Ah, the inexorable march of time. In honor of it, I thought I’d bust out the All-Dotage Team for the season to date. By that I mean, I’ll see what manner of lineup, rotation and closer I can cobble together using only players age 35 and older.
Turns out, it’s a bit of a golden age for the bocce ball crowd. You of course have Barry, who, at age 39, is treating NL pitchers like a heaving pinata obscured by only a fishnet blindfold. But that’s not all. Without further lame jokes…
C – Mike Piazza, Age: 35 (.280/.377/.483/.301 EqA)
Piazza is squarely in his decline phase, but he’s still a reasonably dangerous hitter–especially after accounting for positional scarcity–with solid on-base skills. His .203 Isolated Slugging Percentage shows he still has raw power. His defense has always been the soft underbelly of his overall game, but his offense is still such that it makes up for it.
Runner-up: The crop of regular catchers age 35 and over consists of Piazza and…Brad Ausmus? If I must.
1B – Jeff Bagwell, Age: 35 (.319/.442/.521/.319 EqA)
Bags still has excellent patience, and, even though he’s seen some declines in his SLG in recent seasons, still has good power. His .319 AVG would be his highest since his amazing season in 1994, so that likely won’t hold up. In any case, the on-base chops and solid power numbers should be maintained.
Runner-up: Rafael Palmeiro.
2B – Jeff Kent, Age: 36 (.294/.331/.532/.284 EqA)
His insidious tickler aside, “Bacardi” can still rake. He’s seen a troubling loss of plate patience in recent seasons, but his power numbers remain a notable asset at the keystone.
Runner-up: I’d like to choose Bret Boone for this honor, but his ’04 bestowals are simply too stinky.
3B – Vinny Castilla, Age: 36 (.322/.388/.627/.313 EqA)
Before anyone bellows “park effects” at me, note the EqA and know that he’s the lone qualifying third baseman who’s at least 35. Castilla is also slugging over .500 on the road and, for the first time in his career, showing a modicum of patience at the dish.
Runner-up: Corbin Bernsen.
SS – Omar Vizquel, Age: 37 (.298/.361/.405/.275 EqA)
Vizquel’s defense is as overrated as James Cameron’s film career, but a .361 OBP and touch o’ gap power are valuable at the shortstop position. His EqA ranks sixth among major league shortstops.
Runner-up: Barry Larkin is the only other qualifier. His career is boundlessly superior to Vizquel’s, but he’s a worse player in the here and now.
LF – Barry Bonds, Age: 39 (.360/.619/.840/.481 EqA)
Runner-up: Luis Gonzalez is having an excellent season once again, but it was the inestimable Freedom Williams who once said something about being just a squirrel trying to get a nut in someone else’s world. In keeping with that sentiment, yes, it’s Gonzalez you see scampering along the power line.
CF – Steve Finley, Age: 39 (.265/.333/.561/.291 EqA)
A .330-ish OBP will pass muster at an up-the-middle position, but throw in excellent power and a good glove, and you’re in All-Star territory. Part of his power is certainly BOB-fueled illusion, but Finley is still a highly useful player, even at 39.
Runner-up: Marquis Grissom and Craig Biggio are both having remarkable seasons at the plate, but major regression is likely. And Biggio’s defense in center drops his stock quite a bit. If Grissom hits .357 for the whole season, I’ll deep fry my elbows.
RF – Sammy Sosa, Age: 35 (.288/.384/.560/.317 EqA)
The otherworldly Sosa of 1998-2001 is gone forever with Frodo and the other ring-bearers, but Sammy remains capable of good OBPs and strong power numbers.
Runner-up: If Gary Sheffield‘s power comes around, he may wind up more worthy than Sosa.
DH – Frank Thomas, Age: 35 (.272/.451/.533/.333 EqA)
The jaw-dropping power numbers of a decade ago won’t be back, but he’s on pace for almost 150 walks. Old player skills, thy name is Frank.
Runner-up: Edgar Martinez.
Never mind the 7-0 start, if Clemens doesn’t make some modest strides with his control, it could come back to bite him. He’s fanning more than a batter per inning, and those paying attention to his peripherals over the last few seasons aren’t surprised he still has it in spades. That 1.99 ERA won’t hold up, but there’s no reason he can’t wind up in the top quartile of major league starters this season.
SP2 – Curt Schilling, Age: 37 (51.1 IP, 2.81 R/G, 53 K, 7 BB, 6th in SNWs)
Check out that command. Other than a modest weakness for the homer, he’s doing everything well thus far. His recent history of exceptionally strong strikeout-to-walk ratios suggests it’ll hold up. He may be your AL Cy Young favorite.
SP3 – Randy Johnson, Age: 40 (54 IP, 3.33 R/G, 68 K, 16 BB, 16th in SNWs)
The Unit’s decline phase has been heralded before, and it’s been staved off before. He’s at it again. Much better peripherals than Clemens despite toiling in an environment every bit as hostile toward pitchers.
SP4 – Kevin Brown, Age: 19 (52.2 IP, 3.59 R/G, 30 K, 10 BB, 11th in SNWs)
Brown’s groundball tendencies are problematic with the weak middle-infield defense behind him, but he’s still got it. Provided he can stay healthy, he could wind up the second-best pitcher on the staff.
SP5 – Tom Glavine, Age: 38 (52.2 IP, 2.39 R/G, 24 K, 13 BB, 14th in SNWs)
With a major assist from Mike Cameron‘s glove; those 4.1 strikeouts per nine says he’s either pitching to his defense or lucky as hell. Take your pick.
CL – Trevor Hoffman, Age: 36 (13 IP, 1.38 R/G, 9 K, 1 BB)
He seems fully recovered from major shoulder surgery, and he’s most assuredly keeping runs off the board. It’s early, but the 9.0 K/BB ratio is tremendous.
Runner-up: John Smoltz