Still going strong
Ranking the game's best fortysomething players
Posted: Wednesday May 16, 2007 12:17PM; Updated: Thursday May 17, 2007 3:47PM
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Forty isn't the end of the line in the major leagues anymore. No fewer than 28 players in the big leagues are either 40 or are turning 40 in this calendar year, and several are playing at an All-Star level. A few are as good as ever. My colleague Tom Verducci recently documented the plethora of under-25 stars, and his list was quite impressive. But the roster of geezers, wheezers and middle-aged believers isn't too shabby, either.
It's hard to know why there are so many fortysomethings succeeding in the majors, but it might have something to do with greater dedication, improved fitness, or perhaps in a case or two, the ol' flaxseed oil. It might also be related to the fact that this was a special group, full of future Hall of Famers, that entered the game in the mid-to-late '80s.
Whatever the reasons, here is my tops of the 40s list -- the best players who are 40 or older this calendar year:
1. Barry Bonds (43 in July). Who else? The man homered 7.5 percent of the time in his 20s and 30s, but starting with the year he turned 40 he bumped that up to 9.9 percent. So far this year he's at 12.5. No matter how much of the "oil'' he's taken, it's still pretty impressive.
2. Roger Clemens (45 in August). He isn't getting older, he's getting richer. For two thirds of a season and practically no clubhouse face time, he'll receive about $19 million, which is more than any other pitcher in baseball. Though unlike Bonds, he hasn't improved in his 40s, it just seems that way. His ERA was 3.10 entering the year he turned 40, and it's 3.12 since. So we can't really say there's been a dropoff, either.
3. Curt Schilling (41 in November). He doesn't throw 97 mph anymore, but he still can dominate on any given night.
4. John Smoltz (turned 40 on Tuesday). Great in any role, and maybe the best competitor of his generation. He suffered a dislocated pinky on Monday night, but apparently he won't miss even one start.
5. Tom Glavine (turned 41 in March). When he struggled for the first time a couple years ago, he reinvented himself by throwing inside more often and rediscovering his curve. But considering he never threw especially hard and never had a superb breaking ball, nobody's gotten more out of his talent than Glavine, who's still an ace for the best team in the NL in what's likely his last year.
6. Trevor Hoffman (40 in October). He has had a couple bad games, but his WHIP is 0.878, lowest of his career. With his style, this could go on awhile.
7. Jamie Moyer (45 in November). His repertoire of finesse pitches has lent itself to longevity. Since he never had any velocity to lose, he's actually gotten better with age and experience (4.22 ERA before he turned 40, 4.02 since).
8. Greg Maddux (turned 41 in April). He's not what he was, but he'll still win his 15, as always, and help several on his staff (see Jake Peavy).
9. Moises Alou (41 in July). One of the most consistent hitters over the past couple decades, he was hitting .301 entering the year he turned 40, and has hit .305 since. His only drawback is he gets hurt even more now.
10. Tim Wakefield (41 in August). His current 1.79 ERA is less than half his career mark (4.25). The knuckleballer has no known expiration date.
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