The A's front office has repeatedly stated their intention to hold onto right fielder Josh Reddick. Thanks to some excellent work by our very own Jeremy F. Koo, we know what the numbers on a Reddick extension may be. Should the A's decide to extend Reddick, what can we expect from the A's rightfielder?
So, inspired by McCovey Chronicles, let's take a peek at how hitters similar to Josh Reddick aged. The players below were found using Baseball-Reference's Similarity Score which can be found at the bottom of Reddick's Baseball-Reference page.
10. Lou Clinton
Both Clinton and Reddick entered the league at age 22 with the Red Sox and struggled to gain regular playing time in their first two years. After this point, both players had similar numbers with Reddick having more consistency. The caveat here being, Clinton played in 1960. What happened after Clinton's 28 year old season? He promptly was out of baseball, presumably for funny business within the Oval Office. It's probably safe to assume Reddick won't be out of baseball next year, but we're not off to a good start.
9. Paul O'Neill
The second case is a little happier, as former Yankee legend Paul O'Neill's career was long and prosperous as he aged. O'Neill was a better hitter than Reddick will ever be (partially aided by the times and playing in Yankee Stadium) but his longevity is most encouraging. O'Neill made four All-Star teams after his 29th birthday and was an above average hitter until his retirement at age 38.
8. Nate McClouth
McClouth's career path to age 28 was strong until he fell off a bit of a cliff. From 28 on, McClouth bounced around the league until he couldn't hold a job anymore, eventually departing for good at the age of 32. So McClouth is a bit of an unfortunate comp, but take some solace in the fact that Reddick is already succeeding past McClouth's demise.
7. Larry Hisle
Another success story here, Hisle got better after his age 29 season, making MVP bids at the ages of 30 and 31. At age 32, Hisle tore his rotator cuff, effectively ending his career. While injuries can be devastating, getting three very good years out of Reddick (presumably out of a 5 or 6 year deal) would be a win.
6. Roy Sievers
A first baseman/leftfielder, Sievers had a long and valuable career after 28, playing 7 more years of high quality baseball. This was 60 years ago, so that caveat remains but Sievers is certainly a success story. Like Reddick, Sievers low strikeout totals helped him maintain his hitting value.
5. Nick Esasky
Esasky, an infielder and outfielder combo on the late 80's Reds was more like the Josh Reddick of old than the Reddick of new. Strikeouts were a problem for Esasky, holding his batting average and on base percentage back and keeping him as just good rather than great. At the age of 29, Esaksy had his best season in the bigs, garnering some MVP votes but a bad case of vertigo forced him to leave the league the following year, ending his career.
4. Deron Johnson
Another third/first/leftfielder mix, Johnson's career path was very similar to Reddicks in his 25-27 seasons, only to fall off a cliff at age 28. Johnson re-found his stroke (heh) from 30-32 before a series of wildly inconsistent seasons. Fortunately for Johnson, his randomly good seasons kept him in the league till age 37 when he finally retired. In conclusion, meh.
3. Mack Jones
Mack Jones, which is almost too perfect an old-timey baseball name, was an outfielder in 60's. His nickname was Mack the Knife, which holy balls is the coolest nickname ever. I henceforth request to be called Tim the Grenade. Anyway, Jones was incredibly similar to Reddick numbers wise, even cutting his strikeouts by over 50% from one season to the next. Jones was an excellent hitter through his age 31 season but promptly fell off a cliff at age 32 and was out of the league by the end of the year. Still, 3 more years of peak Reddick would be great.
2. Willie Kirkland
Kirkland had four excellent season prior to turning 28, at which point he immediately fell off a cliff. He managed to stick around for another six years in spite of being solidly below average. Yuck.
1. Dave Henderson
A delightful way to end the list, Henderson's best season in baseball was his age 29 year and he showed longevity by playing six more years in the league following that campaign. The A's outfielder had a bit of a speed bump at age 30 but recovered for a well above average 126 OPS+ at age 31. At age 33, Hendu managed to put up an OPS+ of -5, a solid score for golf but not from your rightfielder. For context, Coco put up an OPS+ of 33 last year. Hendu recovered from that, putting up two not terrible but not good years before retiring at age 35.
- My first takeaway from looking at Reddick in depth is wow, he's been a very, very good player for us. It's easy to remember the bad, but his offense has been above average for most of his career and hasn't tailed off a bit. That doesn't even factor in his defense which was arguably best in the league to start his career. So, thanks Josh!
- It's hard to know what exactly to make of similar players. For one, many of these guys played in completely different decades so it's hard to compare. Also, while it's easy to just see player's statistics (I do this all the time) it's important to remember these are individual people with a variety of factors affecting their careers. Reddick has already shown the ability to work hard and adjust his ways. In 2012, he struck out an astounding 151 times compared to last year when he k'd a mere 65 times. In 2015, his strikeout rate was 11.2%, down from 15.9% just a season before. He has almost completely reinvented himself as a hitter in a way I think we can all agree was needed and beneficial.
The results above are mixed but fairly encouraging: five were success stories post age 28, four were bad or injured and one was meh. So, like most other ballplayers approaching the age of 30 it's a bit of a coinflip. Fortunately for the A's, that coinflip would likely come at a cheaper price than those on the free agent market so it's less risky. The A's are also barren in the outfield department, so extending Reddick is likely a prudent move.