This year's crop of players whose careers went poof when they were supposed to be peaking.
Another year, another bunch of players who were 27 and will never be 27 again. As Ben Lindbergh once wrote, the idea of Age 27 as a time when players break out is mostly a myth. But as I once wrote (twice wrote, actually), the idea of Age 27 as the last year that broken-down prospects get taken semi-seriously as post-hype sleepers is maybe not. So, in what has become an annual thing, here’s a look at the Age 27 Sadness that 10 Age 27s felt this year.
10. Daric Barton
Type of Age 27 Disappointment: Stagnation
Top line of his resume: Thrice a top-50 prospect, platonic ideal of a Billy Beane prospect, led the majors in TAv in as a small-sample 21-year-old.
2013: .183/.256/.263 in 43 big-league plate appearances.
If you spend a lot of time feeling nostalgic for sabermetrics’ low-hanging-fruit days, Daric Barton is your baseball equivalent of the last song played at prom. Back then, “draft whoever Billy Beane picks up” was a valid fantasy strategy, and oh boy after the Mark Mulder trade you wanted to hold some seriously sweaty hands with Daric Barton, who had just hit .313/.445/.511, as the youngest player in the Midwest League, as a catcher. He did have one fantastic season, and through age 24 he had a better OPS+ than Derrek Lee, Justin Morneau, Anthony Rizzo, Paul Konerko, Richie Sexson, Eric Hosmer, a whole grip of guys. In three seasons since, he has two big-league home runs, and a .274 slugging percentage in more than 450 plate appearances. To his credit, 2013 was (narrowly) the best season he has had in Triple-A (where he has spent parts of six years), but it wasn’t the league domination you expect from 27-year-olds in the PCL: he led the River Cats in OBP but was, true to his history, just seventh in slugging.
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The Baseball Prospectus 2013 Top 101 Prospects, by Position, by Organization, and by Age
Yesterday, Jason Parks and the Baseball Prospectus prospect crew released our Top 101 Prospects of 2013, also newly available in printed form in the now-shipping Baseball Prospectus 2013 annual. The festivities were wild and raucous for all, perhaps tempered slightly for fans of the Chicago White Sox. Here is the Top 101 list displayed by position, by organization, and by prospect age. Enjoy!
Melky Cabrera is having a breakout season, and he is 27 years old. Those are just two unrelated facts about Melky Cabrera.
If All-Star voting ended today, two of the three starting outfielders for the National League would be repeat representatives. The leading vote-getter, Matt Kemp, made the team last season and went on to be runner-up in the NL MVP race. Behind Kemp is Carlos Beltran, who’s been to six All-Star games.
But the player who recently displaced reigning MVP Ryan Braun to take over third place has never been an All-Star. He’s never come close to winning any major awards or leading the league in any important statistical category. He’s been a punch line and an afterthought, but before this season, he’d never been one of baseball’s best players.
Brandon Wood is in the midst of yet another disappointing season at age 27. What other players have bottomed out when they were supposed to be peaking?
You couldn’t ask for a better place to hit than Colorado Springs. Last year, the hometown Sky Sox batted .305/.366/.489 as a team and allowed a 6.49 ERA as a team. It’s the craziest place to hit in the craziest league to hit, and it’s where Brandon Wood is hitting .253/.289/.418, with 19 strikeouts and three walks. It’s his age-27 season.
It’s wrong to say that age-27 is the magical year when everybody sets new personal bests. Some hitters peak in their 30s and some in their early 20s and some when they’re 25 and some when they’re 29. Twenty-seven is just a number, and when it starts a sentence, a hyphenated word. It’s only as significant as you make it.
As CC Sabathia's opt-out date ticks nearer, we look at some of his potential free-agent comparables from the past.
