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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Yankees’ Aaron Judge Turned 28; What is New York’s Slugger on Pace For?

Remember when Aaron Judge made his Major League debut?

At the time, Judge was a top prospect that looked like he belonged on a football field or a basketball court. He homered in his first big-league at-bat, but went on to hit just .179 in 27 games played during his first taste of the Majors. Then, he was just 24-year-old.

On Sunday, the slugger turned 28.

In the last three-plus years since he first donned pinstripes, Judge has ascended to celebrity in the Big Apple both on and off the field. He’s the face of a franchise loaded with talent and a leader in the clubhouse drawing comparisons to Derek Jeter. Not only that, when he’s able to stay healthy, he’s one of the game’s best.

 

QLE Posted: April 28, 2020 at 01:01 AM | 57 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: aaron judge, milestones

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   1. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: April 28, 2020 at 09:30 AM (#5945354)
Not only that, when he’s able to stay healthy, he’s one of the game’s best.


This is the concern with Judge obviously. He's missed 50+ games the last two years. Is there any research out there on big players aging? A quick BBRefPI search for players listed at 6'5" and up shows only eight players had >10 WAR in their 30s. The obvious positive comp for Judge is Winfield (26.2) and Judge isn't a guy who carries his size awkwardly. But the fact that in his 20s he's struggled to stay healthy isn't a great sign either.

But that's down the road. Even missing time the guy is still a terrific player and fun to watch. He reminds me so much of Reggie in the way he captures people's attention. The kids I coach (almost all Red Sox fans) adore him. When they play MLB The Show they want to be him, Mookie or Harper.
   2. Accent Shallow opens his curtains at 7 AM Posted: April 28, 2020 at 09:49 AM (#5945364)
I'd say that Judge, as a late bloomer, is exactly the kind of guy who's hurt by the season being postponed, but he was already injured before everything was shut down.
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 28, 2020 at 10:21 AM (#5945383)
Judge is exactly the kind of guy you go year-to-year with through arb and then bid a fond farewell. Late bloomer, injury prone, and controlled through 30.
   4. pikepredator Posted: April 28, 2020 at 10:53 AM (#5945394)
I'm a Red Sox fan and I'm bummed we're all missing out on a prime season of Aaron Judge. In terms of raw power there's pretty much no ceiling on his potential accomplishments. Not sure I'd want him on my team as the downside risk is very real . . . but the upside has the potential to be legendary.
   5. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: April 28, 2020 at 11:24 AM (#5945405)
I'm a Red Sox fan and I'm bummed we're all missing out on a prime season of Aaron Judge.

I'm a Yankees fan, and before the season got shut down I was just as bummed that Mookie Betts had left the Red Sox for that vast wasteland known as the Pacific Time Zone. Opponents like Mookie and Xander and Devers were what made those 4 hour Yankees-Red Sox marathons bearable.
   6. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 28, 2020 at 03:09 PM (#5945508)
In terms of raw power there's pretty much no ceiling on his potential accomplishments.
I still think we’re going to see some seasons like 2017, only without the prolonged post-All-Star Game slump. It’s also far too early to consign Judge to the Nick Johnson injury-prone, slow-healer ward. Anyone can miss time on a HBP.
   7. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: April 28, 2020 at 03:24 PM (#5945518)
It’s also far too early to consign Judge to the Nick Johnson injury-prone, slow-healer ward. Anyone can miss time on a HBP.


Perhaps, but he missed significant time the last 2 years, and started out injured this spring.
   8. Nasty Nate Posted: April 28, 2020 at 03:47 PM (#5945536)
I still think we’re going to see some seasons like 2017, only without the prolonged post-All-Star Game slump.
Wouldn't those be something like 60-HR, .660 SLG seasons?
   9. SoSH U at work Posted: April 28, 2020 at 03:51 PM (#5945540)
Wouldn't those be something like 60-HR, .660 SLG seasons?


He allowed that only some of them would be like that.

   10. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: April 28, 2020 at 04:33 PM (#5945559)
What I really love about Judge beyond the obvious is his fielding, which has been steadily improving by the year. In terms of overall defensive skill sets he's the best Yankees RF in my lifetime.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: April 28, 2020 at 06:02 PM (#5945611)
You hope Judge has a few McGwire seasons. From 29-32, Mac only played in 308 games -- partly due to the strike but he even missed half of 94. Then from 33-35, it was 464 games and 2000 PA. From 29-32, he had an 1130 OPS, 192 OPS+ and 57 HR per 162 games ... he just didn't have the games. That's mostly the same as 33-35 with an 1127 OPS, 187 OPS+ but 67 HR per 162.

