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Friday, February 22, 2013

Posnanski: The Rise and Fall of A-Rod

While not as big a deal as Rob Parker moving to The Shadow League…Pos’ first for NBC.

And finally, Step 5 in the fall of A-Rod: He just got old. This happens to every ballplayer who ever played the game, and yet it always comes as a surprise. Through age 32, Alex Rodriguez was a lifetime .306 hitter. He has not hit.290 since then. He has not played 140 games in a season since then. The injuries have piled up. He has not managed 20 homers in either of the last two seasons.

“He got old very fast,” one scout says, but I don’t think that’s true. Rodriguez has been in the big regularly since he was 20 years old. He has more than 11,000 plate appearances – more plate appearances than Ernie Banks or Babe Ruth or Tony Gwynn. He has played more than 10,000 innings at shortstop, stolen more than 300 bases, scored almost 1,900 runs. The body only has so many games.

That’s where we are now. Alex Rodriguez is injured – he had hip surgery in the offseason – and nobody is entirely sure when he might return. MLB is investigating Biogenesis. Rodriguez is being excoriated everywhere and, more to the point, being written off. His baseball achievements put him with the giants of the game, and people talk about him never reaching the Hall of Fame.

Rodriguez himself has stayed out of the public eye, though various reports emerge of him being alternately defiant and enraged and paranoid. No matter what, it’s hard to find the kid who loved baseball. It’s hard to find the talent who was going to change the game. It’s hard to find the joy that once made him unique.

And even going step-by-step, through the fall, it still defies belief that it ended up like this for one of the most extraordinarily talented young baseball players in the history of the game.

Repoz Posted: February 22, 2013 at 10:19 AM | 117 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, yankees

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   1. asinwreck Posted: February 22, 2013 at 11:05 AM (#4373848)
Good, historical profile.

I look forward to reading Joe's debut in the New York Times June 5.
   2. Darren Posted: February 22, 2013 at 11:13 AM (#4373861)
The Times hired him? I guess that makes sense.
   3. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: February 22, 2013 at 11:31 AM (#4373884)
One year after that, in 2003, he led the league in runs, homers and slugging and won another Gold Glove – his greatness was so overwhelming that he won the MVP even though the Rangers had lost 91 games and finished in last place.


I remember this as the only time I've ever read a Jayson Stark column where the usually affable, good-natured writer came off as seriously pissed. He was quite upset that A-Rod had won the MVP despite the Rangers' record.

Also, for all of Stark's appearances on ESPN, I only once remember him getting worked up in an angry, confrontational way. It was during a 2006 discussion of possible MVP candidates when Brian Kenny suggested that Travis Hafner, who was having a ferocious season for a crummy Indians team, should be a legit candidate (this was before Hafner suffered his annual season-ending injury).

In other words, Jayson Stark really frigging hated the idea of a player from a losing team winning the MVP.
   4. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: February 22, 2013 at 11:41 AM (#4373897)
When Andre Dawson won the MVP, Jayson Stark went to the Philippines and sank the MV Doña Paz.
   5. zack Posted: February 22, 2013 at 11:43 AM (#4373899)
You know, I've never thought about this before in my life, and I don't really care about A-rod one way or another, but I just realized I don't want A-Rod to pass Willie on the HR board.

I don't mind Bonds at the top, so I'm not sure why. I think I just like not having to think about the numbers at the top. There's a whole pack of modern guys just behind Willie and I'd like them to stay there, where it's a different sort of achievement.

Of course, unless A-rod never plays another game because of this surgery it's almost guaranteed he'll pass Mays.
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 22, 2013 at 11:47 AM (#4373905)

I look forward to reading Joe's debut in the New York Times June 5.


I guess if the Gray Lady is willing to take a chance on a blogger like Pos, there's still hope for bloggers like Murray Chass.
   7. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 22, 2013 at 11:48 AM (#4373906)
There's a lot of silly ARod-has-crashed-and-burned hysteria right now. There's no reason to think he can't be a 120 OPS+ hitter at 3B with good defense when he returns. And it wouldn't shock me if he managed a 130-140 OPS+. The biggest question is durability. But I still see a 3-5 WAR player with a chance to turn back the clock if the hip surgery is able to correct the problem. Sure, ARod his highly unlikely to be close to the contract value, but the contract is what it is.
   8. Rants Mulliniks Posted: February 22, 2013 at 11:52 AM (#4373915)
Well Jayson Stark was the one who argued Shannon Stewart's 65 games of 124 OPS+ with 3 SBs and 4 CS in 2003 was worthy of an MVP, so I think we know how much credence to give him on such matters.

That article makes me want to write A-Rod some fan mail. He was the first player younger than me to make the majors, and I've liked him ever since, regardless of all the crap. He's just a man.
   9. Nasty Nate Posted: February 22, 2013 at 11:52 AM (#4373916)
There's a lot of silly ARod-has-crashed-and-burned hysteria right now.


I agree. We haven't seen the last of him.
   10. Darren Posted: February 22, 2013 at 11:55 AM (#4373918)
So, no copyediting?
   11. The Good Face Posted: February 22, 2013 at 11:58 AM (#4373920)
There's a lot of silly ARod-has-crashed-and-burned hysteria right now.


I agree. We haven't seen the last of him.


Thirded. Despite missing a bunch of games in 2012 and playing hurt in many of those he appeared in, A-Rod was a productive player. It's way too early to assume he's done.
   12. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:02 PM (#4373926)
I agree that he'll play again but I'm a bit skeptical that he can be productive. His OPS+ has declined every year since 2007 and he's a 37 year old coming off a second major injury. I think a 130-140 OPS+ would be a huge shocker frankly, he was last at that level in 2009. That would be a big bounceback.
   13. Bitter Mouse Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:06 PM (#4373929)
Sign me up for the #12 version of the future as more likely than the #7 version.
   14. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:07 PM (#4373930)
He's just a mancentaur.


