The Neverending Torii?

Hard to believe it sometimes, but Torii Hunter is 34 years old. In fact, he'll be 35 July 18, but the league-age cutoff point is June 30, so for the purposes of our ongoing search for good Angel comps he's an old 34-year-old Major League baseball player. Who plays a young man's position.

Freddy Lynn never had more than 400 ABs after age 33; neither did Duke Snider. Bernie Williams hit .263 at 34, and went downhill from there. Dale Murphy hit .245 and played right field, Jimmy Wynn hit .207 and played left. None of the above were worth much from Torii's age on ... and all were better players than Torii Hunter.

So what will a roll on Torii's comp wheel turn up? First read the Mike Napoli/Jeff Mathis entry, to see how we calculate this stuff, then glance at the most recent entry (on Juan Rivera) to see how other Angels have fared thus far. Now let's lower the proverbial shoulder into the figurative catcher blocking the plate of human understanding....

#comps: 24
topper: .279/.349/.434, 118 OPS+ Amos Otis
middle: .252/.342/.447, 106 OPS+ Mike Cameron
ourboy: .274/.330/.472, 107 OPS+ Torii Hunter
bottom: .282/.313/.380,  98 OPS+ Devon White

Top-125 Rankings in Bill James' 2001 Historical Abstract? Hunter being a very good player in his mid-30s, every single person on his comp list, with the exception of Vernon Wells (whose career started two years before James' book came out), and Mike Cameron (six years prior), made the top 125. They are: Amos Otis 22, Dom DiMaggio 24, Brett Butler 25, Curt Flood 36, Kenny Lofton 41, Willie McGee 43, Lloyd Waner 50, Gary Maddox 56, Mickey Rivers 59, Sam Chapman 65, Paul Blair 66, Dwayne Murphy 69, Lloyd Moseby 71, Steve Finley 74, Devon White 81, Sammy West 84, Dave Henderson 87, Jim Landis 88, Billy North 95, Lance Johnson 107, Mookie Wilson 108, Hi Myers 116.

Any other interesting people on this list? Well, now that you mention it, Vernon Wells is a pretty darned interesting case study (and a quite similar player to Torii Hunter). On an age-by-age basis, Wells has actually been more impressive than Hunter, believe it or not, except that he fell off badly at ages 28 and 30, while Torii has had his best run from 31-34. Wells -- who, in fairness, is raking so far this year -- is nevertheless a study in decline. Look at his best comps by age (this is based on me eyeballing his Baseball Reference-provided comp lists for the guys who had similar OPS+s):

23: Roy Weatherly
24: Matt Kemp
25: Sam Chapman
26: Carlos Beltran
27: Carlos Beltran
28: Carlos Beltran
29: Carlos Lee
30: Garret Anderson

Basically, dude got fat, and turned more into a corner outfielder type than a Gold Glove center fielder with exciting upside and pop. There was a good long time when I was agitating for the Angels to acquire him; glad that never happened.

In your heart, you know this comp is right: Subtract 20 hits a year from Torii Hunter (including 3 doubles and 2 homers), then add 28 walks, 8 stolen bases and 43 strikeouts, and you have Mike Cameron. Hunter gets the rep, but Cameron has been the better fielder, and slightly better player over the years, though Torii is so far aging very well. Both will probably end up in the top 40 or so guys to have ever played the position. (Lest you think that's extravagant, consider this: Among those who played 75 percent of their games in center field, Cameron is already 10th all-time in homers [265] and Torii's 14th [236].)

Like Torii -- and unlike quite a few on this list -- Cameron has been extremely consistent throughout his career, having OPS+s of between 104 and 123 in each of the past 11 years. (Torii's streak is 9 years between 98 and 126.) In his seasons qualifying for the batting title, Torii's home run totals have been 27, 29, 26, 23, 31, 28, 21, and 22. Cameron? 21, 19, 25, 25, 18, 30, 22, 21, 25, 24. Torii's career Isolated Power (Slugging minus Batting Average) is .198; Cameron's is .197. Their career highs in many categories are essentially the same:

TH 650 94  7 31 107 .366 126
MC 651 99  9 30 110 .365 123

Torii gets the press, and gives great interview, but Cameron has been just as valuable over the years.

By the way, did you know that Cameron is 11th all-time in career strikeouts? Wow.

Other interesting facts about this group? Wondering how they all turned out at 34? I took the 10 guys on this list with the most home run power and had a peek. In order of their age-34 Win Shares, here's Steve Finley, Mike Cameron, Amos Otis, Sam Chapman, Devon White, Dwayne Murphy, Dave Henderson, Paul Blair, Jim Landis, and Lloyd Moseby:

SF: 156 590 100 156 32 10 34 103  8/4 63  94 .264 .336 .525 113  24
MC: 151 571  88 138 33  6 21  78 18/5 67 160 .242 .328 .431 104  22
AO:  99 372  49 100 22  3  9  57 16/7 31  59 .269 .321 .417 113  19
SC: 144 553  93 139 20  6 23  95  3/3 68  79 .251 .338 .434  98  13
DW:  74 265  37  65 13  1  6  34 13/5 32  65 .245 .338 .370  90   9
DM:  98 156  20  34  5  0  9  27  0/1 29  44 .218 .341 .423 119   4
DH: 107 382  37  84 19  0 20  53  0/3 32 113 .220 .275 .427  91   4
PB:  75 125  10  22  5  0  2  13  1/1  9  17 .176 .231 .264  41   1
JL: [out of baseball at 34]
LM: [out of baseball at 32]

Cupla housecleaning notes: In Win Shares-land, 23+ is All-Star territory, 30+ puts you in the MVP discussion, 35+ usually wins that discussion, 40+ is WTF-ville, 19+ is a pretty good year (typically top-5 at your position), 14 is about as low as you'd want to accept from a regular, and anything below is scrubsapalooza. Also, I rounded Win Shares to 162-game seasons, which is mostly a factor in Amos Otis' 1981 total. Torii Hunter's career high in Win Shares is 22 (2007); he's also had seasons of 21 (2008), 20 (2009 & 2002), and 19 (2001).

Though that list above is mostly a cautionary tale about aging, Torii is in pretty good shape, and has been playing at his best for the last few years. I expect him to continue following Mike Cameron's career arc, though his defense to my naked eye looks destined for a 2011 date with right field.

Up Next: A man with some Hall of Fame in his comps, Bobby Abreu.

This Fan-Post is authored by an independent fan. Tell us what you think and how you feel.

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