Age Is Everything Sometimes

Sometimes you just can’t find a quip at the ready. You’re watching the all-star festivities, thinking about all the wonders of baseball and perusing the newest about Pitch F/X, Hit F/X, and now even Game F/X, and you think something will come. But there you are, and all you have is….

Kendry Morales – Projection systems often have trouble with breakouts, so maybe it’s not surprising that ZiPS projects Morales to basically halve his home run production from here on out, finishing with 23 home runs instead of the 26 or 27 he might otherwise be on pace for.

One can’t really blame the system for being pessimistic, however. He had only 19 home runs in 402 at-bats in the major and minor leagues combined last year, and only nine home runs in 401 total minor league at bats the year before. Why would this player approach 30 home runs?

Perhaps the pessimism also stems from Morales’ consistently low line drive percentages. When a player seems to lack home run power, the pundits fall back on the idea that he is a ‘line drive hitter’ or can ‘drive it in the gaps.’ Instead, it seems that Morales is the type of hitter that avoids the strikeout (16.9% career) in favor of putting the ball in play, often on the ground (44.9% ground ball rate). It certainly isn’t his line drive percentage (15.3% career, 17.5% this year).

One thing should be said: with a fly-ball rate over 40%, he could up the power. Lance Berkman and Adrian Gonzalez also own similar fly ball rates and have a little power. Morales’ HR/FB rate has increased every year and he may some day hit 30 home runs if only because he’s listed at 26 years old and has more baseball to play. He has also repeated AAA three times while waiting for his chance – he probably couldn’t be better prepared for this, and his peak is probably still on the way.

The year-27 peak theory has been disproved for the most part. An oft-referenced study by Schulz et al, done in 1994 by surveying the statistics of over 388 players that were active in 1965, found that major league baseball players peak between 25 and 28 years old. The reason for the range is that their peak is usually determined by their age when they broke into the majors. It follows that you would peak later if you debuted later. But the law of the bell curve also applies, and the later you join the league, the earlier you leave the league for the most part.

If this Cuban first baseman is actually 26 years old, he’s joining the majors early enough to have better years in front of him. For those in keeper leagues, this first half at least shows that he belongs and will play long enough to probably have a better year in sometime soon in his career.

However, if he’s closer to 30 and the owner of a false birth certificate like many other Cuban players, this is most likely his peak and he probably won’t be a starter in the majors for very long. That much we do know about the bell curves of major league players as it relates to their ages and their performances.



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With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here or at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


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Ian S
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Sorry to make you put a hard number on this, but what would you guess for Morales to end the year? 23, or 27?

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