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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 09:19 AM | 117 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, yankees

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   101. Squash Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:54 PM (#4374882)
Just as a note, baseball is an extremely exhausting sport, often not so much exhausting physically as it is mentally, which at the end of the day amounts to the same thing if not worse. If you know you're not playing you can relax. Even DHing you're involved in the game mentally, paying attention and such, keeping ready for your next ups because you can't sit around in the dugout checked out mentally and then suddenly amble up there to face a guy throwing 94 with a sick slider. Standing in the outfield for 2 hours or so a game is also exhausting because you're alert and trying to remain so that entire time. The two hours you spend on the field also doesn't include time in the gym, batting cage, treatment, getting dressed and undressed six times a day, media time, meetings, and sex with groupies. All that stuff takes concentration - ask your average schmoe with a busy office job if he's tired at the end of the day and you'll get a resounding yes, even though he's had virtually no physical exercise the entire time. For an appeal to authority, many managers have said the hardest part of the job isn't keeping the team physically ready to play as it is to keep everyone from going nuts over the course of the season when even a "day off" means packing up your hotel room, getting on a plane to fly somewhere, then showing up a new hotel and doing it all over again. Not many people describe travel as a restful day even if they're flying first class. It's an extremely exhausting job.

EDIT: To tie that in more directly, that there are so few real off days and so many games makes the days you do get off even more valuable. NFL players for example generally get Monday and sometimes Tuesday off from any real labor (otherwise they would probably die). NBA teams often go 2-3 days between games, sometimes 4. Clearly both these sports are more physically exhausting, but nothing matches baseball for the mental grind.
   102. BDC Posted: February 23, 2013 at 05:00 PM (#4374926)
Here's a chart, based on B-Ref PI (of course :) showing position players
of a given age who qualified for the batting title in seasons ending in 0.

season     35  36  37  38  39  40 +
1910        3   3   1   0   0   0
1920        1   1   0   1   0   0
1930        5   2   2   1   0   1
1940        1   0   1   1   1   0
1950        1   0   0   0   0   0
1960        2   0   1   0   0   0
1970        2   2   1   0   1   0
1980        1   1   0   1   1   0
1990        2   0   2   2   1   1
2000        6   5   3   0   1   1
2010        3   7   0   1   0   0 

Several factors could be at work (including rising salaries between 1920 and 1930, and again between 1990 and 2000), but it looks just initially like I'd have to reconsider my thought about aging being a constant as the eras go by: in the 21st century, it seems relatively more common to have regulars of ages 35-37 (though any older than that remains exceedingly scarce). Certainly better medicine of all kinds, licit & illicit, and including nutrition and physical therapy, might very well be factors.
   103. Walt Davis Posted: February 23, 2013 at 05:47 PM (#4374947)
With plane travel and no double-headers, it's probably easier for a 35-37 year old to hit the "qualified" mark -- i.e. they may have aged the same but miss fewer second games of double-headers, etc. Also shortened benches might have increase the probability of a player hitting the "qualified" mark.

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.

Again, the comparison is as hitters. The debate was around the likelihood of ARod posting a 120-140 OPS+. I see no obvious reason to expect an aged 30 SS with a 140 OPS+ to age better as a hitter than an aged 30 1B with a 140 OPS+. You certainly expect the SS to have a longer remaining career because he has farther to fall before he's below-average for his position, even if he moves to 3B.

On the OPS+ and HoF thing, you've got to control for PA. A very rough guideline:

10000+ PA: 130 OPS+ (B Williams 133, Winfield 130, Murray 129), depending somewhat on 11000+, etc.
9000 PA: 145 OPS+ (McCovey 147, Killer 143, Stargell 147)
8000 PA: wow, not a single "slugger" between 8000-9000 PA
<8000 PA: 155? (Mize 158 but not writer-elected, Greenberg 158, Kiner 149)

Allen and McGwire are in that last group. Edgar and Walker are in the 8000 group, Bagwell in the 9000 group. Frank Howard with a 142 OPS+ but in only 7300 PA was never going to be elected. Belle is at 144 but in fewer than 6700 PA, same story.

