Nick Markakis: Outfielder an unlikely future 3,000 hit club member
Welcome to the 3,000 hit club ... Nick Markakis? As kooky as it may sound, the notion is not so far-fetched.
Through a combination of nearly unmatched consistency and stellar health, the Atlanta Braves outfielder has quietly compiled his way past 2,000 career hits -- with 3,000 now distantly in his sights.
Consider this: Markakis is on pace to finish 2017 with 171 hits, putting him at 2,060 for his career. That would leave him 940 knocks shy of the hallowed milestone, and that means he needs to average 134 hits per campaign through age 40 to achieve the mark.
That's good news for Markakis, who has averaged 172 hits a season for his career, having never had less than 125 in a year. Granted, from 2012 to 2016 that average dropped to 163 hits per campaign -- but even with that decline, he is still set up nicely to join the elite few.
Well, if everything goes according to plan. Indeed, "barring" is the key word in discussing Markakis' shot at 3,000 hits -- he can get there barring injury, a sudden decline or early retirement.
And he is getting up there in years -- at 33, he is outside his prime and entering a time when many players see a rapid fall off in production. Albert Pujols, for example, hit .321 and slugged .599 through age 33. Since then, those numbers are .255 and .451, respectively.
Avoiding injury is also important. Jeff Bagwell averaged 156 games per year the first 14 seasons of his career. In his 15th campaign, he succumbed to arthritis, played just 39 games, and was out of the big leagues for good. Injuries happen swiftly; their ramifications are devastating.
Markakis will be one-of-a-kind if he reaches 3,000 hits, though not in a good way. The most unqualified member of the group should he join it, the ballplayer has never been a star and is rarely called "very good" outside of Atlanta.
He does not have great power or speed -- in 12 big league seasons, he has less than 200 home runs and 70 stolen bases -- and his ability to reach base is middling at best, as evidenced by his career .358 on-base percentage. He has never led the league in any major category and the only two accolades to his name are two Gold Glove awards.
Indeed, it is likely Markakis would be the first 3,000 hit ballplayer to not reach the Hall of Fame. And if he did earn enshrinement, it would be after years of waiting and to a chorus of boos -- especially from the sabermetric community, which is surely unimpressed by his at-present 29.7 career wins above replacement. (Mike Trout, by comparison, has over 50 career WAR after just seven years in the majors).
Still, Markakis is one of only a handful of players with a reasonable shot at joining the 3,000 hit club within the next ten seasons. After inducting one new member each year since 2015 (Alex Rodriguez in 2015, Ichiro Suzuki in 2016 and Adrian Beltre in 2017), and likely to add another, Albert Pujols in 2018, the group may go a few years without seeing any new additions. Besides Markakis, just Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano project to get close to the mark.
It seems almost a preposterous notion. Three-thousand hits? Nick Markakis? Sure, he might become the first non-great in the pantheon -- but he is on pace to join the pantheon, nevertheless.