It seemed just like yesterday when “Giants are old!” jokes were all the rage. Rightly or wrongly, there was a time when the San Francisco Giants felt more like an old folks home than a baseball team. To my knowledge, the Giants are the only team in the history of baseball to start an all 40-year-old outfield.*
*In 2006, the Giants started Barry Bonds, Steve Finley, and Moises Alou more than just a few times. The Steve Finley era was frustratingly futile. He would go on to play 43 games for the Rockies in 2007 — who remembers that? — before retiring. I still haven’t recovered from that horrific year. In fact, that 2006 team had the oldest average position player age (33.5 years) for any Giants team in franchise history.
The general idea is that baseball players peak around their late-20′s — depending on the study — and then experience a decline as they enter their 30′s. MGL has a fascinating read, here, that details some of his work with aging patterns. It looks possible that modern players age more gradually, but it seems clear that an early-30′s player is definitely in the decline portion of his career.
Which brings me to today’s thought, here are the projected starting position players for the Giants in 2011 and their baseball ages.
LF – Pat Burrell (34)
CF – Andres Torres (33)
RF – Cody Ross (30)
3B – Pablo Sandoval (24)
SS – Miguel Tejada (37)
2B – Freddy Sanchez (33)
1B – Aubrey Huff (34)
C – Buster Posey (24)
Six starters are over the age of 30, five are 33 or greater, and only two (Sandoval and Posey) can truly be called young. The average age for our starting eight works out to 31 years and some change. Next year’s team is a far cry from the Bonds, Finley, and Alou years, but the Giants’ age could play a role in how successful the team is. Miguel Tejada has been very durable in his career, but will he be able to get his usual 600 at-bats in 2011? Freddy Sanchez has already battled injuries for years now. You have to imagine that another year on his odometer isn’t doing him any favors. Burrell’s not a dinosaur, but his player-type tends to age poorly once his skills start to erode. Ross seems like a healthy guy, and he’s only 30 for next year. Not too much worry there. Same with Huff, despite his age, he’s been pretty healthy. Torres is a bit of a wild card, his leg injuries could become more prevalent with age. He strikes me as a player that the Giants must keep healthy to win.
For the Giants to be competitive they will need to fend of the aging process — among other things — for another year.