Older is not better for bench players

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
9:33
AM PT
We all know about the great, the wonderful, the tremendous Manny Mota. But generally, do aging reserves have a history of success with the Los Angeles Dodgers?

To try to answer the question, I decided to look at the batting numbers for Dodgers since 1958 who were at least 35 years old. (I chose players with between 20 and 400 plate appearances, then removed most of the players who were basically starters that got hurt or were part of a midseason acquisition.) At first I was only going to look at pinch-hitting numbers, but then I realized that except for someone like Mota, a key component of a good bench player includes how well they perform in spot starts.

Of the 89 players on this list, 20 of them (22.4 percent) had at least a league-average adjusted OPS of 100. Mota accounts for three of those 20 seasons, as does Rick Monday. (Sidebar: Is Monday, who OPSed .854 primarily as a reserve in 841 plate appearances from 1980-83, the greatest bench player in Los Angeles Dodger history?) Only 30 (33.7 percent) of the 89 even managed an OPS+ of 90.

Some of these older guys who didn't produce are catchers or defensive specialists who never were expected to hit much in the first place. Nevertheless, the over-35 bench club is strewn with names of guys who had past hitting success (Jim Eisenreich, I'm looking at you) but were in such decline that not even their veteran moxie could save them.

Even Mota had some unimpressive 35-and-up seasons. Because many of these players don't get a lot of at-bats, their performances can fluctuate quite a bit year to year. It's not as if older players are doomed to failure, but there's clearly nothing about being a veteran that guarantees bench success.

And that makes sense, despite the baseball cliches that would suggest otherwise. After all, there's a reason these guys lose their starting jobs in the first place — and usually, that reason is related to offense more than defense.

There are some names in the below-average portion of this chart that are actually part of Dodger lore: Vic Davalillo in 1977, Jay Johnstone in 1981, Mark Loretta last October — players who by virtue of a single at-bat put a positive stamp on disappointing seasons. That doesn't change the fact that overall, veteran benchmen have been more forgettable than memorable.

You can still argue for keeping a Garret Anderson over a Xavier Paul. Maybe the Dodgers will get more long-term value out of Paul if he plays every day in Albuquerque until he's needed. Maybe there's a matchup in a key September or October game that Anderson will use his experience to take advantage of. Maybe Anderson's numbers will improve if his at-bats are rationed.

On the other hand, Paul is 25 years old, entering his prime, superior on defense and already performing at a level on offense that projects better in 2010 than Anderson does. It's not clear at all that it benefits the Dodgers to hand Anderson a job that he would be earning solely through his resume.