For the more defensive positions, the OPS+ barriers are maybe 10 (for 2B, 3B, CF) to 15 (SS, C) points lower. There are of course exceptions like Tony Perez at 122 in the 10000+ group. And a lot of the early ball candidates (when 9000 PA must have seemed godlike) and the VC selections of course throw that all off. But the above should be pretty reasonable for the BBWAA selections of the last 50 years or so.

   104. bobm Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:26 PM (#4374963)
[103] Position players who debuted 1947+

Rk             Player    PA OPS+ From   To   Age       Pos
1    Carl Yastrzemski 13992  130 1961 1983 21-43  *73D8/59
2          Hank Aaron 13941  155 1954 1976 20-42 *9783D/45
3    Rickey Henderson 13346  127 1979 2003 20-44    *78D/9
4          Cal Ripken 12883  112 1981 2001 20-40     *65/D
5        Eddie Murray 12817  129 1977 1997 21-41    *3D/57
6         Willie Mays 12496  156 1951 1973 20-42  *8/39675
7       Dave Winfield 12358  130 1973 1995 21-43  *97D8/35
8         Robin Yount 12249  115 1974 1993 18-37   *68D/73
9        Paul Molitor 12167  122 1978 1998 21-41 D543/6879
10    Brooks Robinson 11782  104 1955 1977 18-40     *5/46
11     Frank Robinson 11742  154 1956 1976 20-40   97D38/5
12       George Brett 11625  135 1973 1993 20-40  *5D3/796
13          Al Kaline 11596  134 1953 1974 18-39  *98D3/75
14     Reggie Jackson 11418  139 1967 1987 21-41    *9D8/7
15         Joe Morgan 11329  132 1963 1984 19-40   *4/7D58
16          Lou Brock 11240  109 1961 1979 22-40      *798
17      Luis Aparicio 11230   82 1956 1973 22-39        *6
18         Tony Perez 10861  122 1964 1986 22-44    *35/D4
19        Ozzie Smith 10778   87 1978 1996 23-41        *6
20       Andre Dawson 10769  119 1976 1996 21-41     98D/7
21         Wade Boggs 10740  131 1982 1999 24-41   *5D/317
22          Rod Carew 10550  131 1967 1985 21-39   34/D657
23     Billy Williams 10519  133 1959 1976 21-38   *79D/38
24     Roberto Alomar 10400  116 1988 2004 20-36     *4/D6
25        Ernie Banks 10394  122 1953 1971 22-40     36/57
Rk             Player    PA OPS+ From   To   Age       Pos
26         Nellie Fox 10351   93 1947 1965 19-37     *4/53
27         Tony Gwynn 10232  132 1982 2001 22-41    *98/7D
28   Roberto Clemente 10211  130 1955 1972 20-37   *9/8745
29      Eddie Mathews 10100  143 1952 1968 20-36     *53/7
30       Mike Schmidt 10062  147 1972 1989 22-39    *53/64
31      Mickey Mantle  9907  172 1951 1968 19-36 *8397/645
32       Carlton Fisk  9853  117 1969 1993 21-45   *2D/735
33   Harmon Killebrew  9833  143 1954 1975 18-39   357D/49
34     Richie Ashburn  9736  111 1948 1962 21-35    *8/794
35     Willie McCovey  9692  147 1959 1980 21-42    *37/9D
36          Ron Santo  9397  125 1960 1974 20-34  *5/D4673
37      Ryne Sandberg  9282  114 1981 1997 21-37    *45/6D
38           Jim Rice  9058  128 1974 1989 21-36    *7D/98
39       Barry Larkin  9057  116 1986 2004 22-40     *6/4D
40    Willie Stargell  9027  147 1962 1982 22-42    *73/98
41        Gary Carter  9019  115 1974 1992 20-38   *29/375
42     Orlando Cepeda  8698  133 1958 1974 20-36   *37D/95
43       Johnny Bench  8674  126 1967 1983 19-35  *253/798
44     Bill Mazeroski  8379   84 1956 1972 19-35      *4/5
45        Duke Snider  8237  140 1947 1964 20-37     *89/7
46      Kirby Puckett  7831  124 1984 1995 24-35 *89/D7456
47         Larry Doby  6299  136 1947 1959 23-35  *89/7436
48    Jackie Robinson  5804  132 1947 1956 28-37  *4537/69
49     Roy Campanella  4815  123 1948 1957 26-35        *2

