where he gets a chance to get 3,000 hits like Tony Gwynn," Boras said. "This guy's four years away."

    Boras was recently hired by Anderson, who had his $14-million option for next season bought out for $3 million by the Angels. The influential agent said that Anderson had been working at the Boras Sports Training Institute, which is at Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo.

    "He wants to play every day," Boras said.

Yeah, and I want to have my Thanksgiving breakfast, lunch and supper cooked by Nigella Lawson. Doesn't mean it's going to happen. Anderson hasn't played "every day" (loosely speaking) since 2003, and there's no reason to think he'll suddenly begin playing significantly more often now that he's 36. Now, about those 3,000 hits…

    Anderson is 632 hits away from 3,000, meaning he would have to average 158 hits per season to hit the milestone. He averaged 151 hits per season over the four-year, $48-million deal he completed this year. He had only 124 hits in 2007, when hip problems limited him to 108 games. He averaged 159 hits and 143 games over the other three years of that deal, which was signed in April 2004.

    Boras said that Anderson's defensive acumen should allow him to be an everyday outfielder for a National League team. But Anderson played increasingly as a designated hitter over the last four years, averaging 40 games per season in that role.

Ah, another fantasy … Anderson's "acumen" in left field includes a weak throwing arm and subpar range. He's far from the worst left fielder in the majors, but you send him out there despite his glove, not because of it. But for the moment, let's assume that Anderson's defense is good enough, for another four years, to merit regular play in left field. Let's also assume that he doesn't suffer any significant injuries. As Dylan Hernandez notes, Anderson has averaged 159 hits per (healthy) season, and if he continues to average 159 hits per season he'll have 3,004 hits. Of course, that also assumes zero decline due to the natural aging process.

Which is, of course, highly unlikely. And if he does decline, his chances of playing regularly plummet accordingly. You can do the math: Anderson is exceptionally unlikely to reach 3,000 hits, because he isn't going to be healthy enough or good enough to earn the playing time he would need.

There's a part of me that's pulling for him, though. Not because he's a good guy (though everyone says he is). Rather, because I want to see what would happen. If it's not Garret Anderson, it'll be Johnny Damon. If not Johnny Damon, it'll be someone else. Eventually, a player is going to be on the Hall of Fame ballot with but a single recommending qualification: 3,000 hits. And that's going to be one rip-roaring debate.


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