                                                        
Player              OPS+  PA Year Age HR  OBP  SLG   OPS

Rick Monday 194 156 1981 35 11 .423 .608 1.031
Manny Mota 176 50 1977 39 1 .521 .500 1.021
Duke Snider 149 196 1962 35 5 .418 .481 .899
Rick Monday 140 254 1982 36 11 .372 .481 .852
Olmedo Saenz 132 204 2006 35 11 .363 .564 .927
Jose Morales 131 34 1982 37 1 .382 .433 .816
Rick Dempsey 129 198 1988 38 7 .338 .455 .793
Ken Boyer 123 243 1968 37 6 .317 .403 .720
Jose Morales 121 54 1983 38 3 .296 .509 .806
Chad Kreuter 116 271 2000 35 6 .416 .410 .827
Doug Mientkiewicz 115 20 2009 35 0 .400 .389 .789
Mitch Webster 114 93 1994 35 4 .344 .464 .808
Manny Mota 110 47 1979 41 0 .400 .357 .757
Rick Monday 109 208 1983 37 6 .351 .399 .750
Manny Mota 106 60 1976 38 0 .367 .346 .713
Jeff Reboulet 105 253 2001 37 3 .367 .397 .764
Kevin Elster 104 259 2000 35 14 .341 .455 .796
Trent Hubbard 102 120 1999 35 1 .387 .390 .777
Vic Davalillo 102 81 1978 41 1 .333 .390 .723
Robin Ventura 100 127 2003 35 5 .331 .422 .753
Player OPS+ PA Year Age HR OBP SLG OPS
Gary Carter 98 280 1991 37 6 .323 .375 .698
Willie Randolph 98 113 1990 35 1 .364 .344 .707
Chad Kreuter 97 234 2001 36 6 .355 .377 .732
Enos Cabell 96 208 1985 35 0 .340 .349 .689
Jerry Grote 96 83 1978 35 0 .354 .343 .697
Manny Mota 96 37 1978 40 0 .361 .333 .694
Brett Butler 95 178 1995 38 0 .368 .336 .703
Bill Mueller 94 126 2006 35 3 .357 .402 .759
Chad Kreuter 94 108 2002 37 2 .333 .379 .712
Brad Ausmus 93 107 2009 40 1 .343 .368 .712
Pee Wee Reese 87 181 1958 39 4 .337 .381 .718
Robin Ventura 86 175 2004 36 5 .337 .362 .699
Bill Russell 85 298 1984 35 0 .329 .321 .649
Manny Mota 85 72 1974 36 0 .328 .316 .644
Sandy Alomar 84 62 2006 40 0 .323 .403 .726
Manny Mota 84 59 1975 37 0 .357 .286 .643
Bill Russell 83 192 1985 36 0 .333 .308 .641
Reggie Smith 83 44 1981 36 1 .318 .314 .632
Boog Powell 83 53 1977 35 0 .415 .244 .659
Otis Nixon 82 191 1997 38 1 .323 .349 .671
Rick Dempsey 81 183 1989 39 4 .319 .305 .623
Player OPS+ PA Year Age HR OBP SLG OPS
Devon White 79 168 2000 37 4 .310 .386 .696
Vic Davalillo 79 48 1977 40 0 .313 .354 .667
Ron Coomer 78 137 2003 36 4 .299 .368 .667
Jay Johnstone 77 90 1981 35 3 .267 .349 .616
Juan Castro 76 121 2009 37 1 .311 .339 .650
Gil Hodges 76 245 1961 37 8 .313 .372 .685
Gil Hodges 76 231 1960 36 8 .291 .371 .661
Geronimo Berroa 74 35 2000 35 0 .343 .323 .665
Al Oliver 74 85 1985 38 0 .294 .316 .611
Carl Furillo 74 103 1959 37 0 .333 .333 .667
Bill Russell 73 242 1986 37 0 .302 .301 .603
Rick Monday 73 57 1984 38 1 .309 .298 .607
Steve Yeager 72 221 1984 35 4 .295 .310 .605
Jim Gilliam 71 273 1966 37 1 .315 .268 .583
Rickey Henderson 70 84 2003 44 2 .321 .306 .627
Wally Moon 69 104 1965 35 1 .304 .270 .574
Gary Bennett 68 23 2008 36 1 .261 .381 .642
Tim Wallach 68 175 1996 38 4 .286 .333 .619
Rick Dempsey 68 151 1990 40 2 .318 .281 .599
Vic Davalillo 68 29 1979 42 0 .310 .296 .607
Elmer Valo 68 115 1958 37 1 .322 .317 .639
Brett Butler 66 145 1996 39 0 .313 .290 .603
Davey Lopes 66 243 1981 36 5 .289 .285 .574
Olmedo Saenz 65 132 2007 36 4 .295 .345 .641
Cesar Cedeno 65 87 1986 35 0 .294 .282 .576
Mark Belanger 63 57 1982 38 0 .309 .260 .569
Bill Madlock 62 69 1987 36 3 .265 .344 .609
Mark Loretta 60 204 2009 37 0 .309 .276 .585
Jose Valentin 60 184 2005 35 2 .326 .265 .591
Player OPS+ PA Year Age HR OBP SLG OPS
Mark Sweeney 55 34 2007 37 0 .294 .303 .597
Jeff Reboulet 55 58 2002 38 0 .291 .271 .562
Chris Donnels 54 101 2001 35 3 .277 .295 .573
Phil Garner 54 151 1987 38 2 .299 .270 .569
Ken Boyer 49 36 1969 38 0 .250 .265 .515
Shawn Gilbert 47 23 2000 35 1 .227 .350 .577
Jim Leyritz 47 68 2000 36 1 .294 .267 .561
Mitch Webster 46 63 1995 36 1 .246 .286 .532
Irv Noren 46 26 1960 35 1 .231 .320 .551
Steve Yeager 43 131 1985 36 0 .246 .256 .502
Mike Lieberthal 41 82 2007 35 0 .280 .260 .540
Jim Eisenreich 39 140 1998 39 0 .266 .244 .510
Mickey Hatcher 39 141 1990 35 0 .248 .250 .498
Chris Cannizzaro 35 25 1973 35 0 .280 .190 .470
Brent Mayne 29 113 2004 36 0 .286 .188 .473
Mark Sweeney 13 108 2008 38 0 .250 .163 .413
Jose Morales 3 20 1984 39 0 .200 .158 .358
Maury Wills 3 152 1972 39 0 .190 .167 .357
Milt Thompson -3 57 1996 37 0 .211 .137 .348


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/4/2010.

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