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Friday, June 29, 2018

Major League Baseball’s aging cycle—How Mike Trout becomes Albert Pujols

I haven’t had time to read this over but Sam Miller usually does interesting stuff.

Jim Furtado Posted: June 29, 2018 at 10:04 AM | 34 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: player aging

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   1. Rally Posted: June 29, 2018 at 11:32 AM (#5702168)
Yup, another homerun for Sam. Hopefully Trout doesn't become Pujols in the same timeframe, the hope is that he defies the aging process like Justin Verlander.
   2. Adam Starblind Posted: June 29, 2018 at 11:56 AM (#5702187)
Really, really enjoyable read.
   3. eric Posted: June 29, 2018 at 11:57 AM (#5702190)
Yes, definitely a great read.

One thing I'd like a little more insight into is Verlander's renaissance. Lots of articles have covered it, but they never address the how. A few years ago he was throwing 88. Now he's back to 99. How did that happen?
   4. bjhanke Posted: June 29, 2018 at 12:25 PM (#5702216)
A strange article. I wish the author had noted two things about Albert Pujols' again patterns: 1) When Albert first came up, he was a third basemen. But then he hurt his elbow, and his arm was longer good enough for third, so the Cardinals sent him to the outfield. 2) A couple of years later, he developed plantar fasciitis. PF essentially means "Your feet hurt all the time; it hurts more to run than to walk." Albert has spent the last decade fighting that plantar fasciitis. He knows that it will (actually has) driven him into the DH spot. He knows that he can't beat out anything any more. It hurts like hell to go from first to third on a single. He doesn't run out ground balls as hard as he used to. Plantar fasciitis has, essentially, determined the rate of Pujols' decline phase. What the author says is true in general, but it's not because Albert is a typical great player at an advanced age. It's because he's a player who's lost all his speed to a medical condition. Somebody who isn't going through that might make a better subject to focus on. - Brock Hanke
   5. Swoboda is freedom Posted: June 29, 2018 at 12:28 PM (#5702218)
One thing I have always wondered about pitchers: Is it the age or the mileage? Or a combo? There have been a lot of examples of getting too many inning early, but how about a guy like DeGrom? He is 30, but didn't start pitching until after college. He also lost a year to Tommy John. Do we look at him as 30, or do we think he can hold it together for longer.
   6. Booey Posted: June 29, 2018 at 12:30 PM (#5702221)
One thing I'd like a little more insight into is Verlander's renaissance. Lots of articles have covered it, but they never address the how. A few years ago he was throwing 88. Now he's back to 99. How did that happen?


Something something Kate Upton.
   7. Esmailyn Gonzalez Sr. Posted: June 29, 2018 at 12:34 PM (#5702223)
Sam Miller is the best.
   8. JRVJ Posted: June 29, 2018 at 12:53 PM (#5702228)
Primey for 6.
   9. , Posted: June 29, 2018 at 01:00 PM (#5702232)
You master the delusion just about in time for it to cease to be true.

That's a nice line in a good article. I agree with Brock to a point. Something like PF IS a system breaking down.
   10. Hysterical & Useless Posted: June 29, 2018 at 01:32 PM (#5702247)
he developed plantar fasciitis. PF essentially means "Your feet hurt all the time; it hurts more to run than to walk."


Some years back I was having terrible trouble with my feet. Every morning when I got out of bed, I could barely walk, they hurt so much. After I'd been up and ambulating for awhile they'd be okay. Went to the doctor, told him about it, he looked at them a bit and said it was the beginning of plantar fasciitis, stiffening of the connective tissue of the sole of the foot, which can ultimately lead to bone spurs on the heel. Gave me a couple of stretching exercises to do, feet have been fine* ever since.

Wish something simple could've been done to help Albert.

*"Fine," other than the pre-existing bunion and arthritis.
   11. KJOK Posted: June 29, 2018 at 01:43 PM (#5702259)
I agree with Brock to a point
Me too. Pujols does have a very specific ailment, but on the other hand, part of almost all player's aging process it they start to be hampered by injuries which limit their playing time and impact their performance.




   12. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 29, 2018 at 01:48 PM (#5702262)
I'll echo everyone here, fantastic piece.