I don't expect him to ever reach a 1100 OPS but Judge's 2017 shows he's capable of something like that and if he can just get healthy for 3-4 straight years, he could remind us of Mac.

On aging of big guys -- that's partly covered by James's time-honored "old man skills." Lots of big guys of course display old man skills in their 20s and there are lots of cases where they don't age well. But big athletic guys (e.g. Winfield) aged OK. So did Thome and McCovey and, in his way, McGwire. Frank Thomas lasted a long time, Frank Howard was still smashing it at 34 (then a quick decline), Ortiz lasted forever.

You suggested 6'5" ... and you're right that things don't look great. For WAR through age 30, Frank Thomas leads the way but the next guys on the list are Mauer (I didn't know), Stanton (not looking good) and Straw. Olerud and Winfield aged well. Next on the list is Heyward who will probably still be perfectly capable of playing for many years but not good enough -- still, hard to say it was his size that hurt him. Skipping Freeman (just turning 30), next is Parker then Glaus then Mac. Von Hayes, Derrek Lee, Alex Rios, Cliff Floyd, Adam Dunn ... these are not promising names. Howard comes in at #19 but then Fowler, Sexson, Corey Hart (really), Kingman, Tony Clark, Mike Marshall. Kingman remained Kingman for a long time so that's sorta promising.

That's it -- just 25 players in the integration era of 6'5" or taller and 3000+ PA through age 30. Of those, maybe 7 aged reasonably well. That might not be any worse than players shorter than that but it's not promising in any case. So 9 of the 24 made it to 3000+ PA after age 30. Actually Jayson Werth wasn't on the first list. Dropping the threshold to 2,000 PA adds 5 players but doesn't improve the quality (Alex Rios at 6 WAR).

On the bright side I suppose is that if you were gonna name Judge comps off the top of your head, it probably would be Thomas, Winfield, Mac, Howard and those are 4 of the top 5 survivors.

Note none of this bodes very well for Kris Bryant.
   12. Howie Menckel Posted: April 28, 2020 at 06:12 PM (#5945614)
Jeter deification to be delayed

"The streets in the quaint village are empty, the charming stores and restaurants are shuttered, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum remains closed.

This was supposed to be the most glorious and most profitable summer in the history of Cooperstown, New York. This is where Yankees legendary shortstop Derek Jeter was scheduled to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, highlighting an illustrious class that was projected to draw perhaps 100,000 people, eclipsing the 2007 class with Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn.

Now, that sheer joy and enchantment is blanketed by the despair of the inevitability that lies ahead.

The Hall of Fame is expected to announce this week that their induction ceremony weekend, scheduled to take place July 24-26, will be postponed until 2021.

The Hall of Fame is scheduled to meet this week with their board members before finalizing a decision, but with the COVID-19 pandemic raging across the country -- with 292,000 cases in New York -- there is little choice but to push it back a year and combine the two Hall of Fame classes."

...................

(figured this is a good spot til it gets its own thread. for context, NY Gov Cuomo believes that NYC-area residents will have such pent-up demand this summer to "do something" that even ceremonies like this one that is hours away would be "entertainment nuisances" - and with Jeter... he seemed pretty determined today to cancel smaller upstate festivals all summer as well, but that could be more politically dicey at some point. a flower show that typically draws 1,000 people over two days that is 5 or 6 hours north of the NYC area - amid a community that has almost no cases now and might have even fewer by then - hmm. but we'll see.)
   13. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 28, 2020 at 06:15 PM (#5945616)
So he won't be inducted in his first year of eligibility. I assume this will motivate a unanimous vote in Congress to declare that 2021 is actually 2020.
   14. Itchy Row Posted: April 28, 2020 at 06:19 PM (#5945620)
This will destroy the Cooperstown gift basket industry.
   15. Adam Starblind Posted: April 28, 2020 at 09:10 PM (#5945669)
You hope Judge has a few McGwire seasons. From 29-32, Mac only played in 308 games -- partly due to the strike but he even missed half of 94. Then from 33-35, it was 464 games and 2000 PA. From 29-32, he had an 1130 OPS, 192 OPS+ and 57 HR per 162 games ... he just didn't have the games. That's mostly the same as 33-35 with an 1127 OPS, 187 OPS+ but 67 HR per 162.

