There are many times when people outline accomplishments with the caveat of “[subject] is good for [qualifier].” He is good for his height, she is good for a girl, he is good considering he went to a state college, etc. We as baseball thinkers are prone to the same thing — “he’s got a bit of power for a lead-off guy, his platoon splits are fairly good for a lefty, he strikes out a fair amount of guys for someone with underwhelming stuff.” While this may seem as a cheap way to classify players, there is still value in that. With such a large swath of players — both currently and historically — to sample, it is helpful to be able to compartmentalize at times, to see how players rank against their combarables.
That is where Raul Ibanez comes in. With perhaps the exception of last years’ ALCS, Ibanez hasn’t been of much consequence in the baseball world lately. Even this year, when he is having a renaissance year in terms of slugging, he still has a sub-.300 OBP. But while most of his career stats are declining, one important stat is going up — his age.
Because Ibanez is still of some concern, and because he’s in his age-41 season, he’s entering the “…good for…” zone. Ibanez is on pace for over 400 PA, which in and of itself is a feat for a 41 year old. Some of this has to do with his production, perhaps more of it has to do with the fact that he’s playing for a non-contending Mariners team that simply needs bodies. Nevertheless, he’s still in that territory, and compared with other players in their age-41 season, he’s actually doing quite well. Below are the 24 players who amassed 400 PA in their age-41+ seasons, including a projection of Ibanez based mostly from ESPN. (table is fairly sortable)
|1990||Carlton Fisk||White Sox||42||521||18||0.285||0.378||0.451||133||5|
|1989||Carlton Fisk||White Sox||41||419||13||0.293||0.356||0.475||129||3.4|
|1982||Carl Yastrzemski||Red Sox||42||523||16||0.275||0.358||0.431||113||1.5|
|1983||Carl Yastrzemski||Red Sox||43||437||10||0.266||0.359||0.408||105||0.4|
|1984||Pete Rose||- - -||43||421||0||0.286||0.359||0.337||101||0.8|
|1991||Carlton Fisk||White Sox||43||501||18||0.241||0.299||0.413||98||2.2|
|2000||Rickey Henderson||- - -||41||519||4||0.233||0.368||0.305||87||0.5|
While his WAR is certainly hindered by the fact that the Mariners are still playing him in the field, his offensive numbers still put him in fairly rarified air. Perhaps his current power numbers are unsustainable, but if he keeps it up he’ll rank third in slugging and fifth in wRC+. Again, small sample size warnings apply, but it isn’t as if Ibanez is BABIPing out of his mind. In fact, he’s well below league average at .244.
Raul Ibanez isn’t a Hall-of-Famer, but he’s in at least one list filled with people who are or should be. As technological and medical advances continue, there may be more players joining this list soon. But for now, Ibanez is showing that perhaps some things do get better with age. Even if he still can’t take a damn walk.