How Old Is Too Old For the Dodgers Infield?

ESPN’s Buster Olney has recently been ranking his annual Top 10s — rotations, defense, outfields, etc. — and unsurprisingly, the Dodgers fared pretty well. Far more surprisingly, they showed up as the No. 2 overall infield. I guess it felt unexpected because there’s no true superstar in this group — there’s no Jose Abreu or Robinson Cano or Troy Tulowitzki — but conversely, there’s no big holes, either. You have four solid veteran performers with expected levels of value, and you also have Justin Turner, who was one of the best bench players in baseball last year.

Of course, what you also have is age, lots of it. Kendrick, who turns 32 in July, is the youngest of the starting four. In a sport that’s consistently obsessed with youth, the Dodgers have gone the other way. How far? Thanks to the wonderful Baseball Reference, we can find out.

Four infielders, 31+, with 400+ PA
Year Tm #Matching Players Wins Finish
2011 Philadelphia Phillies 4 Ryan Howard / Placido Polanco / Jimmy Rollins / Chase Utley 102 1st, NL East
2009 Houston Astros 4 Lance Berkman / Geoff Blum / Kazuo Matsui / Miguel Tejada 74 5th, NL Central
2007 San Francisco Giants 4 Ray Durham / Pedro Feliz / Ryan Klesko / Omar Vizquel 71 5th, NL West
2006 Baltimore Orioles 4 Jeff Conine / Kevin Millar / Melvin Mora / Miguel Tejada 70 4th, AL East
2005 San Francisco Giants 4 Edgardo Alfonzo / Ray Durham / J.T. Snow / Omar Vizquel 75 3rd, NL West
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks 4 Jay Bell / Mark Grace / Matt Williams / Tony Womack 92 1st, NL West
1995 New York Yankees 4 Wade Boggs / Tony Fernandez / Don Mattingly / Randy Velarde 79* 2nd, AL East
1982 California Angels 4 Rod Carew / Doug DeCinces / Tim Foli / Bobby Grich 93 1st, AL West
1980 Los Angeles Dodgers 4 Ron Cey / Steve Garvey / Davey Lopes / Bill Russell 92 2nd, NL West
1919 New York Giants 4 Hal Chase / Larry Doyle / Art Fletcher / Heinie Zimmerman 87 2nd, NL
1908 St. Louis Browns 4 Hobe Ferris / Tom Jones / Bobby Wallace / Jimmy Williams 83 4th, AL
*Strike-shortened season

(Note that this isn’t necessarily showing “a starter at all four positions,” though more often than not that’s the case; a utility player can appear here too.)There’s some ups and some downs, although it helps considerably if you have one of the greatest rotations ever (Roy Halladay / Cliff Lee / Cole Hamels / Roy Oswalt, 2011 Phillies) or one of the greatest pitching duos ever (Randy Johnson / Curt Schilling, 2001 D’Backs). Does a front three of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu qualify? I’m not saying no.

But let’s twist the rules a bit; after all, while this is Kendrick’s age-31 season, he turns 32 only 12 days after the cutoff for such things. What if we restrict it to just 32+?

Four infielders, 32+, with 400+ PA
Year Tm #Matching Players Wins Finish
2009 Houston Astros 4 Lance Berkman / Geoff Blum / Kazuo Matsui / Miguel Tejada 74 5th, NL Central
2007 San Francisco Giants 4 Ray Durham / Pedro Feliz / Ryan Klesko / Omar Vizquel 71 5th, NL West
2006 Baltimore Orioles 4 Jeff Conine / Kevin Millar / Melvin Mora / Miguel Tejada 70 4th, AL East
1995 New York Yankees 4 Wade Boggs / Tony Fernandez / Don Mattingly / Randy Velarde 79* 2nd, AL East
1919 New York Giants 4 Hal Chase / Larry Doyle / Art Fletcher / Heinie Zimmerman 87 2nd, NL
*Strike-shortened season

Well, then it gets a little grimmer. Only Mattingly’s only 1995 Yankees had much of a chance, and they at least had a Hall of Fame third baseman putting up a .412 OBP.

None of this is to say that the Dodgers can’t win with an older infield; obviously, all I’ve done here is look at age, not performance, and certainly the four Dodger infielders are better than, say, Geoff Blum. This is less a scientific study than it is merely a mid-January, “hey, here’s a thing to keep in mind as the season goes on” thing to look back upon.

I like having the more senior guys around, though. I’m still younger than two of the four starting infielders. I don’t imagine I have many more seasons left of saying that.

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.