There is a thing in golf called “shooting your age.” Basically, it’s a measure of how sharp a player’s game is even as they get older. The way golf is structured, this doesn’t even come into affect until a player’s 60s or 70s. Tiger Woods has yet to shoot his age, because it’s impossible to shoot a 38 on a par-72 course. But it’s a fun way to talk about older players, and to give golfers hope for their futures.
This whole idea led me to wonder if we could apply it to baseball. Obviously, to truly bat one’s age would be a bad thing. Batting average doesn’t really play well with this idea. Neither does wOBA or ISO, for that matter. So, I took a different route. I decided to use wRC+, and then just knock 100 points off. This, of course, gives us a number based around how much better a player batted than league average. Plus, it gives a much nicer number to compare with an age of a player.
I then searched our database to find any batter aged 35 or older (just to find the older guys) that hit his age or higher better than league average (min. 300 PA). Without any further constraints, 234 batters made the cut. I won’t post the whole list here, but you can follow this link if you’re interested.
Here are the players who accomplished this since 2009.
If you look at the big list, you’ll notice a number of players who did such things in the early 2000s, though we’re not going to speculate why right now. But as we get closer to present, we see a lot of David Ortiz and a little bit of Manny, but overall not a whole lot of players have done this in the past five years. This year, only two players made the cut — Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre.
This tells us two things; that accomplishing this feat is very difficult, and that Beltre and Martinez are having monster seasons. In our current age of mega-long deals, seeing just how hard it is to be a highly-contributing player at an advanced age (for baseball, at least) is a bit sobering. Not many players can reach this plateau. Miguel Cabrera, who is signed through his age-40 season, would seem like a pretty good candidate for this list when that time comes. But he’s 31, and is currently only hitting 39% better than league average. Yes, his injuries are playing a part in that, but that’s kind of the point.
It’s easy to think that a player like Cabrera or Mike Trout or Andrew McCutchen can make this list when they hit 35 years old, easier than me assuming I can play scratch golf in my 70s. But the players on this list — or, perhaps more telling, the players NOT on this list — show that only the very talented and very lucky stick around long enough to bat their age.