Sitting at his locker on Monday night, Orioles designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero told reporters (through interpreter Rudy Arias) that he didn’t know until the Toronto series two weeks ago that he was on the verge of passing Julio Franco to become the all-time MLB career hits leader among Dominican-born players.
But Guerrero is well aware that he is a few hundred hits away from joining the 3,000-hit club.
After his rally-starting single off Josh Beckett in Monday night’s 6-3 win over the Boston Red Sox, Guerrero has 2,587 hits in 16 years in the major leagues. With 413 hits between him and the milestone, Vlad will have to play at few more seasons to get there -- unless he works out with Ponce de Leon in Florida this offseason.
"To stay healthy, God help him. He sure wants it -- of course,” Arias said after he relayed a question about 3,000 hits to Guerrero. “He's happy he's healthy, and God willing, he keeps on playing.”
Guerrero leads the Orioles with a .289 average, though it’s the lowest percentage of his career (if you throw out the 27 at-bats he had in his rookie season). He has 160 hits, and will likely finish with a career-low total for a season in which he played in more than 120 games. And in 2011, he has averaged a career-low 1.119 hits per game. His single-season high was 1.282 per game in 2006.
This is simple math here. I’m not qualified to give you advanced statistics that show his decline. But assuming the 36-year-old’s hit production over the next three years matches his production from the previous three -- I know what you’re thinking, but do it for argument’s sake -- Guerrero would have to play 362 games to get to 3,000 hits if he averaged 1.142 hits per game like he did from 2009-11.
That would take three seasons, wherever he ends up playing them. Does Guerrero, a pending free agent, have it in him?
“You feel so blessed to get to have a guy around you who just loves to play baseball. You can tell,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Every day he comes to the door, it's like he's playing his first game in Little League. He's a manager's delight because you know he's going to be there, he's going to post up, he loves to play and it's never going to be for a lack of caring. He'll do as well as he can do.”
Your turn: Will Vladimir Guerrero get to 3,000 hits?