Also, very uplifting and not at all depressing:

There's a lot of debate in the study of aging about what aging actually is -- when it starts, how to define it, why it happens. One thread goes like this: Through natural selection, our genes have evolved to do certain things meant to help us reach the age of sexual maturity, and they expend a lot of energy simply holding us together until then. After that point, though, selection is either much weaker or irrelevant. The genes don't give the cells instructions for how to age, and we become something more like inanimate objects, our cells degrading thoughtlessly as we come apart. Microbiologist Leonard Hayflick, a titan in the field, has argued that aging is explained by entropy -- the tendency for concentrated energy to disperse when unhindered. When the forces of our animacy quit holding us together, we just kind of break, haphazardly.


I'm on the young side on this site.
   13. Rally Posted: June 29, 2018 at 02:07 PM (#5702272)
Plantar fasciitis has, essentially, determined the rate of Pujols' decline phase. What the author says is true in general, but it's not because Albert is a typical great player at an advanced age. It's because he's a player who's lost all his speed to a medical condition. Somebody who isn't going through that might make a better subject to focus on. - Brock Hanke


I would not put everything on that. David Ortiz had similar issues, but he was able to keep things together in the batter's box.
   14. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: June 29, 2018 at 02:20 PM (#5702282)
I disagree with Brock. Kershaw and Trout and Ohtani do plenty to explain Pujols. We already know that 38 year olds hurt. So explaining why he's no longer good at baseball isn't particularly interesting. If not plantar fasciitis, then something else. It strikes me that the Pujols bit is intended to explain that there's still something beautiful in baseball for him despite his sucking at it (by MLB standards). It seems to appreciate old Pujols as he is in a way that past-their-prime athletes usually aren't.
   15. Rally Posted: June 29, 2018 at 02:26 PM (#5702287)
I've looked at it before and found that Pujols has declined more than typical among great players, but looking at age 38 he's about typical. I looked at all players since 1980 who had 20+ WAR for their age 29 to age 31 seasons. That would give you the comps the Angels would/should have been looking at when he signed at age (allegedly) 32.

Bonds was off the charts at 9.2 WAR in his age 38 year.

Above average players:
Wade Boggs (3.4), Cal Ripken (2.7)

Average or below, but above replacement:
Mike Schmidt
Rickey Henderson
Craig Biggio
Carlos Beltran
Chase Utley

With .5 WAR in half a season, Pujols is on pace to be in this group

Near or under replacement:
Jason Giambi, Gary Carter

Out of baseball:
A-Rod (suspended)
Jeff Bagwell, Ryne Sandberg (retired)

If the Angels had gotten typical great-player-in-decline returns it would have meant Pujols playing better from 2013-2017, but there was no reason to expect much from him for this age and beyond. Signing him for ages 38-41 is all just deferred money to obtain his services before this year.
   16. dlf Posted: June 29, 2018 at 02:30 PM (#5702292)
I'd just add that Pujols last game in the outfield was in 2003. I seem to remember that he's had a few fairly good years since then. Maybe it was delayed action plantar fascitis.
   17. Rally Posted: June 29, 2018 at 02:44 PM (#5702297)
One thing I'd like a little more insight into is Verlander's renaissance. Lots of articles have covered it, but they never address the how. A few years ago he was throwing 88. Now he's back to 99. How did that happen?


Good question, but overstated a bit. He threw a pitch at 88 a few years ago and one at 99 this year. But those are the extreme points of something that has within season and within game variance. He averaged 92.3 for 2014, his low point, and is up to 94.9 this year.
   18. Adam Starblind Posted: June 29, 2018 at 04:30 PM (#5702336)

That's a nice line in a good article. I agree with Brock to a point. Something like PF IS a system breaking down.


True. Nobody gets plantar fascitis when they're 17. And Albert may well be 2 years older than his baseball card indicates.
   19. kthejoker Posted: June 29, 2018 at 04:46 PM (#5702351)
Verlander credits a trainer named Annie Gow for helping him undergo a "body reclamation project."

Verlander remains on top of his game
   20. Walt Davis Posted: June 29, 2018 at 06:12 PM (#5702387)
Lots to comment/speculate on here ...

#5: Years ago, MGL (I'm pretty sure) said that for pitchers, it was experience not age per se, at least at the ML level. I forget exactly when but it was something like their peak performance was at years 4-6 or something like that (on average of course). So if they didn't become full-time starters in the majors until age 25-26, their peak might be ages 29-32. If they made the majors at 21, the peak might be 25-28. As opposed to hitters who, on average, peaked at 27-28 regardless of when they made the majors. I don't know if he'd still stand by that conclusion or anybody has looked at that since ... or even if my memory is accurate. And missing in all of that is minor-league mileage.

