An Alternative To The 3000 Hit Club (And Hits In General)

Andy Lyons

Joining the 3000 Hit Club -- and even the use of base hits overall -- is a widely celebrated accomplishment for a player, but it caters to a specific style of hitter. How would these records look using Times on Base?

Hit records are some of the best-known marks in the game. Most hits all-time: Pete Rose with 4,256. Most hits in a season: Ichiro with 262. Longest hitting streak: Joe DiMaggio with 56 games. However, I don't think it takes much argument to this community to explain why base hits alone should not be used. Could anyone, off the top of their head, tell me the same records for times reaching base?

There are 28 members of the 3,000 hit club, so I want to create a similar size group for Times Reaching Base. Including errors, 25 players have reached base 4,500 times in their career, so that will be our new benchmark. Here is that list:

Rk Player TOBwe Rk Player TOBwe Rk Player TOBwe Rk Player TOBwe
1 Pete Rose 6168 8 Tris Speaker 4998 14 Eddie Murray 4727 20 Cal Ripken 4546
2 Barry Bonds 5696 9 Babe Ruth 4978 15 Derek Jeter 4689 21 Rafael Palmeiro 4544
3 Ty Cobb 5532 10 Willie Mays 4960 16 Craig Biggio 4679 22 Joe Morgan 4544
4 Rickey Henderson 5503 11 Eddie Collins 4891 17 Mel Ott 4653 23 Al Kaline 4512
5 Carl Yastrzemski 5442 12 Ted Williams 4773 18 Paul Molitor 4622 24 Honus Wagner 4508
6 Hank Aaron 5405 13 Frank Robinson 4728 19 Wade Boggs 4576 25 Dave Winfield 4501
7 Stan Musial 5372

While guys like Tony Gwynn, Rod Carew, and others are now out of the "legendary" club, getting guys like Bonds, Williams, and Ruth in solidify the status of true offensive ability. This list is likely not complete, as Reached on Errors have only been compiled (as of now) back to 1946, so earlier players will not have those added times on base.

Cap Anson is the first off the list, only 49 TOB short, and considering how often errors were made before the turn of the century, it seems safe to call him a shoo-in for the club. Paul Waner and Lou Gehrig are the other two pre-WWII players within 350 TOB of making the list, each about 220 away. The four modern players to miss the list by less than 150 TOB are Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, George Brett, and Chipper Jones.

Moving on to the single-season list, here are the top 21 seasons of all-time:

Rk Player TOBwe Year Rk Player TOBwe Year Rk Player TOBwe Year
1 Barry Bonds 382 2004 8 Wade Boggs 350 1988 15 Ted Williams 336 1946
2 Babe Ruth 379 1923 9 Ted Williams 348 1947 16 Ty Cobb 336 1915
3 Ted Williams 363 1949 10 Babe Ruth 346 1924 17 Ted Williams 335 1942
4 Billy Hamilton 362 1894 11 Barry Bonds 343 2001 18 Ted Williams 335 1941
5 Barry Bonds 359 2002 12 Jeff Bagwell 343 1999 19 Lefty O'Doul 334 1929
6 Babe Ruth 353 1921 13 Lou Gehrig 342 1936 20 Wade Boggs 333 1989
7 Wade Boggs 352 1985 14 Carlos Delgado 338 2000 21 Todd Helton 332 2000

Here we find a couple surprising names with O'Doul and Delgado, though those totals came during a couple of the best offensive eras in history. It is likely Ruth's '23 season is the true all-time leader, due to the lack of ROE listed.

Ichiro's 262-hit '04 season falls one TOB short of making the list, along with Jeter in '99, Gehrig in '37, and Ruth in '26. Some non-HOF'ers just missing the list are Lenny Dykstra in '93, Eddie Yost in '50, Norm Cash in '61, and Chuck Knoblauch in '96. Prince Fielder led the majors last season, reaching base 284 times.

There have been 12 official reaching-base streaks of at least 60 games since 1916, the beginning of B-R's Play Index. Here is the list:

Rk Strk Start End Games Rk Strk Start End Games
1 Ted Williams 7/1/1949 9/27/1949 84 7 Derek Jeter 8/17/2006 5/3/2007 67
2 Ted Williams 9/16/1942 7/5/1946 83 8 Jim Wynn 5/18/1969 8/3/1969 66
3 Wade Boggs 5/27/1985 8/27/1985 81 9 Orlando Cabrera 4/25/2006 7/6/2006 63
4 Dale Murphy 4/7/1987 6/28/1987 74 10 Mark McGwire 9/16/1995 6/18/1996 62
4 Ted Williams 7/19/1941 4/18/1942 74 11 Jim Thome 7/28/2002 4/5/2003 60
4 Joe DiMaggio 5/14/1941 8/2/1941 74 11 Solly Hemus 5/1/1953 6/30/1953 60

I have a feeling I know the two names that stick out on this list. Most of us here know quite a bit about Cabrera, but very few have even heard of the name Solly Hemus. The only other time I ran across this name was during a search for a Ben Zobrist historical comp. He didn't get any significant playing time until age 28, played SS, 2B, and some 3B in his career, and he combined decent power and a high walk rate to put up some nice seasons. His career .273/.390/.411 slash line is probably one of the best of any relatively unknown player during an offensively neutral era.

Reaching base is the true goal of every hitter that steps to the plate, so I feel like these accomplishments should be celebrated more than just one specific way of getting on base. Obviously, walks don't have the same value as hits, but each of them are a positive contribution that extend the game. Nearly all followers of the game, saber-slanted or not, are getting better at looking towards OBP as a main metric for offensive production, so let's hope Times On Base can replace hits in the same manner.

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