Could Billy Butler Reach 3,000 Hits?

Otto Greule Jr

Country Breakfast has been collecting the grits, but can he collect the hits?

When he's not hitting into double plays or disappointing crazed Royals fans on Facebook, Billy Butler actually collects hits. Like, a lot! Here are the top active players in hits, through their age 27 season (which was 2013 for Billy Butler).

Player Hits
Billy Butler 1124
Delmon Young 1042
Adam Jones 988
Justin Upton 886
Asdrubal Cabrera 840

It should be pointed out that Upton is only through his age 25 season. But Billy is certainly tops by a lot, especially when you consider that Delmon Young is kinda washed up. That's a lot of hits to accumulate at a relatively young age. One could reasonably presume Billy still has over a decade left of baseball to be played. Only 25 men in baseball history have ever reached 3,000 hits, including Royals great George Brett. Does Billy have a chance to join this exclusive club?

In baseball history, 82 players have more hits than Billy Butler through their age 27 season. Fourteen of the twenty-five members of the 3,000 hit club were on a better pace than Billy Butler through their age 27 season, eleven were behind his pace. The eleven behind his pace are Craig Biggio, Lou Brock, Rod Carew, Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Willie Mays, Rafael Palmeiro, Pete Rose, Paul Waner, and Dave Winfield. Mays, it should be noted, lost a year in his youth to military service. By comparison, through his age 27 season, George Brett was a two-time batting champ, had led the league in hits three times, and had just become the closest to hit .400 in a season since Ted Williams. Billy has led the league in double plays once, made one All-Star team, and has a popular local BBQ sauce. No pressure Billy.

"Country Breakfast" currently has 1,124 hits. He would need 1,876 more hits over the rest of his career to reach this club. There are two ways to reach 3,000 hits. Either have some fantastic peak years (Wade Boggs had seven consecutive 200 hit seasons, including a 240-hit season), or hang around long enough and be pretty darn good to reach 3,000 (Rickey Henderson spent 23 season in uniform).

Twenty of the twenty-five members of the 3,000 hit club played until their age-40 season (Derek Jeter will be the twenty-first this year). Roberto Clemente had the shortest career in the club with 18 seasons (and he finished with exactly 3,000 hits). So realistically, to make the club, Billy will need to play at least 18 years, or 11 more seasons. Here is the number of hits Billy would have to average for his remaining seasons, to reach the 3,000 hit club.

Seasons Hits Per Season
10 187.6
11 170.5
12 156.3
13 144.3
14 134.0
15 125.1

Billy has averaged 160.5 hits thus far, although that includes a truncated rookie season. In his six full seasons, he has averaged 171 hits per year. We should also expect his numbers to decline as he gets older. According to the Bill James Favorite Toy, Billy projects to play 7.5 more years with an average of 177 hits per year, which would give him 2,451 for his career. That would be far short of 3,000, but no small feat. It would still be 109th in MLB history, one hit behind Hall of Famer (and fellow GIDP enthusiast) Jim Rice, and more hits than Mickey Mantle, Sammy Sosa, Ryne Sandberg, Orlando Cepeda, or Jeff Bagwell.

Royals-Developed Hitters in the 2,000 Hit Club
George Brett 3154
Johnny Damon 2769
Carlos Beltran* 2228
Willie Wilson 2207
Frank White 2006

*-active

So whether Billy could reach 3,000 hits probably depends a lot on how he ages. Billy has remained pretty healthy (not playing the field helps) and has stayed in the lineup. But will a player like Billy Butler age well? Certainly a muscle-bound physique is not necessary for longevity as evidenced by guys like David Ortiz. But carrying around a spare tire for all those doubles will take its toll. If Billy remains a fairly productive hitter deep into his late 30s (and as a designated hitter, his bat is all that keeps him in the big leagues), he could hang around long enough to get pretty close to 3,000. If Billy is retired by the time Donald Trump ends his second term of office in the White House in 2024, then he's going to fall well short.

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