The stroke of midnight on Monday is the deadline for Yankees ace CC Sabathia to opt out of the final four years of the seven-year, $161 million deal he signed in December 2008, and the word on the street, via SI.com's Jon Heyman, is that he will do so. While a thrilling World Series played out in Texas and St. Louis, the New York City tabloids were been busy picturing Sabathia in a Red Sox uniform, particularly on the heels of the news that John Lackey will miss the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery. The Yankees are said to have prepared a pre-emptive pitch; according to the New York Post's George King III, "The Yankees are believed to be OK with a five- or six-year deal for an obvious raise over his current $23 million a year. Yet seven or eight years is something they want to avoid because of age, workload, and Sabathia gaining weight across the second half of last season."
Jose Bautista is poised to trump his first seven seasons in one glorious campaign. What other players have done almost all their damage on only one side of age 30?
If you’ve been paying any attention to current athletic events, you know that Jose Bautista has been busy making the rest of baseball look bad. The 30-year-old slugger is hitting .370/.516/.849, leading the majors in home runs, walks, and runs scored, and serenading himself in the shower with the refrain to Jay-Z’s “30 Something”: “30’s the new 20, I’m so hot still.” (Yes, Bautista prefers the “clean” version.) As Hova notes elsewhere on that track, 30 is “young enough to know the right car to buy, yet grown enough not to put rims on it.” That’s not the kind of old-player skill we generally associate with athletes—it’s more of an old-playa skill, probably—but baseball players do compensate for their declining physical talents by adopting more refined approaches as they leave their third decades behind.
Of course, there comes a point at which no amount of experience and savvy can help a player catch up with a fastball, which is why places on the 25-man roster aren’t lifetime appointments. Bautista’s offensive outburst has been compared to the early-century output of Barry Bonds. Bautista’s recent production is more out of character with his previously established performance level than Bonds’ was, but one of the factors that made Bonds’ record-busting performance so improbable was that it came as he entered his late 30s, typically a time when players retain only a fraction of their former glory. At 30, Bautista is hardly over the hill, but he is a few years past the age at which most players peak.
Attempting to plot the career path of those who may reach the 300-win plateau.
I’m excited to join Baseball Prospectus. If you’ve read any of my previous work, you may know me as something of a PITCHf/x guy. I’ve been learning about and writing about PITCHf/x since the pitch-tracking system was installed in major-league ballparks in 2007, so that description is apt. My interests extend beyond PITCHf/x to the physics of baseball and the details of the pitcher-hitter confrontation.
Clubs who are down with re-signing their own free agents get better value than those who sign other people's players.
After remembering the 1981 hit "Should I Stay or Should I Go" by The Clash with last week’s title on the same topic, we move forward a decade to a 1991 Naughty by Nature hit—and we introduce the money to the equation this time (if you’re down with that). In this article, I will show that players who re-sign with their clubs on multi-year deals provide far more bang for their buck than players who sign contracts with new teams.
Pitchers, unlike hitters, have no discernible pattern for reaching their peaks but they do often flame out quickly.
Last week, I looked at the question of when hitters hit their peak and came away with the very unsatisfying answer of "it depends." Good hitters peak later. Even leaving aside the usual cries of "treat everyone as an individual!" there are different peak ages in the aggregate among different groups. The details matter. Now we are left with this question: What happens with pitchers?
Dispelling the idea that all hitters reach their prime at the same age.
My grandfather used to say that in heaven, everyone was 25. He figured that was the perfect age in life. You're old enough that you're not a kid any more, but young enough to enjoy everything. Grandpa lived to age 93, and more than six years later, I still miss the guy. This one's for you, Grandpa.
The old assumption that players peak around the age of 27 has long been the accepted standard, but should it be?
Recently, there's been a decent amount of chatter regarding how baseball players age, and I have to admit that it's mostly my fault. In a study that was recently published in Journal of Sports Sciences, I find that players tend to peak around the age of 29; this finding has been met with resistance from some individuals in the sabermetric community, where 27 has long been considered the age when players peak. Will Carroll and Christina Kahrl graciously asked if I would be willing to defend my findings on Baseball Prospectus. I agreed, and I thank Will and Christina for the opportunity to do so.
Due to the length of the explanation, I have broken the analysis into two parts. Part I explains the empirical problems faced when estimating aging, and examines why past sabermetric studies have failed to properly measure player aging; Part II explains my recent study.