Fixed.
   15. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:08 PM (#4373935)
He's just a half-man/half-horse.

FTFY.
   16. Blastin Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:09 PM (#4373936)
I think it would be very difficult not to come out kind of awkward when this was your life for the last twenty years. That doesn't mean you take PEDS - being an MLB player means that, heh - but I've never hated A-Rod, even when he wasn't on my team. He didn't ever seem like he was out to hurt people besides the teams weighed down by big contracts, and it's not his fault the stupid team agreed to the demands.

But, um, you know, I wish he wasn't old and falling apart like a normal human. (Shrug) He'll always be one of the greatest I've seen play, no matter how long I live, provided Mike Trout isn't the first of a new league of superhumans.
   17. The Good Face Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:10 PM (#4373940)
I agree that he'll play again but I'm a bit skeptical that he can be productive. His OPS+ has declined every year since 2007 and he's a 37 year old coming off a second major injury. I think a 130-140 OPS+ would be a huge shocker frankly, he was last at that level in 2009. That would be a big bounceback.


I agree that a 140 OPS+ would be a big surprise, but that's not necessary for him to be productive; that would make him a worthy All Star. A 3B who puts up a 115 OPS+ and plays adequate defense is probably a 2-3 WAR player; that's plenty productive.
   18. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:11 PM (#4373941)
Jose, Cal Ripken hacked away to a 144 OPS+ at age 38 after years of mediocre hitting. You hit some home runs and get a lucky BABIP and you're off to the races. ARod is a much better hitter over his career than Ripken was, and is starting from a higher recent level.
   19. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:17 PM (#4373945)
Third basemen in their Age 38 year (min. 300 PAs):

Cal Ripken (144 OPS+)
Ron Cey (138)
Chipper Jones (120)
Graig Nettles (119)
Lave Cross (113)
Mike Schmidt (112)
Melvin Mora (98)
Wade Boggs (98)
Jimmy Dykes (98)
Jim Gantner (90)
Al Dark (87)
Gary Gaetti (85)
Ken Caminiti (84)
Sparky Adams (79)
Tim Wallach (74)
Jimmy Collins (65)
Brooks Robinson (58)
Pee Wee Reese (47)

That's it.
   20. bookbook Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:25 PM (#4373960)
A-Rod makes a tragic figure because he seemingly wanted so badly to be liked. In retrospect, going to the Yankees was just a horrific mistake. The players association didn't do him any favors.
   21. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:26 PM (#4373963)
So, no copyediting?


Yeah, it's a little odd. Posnanski's blog posts always had a fair number of errors, but that was something people tended to shrug and accept because it was a personal blog he was doing for no pay in his spare time with no editing services. Jokes notwithstanding, NBC Sports is an actual organization. You'd think they could afford to hire an editor or two.

   22. Blastin Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:28 PM (#4373965)
A-Rod makes a tragic figure because he seemingly wanted so badly to be liked. In retrospect, going to the Yankees was just a horrific mistake. The players association didn't do him any favors.


As the article says, he arranged to give up money to go to Boston. Of course, he gave up his position and number in NY, but Jeter's the "leader." (Not that we know they asked Jeter and he refused. We just know that A-Rod agreed to it.)
   23. Tippecanoe Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:29 PM (#4373969)
The body only has so many games


I don't fully agree with the paragraph that concludes with the above sentence. Reduction in performance in the mid-thirties is the result of a decline in refelexes/athleticism/agility plus the greater likelihood of injury. Thoses injuries could be the result of years of repetetive stress, or they could be because the muscles and joints are less resiliant and flexible with advancing age. In A-Rod's case, I have no idea whether his hip problems are the result of milage, or if its because the torque that the joint could withstand at age 25 is too much to endure at age 35.

Regardless, give me a 34-year old with 2200 games played over a 37-year-old with 1600 games played every time.
   24. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:32 PM (#4373974)
Of course, he gave up his position and number in NY


Somehow, I don't think people would have taken very well to unretiring Babe Ruth's number for A-Rod.
   25. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:34 PM (#4373978)
To be fair, has a horse ever made it to age 32 before breaking down? Even Seabiscuit was done just shy of his 7th birthday, after one comeback from a major injury.
   26. Bitter Mouse Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:36 PM (#4373981)
Somehow, I don't think people would have taken very well to unretiring Babe Ruth's number for A-Rod.


That would have been off the charts awesome had he demanded it and they done it. Never in a million years of course, but still.

AROD would have been much better served to have gone the AJ Pierogi route than what he tried to do.
   27. Bitter Mouse Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:36 PM (#4373983)
To be fair, has a horse ever made it to age 32 before breaking down?


Warhorse II: The Baseball Years
   28. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:36 PM (#4373984)
Jose, Cal Ripken hacked away to a 144 OPS+ at age 38 after years of mediocre hitting. You hit some home runs and get a lucky BABIP and you're off to the races. ARod is a much better hitter over his career than Ripken was, and is starting from a higher recent level.


True, but Ripken was obviously much healthier than A-Rod. Even if you take that out I would assume that a Ripken like performance is the exception, not the rule. I'm not saying it's impossible but I think he's much more likely to be under 120 than over assuming 400+ plate appearances. Obviously if he plays a shorter schedule due to rest or injury or whatever the likelihood of an extreme (in either direction) OPS+ increases.
   29. bunyon Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:37 PM (#4373985)
I, too, think he could bounce back and be a fine hitter. It's just that the error bars have gotten much bigger and include a measurable dose of 0 OPS and no longer includes 170. In any case, I suspect that if he is reasonably healthy, for his age, he'll hit.

What I don't think he'll do is ever again be a good 3Bman. He may have good weeks of near average defensive capability. An ARod on new hips at 3B and Jeter at SS tells me the Yanks had better be pitching righties away.
   30. Yastrzemski in left. Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:38 PM (#4373987)
I'd rather have Rick Burleson.
   31. Blastin Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:39 PM (#4373990)
Somehow, I don't think people would have taken very well to unretiring Babe Ruth's number for A-Rod.


