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After 22 games, the Royals’ Alex Gordon has a .994 OPS in 97 plate appearances. He’s never started off a season with such a stretch. In 2013, he opened up with a .907 OPS and just last year he racked up an .830 OPS in his first 22 games before finishing his 2018 at .694.
So, yes, it’s still comically early. The sample is really small; but, Alex Gordon at age 35 and playing what’s supposed to be the tougher league has demonstrated there’s still some quality baseball left in that body, in defiance of the analytics and the comically over the top risk aversion of the front office hive mind.
He’s accumulated 1.2 fWAR through the first three weeks of the season, good enough to put him in a five-way tie with Ronald Acuna, Joc Pederson, Christian Walker, and Alex Bregman for 11th place on the WAR leaderboard. He had a cumulative value of 2.2 wins above replacement from 2016-2018, so, this hot start should really help put into perspective just how much of a steady decline he’s been in.
Instead, in this early going, he’s getting big hits in key situations and slugging over .600. Check it out! A highlight from MLB.com!
That’s a high leverage spot against the Yankees. A rebuilding club like the Royals should’ve turned tail in that situation and an older player like Gordon might’ve been expected to fold because of the moment, but in this case and so far this season, neither has really happened. The Royals are scoring at an okay rate (10th in the AL, 19th overall) — they just can’t keep other teams off the board — and Gordon has mostly led that charge.
He had a .974 OPS (51 PA) in spring training, too, so he came flying right out of those games and landed right on his feet to start the season. He’s clearly seeing the ball well and playing at full health, and what’s happened in this early going sort of reminds you of what used to happen with more frequency.
Great and even good players who managed to sustain their major league careers would still have one more great or good season in their mid-to-late thirties. That one last really bump to show you that they can still play. Think Albert Pujols’ 40-home run 2015 or Alex Rodriguez’s age-39 season where he slugged .486 in 122 games.
These, of course, were the players the Giants would frequently count on to paper over all the areas their farm systems couldn’t fill and it used to be one of the reasons why the free agent market benefited teams and players.
Gordon could very well hit a three-month cold spell and fall back to where he’s been the past few seasons (79 OPS+ from 2016-2018), or this could be that one last burst of good baseball that cheats statistical death and reminds us all that the game can be expected with some reliability, but it can’t be predicted with certainty.