   105. bobm Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:35 PM (#4374966)
Rk             Player OPS+    PA   Age       Pos
1       Mickey Mantle  172  9907 19-36 *8397/645
2         Willie Mays  156 12496 20-42  *8/39675
3          Hank Aaron  155 13941 20-42 *9783D/45
4      Frank Robinson  154 11742 20-40   97D38/5
5        Mike Schmidt  147 10062 22-39    *53/64
6     Willie Stargell  147  9027 22-42    *73/98
7      Willie McCovey  147  9692 21-42    *37/9D
8    Harmon Killebrew  143  9833 18-39   357D/49
9       Eddie Mathews  143 10100 20-36     *53/7
10        Duke Snider  140  8237 20-37     *89/7
11     Reggie Jackson  139 11418 21-41    *9D8/7
12         Larry Doby  136  6299 23-35  *89/7436
13       George Brett  135 11625 20-40  *5D3/796
14          Al Kaline  134 11596 18-39  *98D3/75
15     Billy Williams  133 10519 21-38   *79D/38
16     Orlando Cepeda  133  8698 20-36   *37D/95
17         Tony Gwynn  132 10232 22-41    *98/7D
18         Joe Morgan  132 11329 19-40   *4/7D58
19    Jackie Robinson  132  5804 28-37  *4537/69
20         Wade Boggs  131 10740 24-41   *5D/317
21          Rod Carew  131 10550 21-39   34/D657
22      Dave Winfield  130 12358 21-43  *97D8/35
23   Carl Yastrzemski  130 13992 21-43  *73D8/59
24   Roberto Clemente  130 10211 20-37   *9/8745
25       Eddie Murray  129 12817 21-41    *3D/57
Rk             Player OPS+    PA   Age       Pos
26           Jim Rice  128  9058 21-36    *7D/98
27   Rickey Henderson  127 13346 20-44    *78D/9
28       Johnny Bench  126  8674 19-35  *253/798
29          Ron Santo  125  9397 20-34  *5/D4673
30      Kirby Puckett  124  7831 24-35 *89/D7456
31     Roy Campanella  123  4815 26-35        *2
32       Paul Molitor  122 12167 21-41 D543/6879
33         Tony Perez  122 10861 22-44    *35/D4
34        Ernie Banks  122 10394 22-40     36/57
35       Andre Dawson  119 10769 21-41     98D/7
36       Carlton Fisk  117  9853 21-45   *2D/735
37     Roberto Alomar  116 10400 20-36     *4/D6
38       Barry Larkin  116  9057 22-40     *6/4D
39        Robin Yount  115 12249 18-37   *68D/73
40        Gary Carter  115  9019 20-38   *29/375
41      Ryne Sandberg  114  9282 21-37    *45/6D
42         Cal Ripken  112 12883 20-40     *65/D
43     Richie Ashburn  111  9736 21-35    *8/794
44          Lou Brock  109 11240 22-40      *798
45    Brooks Robinson  104 11782 18-40     *5/46
46         Nellie Fox   93 10351 19-37     *4/53
47        Ozzie Smith   87 10778 23-41        *6
48     Bill Mazeroski   84  8379 19-35      *4/5
49      Luis Aparicio   82 11230 22-39        *6
   106. Walt Davis Posted: February 23, 2013 at 07:16 PM (#4374972)
Following up:

The best 10,000+ PA hitters not in the HoF nor likely to be (non-roids):

Sheffield 140 OPS+ -- hard call in that he wasn't liked even without roids but he probably makes it in a normal era, deserved it on the numbers

McGriff 134
Dw Evans 127
Staub 124
Baines/Parker 121
Da Evans 119

Statheads would generally put in Sheff and the Evanses but this is pretty close. Historically speaking McGriff should go in but won't. Perez is the major BBWAA outlier here.

If we do a WAR sort, it's still pretty much expansion era players. Nettles and Dw Evans lead the way with 63 WAR, Bell 62, Sheff 56, Da Evans 55, Damon (!) 52, Pinson 50, McGriff 48. Statheads aren't as upset about Nettles' omission as they should be and we under-rate Damon's HoF worthiness (which is not to say he's worthy but we seem to prefer Darrell Evans).