There's also plenty of work on the negative impact of pre-25 ML innings on longevity but most of those studies, maybe all that I've ever bothered to read, also made no adjustment for minor-league innings. And especially back in the day, a SP could throw a lot of innings in the minors -- e.g. Fergie Jenkins threw 196 innings at age 21 at AA-AAA; Bill Hands threw 210 at age 22 at A ball (then missed nearly all of age 23 and seems to have been still "rehabbing" at 24 with 68 mostly relief appearances). Whether the current development patterns of limiting minor-league innings has changed pitcher aging patterns would be an interesting study that I don't think I've seen (not that I go looking).

Pujols and aging and #15 in particular: Yep. I looked at that back in the day. About the worst-aging great hitter to that point had been Frank Thomas who I considered a (nearly) worst-case scenario for Pujols. As #15 notes, by age 37-38 though, all bets were off. Looking just 1980+, the comps for Pujols are quite limited -- Utley and Biggio were fine players but they were not Pujols. Push it back a bit and you add the positive stories of Aaron, Mays and Williams.

#11: That was also part of my look at this back in the day. Nearly everybody who was in Pujols' universe as a hitter remained a very good hitter through about age 36-37 ... in terms of rates. Not as awesome as they'd been but they kept pushing out 140-150 OPS+ seasons. What was common was losing PT, presumably due to minor injuries, slower recovery, etc. due to aging. Then by age 37-38, sometimes they were just completely done.

We'll never know but when Pujols' decline started to be obvious, I noted that he wasn't walking much. He seemed to approach aging as if he should still hit 300 and that the way to get out of his "slump" was to swing more. That's not the "typical" approach of aging hitters -- easier said than done of course, but usually you swing less, swing harder, jump the walks a bit along with the Ks. It's understandable -- if anybody was going to be the next Edgar, Pujols would be an obvious choice. But for a guy who seemed such an excellent all-around player with great baseball intelligence, he seems to have been very stubborn in his old age. I'm sure he works hard on it still but he never seemed to try a different approach even though his clearly wasn't working well.

On the article ... I'm definitely less impressed than others. It didn't really tell me anything I didn't know. As somebody notes, it doesn't really explain what's going on with the individual examples (Verlander) and it's not clear why you'd focus on just one player at each of those points. Not that it was poorly written, it's fine enough but I don't feel like I learned anything new about aging nor about the specific players profiled. A detailed comparison of Verlander and another pitcher (Felix maybe) probably would have been more interesting to me.

   21. Hank Gillette Posted: June 30, 2018 at 01:23 AM (#5702536)
One thing I was reminded of by the article was that Bill James, for one, said that we should not expect a normal aging curve from Mike Trout, because he started out at such a high level. He cited Al Kaline, I believe, who only exceeded his age 20 season one time (at age 26). That made a lot of sense, but contrary to all expectations, Trout is having the best season of his career at age 26 (he was doing the same thing at age 25 before he was injured). I’m not sure how he is able to do this, but one thing I have heard or read is that as good as he is, he still works to get better and address his weaknesses (such as they are). One can only imagine what Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle might have done had they had that kind of work ethic.
   22. Hank Gillette Posted: June 30, 2018 at 01:29 AM (#5702537)
I hesitate to bring this up, but the article said that by age 23 the male body is already declining in the production of testosterone and growth hormone. That made me wonder: what would happen if an athlete took only enough testosterone and growth hormone to match what he had at age 22? Would that be enough to give a positive on tests? Assuming no, it seems that this would still be helpful, even if not giving the benefits of the massive doses taken before MLB started testing.
   23. Howie Menckel Posted: June 30, 2018 at 02:10 AM (#5702539)
Trout vs Pujols OPS+ so far in full seasons (including 2018 pace), best to worst*

MTrout 205 187 179 176 173 168 168
APujols 192 189 187 178 173 173 168 157 157 151 148 138 116 118 113 090 081


* - Trout obviously mops the floor with Pujols on the defensive side. this experiment was to see if he can hit like Pujols - and if so, holy smokes

Trout as a hitter alone hangs with Pujols for a 7-year prime (and yes, even with hitting stats only, OPS+ is not perfect)

roughly, if Trout doesn't lose much steam, he beats Pujols as a hitter. and if you also have a glove - well, talk about inner circle......
   24. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: June 30, 2018 at 02:31 AM (#5702540)
)
I hesitate to bring this up, but the article said that by age 23 the male body is already declining in the production of testosterone and growth hormone. That made me wonder: what would happen if an athlete took only enough testosterone and growth hormone to match what he had at age 22? Would that be enough to give a positive on tests? Assuming no, it seems that this would still be helpful, even if not giving the benefits of the massive doses taken before MLB started testing.


