6 'old guys' are still getting it done at the plate
Pujols, Teixeira, A-Rod, Torii, Holliday, Cruz have plenty left in tank
Age is always relative. The same 35-year-old who is barely old enough to run for president in the political world might be viewed as a washed-up old geezer in the baseball world. So when we talk about some old dudes on the baseball scene in this week's edition of "The Cycle," nobody's suggesting they're too old to accomplish great things in the world at large.
It's just a little surprising they're still accomplishing such great things on the field.
Look at Albert Pujols.
The Machine runs off floppy disks. That's how long Pujols has been around this game. And his health issues had greatly hindered his production his first couple years with the Angels.
But going back to May 26, the 35-year-old Pujols has a .340/.419/.806 slash line with 15 homers, 30 RBIs ... and just five strikeouts. He's reaching out and crushing offspeed pitches and pitches on the outside part of the plate the way he did in his Cardinals heyday. And however long it lasts, it's been a joy to watch.
"He's a presence," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Talk to the players who saw him in St. Louis all those years, and this is Albert. We've seen glimpses of it. Right now, we're seeing what he can do."
Here are four other players in the 35-and-older crowd getting it done:
Mark Teixeira, Yankees
Tex signed that eight-year, $180 million contract before his age-29 season and had one truly outstanding season in pinstripes -- his first. It was 2009, when he had a .292/.383/.565 slash with a league-best 39 homers and 122 RBIs. Teixeira's next two years saw a regression in consistency, but at least the power was prolonged. And then in '12, his numbers really began to nosedive, to the point that many of us honestly weren't expecting much out of Tex this year.
Granted, the 35-year-old has dealt with neck issues this week, and with age comes those kinds of issues. But Teixeira's .926 OPS, 18 homers and 51 RBIs have been a big boon to the Bronx Bombers, and some of it is attributable to his suddenly renewed ability to produce occasional bursts of power (four homers and two doubles) against lefties.
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
Look, as Mark McGwire once famously said, "I'm not here to talk about the past." We all know A-Rod made poor choices on the road to 3,000-plus hits, 2,000-plus RBIs and 600-plus homers, and now it's hard to know how to contextualize those achievements.
As far as the present is concerned, though, Rodriguez has been pretty darned productive for a 39-year-old (turning 40 next month) who hadn't played since Sept. 2013. And it's worth noting here that, as a result of his 162-game suspension for 2014, A-Rod became subject to increased drug testing in '15.
So if we can take this year's achievements -- his highest OPS (.929) since 2009, along with 15 homers and 12 doubles -- at face value, there's a lot to like here. Rodriguez has been borderline All-Star Game-worthy, which is a major leap considering he entered spring camp with questions about whether he still had enough life in his bat and body to make the Yanks' 25-man roster.
Torii Hunter, Twins
Even A-Rod thinks Hunter is old. Torii, after all, was born nine days before Rodriguez.
The Twins brought Hunter back for what is expected to be his final big league season on the premise that he'd be a positive clubhouse influence and crank out a few hits along the way. Basically, that's been the case. But in Minnesota's magnificent May -- the club's first 20-win month since June 1991 -- Hunter was one of the hottest hitters in baseball, contributing a .333/.391/.566 slash line with six homers, five doubles and 25 RBIs.
June hasn't been nearly as kind to the Twins or Hunter. In fact, the staying power of the club and the player might very much be interrelated. But there's no doubt that a big key to Minnesota emerging as one of the surprising stories of the first half was Hunter fending off Father Time.
Matt Holliday, Cardinals
This guy has been nothing short of one of the most durable, bankable, consistent producers in baseball, so it's a shame to see Holliday out with a partially torn right quadriceps muscle.
Aside from this current injury issue, though, the 35-year-old Holliday hasn't had much statistical falloff in his 30s, if we put his numbers in the context of his offensive surroundings. From age 26-29, he posted an adjusted OPS+ of 142 -- or 42 points better than league average. In Holliday's age 30-35 seasons, the OPS+ has been at 140. In each of his full seasons with the Cards, he's been good for at least 20 homers and 30 doubles.
Holliday had a .303/.417/.421 slash line before the quad injury.
Nelson Cruz, Mariners
Technically, this is Cruz's age-34 season, if we go off the Baseball-Reference definition. The site considers a player's age as of June 30 to be his age for the season. But Cruz was born on July 1, so, at the risk of offending him, I don't feel bad roping him into the 35-and-older crowd. Cruz, who dislocated his pelvic bone earlier this week (it hurts just typing that), has cooled from his scorching start. But jeez, what a start -- 18 homers in his first 179 at-bats.