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Jun 23, 2011

Visualizing Derek Jeter's 3,000-hit milestone

With all the fanfare in New York for Derek Jeter reaching the 3,000-hit mark, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to gather some data to put this rare event in perspective. First off, let me qualify my interest and passion around this topic. I was born and raised in Pelham, New York, which is roughly 15 minutes from Yankee Stadium. I grew up following Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford in the 1960s. My passion for baseball and the Yankees is clearly a result of those memorable early days of going to see them with my Dad.

Much later on in my life, I embarked on a fantasy baseball endeavor with my Eastman Kodak colleagues, and I have been active since 1988 with this hobby. One of the most memorable moves that I made in our keeper fantasy baseball league was to trade Cal Ripken for Derek Jeter during his rookie season. The rest, as they say, is history. Derek Jeter has been the JMP Yankees shortstop his entire career, and the JMP Yankees have been a consistent championship contender year in and year out.

Visualizing the data in JMP

Visualizing the data on the 3,000-hit club in JMP only increased my appreciation of Derek Jeter’s career. My first observation is that the 28 players that have reached the lofty milestone of 3,000 hits have a mean age of 39. Jeter is 37.

graph in JMP of distribution of ages of players who have had 3,000 hits

Further evaluation of the distribution of the year that each player reached 3,000 hits led to another interesting observation. When one fits the distribution in JMP, a normal two-mixture fit results. Curiously enough, the MLB expansion occurred in the 1960s, when the number of teams increased from 16 to 30. The number of players to reach 3,000 hits was 8 before 1960 and 19 since 1960. One could argue that pitching dilution is the reason for this.

Visualizing Data in JMP Graph Builder

I also thought it would be cool to visualize the data utilizing Graph Builder in JMP, adding a reference line for the mean age of 39, and also to see the frequency of the 3,000-hit event over time.

Graph Builder in JMP

Quite honestly, even though I am a biased Yankee fan, this graphic really makes me appreciate how extraordinary a player Derek Jeter is and how glad I am that I was able to lure him away for Cal Ripken a long time ago.

EDITOR'S NOTE July 27: The JMP data table for the 3,000-hit club is now available in the JMP File Exchange. (You need a SAS login to get the free download.)

Community Member

Lou Valente wrote:

Lance, great point! Maybe a combination of both.

Community Member

lance shull wrote:

of the hitters who made 3K in the DH-era, my estimation is that there are 3 players who wouldn't have made it without the DH rule:

george brett

dave winfield

paul molitor

there are some that are arguable, because if you take away their hits earned as DH, they wouldn't have made it.

overall though, it seems a fair estimate that we'd have between 2 and 4 fewer members of the club without the DH rule.

Community Member

lance shull wrote:

i don't think "pitcher dilution" explains the 2nd graph. I would argue it's a matter of more MLB hitter-seasons, from which you'd expect more 3000 hit careers just based on sample size. more generally, i think that pitchers and hitters, for the most part, keep up with each other (ie, why never a theory about "hitter dilution?")... and maybe a slightly more radical theory is that the talent is always out there, and it's a matter of developing it in parallel with the demand for baseball entertainment.

Community Member

Mark Robbins wrote:

Great observations Lou.

It is interesting that there is also a vertical line of separation around 1973 - the year that the DH rule went into effect.

I wonder how many of those getting 3000 hits in the modern era extended their careers as DH's, which further enhances DJ's credentials.

Community Member

Lou Valente wrote:

Doug, Come to think of it I'm not sure that you ever even made a trade with me even after all these years:) I must say the league has had a great run since 1988 and I still have the first "Tacky" trophy that you manufactured attributing the championship to computer technology and the Mac SE.

Community Member

Doug Abbott wrote:

Hey Lou! I'm just glad I wasn't sucker who traded with you way back when. I think - in the interest of fairness - you should provide all of your SCAB cohorts with a complimentary copy of JMP and lessons on how to apply it to fantasy baseball in a winning way. Please Lou - have pity!

Community Member

Lee Mackey wrote:

Great blog! Yankees baseball and statistics, one of my favorite combination!

Community Member

Andrea Dreisbach wrote:

Great blog, Lou1

I'm a Yankee fan by marriage as you know, and this helps me get a good feeling for the significance of Jeter's 3000-hit milestone!

Now if you can set up some JMP visual statistics to give me some context on the discussion about pitcher dilution.... :-)