Age and Performance: Old versus New

Skip points to an interesting study in the SF Chronicle by Jim Albert. Albert is an excellent baseball statistician who co-authored the book Curve Ball. In the article Albert examines the aging patterns of legendary home run hitters.

Bonds’ power stroke and batter’s eye show little sign of weakening. If anything, he has seemed to get better the older he gets, well past the point where most other power hitters are well into the sunset phase of their careers.

Albert elaborates,

“It’s really hard to pin it down to one thing,” Albert said. “But you can say that players appear to be peaking later. It’s really impossible to say anything about steroids just based on statistics, but some of these patterns are curious. Something is driving these changes. … One thing that stands out is that Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa all had these dramatic rises in home run hitting that is very different from Aaron, Mays, and McCovey.”

While I agree that Bonds and McGwire differ from the past home run legends, I would like to add that they differ in their aging patterns from their contemporaries as well. At the request of Eric at Off Wing, I plotted the OPS of Bonds, McGwire, and all players with career OPS+ greater than 120 from 1980-2003. (Note: My OPS+ is OPS relative to the league OPS without park effects).

All of the good players appear to be peaking later than the old guard, but Bonds and McGwire are truly special players.

I would also like to add, I am using Albert’s study as motivation to move over this cool chart from my other site. I am a big fan of Albert, and I suspect his study is quite good and goes much more in depth than I have done here. I mean, I didn’t even look at HRs! Pick up a copy of Curve Ball, you’ll like it. And congrats to Albert for getting picked up by The SF Chronicle.

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