Nelson Cruz Has 13 Percent Sprint. Can it Transcend Time?

Ray Acevedo – USA TODAY Sports

Youngsters are everywhere you look, be it loitering at the mall, hanging out in the parking lots, playing catch-ball for the Mets. Seriously: On September 30, Francisco Álvarez became the first person born after September 11 to appear in an MLB game. iPod is older than Álvarez. And it gets worse; Andrew Painter, born in April 2003, has a pretty good chance of making major hits for the Phillies next year.

The trend that increasingly younger people are allowed to play professional baseball is troubling to say the least. However, this is only a trend and not a universal dictation. A select few gray beards remain in the game trying to stop the tide. If a GM wants to give a player a few million dollars too old to spend it all on vape pens and ring lights, the free agent market has an option. A man who is not only old enough to buy cigarettes, but also old enough to buy back a cigarette for $3 a pack. A man as old as the Grim Reaper followed him for a while until he told the Grim Reaper to get out of his garden. Years after Eric Young, Jr.’s retirement, Eric Young, Sr. An active player playing in the major leagues with.

That’s right: Nelson Cruz. A man who, like Colossus of Rhodes, crosses the line between Gen-X and Millennial. At 42, he is the oldest position player on the market. And next spring, he will be GM instead of DH in the Dominican Republic national team’s World Baseball Classic – despite confirmations about his retirement, Cruz is looking to play in the major leagues in 2023.

The National Team signed Cruz last winter to fill what should be called the role of Jim Thome: A actually The player-coach who can still draw a march and hit balls hanging from 400 feet, but hasn’t had a glove in years and needs a calendar to mark the 60-yard dash. Cruz actually started playing around a bit; thanks to various trades and roster confusion, he finished third on the team with 507 record games and led the Nats in RBI for what it’s worth. Unfortunately, he wasn’t immune from the abject corruption that plagued Washington’s entire team last year; He had his worst offensive season since 2007, reaching only .234/.313/.337.

If all a potential suitor wants from Cruz is a good clubhouse vibe and a few tweaks a week, that seems like a reasonable enough expectation. But let’s not forget, this is not just a mascot. Cruz made 32 home runs and made the All-Star team in 2021. He was in the top 10 in the MVP voting in both 2019. and 2020. MLB may have made its debut so long ago that fast and furious movies were still about street racing, but he’s been a more effective hitter than Michael Conforto or Cody Bellinger lately.

Despite the lousy overall offensive performance, there were reasons for optimism based on Cruz’s 2022 campaign. He remained healthy (for the most part; I’ll get to that in a moment) and his stroke, gait and contact rates were basically in line with the career averages. In his best years at Minnesota, he was reaching roughly .300/.400/.600, which would usually be a hit on the sharp end of the MVP speech. Those days are gone, but there is a long decline from there to unplayable. If Cruz can repeat the .265/.334/.497 streak he posted in 2021, that would make him one of the best DHs in the league. If DH hits for enough power, you can even live with .234 batting average and .313 OBP from a DH.

And herein lies the problem. In 2019 and 20, Cruz’s second peak, its ISO was around .300. From its first year as a full-time major league starter in 2009, it has released an ISO of 0.200 or higher for 13 consecutive seasons. His ISO in 2022 was just .103, placing him 120th out of 130 qualified hitters. If that context isn’t disappointing enough, no. 121 was Steven Kwan. Cruz could still have cried if he had the ball – his max ascent was still 93 percent – but his xwOBA is down 43 points from 2021, 63 points from 2020 and 95 points from 2019. FB % fell from 20.9% in 2021 – coincidentally also the career average – to 10.6% in 2022.

Now, Occam’s Razor says it was because a 42-year-old bat suddenly fell off such a cliff because it was cooked. It’s time to hang the nails and open a chain of car washes. In fact, this is a very obvious conclusion to infer that Occam’s Razor looks more like Occam’s Machete in this case. But Cruz offers a compelling alternative explanation: His season ended on September 13 due to irritation in his left eye. After the season ended, Jessica told Camerato of MLB.com that she had been suffering from discomfort in that eye for a year and a half and changed her stroke to compensate for what she could only see. from the right eye. “It would be nice to start seeing baseball again,” Cruz told Camerato. “Vision is everything to shooters.”

Regardless of his bat rebound, Cruz appears to have a talent for underestimating, because yes, being able to see with only one eye would have posed obvious challenges to someone who plays baseball for a living. Finally gave up and had surgery to remove the offending part of the skin. It should return to normal in plenty of time for spring training.

The question is, is Cruz a 42-year-old with a slow bat, or a new MVP candidate in treatment for a physical injury that has plagued him for more than a season? Steamer shares the difference, predicting a seven-time All-Star for 97 games and a slash of .247/.320/.405 and a wRC+ of 105. million DH a year, but there are teams that have playoff aspirations and don’t have better answers in that position.

Still, it’s hard to predict a player like Cruz because there aren’t many players his age who get as much playing time as he does. A particularly non-restrictive Stathead query put Cap Anson back in the top few dozen comparable players. So I narrowed my search down to the following parameters: Players aged 41 or older who have played at least 100 games, at least half of which come in stage one, DH or an away corner. From there I made other deletions for qualitative reasons; For example, Ichiro Suzuki, Pete Rose, and Rickey Henderson were caught in the net, but neither is a useful composition for Cruz. I also removed players who retired after that season or played before the free agency period. Finally, so that this table is not dominated by Julio Franco, I limited the list to one entry per player. And I bought the season because it’s not Cruz’s 2022 that interests us but his potential performance in 2023. after that each player appeared in search for the first time.

Extremely Old Sluggers Over The Years

player Season Age Set Have the teams changed? G PA BA OBP SLG wRC+
Albert Pujols 2022 42 STL Y 109 351 .270 .345 .550 150
Raul Ibanez 2014 42 LAA, KCR Y 90 280 .167 .264 .285 60
Barry Bonds 2007 42 SFG N 126 477 .276 .480 .565 157
Julio Franco 2003 44 ATL N 103 223 .294 .372 .452 112
Andres Galarraga 2003 42 SFG Y 110 293 .301 .352 .489 121
Dave Winfield 1994 42 WAC N 77 328 .252 .321 .425 86
Darrell Evans 1989 42 ATL Y 107 323 .207 .303 .355 80
Carl Yastrzemski 1983 43 EMPTY N 119 437 .266 .359 .408 105
Willie McCovey 1980 42 SFG N 48 130 .204 .285 .301 66
Hank Aaron 1976 42 SHAFT N 85 308 .229 .315 .369 102

The only thing that unites these players is that they are all extremely good at the top; Four of the 10 listed have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Pujols is a deadly lock to join them, Evans has a better case than he thought, and Bonds…well, everyone knows where he stands in his candidacy. Turns out you wouldn’t be a corner kicker at 42 if you weren’t an outstanding hitter somewhere in MLB.

As for what they’ve really produced in their season comparable to Cruz, that’s a bit of everything. We’ve had a few really solid part-time seasons, two monster farewell tours from Bonds and Pujols, and a few more instances where the player in question proved to be well and truly cooked. The four players who ran disastrous campaigns – Ibañez, Winfield, Evans and McCovey – were at least the league average last year, with Ibañez by a margin. But when it goes, sometimes it goes fast.

For Cruz, the lesson learned from historical comparisons is that predicting the 2023 season is stupid. But the fact that she’s coming out of eye surgery gives her something unusual for an actress too old to play Tom Cruise’s love interest: reverse. That makes it worth seeing for a team that thinks they can beat the deadline for another year.

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