Some disagreement of course but the BBWAA hasn't committed any major sins of omission in this group.

9000-9999 PA

Assuming Bagwell makes it and Manny is out for roid reasons only (maybe, maybe not) the top candidate is Vlad at 140 followed by Helton at 135. The cutoff I made for this above of 145 is probably too high -- it's probably more like 140 for the 9000+ group and 145 for the untested 8000-9000 group. Anyway, Vlad will be an interesting case, I don't think Helton has a shot. Fully vetted players are all below 130 (Olerud, Bernie, Chili Davis, Murphy, Oliver, Grace). There are some saber-faves here at off-positions: Simmons, Whitaker, Trammell) but again not much to whine about on the omission side.

Looking at this group by WAR really brings out the lack of positional adjustment by the BBWAA -- add Lofton to the list -- but that aside Helton, Abreu, Willie Davis, Vlad, Sosa, Olerud and Kent are in the 50-60 range. Vlad and Sosa could get waved through on peak arguments but again nobody to get too riled up about among the sluggers. But this is where the BBWAA's major issues with positional adjustment really show.

Of course Jim Rice is in this group.

8000-8999 PA

Here's where things really get interesting. Pujols aside:

Edgar 147
Giambi 141
Walker 141
Bob Johnson 139
Delgado 138
W Clark 137
J Clark 137
Reggie Smith 137
Magee 137
Canseco 132
Singleton 132

This is where serious debates start and it's where defense and position really start to come into play. Quite obviously you need to f'ing rake to get serious consideration in this PA range ... still, the only guy in there I put over my borderline "for sure" is Walker with Edgar and Smith (who I've never had occasion to seriously investigate) very close.

Again, a WAR sort brings out the BBWAA problems with positional adjustments. Walker, Grich, Rolen, Edgar, Beltran (maybe), Beltre (interesting) and Smith are all over 60 WAR; Andruw, Boyer, Hernandez, Bando, Magee and Bobby Bonds are all 55+. This is actually a much stronger group from a WAR perspective than the omitted 9000-9999 PA group. A ton of saber-faves, a ton of HOM but not HOF choices are in this range. This is probably where the BBWAA has been the least consistent. Snider (63 WAR) and Puckett (48 WAR in 7800 PA) are in and Cepeda (46) nearly made it. If, say, Edgar, Beltran and one of Rolen or Beltre were voted in, that would go a good way to making this group look "fair" and might speak to saber influence on the HoF voting. (Walker deserves it as much or more than Edgar but it's obvious the voters don't see it that way. Edgar might make it.)

In the under 8000 category, you've got Mize (not elected by writers), DiMaggio, Greenberg and Kiner (149) leading the OPS+ board and only DiMaggio had an easy time of it. I think the other BBWAA selection are Terry (136), Jackie (132) then the Cs (Cochrane, Dickey, Hartnett, Campy) and Boudreau plus Puckett (124) ... Puckett just really doesn't belong in that group, he was treated like a C/SS. Terry likely got in for batting 400 and it still took him a long while. (There may be some other early writers selections in there but I will note they had enough sense not to elect Chuck Klein.)

Note this is where Miguel Cabrera is right now with only 6500 PA, 44 WAR and a 151 OPS+. Obviously it's a completely new set of voters but this is why I don't put him in the "hit by a bus" category -- Greenberg had a hard time and he missed 3 years because of the war; Mize didn't make it at all; Kiner got in his last year on the ballot and he led the league in HR 7 times. I realize that somehow in all this I glossed over Dick Allen (7300 PA, 156 OPS+, 56 WAR). Of course we can speculate -- he's fresh off a MVP, they might fill in his career like they did with Puckett, sympathy vote -- but I see no historical reason to think that Cabrera has earned the HoF yet.

All told, the BBWAA standards for corner players seem about right and they seem to have done a reasonably good job of adjusting for playing time differences. They've been overly kind to long career guys (Perez, Brock) and overly mean to short career guys (Mize) but it's not a major issue.

Their big problem has been positional adjustment. While they clearly make some allowance for positions (especially C and SS), the standards have almost certainly been "unfairly" high for 2B/3B/CF and they don't seem to have done a very good job of accounting for defensive and baserunning value.

