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Are these MLB players in the endgame or in Endgame?

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Part of a player’s journey is the end... so says some movie. And this blog post.

Colorado Rockies v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

McCovey Chronicles will be covering news from around the league all season long with our new daily MLB Chronicles column. In today’s post, there will probably be spoilers for last year’s hit movie, Avengers: Infinity War.

What’s likely to be one of the most popular movies of all-time opens tonight and while those planning to see the movie will be trying to avoid spoilers, players across the league won’t have the chance to avoid what comes for them all: the endgame of their career.

“Endgame”, of course refers to the third sequel in The Avengers series of Disney movies, but also the final stages of a chess match, in which there are few pieces remaining and any move could be the final move. In terms of a baseball player’s career, that usually means any time after he turns 30.

Alex Gordon appears to be one 30+ year old player who’s staved off the end of his career with a white hot start to the season, but for the most part, when you look at the Top 30 fWAR leaderboard, you’re only going to see under thirties on that list (Elvis Andrus and Yasmani Grandal are both 30).

Hitters tend to have it worse than pitchers, who usually age a bit more gracefully — or, better yet, since pitchers inherently have the advantage, their deteriorating bodies don’t take them out of competition quite as fast.

The first month of the season hasn’t even wrapped, so the available information feels too silly to consider, but on the other hand, plenty of over-30 players have gotten off to slow starts and, in some cases, continued “slumps” from the end of last season. Nothing lasts, nobody plays for ever, and the advances in medicine and technology seem to grossly, comically, and unfairly benefit pitchers and defense right now, killing the careers of older hitters across the universe with the snap of a finger.

Who might some of these players be? Again, a three-week sample is too small to make any big pronouncements, so rather than bog down this post with analysis, and in order to combine it with the big pop culture event of the weekend, I’m going to throw out some older thirties players off to rough starts and some characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe who may or may not be in what’s supposed to be the movie series’ final chapter (especially if you watched the last one — possible spoilers) of its latest phase and ask you to figure out what’s what: are they in the endgame of their careers or are they actually in the major motion picture Marvel’s The Avengers: Endgame?

This post already feels like a disaster, but I’m fishing for clicks, baby, so here we go:

Brandon Crawford

When last we saw him:

He was the starting shortstop for the National League in last year’s All-Star Game. He combined for 4 FanGraphs wins above replacement from 2017-2018. After an incredible two month run to get him that All-Star Game roster spot from May-June last year (.372 / .436 / .602 - 1.038 OPS), he hit .188 / .269 / .268 (.537 OPS) over his final 66 starts (279 PA).

His 2019 so far:

17 hits in 93 plate appearances (.202 BA / .280 OBP) with a .226 slugging percentage (.506 OPS). Thanks to his general talent and smart positioning on the Giants’ part, he’s a +3 runs on defense despite being the slowest shortstop in baseball — slowest by far. He turned 32 in January and suffered through a knee injury last September, so there’s a looming specter of mortality. He’s also striking out 27% of the time, which if it were to hold up would blow past his career average of 20.2%

Final thought:

Offense has never been the highlight of Crawford’s game, but he’s started the year just as he ended last season. Coupled with his age and overall declining skill set (especially that sprint speed), it’s looking a little iffy, even in the near-term. On the other hand, the Avengers will need someone who’s strong up the middle.

Well?

Poll

Is Brandon Crawford in:

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    The endgame
    (84 votes)
  • 21%
    "Endgame"
    (36 votes)
  • 28%
    Neither
    (49 votes)
169 votes total Vote Now

Peter Parker

When last we saw him: ** SPOILER FOR AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR **

He was turning to ash or dust or little bits of matter on a faraway planet called Titan, because he, along with half of all life in the universe, had been snapped out of existence by the “Mad Titan” Thanos, after he had successfully assembled all six Infinity Stones.

His 2019 so far:

In the ether, if you believe in a life after death, or else absolute total nothingness because you don’t.

Final thought:

A picture of him pops up in one of the TV commercials for the movie “Endgame”, so that should make it easy. On the other hand... teams could use an outfielder who could catch every fly ball with their webbing.

Well?

