I was at the Houston Astros game yesterday, which means that I got to see Joe Mauer single in the first inning. This brought him to 1499 career hits, which he followed up during today’s day game with hit number 1500 in the first inning. It’s a big mark for one of the game’s longtime greats, and as I am wont to do, it made me think about his place among the all-time greats.
There are a lot of ways to go about looking at it, so let’s start with the most basic. Right now, Mauer stands at 1501 hits, thanks to his single and home run today. If he made it to 3000 hits, even the most brain dead of Hall voters would surely vote for him. Well, maybe not “surely”, but it would at least check off the arbitrary milestone box that so many voters seem to fall back on to avoid critical thought.
Let’s take a rough estimate of his chances of 3000 hits, then, since 500 home runs probably isn’t happening. Bill James’s career projection tool is good enough to use for our purposes. It requires full seasons, though, so let’s try and estimate where he’ll be at the end of the year first. Right now, Mauer sits at 87 hits in 79 games, with 43 games remaining. Let’s assume he continues at his current pace of 1.1 hits per game and plays in 35 of the final 43 games. That would give him about 38.5 hits left this season, which we’ll round to 39. That means he’d finish the season with 126 hits, for a career total of 1540.
It’s easy to forget with all of his injury troubles, but Mauer is only 31. With our inputs, the projector spits out a career total of 2310 hits for Mauer, with a 3% chance to reach 3000 hits. 2310 hits might seem like a disappointment, but that would rank fourth all time among players with at least half of their games at catcher. The only other catchers with even 2200? Ivan Rodriguez, Ted Simmons, and Carlton Fisk.