Wells asked to wear his number AND his uniform that he bought, IIRC, for one game. We still like Boomer.

Anyway, you're right, it wasn't gonna happen. I'm just saying the story of his selfishness doesn't jibe with the facts of the 03-04 offseason.
   32. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:39 PM (#4373991)
True, but Ripken was obviously much healthier than A-Rod. Even if you take that out I would assume that a Ripken like performance is the exception, not the rule.


Well, sure. That's why I said "it wouldn't shock me" rather than "I predict it will happen."

I predicted a 120 OPS+.
   33. Bitter Mouse Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:42 PM (#4373994)
I predicted a 120 OPS+.


Maybe, but I think very limited playing time and overall value is very likely(including very suspect defense), no matter the rate stat he hits.
   34. Yastrzemski in left. Posted: February 22, 2013 at 12:46 PM (#4374001)
And if A-Rod ever wants to have a bust in the HOF he should retire before eclipsing any of the major records.
   35. Bitter Mouse Posted: February 22, 2013 at 01:01 PM (#4374019)
And if A-Rod ever wants to have a bust in the HOF he should retire before eclipsing any of the major records.


Ever is a long time, and I don't think he has a chance of eclisping much without a major health resurgeance.

I have changed my mind on one thing though, Bonds atop the HR leaderboards and not in the hall keeps him more to the forefront than just putting him in the hall and moving on would, so right now (as a Bonds fan) him not in the hall the next few years is not the worst thing in the world (and might not be for AROD either).

Is there an equestrian Hall of Fame? (googling - there are a seemingly lot of them, not sure which is the dominant or real one though) Should AROD be in both?
   36. Sonic Youk Posted: February 22, 2013 at 01:21 PM (#4374038)
I'll buy the 120 ops+, but not the good defense
   37. phredbird Posted: February 22, 2013 at 01:26 PM (#4374041)
Is there an equestrian Hall of Fame? (googling - there are a seemingly lot of them, not sure which is the dominant or real one though) Should AROD be in both?


this one sneaked up on me. i'm still chuckling.
   38. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: February 22, 2013 at 01:56 PM (#4374056)
To put this in the context of actual on-the-field stuff, do you think the Yankees' solution of Youk-Rod will be average, better-than-average, or worse-than-average as far as production in 2013?

I'm a hopeless partisan, so I won't guess. But I could see those two being more productive than, say, the Red Sox at that position.
   39. Nasty Nate Posted: February 22, 2013 at 02:01 PM (#4374059)
To put this in the context of actual on-the-field stuff, do you think the Yankees' solution of Youk-Rod will be average, better-than-average, or worse-than-average as far as production in 2013?


I think better than average.
   40. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 22, 2013 at 02:12 PM (#4374074)
I think the Yanks will get good value from 3B this year.
   41. The Good Face Posted: February 22, 2013 at 02:17 PM (#4374077)
I think the Yanks will get good value from 3B this year.


I think they'll get good production and lousy value.
   42. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 22, 2013 at 02:22 PM (#4374081)
Third basemen in their Age 38 year (min. 300 PAs):

Cal Ripken (144 OPS+)
Ron Cey (138)
Chipper Jones (120)
Graig Nettles (119)
Lave Cross (113)
Mike Schmidt (112)
Melvin Mora (98)
Wade Boggs (98)
Jimmy Dykes (98)
Jim Gantner (90)
Al Dark (87)
Gary Gaetti (85)
Ken Caminiti (84)
Sparky Adams (79)
Tim Wallach (74)
Jimmy Collins (65)
Brooks Robinson (58)
Pee Wee Reese (47)


None of these players had anything near A-Rod's ability except maybe Schmidt, and he didn't have Alex's athleticism, he was never able to play short stop full time in the majors.

Through age 36 Cal Ripken Jr. had a 115 OPS+, A-Rod's career average is 143.

Wade Boggs is closer at 139, but again wasn't anywhere near A-Rod's class as an athlete. Wade was in the minors for something like 4 years at ages A-Rod was playing in the majors (obviously not totally his fault).

Schmidt's career OPS+ at age 36 was 151, and he's one of the greatest 3B ever.

It's very likely Alex's poor recent years have been caused by that bad hip and if Alex's hip surgery is successful, a 140 OPS+is almost more likely than not.
   43. jyjjy Posted: February 22, 2013 at 02:22 PM (#4374083)
I have a feeling Youkrodner(Youklis, Rodriguez and Hafner) will hit very well as a three headed, 4 footed, 4 hooved mythological monster covering 3B/DH for NY this year. However, though I haven't read it in a while, I am almost certain such an unholy beast roaming this earth is explicitly mentioned as a portent of impending Armageddon in Revelations. You have all been warned.
   44. bookbook Posted: February 22, 2013 at 02:29 PM (#4374092)
Cal Ripken had his own hips.

Cal and Schmidt didn't have A-Rod's ability? I don't know... That feels somewhere in the overstatement range to me.

Schmidt could have played shortstop. (at 3b he was worth 100 defensive runs more than A-Rod, according to bref)
   45. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: February 22, 2013 at 02:59 PM (#4374119)
Cal and Schmidt didn't have A-Rod's ability? I don't know... That feels somewhere in the overstatement range to me.
The claim was "except maybe Schmidt". As for Ripken, he had four seasons with an OPS+ higher than Rodriguez's career average, and three of those four were just barely.
   46. jyjjy Posted: February 22, 2013 at 03:00 PM (#4374120)
That Ripken had nowhere near A-Rod's ability to hit a baseball cannot be questioned really. That Schmidt was great at 3B means he would have been capable at SS, nevermind as good as A-Rod was, very questionable. In fact that A-Rod was very good at SS and meh at 3B shows clearly the two positions are not interchangeable and presuming a switch for Schmidt in the opposite direction on the defensive spectrum would have gone well a mistake.
   47. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: February 22, 2013 at 03:10 PM (#4374133)
do you think the Yankees' solution of Youk-Rod will be average, better-than-average, or worse-than-average as far as production in 2013?


