Back in March 2010, shortly after Garret Anderson became a Dodger, I posted the following:
We all know about the great, the wonderful, the tremendous Manny Mota. But generally, do aging reserves have a history of success with the Los Angeles Dodgers?
To try to answer the question, I decided to look at the batting numbers for Dodgers since 1958 who were at least 35 years old. (I chose players with between 20 and 400 plate appearances, then removed most of the players who were basically starters that got hurt or were part of a midseason acquisition.) At first I was only going to look at pinch-hitting numbers, but then I realized that except for someone like Mota, a key component of a good bench player includes how well they perform in spot starts.
Of the 89 players on this list, 20 of them (22.4 percent) had at least a league-average adjusted OPS of 100. Mota accounts for three of those 20 seasons, as does Rick Monday. (Sidebar: Is Monday, who OPSed .854 primarily as a reserve in 841 plate appearances from 1980-83, the greatest bench player in Los Angeles Dodger history?) Only 30 (33.7 percent) of the 89 even managed an OPS+ of 90.
Some of these older guys who didn’t produce are catchers or defensive specialists who never were expected to hit much in the first place. Nevertheless, the over-35 bench club is strewn with names of guys who had past hitting success (Jim Eisenreich, I’m looking at you) but were in such decline that not even their veteran moxie could save them.
Even Mota had some unimpressive 35-and-up seasons. Because many of these players don’t get a lot of at-bats, their performances can fluctuate quite a bit year to year. It’s not as if older players are doomed to failure, but there’s clearly nothing about being a veteran that guarantees bench success.
And that makes sense, despite the baseball cliches that would suggest otherwise. After all, there’s a reason these guys lose their starting jobs in the first place — and usually, that reason is related to offense more than defense.
There are some names in the below-average portion of this chart that are actually part of Dodger lore: Vic Davalillo in 1977, Jay Johnstone in 1981, Mark Loretta last October — players who by virtue of a single at-bat put a positive stamp on disappointing seasons. That doesn’t change the fact that overall, veteran benchmen have been more forgettable than memorable. …