Getting Old in Sports
I've been thinking a lot about this New York Times article about Derek Jeter and the aging athlete. I was especially struck about a comment he made about Willie Mays. Mays' late care is often seen through the, as the writer put it, his "sad last years with (the New York) Mets." Mays really did have an pretty effective post 30 career. For players 30 and over he is sixth all time in total home runs (third if you don't count steroid ridden monsters). But if you look at achievements you really can see that once even baseball players hit 30 their truly great years are mostly behind them and at 35 you are over the hill unless, of course, you are a steroid ridden monster.
Ty Cobb won the American League batting title eleven times. His last was in 1919 when he was 32. In 1922 he did bat .401 and came second to the 29 year old George Sisler who batted .420. Yeah, Ty Cobb hit .401 the year he turned 35. That's just ridiculous.
Cobb never stole more than 50 bases the year after he stole 55 in 1917, the year he turned 30.
Reggie Jackson was really durable. I had no idea he played 132 games in 1986, the year he turned 40. He was strickly a DH and had the best year of his career for percentage of atbats that produced walks, 17.8%. This was his fifth and final year with the California Angels and he he also had his lowest strikeout percentage at 22.2% since he left the Yankees in 1981.
Detroit Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell had his caereer year at 29 in 1987 when he had 207 hits and batted .343 After the age of 35 he never played more than 76 games in his final three years.
Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who hit 512 homeruns, didn't lead his league in any offensive category after he entered his 30s.
After the age of 32 the only offensive category Willie McCovey led the National League in was intentional walks when he was 35 in 1973.
Jim Thome is playing right now at the age of 40. The last year he hit more than 40 homeruns and had more than 100 RBIs was in 2006 when he was 35.
The last year Craig Biggio led the National League in doubles was in 1999 when he was 33 years old.
Brooks Robinson had 100 RBIs twice in his career. Both of those seasons were when he was in his 20s.
With all these numbers out there I'm surprised the Yankees didn't bargain harder with Derek Jeter. He's 37, he's never going to his .300 again and he'll never have another season where he'll score 100 runs. That he hit .334 and had 212 hits in 2006 at the age of 35 is pretty impressive but from now on he'll be average at best.