Aramis Ramirez’s demise has been greatly exaggerated. But after a .241/.294/.452 slash line at age-32, it looked like the end of the line for Ramirez. Those thoughts were premature, as Ramirez bounced back the following season, hitting .306/.361/.510. Even with the bounce-back, there were still concerns about Ramirez. He was getting older, and age-related decline would have to come soon. Again, Ramirez defied the critics. At age-34 he had one of the best offensive years of his career. But, again, fantasy owners are going to have concerns about Ramirez heading into next season. Entering his age-35 year, it’s going to be tough for Ramirez to keep up the production.
At the same time, it’s not like there are any clear signs of decline in Ramirez’s recent performances. When we look at his struggles from 2010, his .245 BABIP immediately emerges as the main culprit. Ramirez didn’t necessarily suffer age-related decline that season. He just had bad luck on balls he put in play. Since then, he’s been about as good as one could expect from an aging third baseman. But entering his age-35 season should bring some risk. Even though he’s been able to produce at a high level, no one is immune from losing skills as they age.
Turning 35 at third base isn’t a guarantee for decline. In recent years, Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, Alex Rodriguez and Casey Blake have all put in strong offensive seasons at age-35. Only Jones had a higher wOBA than Ramirez the previous season.
By comparing all of their ISOs, we can see that only A-Rod suffered a precipitous decline during his age-35 year. Blake and Jones lost only a little bit of their performance from the previous season, and Rolen was much better, likely due to injuries hindering his performance the season before. We probably shouldn’t expect Ramirez to keep getting better as he hits his mid-30s, but we also don’t have to expect a sudden decline, either.
That might not come until the following year, according to the chart. Every third baseman on that list saw significant decline during their age-36 seasons. Rodriguez, Rolen and Blake regressed to league average. Jones posted an above-average ISO, but lost over 50 points. If you want to bet on Ramirez following a similar path, he should have at least one more solid season in him before serious decline starts to set in.
That may be a fairly easy way of looking at it, but there’s nothing in Ramirez’s profile that suggests he’s in for a big decline next season. By all accounts, he posted one of the best seasons of his career at age-34. His performance ranked him fifth in Zach Sanders’ third base rankings, and he was worth a $22 salary in ottoneu. There’s going to be risk associated with Ramirez again next season, and that could drop him in drafts. Worries about his age catching up with him will likely make Ramirez an undervalued asset again. Though he’ll be a year older, he’ll probably still be pretty darn good.
Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.