A's Stars Among Those Missing Out on Prime Time of Their Playing Careers

While the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has kept all baseball players on the shelf, those aged 26-29 like the A's Sean Manaea, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and A.J. Puk are sitting idle during what should be, statistically, their most productive time.
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There are hundreds of impacts created by baseball’s shutdown due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

One of those may be particularly pertinent to the Oakland A’s.

Studies have shown that for most baseball players, their peak years are between the ages of 26 and 29.

To lose that playing time is to lose a chance to impact the game.

A statistical history of baseball careers complied by Bowling Green University professor Jim Albert showed that from the years 1870-1930, the peak came at age 28.5. From 1930-70, that figure became 27.7 years. From 1970-90 it crept up slightly to 27.9 years and for the last decade studied, 2000-10, was at 28.9 years.

When we look at the A’s roster, not only do the A’s have a dozen of their best players that fit into that age range. In the rotation, Frankie Montas (28), Sean Manaea (29) and A.J. Puk (26) all fit.

So does starting catcher Sean Murphy (26), third baseman Matt Chapman (26), second baseman Tony Kemp (29), first baseman Matt Olson (26) and outfielders Ramon Laureano (26) and Chad Pinder (29), as well as Rule 5 infielder Vimael Machin.

You can throw relievers J.B. Wendelken (28) and Lou Trivino (29) into the mix, as well.

These guys are in no danger of having their careers over anytime soon. But for potentials stars like Manaea, Puk, Montas, Chapman and Olson, they are missing out on what should be some of the most productive time of their careers.

Historically, there are players falling outside those parameters. Mickey Mantle was just under the curve when he had his best seasons, winning the American League MVP when he was 24 and again when he was 25 roaming center field for the Yankees.

For another Hall of Famer, Mike Schmidt, his back-to-back MVP seasons came when he was 30, then 31 playing third base for the Phillies.

Among current players, the guy who may be most impacted is Mike Trout. The Angels' star had career bests in homers (45) and slugging percentage (.645) even while missing the final three weeks of the season with a foot injury. If, as seems likely, MLB will play 140 or fewer games after getting past the coronavirus pandemic, this would be the fourth consecutive season the 28-year-old Trout will have played in fewer than 140 games.

At what should be the peak of his productivity, he’s given away an excessive amount of time due to injury and now pandemic. Will it slow him in his rush to the Hall of Fame? Probably not. But it will keep him from achieving statistical goals that could have been within his reach.

For the A’s players mentioned, they may not have as much on the line as does Trout. But this is also when they should be at their best and most productive. And through no fault of anyone.