Poll

Is Peter Parker in:

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    The endgame
    (3 votes)
  • 80%
    "Endgame"
    (45 votes)
  • 14%
    Neither
    (8 votes)
56 votes total Vote Now

Ian Desmond

When last we saw him:

He posted an 82 OPS+ for the Rockies last season, and he actually hit better away from Coors Field (.438 slugging percentage in 80 road games vs. .404 slugging in 80 home games). The former shortstop even played center field. He’s had exactly one above league average season (104 OPS+ in 2016) in the past five seasons and he frequently looks completely lost at the plate; and, since he turned 31 2017), he’s hit .245 / .306 / .395 in 1,075 plate appearances.

His 2019 so far:

.177 / .205 / .291 (.496 OPS) in 22 games (83 PA) and 3 walks to 23 strikeouts. That’s really bad, and, at this point, coupled with his positionless defense (-18.7 runs since the start of 2017), makes his starting spot on the Rockies’ roster a real head-scratcher.

Final thought:

From a dramatic standpoint, it makes total sense for a player like Ian Desmond to survive a catastrophic life-destroying event like Thanos’ snap. The heroes need to overcome some obstacle on their quest to reclaim victory.

Well?

Poll

Is Ian Desmond in:

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    The endgame
    (48 votes)
  • 16%
    "Endgame"
    (11 votes)
  • 10%
    Neither
    (7 votes)
66 votes total Vote Now

Gerardo Parra

When last we saw him:

He was .372 for the Rockies in left field. Again, like Ian Desmond, he was better on the road than Coors Field (.739 OPS vs. .682 OPS) where offense should be much easier to create. He did all this in the most plate appearances (443) that he’s had since 2015 (589), which was (not coincidentally), the last time he was an above league average hitter (111 OPS+). He’s had a 79 OPS+ since then and will turn 32 on May 6th.

His 2019 so far:

The Giants signed him to a minor league deal and on the strength of a great spring training (1.001 OPS) and his strong defense, they put him on the major league roster for Opening Day. He has a .569 OPS as the team’s primary left fielder which is bad, but defensively, he has been above average overall, which is good. His walk rate has spiked to 8.9% (career 5% — but again, small sample), but the more concerning thing is the dual drop in hard contact (24.5% — career 29%) and the expected value of his offense based on contact (Weighted On Base Average on Contact aka wOBAcon) which is down to .255 (.310 is average; .290 is awful, so...).

Final thought:

A post-30 outfielder who can’t hit for power and doesn’t get on base much should be a huge red flag. Like, a big red flowing cape. Parra is left-handed, though, and that’s a sign of genius. Black Panther’s sister, Shuri, is said to have been taken by The Snap along with Peter Parker, so, Earth needs more geniuses to help them in their fight against Thanos.

Well?

Poll

Is Gerardo Parra in:

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    The endgame
    (55 votes)
  • 22%
    "Endgame"
    (19 votes)
  • 13%
    Neither
    (12 votes)
86 votes total Vote Now

Rick Jones

When last we saw him:

He has yet to appear in one of these Marvel movies (the MCU) but according to the Internet, he’s been at times a sidekick for Steve Rodgers (Captain America) and The Incredible Hulk! In last year’s Marvel’s The Avengers: Infinity War, we learned that The Incredible Hulk was not interested in helping out the weak, puny Bruce Banner whose body he shares.

Could a new friend help Bruce bridge the gap between his human psyche and the angry green soul that lives within him?

Otherwise, the last time a Rick Jones appeared in Major League Baseball was in 1978. He was a left-handed reliever with Boston and Seattle with 159 innings pitched. Remarkably, in 1977, Jones has 37 walks to 16 strikeouts in just 42.1 innings pitched.

His 2019 so far:

Which one? The Marvel character or the now 64-year old former pitcher?

Final thought:

The Incredible Hulk needs a friend; but also, the Yankees might not want their own hulk, Aaron Judge, to be lonely while he’s on the injured list.

Well?

Poll

Is Rick Jones in:

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    The endgame
    (4 votes)
  • 50%
    "Endgame"
    (15 votes)
  • 36%
    Neither
    (11 votes)
30 votes total Vote Now

Ryan Braun

When last we saw him:

He was helping the Brewers get into the playoffs with a perfectly cromulent 106 OPS+ in his age-34 season.

His 2019 so far:

The 35-year old has a .655 OPS in 89 PA with a healthy .417 slugging percentage. Once he gets more at bats, expect that 27% strikeout rate to settle in a little closer to his career 19% rate. The other outlying markers like hard hit rate, exit velocity, and wOBAcon all suggest that the underlying talent is still mostly there. He might come in a tick under league average when it’s all said and done, but in the short-term his slight scuffle to start the season shouldn’t be too concerning.

