GROCHOWSKI: How likely is 500 home runs? 3,000 hits?
Starlin Castro of the Cubs swings for a two-run home run in the third inning at Wrigley Field Wednesday, August 15, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
402The number of career home runs for White Sox catcher slugger Adam Dunn.
Going into the 2013 season, a couple of White Sox hitters have milestones in sight. With 422 home runs, Paul Konerko isn’t going to make 500 this season, but it’s not hard to imagine him getting there if he’s able to play a few more years. Adam Dunn has 402, and he’s four years younger than 37-year-old Paulie. No. 500 seems well within reach.
On the North Side, no one is that close to any of baseball’s big milestones, but Starlin Castro has 529 hits in three seasons, and is only 24. Dare Cub fans dream of 3,000 hits?
Just for fun, there is a way to quantify that. In his pioneering “Baseball Abstracts” of the 1980s, Bill James published a method called “my favorite toy.” Taking into account a player’s age, distance from a milestone and established performance level, it gives you the chance in percent that a player will reach the target.
Take Castro as an example. He needs 2,471 hits to reach 3,000. The favorite toy multiplies age by 0.6 and subtracts the result from 24, which with rounding gives Castro an estimate of 10 years remaining.
To estimate his level of performance, the last three seasons are used. Castro’s 189 hits last season are multiplied by three, his 207 in 2011 multiplied by two and his 139 in ’10 used with no multiplier. The total —1,102 — is divided by six to get an established level of 183.7 hits per season, which we round up to 184.
Multiplied by 10 seasons remaining, those 184 hits give Castro an expectation of 1,840 hits remaining.
Next we take that projected remaining total and subtract half the number needed to reach the goal. That’s 1840 minus 1,235, or 605. Divide 605 by the 2,471 hits needed, and you get 0.24. Multiply by 100 to convert to percent, and Castro has a 24 percent chance of reaching 3,000 hits.
Castro has established high performance at such a young age that the favorite toy even sees him with an outside shot at 4,000 hits, with a 3 percent chance.
You can find a list of major leaguers with established milestone chances in the “2013 Bill James Handbook” from Baseball Info Solutions, and that includes the Sox sluggers. Konerko has a 65 percent chance of reaching 500 home runs, and with 2,183 hits has a 10 percent chance of reaching 3,000.
Dunn is seen as a virtual shoo-in for 500 home runs with a 91 percent chance, along with a 2 percent chance at 600.
These aren’t hard and fast predictions. Career paths change with injuries, breakthroughs, early fades and more. Think of it more as if we had 100 Starlin Castros at this career stage, we’d expect 24 to reach 3,000 hits and 76 to miss. More Dunns and Konerkos would reach their target. Milestone discussions are mostly a bit of fun for fans anyway, and the favorite toy puts the numbers in play.