Bringing it all back to ARod, steroids aside he'd ease in comfortably with that OPS+ as a SS/3B. Firstly, the voters still treated Banks and Yount as SS even though they only played that position for half their careers. Secondly it's substantially higher than Boggs or Brett. Thirdly, putting it EASILY into no doubt territory, it's well above the corner offensive threshold for a guy with 10000+ PA.

Finally, to be honest, I probably see posters here make the mistake of saying something like "X is the #37 all-time OPS+" without making an adjustment for career length more often than the HoF voters have.

   107. Ray (CTL) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 07:40 PM (#4374977)
ARod at his best had a .350 EqA. Boggs at his best was at .345. Not _that_ far off.

For their careers ARod is at .315 and Boggs at .302. But ARod's still dropping and it remains to see whether he arrests his decline.
   108. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 23, 2013 at 08:42 PM (#4374986)

@90: I'm assuming that's position players only?

I remember first seeing the dramatic drop-off in the number of regulars by age in one of the Abstracts. James was making the point about some player who had a good season consistent with his career averages at 30, stopped hitting at 31, and still wasn't hitting well into his age 32 season. James made the point that this tended to baffle announcers, who would assume it was only a matter of time before player x got going again with the bat. Except, James noted, x usually didn't. It was an easy point to prove, once you simply looked at the numbers, but no one in the 80s was looking at the numbers. It's remarkable how difficult it is for people to accept, that baseball careers tend to end early. Even on this site a lot of people talk as though a downturn in a players early 30s is something other than the norm.

This 'secret' would have saved any team paying attention to it starting when James made particular note of it a literal fortune.
   109. Ray (CTL) Posted: February 24, 2013 at 12:03 AM (#4375031)
. Even on this site a lot of people talk as though a downturn in a players early 30s is something other than the norm.

I don't know about that, but people did insist that Ichiro would keep churning out Ichiro-type seasons through age 40. I continually had to explain to them how silly that was.
   110. villageidiom Posted: February 24, 2013 at 12:03 AM (#4375032)
Several factors could be at work (including rising salaries between 1920 and 1930, and again between 1990 and 2000), but it looks just initially like I'd have to reconsider my thought about aging being a constant as the eras go by: in the 21st century, it seems relatively more common to have regulars of ages 35-37 (though any older than that remains exceedingly scarce). Certainly better medicine of all kinds, licit & illicit, and including nutrition and physical therapy, might very well be factors.

Roughly five per decade in the 16-team era. Should translate to roughly 9 or 10 per decade in the 30-team era. Instead it's around 13 or 14.
   111. Walt Davis Posted: February 24, 2013 at 01:42 AM (#4375052)
For their careers ARod is at .315 and Boggs at .302. But ARod's still dropping and it remains to see whether he arrests his decline.

1. I was talking OPS+ not them fancy stats. Not that voters pay attention to OPS+ but obviously ARod wins on R, HR, RBI and, if he keeps playing, hits so that's a no-brainer from the writers' perspective.

2. ARod already has 400 more career PA than Boggs. Yes, ARod might drop to Boggs' level in career EQA (or OPS+ or whatever) but to do that he'll have added another 2000 PA or something.

I'd hate to think I wrote those long posts and you didn't even catch the primary point I was making. So let's try this:

ARod is ahead of Boggs. ARod already has a longer career than Boggs. Therefore ARod beats Boggs and there's nothing Boggs can do to change this unless he comes out of retirement. It won't matter if ARod goes 0 for his next 2000 PA -- he would still be better than Boggs was but it would identify the Yanks as blithering idiots.

In contrast, Larry Walker has a 141 OPS+ in 8030 PA. Even putting aside OBP to OPS+ issues, it would be silly to say that Walker's 141 is better than Boggs' career 131 because Boggs has 2700 more PA than Walker. At a minimum, you have to put them on an equivalent PA setting to compare them. So, for example, from 1982-93, Boggs had 7967 PA with a 139 OPS+. Now we can at least say that in OPS+ terms, Walker was a smidgen better than Boggs in equivalent playing time (at least if we require Boggs' playing time to be consecutive).

