Can Altuve reach this rare milestone?

May 18th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart's Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Could Astros second baseman become the next player to reach 3,000 career hits? Altuve entered Tuesday’s game against the Red Sox with 1,799 career hits, leaving him with quite a bit of heavy lifting to reach 3,000, something that only 33 players have done, including Craig Biggio of the Astros.

Even 1,201 hits shy of 3,000, Altuve may have the best chance to reach that milestone of any active player. Altuve ranks 10th among active players in hits, with two of those -- Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera -- already in the 3,000-hit club. That leaves seven players ahead of Altuve on the list who are still chasing 3,000 hits, but all are older than Altuve.

Altuve, who turned 32 earlier this month, would have to average 173 hits a year for the next seven seasons (2022-28), which would take him through his age-38 season. Altuve averaged 188 hits a year from 2012 -- his first full year in the Major Leagues -- to 2019. 2020 was the shortened season, but in 2021 he had 167 hits in 146 games.

“I’m too far away from 3,000,” Altuve said recently. “I feel like I need to accomplish many more things before that, like winning a lot of games, winning championships with the team. I’m not saying I don’t care about that. Obviously, it would be a dream come true, but I feel like it’s a long way. I don’t like to think too much about the future.”

The question about which player will be next to 3,000 arose when Cabrera -- Altuve’s close friend -- became the 33rd member of the club last month.

“I’m happy every time I get to play against him and watch him do everything he’s done in baseball,” Altuve said. “He’s the best Venezuelan-born baseball player ever with 500 homers, 3,000 hits. That’s impressive. I’m proud to be his friend.”

Of the seven players ahead of Altuve who are chasing 3,000, six are 35 years old or older. Robinson Canó has 2,632 hits but is 39 and just found a job with the Padres. Yadier Molina (2,131) is in his final season, and Joey Votto (2,036) is 38 and walks too much. No one else has more than 2,000 hits. Elvis Andrus is 33 years old and has 1,889 hits, but his production has dropped dramatically since he left the Rangers after the 2020 season.

“He has the best shot of all the guys right now,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said about Altuve.

Altuve’s 200-hit seasons may be behind him, but he’s still an elite hitter.

“It’s a longevity thing,” said Biggio, who was 41 when he reached 3,000 in his final year in the Majors in 2007. “You’ve got to stay healthy. You’ve got to put up your numbers, you’ve got to keep doing what you do.”

Biggio was on the injured list only once in his 20-year career. He played 162 games three times, 160 games twice and 150 games or more in six other seasons. Like Altuve, Biggio has speed and he hit at the top of the order, which helped him reach the milestone.

“Somebody asked me what the biggest thing is in getting it,” Biggio said. “Honestly, everybody assumes you’re going to get it. Anything can happen. You can break your leg before the game, something could happen on the field. You are just relieved you finally get there. I felt better that my teammates didn’t have to talk about it anymore.”