As Derek Jeter ages, the list of players who he resembles statistically grows more and more elite. They’re almost all HOF players. The only reason Rose isn’t in Cooperstown is because he’s ineligible. Biggio is likely to get in (barring a steroid revelation) at some point, as will Damon if he plays 2 more seasons and gets to 3000 hits (2723 currently). Ted Simmons is right on the bubble, and is the kind of candidate the Veteran’s committee will give serious consideration. Projecting elite players is a tricky business, since by definition they’re such an anomaly to begin with. When any player gets past the age of 35 I tend to trust projections such as PECOTA less and look at player comps more, since the risk of collapse increases annually. So I wanted to take a look at Jeter’s comps and see how they fared in their age 38 season.
- Craig Biggio-156 G .281/.337/.469 (.281/.363/.463 career avg)
- Frankie Frisch*-17 G .219/.242/.281 (.316/.369/.432 career avg)
- Johnny Damon-n/a (same age as Jeter)
- Robin Yount*-did not play (retired)
- Charlie Gehringer*-127 G.220/.363/.303 (.320/.404/.480 career avg)
- Ted Simmons -78 G .196/.293/.308 (.285/.348/.437 career avg)
- Cal Ripken*-84 G .340/.368/.584 (.276/.340/.447 career avg)
- Pete Rose -163 G .331/.418/.430 (.303/.375/.409 career avg
- Ryne Sandberg *-did not play (retired)
- Roberto Clemente *-did not play (deceased)
* – Signifies Hall of Famer
Biggio had one more good season at age 39, then dropped off substantially and retired at 41. Frisch stopped driving the ball at age 33, became a productive singles hitter through age 36 though was playing part time his last few years. Yount seems to have retired with something left, posting a .704 OPS in his age 37 season that was in line with what he produced the previous 3 seasons. Like Frisch, Yount stopped hitting with power after age 33. Sandberg’s career follows a similar pattern, hitting for less power after age 33 and retiring when he appeared to have something left. After a solid age 37 season Gehringer was pretty much done, and hung on for one more season as a part time player before retiring. Simmons played most of his career as a Catcher, and given the wear and tear of that position he’s not a very good comp.
Rose and Ripken are the standouts on this list. Rose posted a career high OBP in his age 38 season, posted his final 200+ hit season and showed no signs of decline whatsoever. Rose was a pure singles hitter at this point of his career, and was one of the most driven athletes and personalities I’ve ever seen in professional sports. He logged another 995 Hits after the age of 37, the most any player has ever recorded in the history of baseball. Ripken had his final big season, though he was being substituted in late innings and missed the entire month of August that year.
To summarize, one would have to think odds are against Jeter. The vast majority of the players he most resembles had little left this point of their career. Though as Biggio and Rose show, there can still be something left in the tank at that age. If baseball was a casino, I would have to think the smart money would be wagering against it.
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