I'll echo Nate's better than average. I'd put them both in the 110 OPS+ as a prediction. I think the likelihood of collapse is greater than the likelihood of a return to stardom for both though.
   48. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: February 22, 2013 at 03:14 PM (#4374138)
I think that Schmidt would have been meh to average defensive SS into his early 30s. He was quick and agile and had more than enough arm.
   49. GuyM Posted: February 22, 2013 at 03:35 PM (#4374151)
A-Rod's career average is 143.....It's very likely Alex's poor recent years have been caused by that bad hip and if Alex's hip surgery is successful, a 140 OPS+is almost more likely than not.

It is never a 50-50 proposition that a 38-yr-old will match his career average. The vast majority of players will perform below their career average, if they are fortunate enough to play at all. We tend to remember the exceptions to this rule, which leads us to underestimate the punishing power of the aging curve.

   50. tfbg9 Posted: February 22, 2013 at 03:51 PM (#4374167)
AROD would have been much better served to have gone the AJ Pierogi route than what he tried to do.


I got the impression that he did sorta embrace the "villian" role, finally and got his ring as That Guy, in 2009.
   51. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 22, 2013 at 04:22 PM (#4374190)
Ripken's breakout year at 38 was also the year he finally stopped playing every game. I bet that helped tremendously.
   52. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 22, 2013 at 04:44 PM (#4374203)
Ripken's breakout year at 38 was also the year he finally stopped playing every game.


So has ARod!
   53. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 22, 2013 at 04:55 PM (#4374219)
I hate to be grim about this, but how severely does he have to be injured before we start talking about sending the lower half of him to the glue factory?

EDIT: Or serving him as beef in Europe?
   54. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: February 22, 2013 at 05:10 PM (#4374239)
I wouldn't want to predict ARod's production this year until we've actually seen him play. There's a chance that the surgery didn't fix him and he's done as a useful player and there's a chance that the surgery undid everything that was wrong over the last few years and he hits 290/360/530. The likeliest probability is that he'll be in the vast territory in between, but there's a reasonable chance of everything from sub-replacement hitting and statuesque fielding to an average 3B hitting at All-Star rates. I doubt there are many other position players with such a wide cone of uncertainty.

EDIT: Or serving him as beef in Europe?


He's already been served as beef. Beefcake, that is.
   55. GuyM Posted: February 22, 2013 at 05:12 PM (#4374246)
Ripken's breakout year at 38 was also the year he finally stopped playing every game. I bet that helped tremendously

That seems like quite a stretch. For one thing, Ripken only played half a season (354 PA), so some of the "breakout" was probably just a fluke. His OPS+ was back to 95 the next year (in another half season). Ripken also appears to have changed his approach at the plate, dramatically reducing his walk rate -- just 13 BBs in '99 -- and his BABIP surged from .244 to .332. Looks to me like he became much more aggressive at the plate, and this was successful for half a year. But pitchers adapted, and he fell back quickly.
   56. Walt Davis Posted: February 22, 2013 at 05:19 PM (#4374251)
Schmidt could have played shortstop. (at 3b he was worth 100 defensive runs more than A-Rod, according to bref)

dWAR people! :-) Schmidt wins 18 to 12. b-r is not that big on ARod's defense at SS (+18, good for 9 dWAR). Even through age 27, Schmidt had a small lead in dWAR despite much less playing time.

My gut tells me we won't see ARod this year, maybe in Sept. And ARod at 38 with a year off is not going to be a pleasing sight.

Now ... min 9000 PA through age 34 ... by PA

Yount -- 4 WAR 35-37
Ott -- 10 WAR at 35-36, -1 37-38

Those guys and ARod are the ones over 10,000 PA. Aaron's next at 9888.

Aaron -- I'll take him
Staub -- 2 WAR 35-41
Pinson -- 0 WAR 35-36
Ripken -- 9 WAR 35-40
Alomar -- -1 WAR 35-36
Mathews -- 1.8 WAR 35-36

That's the 9500 cutoff.

Foxx -- 1 WAR 36-37 (DNP at 35)
Santo -- DNP
Cobb -- I'll take him too
FRobinson -- 13 WAR 35-40

That's the 9300 cutoff and I'm getting bored. The ones below that seem a pretty normal mix, both in terms of how good they were to that point and how well they aged. Aaron, Cobb and Robinson are no-brainers and if you've only got Ott signed through 36 you're golden. Ripken was solid. The others were pretty much disasters. I have no idea how that compares to other guys who were good through 34 with less mileage. Let's try ...

PA 5000-8000 through 34, >= 120 OPS+

Brett -- 10 WAR 35-40
Cepeda -- 1 WAR 35-36
Baines -- 8 WAR 35-42
Shawn Green -- DNP
Joe Medwick -- 1 WAR 35-36

I won't go on, this ain't gonna be any better that's for sure. That was a PA sort, now I'll try an OPS+ sort.

That's gonna look a lot more similar with Ruth and Williams at the top of the list, followed by the solid Mize and the ineligible Joe Jackson. Thomas, McCovey, Manny, Schmidt, Stargell and Thome all aged pretty well and DiMaggio retired while still good. McGwire was productive but called it quits at 37 but Allen was a disaster. Bagwell was still good but got hurt. Giambi and Killer didn't embarrass themselves but didn't contribute much either.

That seems like a pretty comparable list, maybe with fewer complete collapses but certainly not dramatically better than the 9500+ crowd.

