When I first heard about the Carl Crawford signing, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed. It seemed an exorbitant price to pay a guy whose main skill -- his ability to use speed to affect the game, both offensively and defensively -- usually declines quickly. We're paying this guy for 7 years as if he's Manny Ramirez?
But my friend Dave passed along a link that makes me feel a little better.
The author of this Wilkins tumblr (I confess I don't know who this is, but according to my friend's Google Reader feed, he works in advanced baseball statistics) lays out six reasons why some of the doubts about Crawford may be unfounded. He touches on salary, defense, and aging, and I encourage you to read the whole thing, but I'll spotlight one of them.
1) Not all players experience the same aging pattern. The average aging curve for outfielders who are A) above-average hitters, adjusted for park and league effects, and B) derive a high percentage of their RAR-based value from baserunning + defense through their age-28 season experience much more favorable careers from age-29 going forward than outfielders with skill-sets that are more dependent on purebatting value. (Translation: The broader a good hitter’s skill-set is, the more likely he’ll maintain a high level of performance into his mid-30s.)
Carl Crawford is part of a sub-set of position players who consistently hold their value through their mid-30s. Some of the research I’ve conducted suggests that OFs with a skill-set similar to Crawford’s should expect to be as much as 60% more valuable on a WAR-per-game basis than than players who were equally valuable through age-28 but didn’t run or defend nearly as well. Players in Crawford’s group also earn notably more playing time in their 30s, reflecting their superior durability and longevity.
Well that's encouraging.
My first optimistic thought after hearing of the signing was "If Carl is a Ray Allen/Steve Nash-like workout fiend, this might work out." Not only are we starting to hear that that might be true, but it looks like his skills might lend themselves to aging more than (at least I) originally thought.