Ben posted on Nate Silver’s A-Rod article yesterday, and I think he hit on some good points. The one line that kind of controlled the discussion: “A-rod is not an easy man to analyze.” He has not had a typical career path, and as we learned from Silver, he’ll have to continue being an anomaly if he is to break the home run record. So if you have always been an anomaly — an outlier, if you will — do you continue to be an anomaly even through your decline years?
I think Jay at Fack Youk did a good job in his criticism of Silver’s analysis. He makes three main points:
- In an large and representative sample, home run totals will decline as a player moves into his mid 30s. It’s just the typical life span of a major league baseball player. Says Jay: “The only problem is, over that ten year period it is extremely unlikely that any individual player is going to have that consistent of a downward slide.” He’s right. As a whole, numbers tend to decline at A-Rod’s age, but there are always those who defy the overall average. I think A-Rod is certainly capable of doing that. I mean, seriously, the PECOTA projection has him hitting fewer home runs in each successive year. That’s just not likely to happen, at least not in that kind of linear fashion.
- The ability to DH will help A-Rod, as it helped Hank Aaron in his later days.
- I’ll just quote him here: “The problem with being on pace to be the greatest home run hitter of all time is that you aren’t going to have too many people similar to you.”
However, I think the most important point comes at the end. Here’s Jay’s take: “For one thing, last year, A-Rod played in only 138 games. If he played 156 games, he was on pace for almost exactly 43 HRs, right in line with a 32 year old Aaron.” My elaboration is that perhaps the PECOTA system saw A-Rod’s drop from 54 homers to 35 homers and took it as a sign of decline, hence the downward projection from here on out. I wonder what the projection would have looked like if Silver extrapolated A-Rod’s season.
Then again, injury is something that hits some players as they get older. It’s just that with A-Rod, it hasn’t happened often in the past so we tend to think it won’t happen in the future. If injuries do become a problem for A-Rod, I can see Silver’s projection reflecting reality. If he continues healthy, we can count on him breaking the 40-homer barrier at least one more time.