I don't expect him to ever reach a 1100 OPS but Judge's 2017 shows he's capable of something like that and if he can just get healthy for 3-4 straight years, he could remind us of Mac.


Not to state the obvious, but McGwire was loaded up with steroids. He looked like the Incredible Hulk by the time he was 33.
   16. DCA Posted: April 29, 2020 at 11:13 AM (#5945818)
The worries about Judge are all injury-related. One, that he can stay on the field. And two, that he isn't diminished as a result when he does play.

The name that comes to mind as a reasonable downside is Carlos Quentin. Very different player, and not as good - Quentin was was a low-K guy for a power hitter, and as bad a fielder as Judge is good - but the shape of performance and playing time is relevant. One excellent age 25 season breakout, followed up by several solid years where he was neither as good nor as healthy, and out of baseball by age 32.
   17. SoSH U at work Posted: April 29, 2020 at 11:21 AM (#5945822)
The name that comes to mind as a reasonable downside is Carlos Quentin. Very different player, and not as good - Quentin was was a low-K guy for a power hitter, and as bad a fielder as Judge is good - but the shape of performance and playing time is relevant. One excellent age 25 season breakout, followed up by several solid years where he was neither as good nor as healthy, and out of baseball by age 32.


Of course, one other difference between Quentin and Judge is that Quentin didn't try to get out of the way of fast-moving spheres, which can exacerbate one's injury tendencies.

   18. Tom Nawrocki Posted: April 29, 2020 at 11:40 AM (#5945835)
The worries about Judge are all injury-related. One, that he can stay on the field. And two, that he isn't diminished as a result when he does play.


There's also the fact that Judge is largely a creation of New Yankee Stadium. On the road, he's the new Jay Buhner - a decent enough player, one who might get some down-ballot MVP votes in a good year.
   19. TomH Posted: April 29, 2020 at 12:41 PM (#5945847)
whoa, I had not seen his home/away splits until #18 pointed me there.
I understand his big power increase at home, with Jude's opposite-field-fly-ball swing. But, why would his batting avg on balls in play be sooo much better (.406 vs .310) at home? If this were random and not persisting going forward, his splits would look more typical.
   20. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: April 29, 2020 at 02:05 PM (#5945880)
On aging of big guys -- that's partly covered by James's time-honored "old man skills." Lots of big guys of course display old man skills in their 20s and there are lots of cases where they don't age well.

I remembered James' aging exception was "slow white sluggers" age quickly. Defined as white (of course), lots of homers, very few SB or triples. His examples were Colavito, Jim Gentile, Jim Lemon and a few others. Now, his definition would encompass "old man skills".
   21. Rally Posted: April 29, 2020 at 03:12 PM (#5945909)
On the road, he's the new Jay Buhner - a decent enough player, one who might get some down-ballot MVP votes in a good year.


A Jay Buhner who can cover ground like an Ichiro!, that is.
   22. Tom Nawrocki Posted: April 29, 2020 at 03:18 PM (#5945912)
Jay Buhner won more Gold Gloves than Judge has!
   23. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 29, 2020 at 03:29 PM (#5945916)
Babe Ruth at home & Jay Buhner on the road is a still a MVP-caliber player.
   24. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 29, 2020 at 03:29 PM (#5945917)
I remembered James' aging exception was "slow white sluggers" age quickly. Defined as white (of course)
I don't remember that particular formulation. The race component is...uncomfortable. Did he offer any reason(s) (or data, for that matter) for his apparent belief that slow nonwhite sluggers would age better?
   25. Rally Posted: April 29, 2020 at 03:34 PM (#5945921)
My experience with projection systems is that using race as any part of the equation hurts more than helps. I am not saying this to be politically correct or color blind. Just saying that if you notice a pattern in the data and there's a trend for players of one race to age differently than another, it's noise, it does not repeat, and will make your projections worse.