Then of course proceed to OBP, position, defense, baserunning, 2700 PA of 108 OPS+, etc.

people did insist that Ichiro would keep churning out Ichiro-type seasons through age 40. I continually had to explain to them how silly that was.

It wasn't that silly. This depends on how you define "Ichiro-type season" of course. Guys who hit 300 or better from ages 34-36, without a lot of power and their BA from 37-40, expansion era:

Jeter 308 thru 38
Cruz 272 (off a cliff at 39)
Oliver 282 (off a cliff at 38)
Rose 309 (he declined after 40)
Gwynn 344 (he was WAY over 300 for 34-36)
Brock 279 (off a cliff at 39, back up the cliff at 40)
Carew 306 (retired after 39)
Butler 297

Low-power, high average hitters (some with speed) hang on pretty well. Jose Cruz wasn't ever really an Ichiro type hitter so I'm not sure he belongs (I also turned up a number of part-timers and didn't feel they were appropriate either). Brock is the worst-case scenario but he only hit 303 from 34-36 and he hit over 300 in 2 of his 4 seasons. I could add Kenny Lofton who hit well below 300 at 34-35, just missed it at 36, then hit 303 37-40 including 296 in nearly 600 PA at age 40.

In the expansion era, Ichiro's 325 BA for 34-36 is second only to Gwynn's insane 371. Carew is at 320, Rose at 317, Oliver at 314, the others barely made it over the 300 line. I don't see it as a bad bet at all that Ichiro would put up a couple of 315 seasons and a couple of low 300 seasons. It probably would have been a good bet that he might do something like 315, 305, 295, random crap. Certainly his decline from 325 34-36 and 315 at 36 to a guy who can barely hit 280 at 37-38 puts him near the bottom of that list with Oliver, Cruz and Brock.

Now a projection noting that even if Ichiro did hit 300, it would probably be an even more empty 300 with declining durability, defense and baserunning too ... well, sure. But as a strict question of whether he would continue to hit 300 and challenge 3000 hits ... that was a perfectly decent bet, nearly the expected outcome. (He probably still would come up short on 3000 due to missed playing time ... he needed 2600-2700 PA 37-40 to get to 3000 at 40 with a 300 BA from 37-40. He's ahead of that PA pace actually but short on BA. Repeating the last two years gets him to 2968 and he has to hope he doesn't get McGriff'd.)

It's just a lighter version of your ARod argument. We'd laugh off the idea of any other 37-year-old player coming back after missing almost an entire season to have hip surgery. But this is ARod, one of the greats who, even in his diminished form, has been a well above-average player from 34-36. It's not Logan's Run, that talent doesn't automatically disappear at 37-38. So, as you argue, why should we write off this above-average player based solely on age?

Well, it turns out that high average singles hitters age reasonably well. They are a pretty good bet to retain that hitting skill. If we look at Ichiro's neighbors, Gwynn lost 27 points (about 7%), Carew lost 14 points (<5%), Rose lost 8 points (2%), Oliver kinda fell apart fast (10% loss and didn't play after 38). Among the lower tier, Butler lost 2%, Brock about 7%, Cruz about 10% and the annoying Jeter went up 2%. Even if Ichiro lost 10% off his age 34-36 PA, he'd hit over 290. The median 7% loss puts him right at 300.

It's a thing we tend to miss in our off-the-cuff "projections" of old guys in the threads. We should _probably_ start with "how good is this guy right now" rather than his age. If a player does it for 34-36, perhaps especially if they've done it without signs of decline at 36, chances are quite good he'll do it at 37-38, just a little less and in less playing time. So Ichiro was a pretty good bet to keep hitting 300 because he had hit 325 over the previous 3 seasons, age be damned. Jeter, Butler and Lofton probably weren't good bets but did so anyway.
   112. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 24, 2013 at 04:20 AM (#4375060)
@111: it's also important to realize that Arod is no longer Arod. The HOF career is gone and, in baseball terms, it's long gone. It has nothing to do with what he is now. He's may never take the field again, and his OPS+ has gone 138, 213, 199, 112 over the last four seasons. He's fragile, playing 124, 137, 99, and 122 games in that time. Sort of a mid-career Bobby Bonilla.