The issue is there is very little evidence that testosterone supplements do anything.
   25. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: June 30, 2018 at 09:40 AM (#5702552)
I'm definitely less impressed than others. It didn't really tell me anything I didn't know. As somebody notes, it doesn't really explain what's going on with the individual examples (Verlander) and it's not clear why you'd focus on just one player at each of those points.


I think people are misunderstanding what this article is doing and why.
   26. Swoboda is freedom Posted: June 30, 2018 at 04:20 PM (#5702756)
The issue is there is very little evidence that testosterone supplements do anything.

But the ads assured me that I would regain my confidence, stamina and beautiful women would want to hang around me!!!
   27. Howie Menckel Posted: June 30, 2018 at 04:32 PM (#5702758)
When the forces of our animacy quit holding us together, we just kind of break, haphazardly.

the annual BBTF softball game could be a teaching video of this
   28. QLE Posted: June 30, 2018 at 05:39 PM (#5702784)
But the ads assured me that I would regain my confidence, stamina and beautiful women would want to hang around me!!!


The ads also warned that talking about sabermetrics would make the confidence, stamina, and beautiful women all bail towards the exits, so.....
   29. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: June 30, 2018 at 06:30 PM (#5702796)
* - Trout obviously mops the floor with Pujols on the defensive side. this experiment was to see if he can hit like Pujols - and if so, holy smokes

People forget, but Pujols at his peak was an excellent defensive player, winning GGs and accruing real value in the field. Trout as a CFer has been the more valuable defender, and he has an advantage in baserunning as well, but “mops the floor” is a bit strong. (I hope his body holds up long enough that he truly does mop the floor with a Albert.)
   30. , Posted: June 30, 2018 at 06:47 PM (#5702806)
I wish I had paid more attention to Pujols - did he lose a valuable coach/mentor in moving to LA? Perhaps his stubborness as a hitter is just that he isn't getting good coaching?
   31. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: June 30, 2018 at 06:58 PM (#5702811)
I wish I had paid more attention to Pujols - did he lose a valuable coach/mentor in moving to LA?


If you look closely at his record, he was already in decline in his last year in St Louis. He put up the lowest BA and SLG of his career in 2011, and his walk rate went pffft. Most of us assumed it was a fluke, but I think it's more likely that injuries were already catching up to him before he ever set foot in LA, and that just continued. Squint, and you can actually see him declining in 2010, given how high his peak was.

Someone upthread said it looked like he'd sold out his approach to keep trying to hit .300, which is not what you expect from an aging slugger, but it sure does seem that way. After walking between 84 and 115 times between 2004-10, he walked just 61 in 2011, which was the first year of his decline and his last year as anything like the hitter he'd once been. Some of that was he lost 20 IBB, presumably because he wasn't scaring opposing pitchers like he had been -- but not all of it. He drew 65 unintentional walks in 2010, and just 46 the next year. His BA dropped a fairly unremarkable 13 points, but his OBP went from .414 (already well below his peak standard) to .366.
   32. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: June 30, 2018 at 07:03 PM (#5702817)
One can only imagine what Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle might have done had they had that kind of work ethic.


Interestingly, Mantle -- the player I most often see Trout compared to -- actually did the same thing. His rookie year wasn't quite as crazy, but at 20 he put up a 162 OPS+ and you would be excused for thinking he was going to go the Kaline route, too. Instead, he improved. From 24-30, Mantle had an extended peak where he put up a 189 OPS+ and sometimes swept up well over 200. That appears to be the direction Trout is headed (though hopefully with fewer injuries).
   33. McCoy Posted: July 01, 2018 at 08:03 AM (#5702977)
Depressing article for someone who is looking to have a kid in his 40's.
   34. Adam Starblind Posted: July 01, 2018 at 10:00 AM (#5702994)

Depressing article for someone who is looking to have a kid in his 40's.


You can adopt me if you want. Do you have money?

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