That said, if there was a tendency for slow white sluggers to age poorly, Judge is not slow and he's only half white.
   26. Rally Posted: April 29, 2020 at 03:45 PM (#5945926)
A quick BBRefPI search for players listed at 6'5" and up shows only eight players had >10 WAR in their 30s.


How does this compare to their 20s?

29 players had 10+ WAR in their 20s, 8 as you say did so in their 30s.

For players under 6'5, 1249 had 10+ WAR in their 20s, 606 in their 30s. So it does look like the odds are worse for big players, if they had the same rates as smaller players you'd have 14 guys instead of 8 having 10+ WAR in their 30s. But mostly it's just a really small sample size.
   27. pikepredator Posted: April 29, 2020 at 04:01 PM (#5945932)
Thanks for providing the context on 6'5 players in their 20's v. 30's, Rally. I was wondering the same thing about rate v. total.
   28. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: April 29, 2020 at 04:09 PM (#5945936)
There's also the fact that Judge is largely a creation of New Yankee Stadium. On the road, he's the new Jay Buhner - a decent enough player, one who might get some down-ballot MVP votes in a good year.

That may be changing. In 2019 Judge had 11 home runs at home and 16 on the road, and his OPS splits were .922 / .919. That's not exactly Carl Yastrzemski in terms of park advantage.
   29. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: April 29, 2020 at 05:48 PM (#5945965)
26 - Yeah, I’m not arguing that data proves anything. Just giving the data point. As you say we are dealing with a small sample size here.
   30. Walt Davis Posted: April 29, 2020 at 09:34 PM (#5946014)
He looked like the Incredible Hulk by the time he was 33.

Yet didn't out-perform his 29-32 years when he had all the injuries. And Mr. Judge bears some resemblance to the Hulk as well.

There are two separate but related questions: what do we expect for Judge going forward and do really tall players age worse than others? Even if the answer to the latter question is no, we shouldn't expect huge numbers from Judge going forward. He's had injuries, he's a late starter and the usual aging process. (Ideally good analyses on players who were "fragile" and late starters would be useful.) For small samples such as 6'5"+, you regress your results towards the mean but, in this case, your adjusted expectation still comes out at least a bit worse than the average.

There's nothing magical about 6'5" of course, especially not relative to 6'4" -- at least nothing magical that we know about. If we could trust the weight data, we could try BMI as a definition of "big." Dexter Fowler is 6'5" but only about half as wide as Judge, they're not particularly good physical comps. Judge's reported BMI is a bit over 31; Trout's is 30. Fowler's is 23 by the way. Stanton's is reportedly 28. McGwire's is just 25. :-) You could try something like dWAR + (Rbase/10) per 650 PA to try to get at "athleticism." It's not like we have any intention of comping Judge to Lindor, we're just trying to determine if a guy is such a lumbering oaf he's already a bad 1B/DH, a solid 1B/LF/RF or actually a good LF/RF (good, big 1B is more about reflexes than athleticism I suspect).

That may be changing. In 2019 Judge had 11 home runs at home and 16 on the road, and his OPS splits were .922 / .919.

It's also largely due to a freakish 688 road OPS in 2018. An 1170/688 H/R split must be one of the biggest of all-time. We'd still be talking about a career H/R split something like 1080/920 at best but that craptastic 2018 costs him about 100 points of career road OPS and it's not a number we're likely to ever see again.

Huh, in 2019 AL there was almost no H/R split at all (765 vs 758). It was only about 4% in 2018 (748 vs 720), 5.5% in 2017 but around 4% in 2016. 2019 was certainly the smallest of the 2000s. Looks to just be a fluke though as the NL was a pretty standard 768/740 -- huh, the NL had the higher home OPS.
   31. Adam Starblind Posted: April 30, 2020 at 08:41 AM (#5946074)
He looked like the Incredible Hulk by the time he was 33.

Yet didn't out-perform his 29-32 years when he had all the injuries.


His age 32 season is doing most of the work in this statement.

And Mr. Judge bears some resemblance to the Hulk as well.