Interestingly the 5000-8000 PA through age 37 list is pretty much the same list. Edgar pops on but this is a quite sorry list in terms of aging. A good number of them retired at 37 or earlier. It seems that if you haven't broken the 8000 PA barrier by the end of your 37 season then either you weren't good enough to begin with or you're already breaking down (and may have had an injury-riddled career) or you missed war years.

Nothing new here really. You don't particularly want to bet on anybody aged 38+. The long mileage 34-year-olds maybe had a higher collapse rate but don't seem to have done particularly worse than the top low mileage 34-year-olds. None of the lists above are particularly good -- you'd want to look at something like production from 31-34, then see if the low-mileage age better than the high-mileage given current production levels. I doubt you find anything much different -- if anything it would help the high-mileage list as it might weed out Santo, Alomar and other early collapses.
   57. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 22, 2013 at 05:25 PM (#4374258)

That seems like quite a stretch.


It's a stretch to think that a 38-year-old asked to play half the time would perform better than a 37-year-old asked to play every single day?

Really?
   58. GuyM Posted: February 22, 2013 at 05:33 PM (#4374267)
It's a stretch to think that a 38-year-old asked to play half the time would perform better than a 37-year-old asked to play every single day? Really?

It didn't help him at 39. And he wasn't "asked" to play half the time -- he twice missed significant time due to injuries.

I know people like the streak-was-selfish narrative, but we really have no idea whether occasional rest would have improved his peformance.
   59. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 22, 2013 at 05:38 PM (#4374270)
There's a lot of silly ARod-has-crashed-and-burned hysteria right now. There's no reason to think he can't be a 120 OPS+ hitter at 3B with good defense when he returns.


I really, really, really hope the Yankees think exactly the same thing.

A whole lot of posts assume he's going back to third. If the Yankees are looking to get him off the team, one way or another, that's probably the way to do it.
   60. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 22, 2013 at 07:11 PM (#4374336)
It is never a 50-50 proposition that a 38-yr-old will match his career average. The vast majority of players will perform below their career average, if they are fortunate enough to play at all. We tend to remember the exceptions to this rule, which leads us to underestimate the punishing power of the aging curve.


Obviously you are right in general, but again we are talking about a different type of exception.

Alex Rodriguez
Ages 20-32 OPS+: 150
Ages 33-36 OPS+: 123

Is that the aging curve? Or is the second sample biased by two hip injuries and a knee injury, with at least 3 separate surgeries. HIs age certainly means he's more likely to get hurt, but if the hip surgery is a success and he doesn't get reinjured, should an all-time great athletic talent really only be able to put up a 120 OPS+ at age 38?

And Mike Schmidt was awesome in every way, especially for the crying at the end of the wonderfulness of his career. But he's really the only comparable to A-Rod on that list, and the fact that he couldn't put up a 140 OPS+ at age 38 doesn't mean A-Rod can't.

But I must concede that 140 is very hard for a 38 year old, and I was overly optimistic saying we can expect it from a healthy 38 year old A-Rod. I'm not sure of who has done it outside of Bonds, Ruth, Williams & Ripken. So probably 125-130 is a more reasonable median OPS+ for a healthy A-Rod.

   61. bookbook Posted: February 22, 2013 at 07:12 PM (#4374337)
We can never replay it, but if Cal had played 150 games per year, and had stayed with the batting stance that worked for him instead of leaving it every time he had success, his OPS+ might have been 15-20 points higher.

His success In his thirties was attributed in part to discovering weightlifting, which baseball players used to think would hurt their games. (hopefully, nothing stronger than milk was involved!)

I agree that A-Rod for whatever reason was a better defensive SS than 3b I'm sure Schmidt was the other way around. (A-Rod faster, Schmidt Quicker?)

   62. GuyM Posted: February 22, 2013 at 07:32 PM (#4374348)
should an all-time great athletic talent really only be able to put up a 120 OPS+ at age 38?

Yes. And really, you should be grateful for that. A total of 38 HOFers have had at least 400 PA at age 38, and just 6 of them had OPS+ over 140, 12 over 120. Not to mention that another 112 HOFers at that age didn't reach 400 PA, or didn't play at all.
   63. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: February 22, 2013 at 07:38 PM (#4374349)
Am I the only person in this thread who thinks that ARod is done?

When he can get on the field, he'll be an above-average hitter...but I think he will be injured, in some form, the rest of his career.
   64. GuyM Posted: February 22, 2013 at 07:43 PM (#4374350)
Just an illustration of the remorseless reality of the aging curve: number of players with at least 450 PAs and an OPS+ of at least 100, by age.

31 531
32 437
33 354
34 275
35 220
36 148
37 84
38 56
39 36
40 17
   65. tfbg9 Posted: February 22, 2013 at 08:06 PM (#4374360)
@64-yes. Baseball history is littered with solid regulars who had their last real good years at 31, struggled mightily at 32, had a few AB's at 33, and that's all she wrote. That general pattern, anyway.
   66. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 22, 2013 at 08:09 PM (#4374361)
I have a feeling Youkrodner(Youklis, Rodriguez and Hafner) will hit very well as a three headed, 4 footed, 4 hooved mythological monster covering 3B/DH for NY this year

I'd go with Hadriglis. Sounds more mythological.
   67. Dan Posted: February 22, 2013 at 08:26 PM (#4374367)
There's a lot of silly ARod-has-crashed-and-burned hysteria right now. There's no reason to think he can't be a 120 OPS+ hitter at 3B with good defense when he returns. And it wouldn't shock me if he managed a 130-140 OPS+. The biggest question is durability. But I still see a 3-5 WAR player with a chance to turn back the clock if the hip surgery is able to correct the problem. Sure, ARod his highly unlikely to be close to the contract value, but the contract is what it is.


