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.

The results were not very promising.

Player OPS+ PA Year Age HR OPS
Mark Teixeira 144 462 2015 35 31 0.906
Paul Konerko 141 639 2011 35 31 0.906
Paul Konerko 130 598 2012 36 26 0.857
Jason Giambi 128 565 2008 37 32 0.876
Carlos Delgado 128 686 2008 36 38 0.871
Todd Helton 127 645 2009 35 15 0.904
Scott Hatteberg 120 417 2007 37 10 0.868

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.



  1. 68elcamino427

    A more interesting list would show every player since the end of the Reserve Clause in 1975.
    This was the beginning of a player being able to truly play for a contract.
    You will see a spike in the players continuing into their age 35 seasons and beyond coinciding with the introduction of the testosterone boosters, aka, PEDS.

    A list of players from 1975 through 1985 might yield the comparison you seek.
    Every player on the list above was a user at some point. Giambi, Teixeira, and Helton stick out.
    The PEDS mask soft tissue injury, keeping players on the field when they would otherwise be too sore and need to sit. The PEDS also enhance power.

    Without the big contract Gonzalez would have his hands full competing with Bellinger this ST.
    In the old days ,with the old days contract, now is when the Dodgers would consider trading Gonzalez to another team like the Giants.

    Your assessment that it’s most likely 2017 will be similar to 2016 for Gonzalez just makes too much sense. As the season wore on, the footspeed around the bag from the good old days was gone, the bat more quiet for longer stints, the back issue now something admitted to in the press.

    A warrior, Gonzalez has stayed on the field.
    Time to rest up and go the platoon route in 2017, playing to his strength, hitting RHP.

    There is no shame in this, Gonzalez has built his legacy in the game.
    He was a real force to be reckoned with during the San Diego years.


  2. 68elcamino427


    Just read the thread on TBLA.


  3. So from 1975 – 1990?


    • 68elcamino427

      I went with 1985 because it was around this time that the first pro athlete got popped for steroids.
      I can not recall the man’s name. He was a draftees into the NFL. He was a lineman and I think Green Bay was the team that drafted the guy. The story caused quite a sensation at the time.
      There were big write ups about it in the LAT.
      He was a mid round pick. He was immediately suspect because his size and strength had changed so dramatically compared to his last amature season. He never made the roster of the team that drafted him.
      In a rare quirk, part of the story in the press mentioned that the guy had been working out at the same muscles head gym that I was going to in Whittier. A year later the owner of the gym was arrested and had his house seized for distribution of steroids.
      So this story always stood out for me.
      Previous to these times heavy weight training was frowned upon by nearly all coaches, the theory being that the added muscle reduced flexibility. Just weight lifting junkies trying to be like Arnold were the people using then. In fact Arnold is probably the first high profile user. He had open heart surgery while in Sacramento, a complication of juicing years before.

      So, yeah, I guess you could stretch it to 1975-1990 to get 50% more time on your study. It would be interesting to see who makes the list and be nice to compare against the one you presented today.


  4. I remember Brian Downing of the Angels as being the first baseball player to use heavy weight training and succeed.


  5. 68elcamino427

    Yes. Nolan Ryan wrote about lifting secretly while with the Angels too.
    The team had a four station universal weight machine in a basement room. He said that he lifted on it every other day, even after a start. What a freak he had to be to do that. He said the lifting gave him more stamina.
    That’s a great pull on Downing. He took it to the next level. Lance Parrish was another who adopted the practice. He was with the Angels from 89-92.


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