Sunday, January 5, 2014

Anecdotal Look at Baseball Player Life Spans by Position

“Tools of ignorance” isn’t an ironic description. Although catchers tend to possess a very high baseball IQ, there isn’t much wisdom in crouching behind the plate for nine innings of target practice. With that in mind, major league baseball has decided to eliminate violent collisions at home, a long overdue application of common sense, not to mention the rules.
MLB is on the verge of banning collisions at home plate.
MLB is on the verge of banning collisions at home plate.
Concussions have been a hot button issue throughout the sports world. And, although MLB may not have a concussion epidemic like the NFL, recent revelationsabout Ryan Freel’s untimely death prove it is not immune. Undoubtedly, sensitivity to this issue is driving MLB’s proactive policy against head injuries, which not only includes the proposed ban on home plate collisions, but also an option for pitchers to wear protective head gear. Many baseball observers, including current and former catchers, have bristled at these new rules, but if there’s one lesson to be learned from the NFL, when it comes to player safety, leagues should error on the side of caution.
One argument made by those who oppose banning collisions at the plate goes something like this: catchers are more prone to concussions by foul tips, so are you going to ban those as well? That’s an obvious non sequitur. After all, foul tips are not intentional actions and their occurrence can’t be avoided. What baseball can do to limit the effect of foul tips is improve catchers’ equipment, but when it comes to collisions, legislation is more effective.
Albeit logically inconsistent, the “foul tip” argument against the collision ban is interesting in that it raises the question of the inherent danger at the position. This same issue has been examined endlessly in the NFL, with some studies suggesting football players have an average life expectancy of only 55 years, while others indicate a mortality rate lower than the general population. But, what about baseball?
There have been a few studies about the mortality rate of baseball players, but, for obvious reasons, they have not been done to the same extent as those being conducted on football players. Also, the studies done on baseball player mortality have not been broken down by position. A scientific analysis of that question is best left for the more qualified, but the chart below provides an anecdotal, position-based look at the average life span of a segment of the baseball player population.
Average Life Span of MLB Players, by Position
life span
Note: Includes all players since 1901 with at least 500 games for a hitter and 100 games for a pitcher. Players with at least 75% of their games at a position were also classified into those distinct categories. Age is calculated by year of death minus year of birth, not actual age at time of death.
Again, it’s important to stress that the chart above is nothing more than an anecdotal exercise. No scientific methods were used and the cumulative results are prone to numerous errors. However, the data presents an interesting range of life expectancy from a low of 69 for pitchers to nearly 74 for shortstops. Catchers also rank near the bottom of the scale with an average life span of 69.3, but the position would climb to 69.9 if Thurman Munson (plane crash) andBo Diaz (broken neck caused by an accident while installing a satellite dish) are excluded. Of course, the same exceptions could apply at other positions, and, in a more scientific analysis, these adjustments would be made.
When studying mortality, it hard to separate specific activity related impacts from those resulting from lifestyle. For example, baseball’s chewing tobacco culture may be specific to the sport, but it is not a pre-requisite for playing the game. So, when it comes to understanding overall safety and implementing precautions, aggregate data can be misleading. In order to truly examine the potential impact of baseball activity on mortality, a more thorough methodology is required. Hopefully, baseball never reaches the point when such as study becomes necessary.

Being posted as a part of Syndicated Sunday from The Captain's Blog

Yankee Stadium Legacy: #86 Paul O'Neill

Paul O'Neill had 281 home runs and 141 stolen bases on his career resume and earned a notable distinction in his final season of 2001 when he became the oldest Major League player to register a 20-20 campaign. O'Neill was 38 years old when he hit 21 home runs and stole 22 bases for the Yankees. His 22 steals were the most of any of his 17 Major League seasons.

86 days until Yankees Opening Day

This Day In New York Yankees History 1/5

On this day in 1920 Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee defends the selling of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for cash. Frazee calls Ruth "one of the most selfish and inconsiderate men to ever put on a baseball uniform." Ouch!

On this day in 1999 Yogi Berra received an apology from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner after his 1985 season as a manager was cut short after only 16 games and ended his self exile from Yankee Stadium. Yogi would then participate in future Opening Day and Old Timers Day festivities.

On this day in 2010 Randy Johnson announced his retirement after 22 big league seasons playing for the Montreal Expos, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees, and San Francisco Giants. Johnson won five Cy Young Awards and 303 victories in his career including a perfect game, two no hitters, a World Series Most Valuable Player award, and 4,875 strike outs.