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Where will Derek Jeter finish on the all-time hits list?

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 09: Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees celebratess after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on July 9, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

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Upon reaching the milestone Saturday, Derek Jeter became the fourth youngest player to collect 3,000 hits, doing so just a couple of weeks after his 37th birthday on June 26.

Ty Cobb got there at age 34. Hank Aaron and Robin Yount were 36. Pete Rose was just a week older than Jeter when he did it.

And, of course, Rose and Cobb are the only members of the 4,000-hit club. Rose ended his career with 4,256. Cobb finished at 4,189. Next on the list is Aaron at 3,771.

So, where will Jeter stand on the all-time list when he’s finished? He’s currently 27th after overtaking Roberto Clemente, who died having collected exactly 3,000 hits. With his 5-for-5 day pushing him up to 3,003 hits, he’s just four hits behind Al Kaline for 26th place.

Jeter has 2 1/2 years to go on the three-year, $51 million contract he signed to remain with the Yankees last winter. Over the last 2 1/2 years, he has 461 hits. That, however, is going to be a hard total to match over the remainder of his contract.

So, let’s figure it out.

The Yankees have 74 games left this season. Let’s say Jeter plays in 68 of them. Jeter has averaged 1.27 hits per game over the course of his career, but only 1.16 this season. I’ll split the difference and give him 1.21 hits per game over the rest of the season.

That gives Jeter 82 more hits and puts him at 3,085 entering 2012.

From there, who really knows? Some Yankees fans have talked about wanting Jeter to retire after the season because of his diminished production. No one really thinks that’s going to happen, though. Jeter is almost certainly going to be the Yankees’ regular shortstop again next season. It may well be for the best if he slides down to the bottom of the lineup, at least against right-handers. However, if Jeter stays healthy, he’s going to rack up at least another 150 hits next year.

After that, maybe a reduced role will be in store for 2013. And depending on how he handles the adjustment, he could retire after the season or remain with the Yankees as a part-timer.

Time for some numbers. Here’s what I’m thinking.

First, a look at the last four seasons:

2008: 179 H in 150 G - 1.19 H/G
2009: 212 H in 153 G - 1.39 H/G
2010: 179 H in 157 G - 1.14 H/G
2011: 77 H in 67 G - 1.15 H/B

And now my remainder of career of projection:

2011: 82 H in 68 G - 1.21 H/G
2012: 157 H in 140 G - 1.12 H/G
2013: 131 H in 125 G - 1.05 H/G

That would put him at 3,373 hits for his career, placing him ninth all-time between Carl Yastrzemski at 3,419 and Paul Molitor at 3,319.

And that sounds about right to me. Jeter isn’t likely to hang on like Rose did. Retiring at 39 as MLB’s ninth-leading hitter seems pretty appropriate.

But how about one more projection. Let’s say Jeter rebounds next year, and the Yankees decide that while he’s probably not a shortstop anymore, he still needs to be an everyday player in 2013, whether it’s in the outfield or at third base (with Alex Rodriguez at DH). He adjusts well, hits about .300 and gets a two-year deal that keeps him in pinstripes through 2015. So here’s the optimistic projection:

2011: 82 H in 68 G - 1.21 H/G
2012: 183 H in 150 G - 1.22 H/G
2013: 171 H in 145 G - 1.18 H/G
2014: 161 H in 140 G - 1.15 H/G
2015: 135 H in 125 G - 1.08 H/G

That would give Jeter 3,735 hits through age 41. Rose and Cobb still appear way out of reach, but he’d be just 36 hits behind Aaron for third all-time. I’d say it’s a long shot, but it’s not so difficult to imagine.

1. Rose - 4,256
2. Cobb - 4,189
3. Aaron - 3,771
4. Jeter - 3,735