Adrian Gonzalez and age 35 seasons
Eric Stephen did an excellent review of what Adrian Gonzalez did in 2016, but I’m curious about what to expect from him in 2017. As Eric noted Adrian had a slow start but turned things around to end up with a somewhat productive season even though it was his least productive season of his career.
Going forward, I’d be betting on that trend to continue, and that 2017 will be his new least productive season going forward.
For historical context, I used the baseball-reference play index to see just how productive 35 and older 1st baseman have been since PED testing began in earnest. I used 2005 as the starting point. You had to have at least 400 PA, an OPS+ > 120, and played at least 70% of your games at 1st base so we could weed out the 1st/DH types.
Maybe you think I put the bar too high with an OPS+ of 120? I tried it at 110 and got one extra season from Todd Helton. The Dodgers have to be hoping for an OPS+ > 110 from their $22M first baseman. I doubt they get much more than what they got in 2016. When you factor in the age, the shift, the drop in power, the inability to hit left-hand pitching, I think you get a 2017 Adrian Gonzalez much like you got in 2016.
You will notice one thing off the bat. Everyone on this list but Todd Helton were AL players and they all got time at DH besides first base. They did play mostly 1st base, but they also got reps at DH. Konerko was a late bloomer who did his best work in baseball from the age at age 34 and 35. Teixeira did have the comeback season in 2015, after being average in 2014, and was done with baseball by the end of 2016 at age 36. The one-time workhorse had ten straight seasons with at least 500 PA by the age of 32. After 32, he had one, and of those four seasons, only one was a season you’d want from your 1st baseman.
At some point, all those games that Adrian has played in are going to bite him in the ass, and I expect that bite to happen in 2017. My first bet of 2017 will be that Adrian does not see 500 plate appearances in 2017 and the last time that happened was 2005 in his rookie season. We already know he has back problems, and that he plays through them. That won’t be easier to do the older he gets.
This is one of the reasons why I thought it imperative the Dodgers don’t trade Bellinger this off-season because I expect they will need him in 2017.