Baseball’s 3,000 hit club is as sacred as its 500 home run club.
Only 31 players have ever reached 3,000 hits in Major League Baseball. The most recent were Adrián Beltré and Ichiro Suzuki. Let me talk about Ichiro for a moment.
What makes Ichiro’s accomplishment more impressive is that he did it all after age 27. He spent the first nine seasons of his career playing baseball in his home country of Japan. In fact, he amassed 1,278 hits in Japan’s version of the American Major Leagues.
In the weeks before Ichiro reaching 3,000 hits, there was a feud simmering between Pete Rose and Ichiro Suzuki. Many people were saying Ichiro was a more prolific hitter than Pete Rose. I can only imagine that Pete Rose only said the things he said because he was getting annoyed at all the people asking him about Ichiro. So let’s take a step back from the subjective and look at the objective.
First of all, you can’t just add Ichiro’s hits in Japan to his MLB totals. That’s like mixing up a hundred Canadian and American pennies, then calling it a dollar. Different leagues, different rules, different styles of play. You can’t mix them. So let’s move on and look only at Ichiro’s MLB hits.
We have Ichiro’s full MLB statistics from 2001-2016 (ages 27-42). We’re lucky enough that Pete Rose played a long career, so it is easy to see how he did at ages 27-42.
Pete Rose 1968-1983: 3,091 hits
Ichiro Suzuki 2001-2016: 3,030 hits
So there you have it. Pete Rose is the undisputed Hit King. While Ichiro’s hitting has been impressive, Pete Rose got 61 more hits than him over the same period in his life.
Wait. Not so fast.
If you look closer, you will see that Pete Rose got 300 more at-bats than Ichiro did over that time. Pete Rose’s batting average over that period was .309, while Ichiro’s was .313.
The truth is, Pete Rose and Ichiro Suzuki are almost clones of one another regarding hitting ability. It is impossible to prove one was better than the other, especially because they played in different eras.
How about we just crown them both Hit Kings?
As a side note, between ages 23-38 (he retired at age 38), Adrián Beltré had “only” 2,584 hits.