Oh please. 1998 McGwire could tear Judge's arms off.
   32. Jack Keefe Posted: April 30, 2020 at 08:51 AM (#5946076)
Every 1 is on pace for Zero this year that is Seashellism Al.
   33. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: April 30, 2020 at 08:57 AM (#5946077)
Question semi-related here;

The traditional conventional wisdom is that sluggers tend to start slower. Some of this is down to the cold weather but there is also some thought that it takes longer for the swing by sluggers to calibrate for lack of a better term. Are we likely to see the big sluggers struggle when baseball restarts either in 2020 or 2021 whichever it is.
   34. Rally Posted: April 30, 2020 at 10:06 AM (#5946101)
There's nothing magical about 6'5" of course, especially not relative to 6'4" -- at least nothing magical that we know about. If we could trust the weight data, we could try BMI as a definition of "big." Dexter Fowler is 6'5" but only about half as wide as Judge, they're not particularly good physical comps. Judge's reported BMI is a bit over 31; Trout's is 30. Fowler's is 23 by the way. Stanton's is reportedly 28. McGwire's is just 25. :-)


McGwire listed at 215 pounds - maybe as a rookie. Maybe that was his weight on draft day. At some point BBref started to update player weights, my guess is Sean gets a regular feed from MLBAM. But that happened after McGwire retired apparently. Meanwhile, little Alberto Callaspo, at 5-9, is listed at 225 pounds. He got fat towards the end of his career. Early in his career he was closer to 170.

   35. Ron J Posted: April 30, 2020 at 06:10 PM (#5946343)
#24 What he said was that the findings were unusually clear and that the reasons were simply speculation.

Quoting from the 1987 Abstract:

"Let me say before I start this, that nobody likes to write about race." Then spends a half page discussing his methodology (standard James. Find comparable players). Then spends some time discussing the results (he had not expected to find anything of note).

Then starts to sum the scale of his findings. They're on the scale of comparing the future of 20 year old rookies to 23 year old rookies.

Then he spends a page on studies (lots of them) designed to test whether it's accidental effects. Nope, couldn't tease out anything.

And then spends more than a page on speculating as to why. His best guess boiled down to life options if a player failed.

"Is it not tragically true, in our society that black people have fewer options for success than do white people. [...] The black player, facing a career crisis, may know that should he not succeed in baseball he will return to a bleak and unpromising world."
   36. Ron J Posted: April 30, 2020 at 06:21 PM (#5946350)
Further to 35, I know if I was looking at this issue I'd use multiple regressions. James has never liked using or trusted the results of any study based on regressions. That's why he came up with the matched player methods. I have no idea what such a study would show or whether the results have weakened over time.
   37. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 30, 2020 at 06:36 PM (#5946360)
And then spends more than a page on speculating as to why. His best guess boiled down to life options if a player failed.

"Is it not tragically true, in our society that black people have fewer options for success than do white people. [...] The black player, facing a career crisis, may know that should he not succeed in baseball he will return to a bleak and unpromising world."
That's, um, quite a leap there.
   38. Ron J Posted: April 30, 2020 at 07:15 PM (#5946373)
#37 Sure. But it's clearly identified as speculation.

It's kind of like how Ks predicted pitcher longevity. We really have never understood why it works to project pitching but not hitting. The why may or may not matter. The results of the study were pretty unusually clear.

Is it still the case? Don't know. Szym might. Though I suspect he'd rather perform surgery on himself than study (and report) the impact of race on player development in 2020.
   39. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 30, 2020 at 07:41 PM (#5946381)
It just doesn't make any sense, even as speculation. Just to get started, if that were the case, why would the effect be limited to (or more pronounced in) slow sluggers?

To say nothing of the assumption that white players, having been sufficiently motivated to reach the major leagues, would then say "eh, it's not really all that important to maintain my skills and conditioning, because I'll have job opportunities after my career is over."

And, if a player has had enough of a career in the majors that age-related decline starts to be a concern, he's probably made at least enough money that he won't be returning to a "bleak and unpromising world." Granted, that's more true today than it was in 1987, but still.
   40. Ron J Posted: May 01, 2020 at 12:48 AM (#5946415)
#39 It's not. The studies I mentioned found that the racial advantage was not limited to player type. Fast black players aged better than comparable white players. Slow black players aged better than their white comps. He looked at ever cross section he could think of. It repeated across every type of player he could think of.

Also he looked at latin players and found only a very weak effect, which serves to undermine his just so story for explaining the why.

And he did say that the white player would probably opt to try to stay in baseball if faced with a crisis. But the mere fact that they likely have better options takes some of the edge off. Again, sheer guess (and identified as such)

It might be that blacks are disproportionately not catchers (because the study also identified just how badly catchers age). He thought of this and tried to correct for it. Maybe he didn't get it right.

