Cameron: The slow decline of speedy outfielders

From Dave Cameron at FanGraphs on November 19, 2013:

Over the weekend, I wrote a piece for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs+ based around the question of how players like Jacoby Ellsbury have aged previously. There’s a belief among some that speed-and-defense players like Ellsbury are bad bets after they turn 30, since a large chunk of their value is tied to what they can do with their legs, and speed peaks earlier than other skills. However, there’s also data that shows that faster players actually age better than most other player types. Instead of just trying to show you what the aging curves say, though, I figured showing how similar players to Ellsbury actually did might be more appealing.

So, here’s the basic gist of what how I went about finding Ellsbury-like players, though I’ll note that the process here is slightly different from the table I used in the ESPN piece, since I have a little more room to explain my thought process and findings here. I went to the leaderboards and set the date range to cover the last 30 years. I set the age filter to cover ages 27 to 29, the same ages as the last three seasons of Ellsbury’s career. To narrow it down to Ellsbury-type players, I used the positional tabs to select only outfielders, and then put a filter in place to cap Isolated Slugging at .180, which gets rid of the power hitters who are not really anything like Ellsbury to begin with. I also put in a minimum of 1,500 plate appearances, so that we only got players who were roughly full time players over those three seasons.

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Originally published: November 19, 2013. Last Updated: November 19, 2013.