It seems like it would be insane for them to play him at third base more than 2 or 3 times a week. If they really want to maximize their return on the rest of his contract, it seems like the Yankees should just accept that ARod is going to be a DH when he comes back, and forgo any notions of playing him as a full time third baseman.
   68. villageidiom Posted: February 22, 2013 at 08:31 PM (#4374371)
Youkrodner

Hadriglis


A lewd question: You'rod'ner?

An insult: You-Haf-Rod.
   69. Walt Davis Posted: February 22, 2013 at 09:10 PM (#4374400)
31 531
32 437
33 354
34 275
35 220
36 148
37 84
38 56
39 36
40 17


That list is conflated with performance level which doesn't tell us much about the aging curve. To the extent that an ARod might age well, it's not that he's got some miracle body that doesn't age, it's that he's got some miracle body that put up a 140 OPS+ or is still putting up a 110-120 OPS+ while playing average defense at third. That a 1B with a 105 OPS+ at 31 didn't make it to 32 much less 35 tells us nothing particularly useful about ARod from 37-39.

By the way, not sure what we're doing differently but I come up with 616 at age 31. Of that 616, 140 of them are between 100 and 109 OPS+. Do we expect Higginson, Lee May, Ruppert Jones, Santo, Cepeda, Dean Palmer, Jacque Jones, Mattingly, York, Cuddyer, Gary Ward, Murcer, Power, Burnitz, Lee Stevens, Ryan Ludwick, Tino Martinez et al to have long careers given they are already averge or worse hitters for their positions and mostly slow?

Now that decline is a mix of age and injury and maybe some bad luck and not being that good to begin with. But even if there was no decline in the next year, are those players you necessarily want to give 450 PA to? If you want to seriously talk about an age curve you have to talk about an average decline in production (be it OPS+ or WAR or playing time or whatever).

That said, ARod was a great athlete but not a GREAT hitter. He was damn good but mainly he was damn good because he was a SS then 3B and with good defense. At age 32, ARod had a 150 OPS+ ... which puts him behind Bret Boone, Bobby Bonilla, Jermaine Dye, Ken Singleton and even Barry Larkin. ARod was a much better hitter than those guys obviously, just pointing out that, as a hitter, he was not amazing. The great hitters tend to age quite well as hitters (can't necessarily stay on the field) but it is somewhere around a 150 OPS+ through age 30-31-32 that you start to find the guys who drop off.

Now I too think ARod is likely pretty much done. Coming back from hip surgery at 37-39 -- even if the surgery is a "success" is it really a success at an elite athletic level? I can see a few years of mediocre DHing at maybe 450 PA but I'd be surprised by much more. But, put that aside, yes, if he could come back at something close to his current talent level, he still has a ways to drop before he's not worth trotting out there at 3B. He was still a bit above-average last year and is nearly 10 WAR (5 WAA) in his last 1550 PA. Of course he won't be worth the contract but a 110 OPS+, decent-fielding 3B is not a problem.

I just don't expect him to be that ever again. I was recommending moving him pretty much from the day he signed the extension if not before -- too much money and years, stick him at DH and hope he ages as well as Edgar/Molitor. Third increased his value obviously and it was working out for the Yanks there for a while -- and maybe the bat and hip would have deteriorated just as much at DH. But I also didn't see the point of trying to put off what seemed to be an inevitable surgery. Get everything fixed at 32-33, don't let him back onto the field until he's 100% and maybe you've still got a 140 OPS+ DH.

If he hadn't been signed through the second Ted Cruz administration then, fine, it makes "sense" to use and abuse him as much as possible. But I think they did a lousy job of protecting their investment.
   70. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 22, 2013 at 09:25 PM (#4374409)
I know people like the streak-was-selfish narrative, but we really have no idea whether occasional rest would have improved his peformance.


Sure we do. What we don't have is the ability to conclusively know it would have helped, but sometimes sense has to substitute for the inability to prove an hypothesis. Old men, for the most part, benefit from occasional rest.

should an all-time great athletic talent really only be able to put up a 120 OPS+ at age 38?
Willie Mays put up 'only' an OPS+ of 124 at ages 36 and 38, and Willie was a touch more athletic throughout his career (and especially in his mid 30s), and a better hitter, than little Alex. just one of many, many, many examples.

Is that the aging curve? Or is the second sample biased by two hip injuries and a knee injury, with at least 3 separate surgeries.


The aging curve is not particularly distinct from one's injury history.

If he hadn't been signed through the second Ted Cruz administration...


Don't even joke about this.
   71. Arbitol Dijaler Posted: February 22, 2013 at 10:26 PM (#4374426)
[quote
Somehow, I don't think people would have taken very well to unretiring Babe Ruth's number for A-Rod. ]

He had a no-trade. F**k'm.
   72. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 01:46 AM (#4374474)
That said, ARod was a great athlete but not a GREAT hitter.


He has always been overrated as a hitter. People have treated him as if he were Pujols. That said, he was damned good.

I wonder how many players with a 143 OPS+ did not make the HOF after a full try. I can think of Dick Allen and Albert Belle.
   73. cardsfanboy Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:36 AM (#4374489)
I wonder how many players with a 143 OPS+ did not make the HOF after a full try. I can think of Dick Allen and Albert Belle.


Mike Piazza. Edgar Martinez, Frank Howard(142), Larry Walker(141), Gary Sheffield(140)...
   74. Greg K Posted: February 23, 2013 at 07:23 AM (#4374506)
I think by "full try" he means they slipped off the ballot. Piazza seems pretty likely to get in. Walker and Martinez probably don't have great chances, but still a chance.
   75. Greg K Posted: February 23, 2013 at 09:10 AM (#4374521)
Another one to potentially add to that list is Jason Giambi currently at 141 who I presume is not getting in once he's on the ballot.
   76. GuyM Posted: February 23, 2013 at 09:52 AM (#4374529)
I know people like the streak-was-selfish narrative, but we really have no idea whether occasional rest would have improved his peformance.