Score yourself a copy of the 1987 Abstract and read the section yourself. I'm not going to attempt to sum up 16 pages of write-up of a very ambitious series of studies.
   41. flournoy Posted: May 01, 2020 at 03:28 AM (#5946421)
That doesn't sound like a very ambitious study if it concludes with lazily ascribing livelihood-related motivation to wide swaths of people based on race. If black players' baseball skills actually do age more gracefully, then the logical hypothesis is that it's genetic.
   42. Adam Starblind Posted: May 01, 2020 at 08:53 AM (#5946437)
Perhaps even by 1987 black athletes had to be in that much better condition than their white counterparts to be given the same opportunities in baseball in the first place (and perhaps that could be traced back a few more years to the beginning of minor league careers)? Or maybe some black athletes perceived or anticipated that would be the case?
   43. Ron J Posted: May 01, 2020 at 08:58 AM (#5946439)
41 Possibly. But remember the study attempts to match players with broadly similar athletic gifts (to the extent that this can be captured by statistics). And maybe that's the problem. Though his subsequent studies attempt to deal with the issues of the selection process, maybe it's borked from the start by these issues.

And I know he's mentioned Jewish boxers in the past in talking about speculation about what you might call genetic predisposition to certain types of athletic success.

There was a time when there were so many successful Jewish boxers that a good number of people that thought their was a genetic (yeah I know they didn't know about genes then) explanation.

In retrospect it seems that there was no such genetic advantage. Just a fair number of ambitious young men who saw boxing as a path to success when there were relatively few options for them.
   44. Ron J Posted: May 01, 2020 at 09:02 AM (#5946442)
#42 Again possible. Even if it was true then, it's a 33 year old study. And we have more resources to do an updated study. James didn't have anything like baseball-reference downloads (or before then, the Lahman database)

Won't be me who does the study though.
   45. Rally Posted: May 01, 2020 at 09:20 AM (#5946452)
Perhaps even by 1987 black athletes had to be in that much better condition than their white counterparts to be given the same opportunities in baseball in the first place


Made me think of Cecil Fielder. In 1987 he and Fred McGriff were teammates, both 23 years old, and split time as the Blue Jay DH. Both hit well, Cecil a .905 OPS, Fred .881. Obviously one was in much better shape than the other.

A year later Fred was a superstar. Cecil didn't hit so well, lost playing time, and a year after than found himself in Japan. He was pretty good when he came back though.
   46. PreservedFish Posted: May 01, 2020 at 09:40 AM (#5946458)
If black players' baseball skills actually do age more gracefully, then the logical hypothesis is that it's genetic.


I think #42 is onto something, but I'd tweak it. It's possible that racism in baseball of the time (conscious or unconscious) made it so black players had to be especially earnest / serious / dedicated / motivated in order to get opportunities above white players of similar ability. Given that this was an era where it was still basically believed that black people couldn't play quarterback, it's not far-fetched. Heck, it's not far-fetched today. And we know that in the very early days of integration, teams did explicitly seek out black players that were plus chemistry guys, for obvious reasons. Analyzing complete careers in the late 80s, James would have been mostly looking at players that started in the 50s and 60s.
   47. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 01, 2020 at 10:28 AM (#5946478)
And we know that in the very early days of integration, teams did explicitly seek out black players that were plus chemistry guys, for obvious reasons. Analyzing complete careers in the late 80s, James would have been mostly looking at players that started in the 50s and 60s.
This is an interesting point.
   48. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 01, 2020 at 10:32 AM (#5946481)
If black players' baseball skills actually do age more gracefully, then the logical hypothesis is that it's genetic.

"Race" is not really a genetic construct. There's as much genetic variation within what we call races as there is between them.

I think #42 is onto something, but I'd tweak it. It's possible that racism in baseball of the time (conscious or unconscious) made it so black players had to be especially earnest / serious / dedicated / motivated in order to get opportunities above white players of similar ability. Given that this was an era where it was still basically believed that black people couldn't play quarterback, it's not far-fetched. Heck, it's not far-fetched today. And we know that in the very early days of integration, teams did explicitly seek out black players that were plus chemistry guys, for obvious reasons. Analyzing complete careers in the late 80s, James would have been mostly looking at players that started in the 50s and 60s.