But this is ARod, one of the greats who, even in his diminished form, has been a well above-average player from 34-36.
He WAS one of the greats. That's the critical point. Now he's Todd Zeile. (Slight exaggeration to make a point, but only slight.) Further, his if you had to pick a player by his health, at this point ARod would be one of the very last guys you'd pick. He's Todd Zeile or Bobby Bo, and it's not entirely clear he'll ever play again.

It's an extremely exhausting job.
I take your meaning, but it really isn't. Not compared to actual work. It's still a game played by essentially healthy young men, with plenty of breaks. I've worked construction; concrete work, which is the hardest on a body, done framing, roofing, plumbing, electrical... all of those (even the last) are harder than what you describe, and I had the incredible good fortune to be able to not have to continue to do that work until it permanently damaged my body, the way it has so many people. They're also done by people who haven't had access to terrific nutrition, trainers, masseurs, doctors, physical therapists... I know guys who've done foundation work, lugging hundred plus pounds all day long with torn rotator cuffs because they couldn't afford to take the time off, or didn't have insurance. Those guys don't get to retire, either, in their thirties.

Baseball is doubtless physically hard on players. There are tens if not hundreds of millions of jobs that are harder.
   113. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 24, 2013 at 04:21 AM (#4375061)
double post
   114. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 24, 2013 at 12:35 PM (#4375188)
his OPS+ has gone 138, 213, 199, 112 over the last four seasons

Amazing what a couple of typos can do for a player's batting line.
   115. Greg K Posted: February 24, 2013 at 03:13 PM (#4375264)
Yankees related - Granderson hit by a pitch today, broken arm out 10 weeks.
   116. Walt Davis Posted: February 24, 2013 at 06:45 PM (#4375355)
Now he's Todd Zeile. (Slight exaggeration to make a point, but only slight.)

This is flat out wrong. Over the last 3 seasons he has a 118 OPS+ which is well above-average for a 3B. He has missed a lot of games but has still totaled 1552 PA in that span. He has even stolen 21 bases and been caught only 5 times, including 13 for 14 just last year. He has about 10 WAR and nearly 5 WAA in those 1500 PA. He is still rated as average or better defensively and he doesn't even ground into many DPs (pretty incredible for an aging RH slugger).

Todd Zeile's best WAR year in his career was 2.1 WAR. That was a season when, out of nowhere, he posted a +10 Rfield.

But it's not just the Zeile hyperbole. Over the last 3 seasons only 114 players have amassed 1500 PA. Of those 114, only 39 have compiled more WAR then ARod. ARod 2010-12 was not Todd Zeile, he was Jose Reyes (9.7 WAR in 350 more PA), Pablo Sandoval (9.2 WAR, 1524 PA), Justin Upton (9.2 WAR, 1837 PA) or Prince Fielder (10 WAR in 2096 PA). In 1806 PA over the last 3 years, Matt Kemp produced 8.7 WAR, a full win behind ARod. He was about 1.5 wins behind David Wright, Joe Mauer and Carlos Gonzalez. He was just a bit short of Teixeira. He was 2+ wins better than Jay Bruce, Andre Ethier and Aramis Ramirez; 3 wins better than Encarnacion and BJ Upton, 5 wins better than Jeter.

Interesting group yes? Wright, Mauer, Tex, Prince and Kemp all make $20+ M per year -- ARod doesn't even look hugely overpaid. J Upton was considered the prize of the offseason around here and Reyes one of the prizes of last offseason. And ARod was probably not performing at 100% due to injury.

That's still a damned talented player. Quite possibly the hip is the end of the road and even likely that the combo of hip and age will eat up enough talent and playing time that he won't be worth much going forward. Nobody except for maybe Ray is really arguing against that. The key question is whether he will still be able to play 3B or will he have to shift to DH where his bat will probably no longer be capable of producing enough.

But do not pretend that ARod over the last three seasons was not one of the better players around despite the lost playing time and reduced production.
   117. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 24, 2013 at 06:53 PM (#4375359)
But do not pretend that ARod over the last three seasons was not one of the better players around despite the lost playing time and reduced production.

I didn't, of course. Good post, but he simply bears no meaningful relationship to the Hall of Fame player he was in another lifetime.
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