Sure we do. What we don't have is the ability to conclusively know it would have helped, but sometimes sense has to substitute for the inability to prove an hypothesis. Old men, for the most part, benefit from occasional rest.


From the principle "old men benefit from rest" it does not necessarily follow that "36-year-olds cannot perform optimally when asked to work 3 hours a day, 6 days a week (at a job that primarily consists of sitting on a bench or standing in place)." I agree that conclusive proof is not a fair standard for the "selfish Ripken" thesis. But is there any evidence at all? Was Ripken's performance decline in his 30s unusually rapid? Do age 35+ players perform better after a day off? Has anyone produced any relevant evidence? (Non-rhetorical question.)
   77. SoSH U at work Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:14 AM (#4374542)
Was Ripken's performance decline in his 30s unusually rapid? Do age 35+ players perform better after a day off? Has anyone produced any relevant evidence? (Non-rhetorical question.)


The first place I looked was career splits, did he perform better/worse in the second half (yes, .278/.345/.454 vs. .273/.335/.440).

And the monthly splits show Cal's two best months were June (.294/.352/.460) and July (.286/.354/.466) and his two worst were August (.275/.333/.433) and, by far, September/Oct. (.262/.320/.428). Not proof by any means, but numbers that suggest further study would be warranted.
   78. bunyon Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:32 AM (#4374550)
It also depends what you mean by "rest". Lowering him to 150 games means, what? one day off every other week? I'm not sure I see how that is supposed to make a huge difference. There are already off-days. I think the difference is likely to be very, very small.

To me, if the streak had a negative impact, it would have to be from playing through something where he needed a week or two off. Did he have a nagging injury at some point that hurt him the rest of the season where a week off would see it healed? I don't know his history well enough to know if he had that.
   79. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:43 AM (#4374556)
In every sport, there are times when you want to give key players a little rest to preserve them for the full season. But isn't it fair to say that baseball would be the sport where the day off would mean the least, in terms of the regenerative benefits?

If you give most football players a week off, the number of hits they do not receive is typically large. I remember when opponents of Earl Campbell said that their goal was to make sure four players hit him, on average, over his first 25 carries of a game. If he got hit 100 times in the first three quarters, he'd have less in the tank in the final quarter.

Hockey? Same thing. Basketball is a grind, too - the contact in the paint, the act of boxing out your opponent several dozen times a game, running up and down for 40 minutes a game...a day off is a big deal.

But baseball? How much difference, really, is there between "getting a day off" and "you're DH'ing today"? What, you might have to go first-to-third on a single to right once a game? Pitchers, of course, are a different story...

ARod's problem is not that he needs a few days off once in a while. His problem is that he has tons of miles on his odometer, and his body is falling apart.
   80. GuyM Posted: February 23, 2013 at 11:59 AM (#4374596)
And the monthly splits show Cal's two best months were June (.294/.352/.460) and July (.286/.354/.466) and his two worst were August (.275/.333/.433) and, by far, September/Oct. (.262/.320/.428). Not proof by any means, but numbers that suggest further study would be warranted.

It seems germane that September was the month with the lowest OPS in the AL in 1998. Also 1997. And 1996. And 1995. I stopped checking after that, but certainly in his "selfish" years, Ripken would be expected to hit less well in September. (Probably mainly a function of temperature.)

To me, if the streak had a negative impact, it would have to be from playing through something where he needed a week or two off. Did he have a nagging injury at some point that hurt him the rest of the season where a week off would see it healed?

I agree this is the key question. But even then, playing through the injury would only be selfish if the loss of Ripken production exceeded the dropoff the Os would have experienced while playing a backup for 2 weeks. Very hard to know if/when that happened, even with benefit of hindsight -- even harder for Ripken/Os to project in real time.
   81. jyjjy Posted: February 23, 2013 at 12:18 PM (#4374605)
Can someone do a chart like in 64 limited to the last 20 years or so? There have been real and important advances in medical science over that time that of course the highest paid athletes have access to... legal and non-legal, both of which simply should not be ignored when considering A-Rod's past and possible future production.
   82. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: February 23, 2013 at 12:40 PM (#4374613)
It seems germane that September was the month with the lowest OPS in the AL in 1998. Also 1997. And 1996. And 1995. I stopped checking after that, but certainly in his "selfish" years, Ripken would be expected to hit less well in September. (Probably mainly a function of temperature.)

Isn't this mostly because the rosters are larger? Having more fresh arms in the bullpen has to outweigh the benefits of a few extra pinch hitters.
   83. GuyM Posted: February 23, 2013 at 12:48 PM (#4374615)
Isn't this mostly because the rosters are larger? Having more fresh arms in the bullpen has to outweigh the benefits of a few extra pinch hitters.

Maybe. Although most of the pitchers getting tryouts presumably had pitched in the minors before Sept. 1, so it's not clear how "fresh" they are. It may be that starters get pulled a bit earlier. My guess is that declining temperatures play a pretty big role. MGL has done some interesting analyses on run scoring and temperature at game time, and the relationship is shockingly strong. It seems to account for a non-trivial portion of the "reliever advantage."
   84. user Posted: February 23, 2013 at 01:21 PM (#4374627)
It seems to account for a non-trivial portion of the "reliever advantage


The closest I've come to making a sabermetric contribution

http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/times_through_the_batting_order/

   85. bobm Posted: February 23, 2013 at 01:36 PM (#4374634)
From B-R PI: 1998-2012, at least 450 PA (all batters and batters with OPS+ of at least 100)


Age All 100+
-19   1    1
 20   5    4
 21  21   10
 22  65   33
 23  87   50
 24 162   99
 25 220  137
 26 252  156
 27 260  168
 28 258  164
 29 250  171
 30 232  151
 31 212  139
 32 180  114
 33 153   92
 34 132   78
 35 100   74
 36  74   47
 37  41   26
 38  24   19
 39  18   11
 40  11    5
 41   6    1
 42   2    1
   86. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: February 23, 2013 at 01:43 PM (#4374636)
I guess "fresh" in the sense of more arms available for each games and potentially a lighter workload for everyone in the bullpen. But I'm sure the weather plays a role too.
   87. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:02 PM (#4374650)
He has always been overrated as a hitter. People have treated him as if he were Pujols. That said, he was damned good.