This is plausible. It's also plausible that black athletes of that era were especially motivated to prove that they could make it, and/or were raised in a cultural environment that particularly valued athletic excellence.


   49. PreservedFish Posted: May 01, 2020 at 10:54 AM (#5946496)
Also possible: it's nonsense.
   50. Ron J Posted: May 01, 2020 at 11:21 AM (#5946513)
49, Sure. Wouldn't be the first study with clear findings to fall apart when looked at in a different way or with more up to date data.

I suspect it once was true that black players did in fact age better. And have no clue if it's still true and if it's no longer true I have no clue as to when the change happened (if it in fact did happen) and whether it was gradual or abrupt.
   51. Adam Starblind Posted: May 01, 2020 at 12:23 PM (#5946578)
I think #42 is onto something, but I'd tweak it. It's possible that racism in baseball of the time (conscious or unconscious) made it so black players had to be especially earnest / serious / dedicated / motivated in order to get opportunities above white players of similar ability. Given that this was an era where it was still basically believed that black people couldn't play quarterback, it's not far-fetched. Heck, it's not far-fetched today. And we know that in the very early days of integration, teams did explicitly seek out black players that were plus chemistry guys, for obvious reasons. Analyzing complete careers in the late 80s, James would have been mostly looking at players that started in the 50s and 60s.


This all makes sense. What scouts would call "makeup," and a timeframe that extends back further than I considered.
   52. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 01, 2020 at 02:30 PM (#5946691)
My guess would be that, especially as of a couple of decades ago, opportunities to play baseball and to be coached and trained in the game were so much more prevalent for white kids than for black kids, such that a 20-year-old white player would be much more mature in his skills than a 20-year-old back player, who would have a lot more room to improve.

Remember, Henry Aaron batted cross-handed until he got to the Braves organization at the age of 18. Any half-awake high school baseball coach would have corrected that years earlier.
   53. PreservedFish Posted: May 01, 2020 at 03:05 PM (#5946714)
That's an extraordinary tidbit.

So you're saying that the "matched" 24 year olds are not actually matched, that the black player likely has more raw natural talent that he will grow into just by repetition at the MLB level? I suppose that's possible. Should be a fairly easy thing to study - that should show up in prime performance, not just career end.
   54. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 01, 2020 at 03:18 PM (#5946727)
To be sure, this is all just rank speculation on my part, but my supposition is that the 24-year-old white player in 1963 has certainly had better coaching than the 24-year-old black player, and probably had a lot more opportunities to play as well. It makes sense to me that he would be further along in his development.

If there's any merit to that hypothesis, the differences between black and white rookies would have diminished in recent years, as opportunities in this country have begun to even out.
   55. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: May 01, 2020 at 04:09 PM (#5946755)
To be sure, this is all just rank speculation on my part, but my supposition is that the 24-year-old white player in 1963 has certainly had better coaching than the 24-year-old black player, and probably had a lot more opportunities to play as well. It makes sense to me that he would be further along in his development.


It's not quite the same thing but there is some evidence for a similar theory. I saw a study a few years ago that noted that Canadians in the NHL had birth dates that skewed heavily toward the first third of the year. The reason for this according to the study is that while being born in February or November is not a big deal in adulthood it is abig deal with kids. The kid born in February is going to play in the same age group as the kid born in November but that nine months makes a huge difference in development at those ages.

Because of this the kids that play on elite teams at the lower level and get the best coaches and opportunities have those birthdays and thus tend to be the best players.
   56. PreservedFish Posted: May 01, 2020 at 04:33 PM (#5946764)
Yeah that was in Freakonomics or Malcolm Gladwell, one of those big pop-sci books.
   57. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 01, 2020 at 11:22 PM (#5946839)
To be sure, this is all just rank speculation on my part, but my supposition is that the 24-year-old white player in 1963 has certainly had better coaching than the 24-year-old black player, and probably had a lot more opportunities to play as well. It makes sense to me that he would be further along in his development.

More rank speculation, but I do know that in 1963 almost every black or predominately black high school and college had a varsity baseball team, often among the better ones in their respective areas. That's not the case today. In fact I'd say the discrepancy in quality coaching is more widespread now than ever, given the overwhelming proportion of white players on travel teams and college teams.

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