Look at this list of numbers: 136, 94, 97, 84, 86, 73.
Here’s one that’s even more consistent in its way: .510, .444, .437, .420, .394, .384.
This one’s a bit more herky-jerky: .383, .290, .332, .294, .319, .280.
And finally, a last list that goes in the opposite direction: 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37.
Now, imagine that it’s your job to figure out what the next number will be in the above lists. The last one is the easiest … odds are, even without knowing what the numbers represent, that we can guess 38 with confidence. Again, context matters, so we’re just guessing here, but for the top list I’d guess somewhere between 60-75. For the second list, .360-.390. For the third, .270-.300. I’m sure to be wrong here, but I’m willing to claim that I won’t be very far off. The first three lists are of numbers that are all becoming gradually smaller, the last list is of numbers that are getting larger by 1 each time.
These numbers are the OPS+, SLG, OBP, and Age for Ivan Rodriguez over the past six years. Longtime readers will have an easy time figuring out what comes next: there is a rumor that the Giants are thinking of signing Pudge to a one-year deal. He’s getting worse every year, he’s well-past his sell-by date, he doesn’t get on base, he plays a position where the team already has a young guy in waiting … he’s the perfect Sabean pick. (It must be noted that these rumors don’t often pan out.)
Since the Giants moved west in 1958, there have been nine catchers who managed to play at least 81 games in their “age 38” season. There are some very good players on that list (Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter, to name two) … you have to be good to still play half your team’s games at C when you are 38. Do you know how many of those nine players managed an OPS+ of 100 or better when they were 38? None. You know how many had an OPS+ of 75 or lower? Five. The best season any of them had was Gregg Zaun last year (OPS+ 97), with the Giants’ own Benito Santiago second at 96. There is no one else in the 90s. Those great catchers I mentioned earlier? Gary Carter hit .218 when he was 38, Carlton Fisk hit .221. Elston Howard, a pretty good player in his day as well, posted an OPS+ of 42 when he was 38.
Do you think Ivan Rodriguez, clearly declining with age, is likely to somehow jump above every player on that list of nine, to become the first player since 1958 to catch half his team’s games while providing league-average offense? The most similar player to Pudge-at-37, according to Baseball-Reference.com, is Ryne Sandberg, a Hall-of-Famer who didn’t have 2288 games squatting behind the plate to slow him down. What did he do at age 38? Whatever it was, it wasn’t playing baseball … Ryno retired.
I sure hope Rodriguez’ defense balances out his offense. Oh, let’s be honest: I sure hope Rodriguez is nowhere near a Giants’ uniform in 2010. The best possible conclusion to this blog post would be that it became irrelevant because Brian Sabean saw the light.