Well, that depends entirely if you are accounting for position or not. Through age 32 Pujols has 75 oWAR, which is tremendous. Through age 32 Arod had 96!
   88. cardsfanboy Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:23 PM (#4374665)
Well, that depends entirely if you are accounting for position or not. Through age 32 Pujols has 75 oWAR, which is tremendous. Through age 32 Arod had 96!


The point of the comment was "Overrated as a hitter".. not overrated relative to position.

Arod has 575 rbat(973 more plate appearances also) vs Albert 653. Heck even adding four more years, Arod(631) hasn't reached Albert's cumulative level.
   89. GuyM Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:42 PM (#4374685)
Well, that depends entirely if you are accounting for position or not.

That makes exactly as much sense as saying Pujols has been worth 11 more wins in the field, based on his 132 Rfield vs. 20 for ARod. Which is to say, no sense at all.

Will no one rid us of oWAR? What a catastrophe.....

   90. GuyM Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:54 PM (#4374701)
#85: Doesn't look like the rate of attrition has changed much, based on those #s. Of the guys who are still average players (or better) at age 34, about 75% of them are gone by age 38.

it occurs to me that a simpler and better measure is the number of 2 WAR players. How many guys can deliver average overall performance? Here are the numbers since 1992:
31 202
32 142
33 119
34 93
35 76
36 52
37 42
38 16
39 12
40 6

Pretty similar story. On average, in any given year we should expect to see two 37-yr-olds performing at league average, and just 1 38-yr-old, in all of MLB. It's just d*mn hard to do.
   91. BDC Posted: February 23, 2013 at 02:56 PM (#4374705)
the last 20 years or so? There have been real and important advances in medical science

I've wondered about this, often in the context of considering the steroid-era meme that everybody was playing into their 40s (which hardly happened at all, when you actually look at it). I wonder if the data by era would mean much of anything. Medicine helps younger players too (as do PEDs), and better scouting and a wider pool of players mean more young guys competing with older stars. It's possible that the percentage of players playing regularly into their late 30s isn't really indicative of anything: perhaps a 36-year-old patched-up star in the 2000s is a great player by 1950s standards, but he still has to compete against his own era, where all the players are better. I can see aging remaining pretty constant in relative terms over time as everyone gets better.
   92. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:31 PM (#4374759)
The point of the comment was "Overrated as a hitter".. not overrated relative to position.

And my point was "overrated as a hitter" is not a cut-and-dried issue. You can compare his ability in a vacuum, or in context. Neither approach is inherently correct.
Comparing SS to 1B is not an apples-to-apples comparison. I think it is worth pointing out that Arod was actually a better hitter relative to his position, than Pujols was.

That makes exactly as much sense as saying Pujols has been worth 11 more wins in the field, based on his 132 Rfield vs. 20 for ARod. Which is to say, no sense at all.

The only thing that makes no sense is that sentence.
   93. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:34 PM (#4374764)
Medicine helps younger players too (as do PEDs), and better scouting and a wider pool of players mean more young guys competing with older stars.

I take your overall point. But the older players get, the more they, on average, have to deal with injuries (big and small). So it stands to reason, that older players disproportionately benefit from advances in modern medicine.
   94. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:41 PM (#4374783)
I think by "full try" he means they slipped off the ballot.


Yup.
   95. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:48 PM (#4374796)
The point of the comment was "Overrated as a hitter".. not overrated relative to position.


Yup.

Indeed I don't think ARod has been overrated relative to position. (The silliness of the sad people who obsess over those of his postseasons with the Yankees that have been poor means that if anything he is underrated overall.)
   96. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:51 PM (#4374802)
And my point was "overrated as a hitter" is not a cut-and-dried issue. You can compare his ability in a vacuum, or in context. Neither approach is inherently correct.


I cut the issue, and dried it. I was talking purely about his performance as a hitter.
   97. SoSH U at work Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:52 PM (#4374804)
Yup.


Babe Herman was close. 141 OPS+ in 13 seasons. But if there was anyone who really added nothing* outside the batter's box, it was the other Babe.

* At least in terms of winning games. His overall contributions to baseball are immeasurable.
   98. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:05 PM (#4374816)
SoSH, I think once you go to 142, 141, 140, 139..... you start picking up a lot of non-HOFers pretty quickly. Which obviously is to be expected. But it starts happening right around the point (143 OPS+) at which ARod happens to be.
   99. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:09 PM (#4374822)
Random note: Strawberry finished at 138. Damn did his career fall apart in a hurry.... but it happened in slow motion because he played another eight years after he was essentially done. 1.4 WAR in his 30s.

Kind of broadly similar to the fate Griffey suffered, sans the rollicking good times that included the cocaine and hookers and between-innings sex.
   100. GuyM Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:30 PM (#4374847)
And my point was "overrated as a hitter" is not a cut-and-dried issue. You can compare his ability in a vacuum, or in context. Neither approach is inherently correct.

This is wrong both as a matter of language and baseball substance. "As a hitter" means, well, performing as a hitter. No context can be assumed, other than other hitters, unless it's specifically identified. One might just as well complain that Pujols' advantage would be even larger if adjusted for country of birth.

More importantly, it makes zero sense to adjust offense only for position, without also evaluading fielding quality. Why would you want to account for only half of defensive value? Adjusting for position, but not Pujols' much better within-position performance, can only distort the evaluation.

The only thing that makes no sense is that sentence.

Please explain why it's wrong to compare players by comparing one-half of their defensive value, but makes sense to compare them using the sum of offense and the other half of their defensive value.
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