Buster Olney wrote about David Ortiz on Sunday, suggesting the Boston Red Sox need to have a plan in case Ortiz doesn't hit as well as he did in 2015 -- unlike the Yankees in Derek Jeter's final season, when they kept running him out at shortstop and batting him second in the lineup despite subpar numbers.
Ortiz, like Jeter in 2014, will play his final season at age 40. What to expect from Big Papi in his final season? As Buster pointed out, Ortiz hit .325/.401/.701 with 22 home runs in just 66 games in the second half, so the signs point to little loss in ability. While producing those numbers over a full season is unrealistic, they provide hope that Ortiz could have one of the greatest age-40 seasons ever. Here's the all-time age-40 All-Star team:
C: Bob Boone, Angels, 1988 (.295/.352/.386, 5 HR, 39 RBI, 3.1 WAR)
As you might expect, there haven't been many regular catchers in their 40s. In fact, only Boone and Deacon McGuire way back in 1904 batted at least 300 times. Carlton Fisk did put up big numbers in a part-time role, also in 1988 (he slugged .542 in 296 plate appearances). Boone actually won a Gold Glove at age 40 and again at 41.
1B: Darrell Evans, Tigers, 1987 (.257/.379/.501, 34 HR, 99 RBI, 4.9 WAR)
One of the best old players ever and vastly underrated for his career, Evans led the American League with 40 home runs at age 38 and then had another big year in the rabbit-ball season of 1987. In fact, from age 36 on, only Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron hit more home runs than Evans' 182.
2B: Tony Phillips, Tigers, 1999 (.244/.362/.433, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 1.7 WAR)
Only 10 players played at least half their games at second base at age 40 -- five of them are in the Hall of Fame and a sixth was Jeff Kent, who has a chance to go in. But my nod for best season goes to Phillips, who scored 76 runs in 106 games in what would be his final season in the majors.
3B: Graig Nettles, Padres, 1985 (.261/.363/.420, 15 HR, 61 RBI, 3.3 WAR)
The highest WAR actually belongs to Deacon White, who posted a 3.4 figure in 1888. I guess that's pretty good for 1888, considering the average male often didn't make it to age 40 (railroad accidents were a leading cause of death, along with "burned or scalded to death." I'll instead go with Nettles, who edges out Chipper Jones' final season (.287/.377/.455). Nettles, like Evans, is underrated due to low batting averages (.248 in his career), but he was an outstanding defensive third baseman and hit 390 career home runs while displaying amazing durability, averaging 157 games per season from 1971 to 1978. Thanks to that defense, Baseball-Reference.com rates him the best position player in the AL in 1971 and 1976.
SS: Luke Appling, White Sox, 1947 (.306/.386/.412, 8 HR, 49 RBI, 4.6 WAR)
Similar to second base, if you're a 40-year-old shortstop it means you had quite a career. Only eight players played at least half their games at shortstop at age 40. Five of those were regulars and three of them are Hall of Famers (Appling, Honus Wagner, Barry Larkin) and the other two are Jeter and Omar Vizquel. Two of the part-timers are also Hall of Famers (Ozzie Smith, Bobby Wallace). Appling was amazing: From age 39 to age 42, he hit over .300 each season. In 1949, at age 42, he hit .301, drew 121 walks and struck out just 24 times.
LF: Moises Alou, Mets, 2007 (.341/.392/.524, 13 HR, 49 RBI, 2.2 WAR)
At age 40, Barry Bonds was injured and Ted Williams hit just .254, so let's give the nod to Alou, who had monster numbers in 87 games. He missed most of May, June and July due to a quadriceps injury; who knows, if he had remained healthy maybe the Mets finish a game ahead of the Phillies instead of a game behind and in second place.
CF: Willie Mays, Giants, 1971 (.271/.425/.482, 18 HR, 61 RBI, 6.3 WAR)
The last flash of greatness from Mays. For some reason, at age 40 he suddenly started taking a bunch of walks. He led the NL with 112 and also led with a .425 OBP.
RF: Ty Cobb, Athletics, 1927 (.357/.440/.482, 5 HR, 93 RBI, 4.4 WAR)
Only three right fielders have batted 300 times at age 40 -- Cobb, Sam Rice and Ichiro Suzuki. Rice had a big year for the Senators in 1930, hitting .349 and actually edges Cobb in WAR, 4.7 to 4.4, so if you want to give him the nod, I won't fight you (Cobb, however, might). Rice is third among all players in hits from age 40 on, trailing only Cap Anson and Pete Rose. He finished with 2,987 career hits -- suggesting the 3,000-hit milestone became a thing sometime after his retirement in 1934.
DH: Dave Winfield, Blue Jays, 1992 (.290/.377/.491, 26 HR, 108 RBI, 4.1 WAR)
As you would expect, we've had more 40-year-old DHs than any other position, although only four of them were worth 2.0 WAR: Winfield, Edgar Martinez, Brian Downing and Harold Baines. Paul Molitor did hit .305 at age 40 but future Hall of Famers such as George Brett, Eddie Murray, Reggie Jackson, Frank Thomas, Tony Perez and Ken Griffey Jr. all put up mediocre or worse numbers as a 40-year-old DH.
Who had the best offensive season ever at age 40? In terms of OPS+, it was Mays' 1971 season, followed by Fisk's part-time role in 1988, Martinez in 2003, Jason Giambi in a pinch-hitting role with the Rockies in 2011, Winfield in 1992 and Alou in 2007. Ortiz's 141 OPS+ last season would rank tied with Martinez.
As for pitchers, there are no shortage of great seasons. Randy Johnson went 16-14 with a 2.60 ERA and 290 strikeouts for the Diamondbacks in 2004 (8.5 WAR), finishing second in the Cy Young voting. Interestingly, five pitchers won 21 games at age 40 -- Cy Young, Pete Alexander, Warren Spahn, Phil Niekro and Jamie Moyer -- although nobody has won 22 or 20.