Aramis Ramirez doesn’t age. At least, he didn’t show signs of being mortal until last season. While some numbers were down, Ramirez’s overall stat line wasn’t all that bad. He hit for a solid average, and still managed 15 home runs. In most fantasy leagues, that will play at third. For years now, analysts have predicted Ramirez’s collapse, causing his value to plummet in most leagues. And while playing next season at age-37 isn’t something to be ignored, it’s hard to argue with the track record.
While age is likely to most pressing issue Ramirez is facing, a change in parks could impact his value. The Milwaukee Brewers intend to pick up Ramirez’s $14 million option for next season according to Jon Heyman, so it’s up to him to decide whether he wants to return. Being in Milwaukee has it’s benefits, as Miller Park has always played friendly to home runs. On the other hand, Ramirez seemed to get caught up in the Brewers’ swing at everything philosophy last season, which may have led to an abysmal 4.0% walk rate. That’s not an issue in standard leagues, but will impact Ramirez’s value in more advanced scoring leagues. If Ramirez does walk, it’s going to be hard for him to find a better park.
All of that will be rendered moot if Ramirez can’t play anymore. In order to determine whether Ramirez still has something left in the tank, we can take a look at similar players through the same age. Once we find some decent comps, we can look at how these players performed at age-37.
The above list shows third baseman who have posted a similar offensive wOBA as Ramirez from age 30 to 36. The age range here is a bit arbitrary. I wanted it to reflect that Ramirez has defied aging curves for a while, while still allowing for the possibility that his decline kicked in last season.
A funny thing happens once we narrow down the list to look at how these players performed at age-37. A fairly large chunk of these players were not active at that point in their career.
|Name||wOBA 30-36||wOBA 37|
That’s it. That’s the list. Of the original list of 15 players, only Ramirez and Beltre are still active. That means five of these players were out of the majors at age-37. Guys like Youkilis and Bailey didn’t even make close to that long. That doesn’t give us a great sample. What it mostly tells us is that Ramirez is unique. Few players are this effective for this long. Wading through the performances of these eight players tells us little as well. Boggs, Caminiti, Phillips and Rose were fantastic, while Mora, Harrah and Cey finally dropped off for good. Bonilla saw some decline, but was still passable.
Looking at each player’s performance during their age-35 and age-36 seasons tells us little as well. The only guy who saw a similar decline in wOBA to Ramirez was Cey, and he completely fell off at age-37. The other guys just didn’t follow the same aging patterns.
Not surprisingly, that makes Ramirez a big risk next season. There’s just not a lot to go on here to say with any certainty that he’ll hold off Father Time again. There’s an argument to be made that perhaps conditioning and training regimens are better today, and that Ramirez has a better shot to be productive than some of the other players on the list. It’s not like fantasy owners are going to downgrade Adrian Beltre for age, even though he’ll also be 37. Still, it’s a tough gamble to make. The track record says Ramirez should be effective when healthy, but his performance last season may have been a sign that decline is coming. There’s just too much risk here.
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.