Final thought:

Captain America was created in a lab and gained wisdom from understanding just how fortunate he truly was to be imbued with the gift of super strength. Ryan Braun successfully avoided a PED suspension, meaning he gained wisdom from understanding that he got very lucky and that he shouldn’t waste another opportunity. The Avengers could use someone with that wisdom, but so can the Brewers.

Well?

Poll

Is Ryan Braun in:

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    The endgame
    (13 votes)
  • 25%
    "Endgame"
    (13 votes)
  • 49%
    Neither
    (25 votes)
51 votes total Vote Now

Thaddeus Ross

When last we saw him:

He was the Secretary of State and he was having a holographic video conference with Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) when fugitives Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, and Vision came walking into Avengers headquarters. Rhodey terminated the call in defiance of an arrest order.

His 2019 so far:

We don’t know if he disappeared along with half of all life in the universe, but if he did survive, you can be damn sure he’s not happy to have had his order countermanded.

Final thought:

We’ll never know why Oscar winner William Hurt signed on to play the character of Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (money, sure, but also — yeah, okay, that’s probably enough) but he did and so we’re left with the though of what role he might play in what will be one of the biggest movies ever made. You’ve gotta imagine there will be consequences to a colonel in the United States Air Force ignoring his lawful order — and a bureaucrat looking to even the score on an administrative level amidst unthinkable chaos would be the most realistic aspect of a Marvel movie to ever be written and filmed — but maybe there won’t be and what we witnessed in last year’s Marvel’s The Avengers: Infinity War was the last gasp of “Thunderbolt”’s political power.

Well?

Poll

Is Thaddeus Ross in:

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    The endgame
    (1 vote)
  • 62%
    "Endgame"
    (10 votes)
  • 31%
    Neither
    (5 votes)
16 votes total Vote Now

Neil Walker

When last we saw him:

He had toiled in New York with the Yankees after signing a last minute 1-year $4 million deal. He was one of the more prominent casualties of the death of free agency and after signing that deal to become essentially a utility player after being a starter for his entire career, he soft-landed into a tough to watch .664 OPS performance level.

His 2019 so far:

Marooned on the Marlins, but with a .694 OPS in 80 plate appearances. He turned 33 in September, but a glance of the Statcast numbers suggest that he’s doing a lot better now that he’s in a regular role.

Final thought:

A switch hitter named Neil Walker sounds like the perfect name for a secret agent and maybe the Marvel Comics secret spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. makes a return in a “post-Snap” world. They’ll need covert guys just like him.

Well?

Poll

Is Neil Walker in:

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    The endgame
    (12 votes)
  • 24%
    "Endgame"
    (6 votes)
  • 28%
    Neither
    (7 votes)
25 votes total Vote Now

Corvus Glaive

When last we saw him: ** SPOILER FOR INFINITY WAR **

He was impaled by Vision with his own spear.

His 2019 so far:

Dead, but probably happy that his boss Thanos accomplished the group goal of wiping out half of all life in the universe.

Final thought:

Now, you might’ve confused Corvus Glaive with Cardinals (and former Yankees) reliever Chasen Shreve, and if you did, I don’t blame you. Their names sound similar and they even sort of look the same:

Totally.

But if you have trouble distinguishing them, just remember that Chasen Shreve is a relief pitcher and Corvus Glaive is a comic book character. He is part of Thanos’s gang and while all of Thanos’s gang is **SPOILER** dead at the start of Marvel’s The Avengers: Endgame, there’s a nonzero chance that Thanos will figure out a way to bring back his old gang or we’ll see him with his old gang in a flashback, which suggests he will be in the movie and is not in the endgame of his career.

I submit that even though he’s not a major league baseball player in the endgame of his career, he was in the endgame of his fake comic book career by reason of the circumstances of his death. Not only was he gloating and ripping on Vision as he slowly killed him, he also turned his back on the damaged Vision to try a slow kill attempt on Steve Rogers. He’s supposed to be one of the most feared fighters in the galaxy and he went out like that? Wouldn’t have happened in his prime.

Well?

Poll

Is Corvus Glaive in:

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    The endgame
    (3 votes)
  • 42%
    Endgame
    (9 votes)
  • 42%
    Neither
    (9 votes)
21 votes total Vote Now