I’ve been a fan of Matt Holliday since his early days with the Rockies.  The Cardinals are also one of my top 5 baseball teams, so I was happy to see Holliday land there after he left the Rockies.  This past season, I heard a lot of rumblings from Cardinals fan who were disappointed in what they were getting from Happy.  Holliday picked up the pace down the stretch (he OPS’ed 120 points higher after the break) and ended up 14th in the MVP voting.

Despite this, Holliday’s season was a tick below his career numbers.  His OPS+ of 126 was the worst since 2005.  Since then, his lowest OPS+ had been 138.  What the hell is wrong with Matt Holliday?

It could be a fluke … but most likely it’s just age.  Let’s look at the age distribution of MLB position players in 2014.  These are the ages of all players who had played a game last year, excluding September call-ups (to avoid having the call-ups skew the age too low).  This is just the raw count of players at each age.

PositionPlayers

As you can see, the numbers peak at age 27 and 28, with 60+ position players that age.  By age 34 (Holliday’s age last year), this number has been cut to 20, and by age 37 there are only a handful of players left.

Let’s look at the age distribution for pitchers.

pitchers

Pitchers peaked with 80 hurlers in their age 26 season. By age 32 this had dropped to barely 20, and by 34 the number had been cut in half again.

I knew that there was a great deal of attrition in baseball.  There are a lot of guys in the 26-28 age range because this is when guys are at their physical peak.  For a lot of fringe guys, their physical peak makes them just good enough to be a major leaguer and when they move past their peak, they’re out of a job.  (cough) Garret Atkins (cough)

As a dynasty baseball player, this really opened my eyes.  Just because a player was good at age 30 doesn’t even guarantee him a bench spot by the time he’s 33.  The next time you see a guy in his mid 30s going through a rough patch, stop for a moment and realize that he’s actually out-performing the vast majority of his peers just by being good enough to remain on a roster.

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