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Eagle on Burnitz

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Ed Eagle guesses that Jeromy Burnitz will hit around 30 homers next season. I'll take the under on that.

Burnitz only hit 24 homers last year. The year before that, he hit 37, but 24 of those were at Coors Field. In 2003 he hit 31 (amazingly, he did that in only 126 games, and even more amazingly, he still managed to be pretty terrible overall). In 2002 he hit 19. Burnitz has only really hit 30 homers once (Coors doesn't count) in the last four seasons, and he'll turn 37 in April. He's not a 30-homer player anymore, short left-field porch or no.

What's funny about Eagle's logic is that he gets very close to getting things right:

But Burnitz, who will be 37 in April, is at a point in his career where age can obviously become a factor. So, using the outstanding baseball-reference.com Web site as my guide, I took a look at players who were considered to be most similar to Burnitz at age 36 to see how they fared in the season after or during which they turned 37.

Among the top five players in that category, Jay Buhner only played a handful of games after turning 37 late in the 2001 season, Darryl Strawberry hit three home runs in 24 games with the Yankees in 1999, Ron Gant hit 18 home runs in 102 games with the Padres in 2002, Reggie Sanders had 21 home runs in 93 games with the Cardinals last season and David Justice retired at age 36.

Certainly, those numbers don't bode well for Burnitz.

No, they don't! But then Eagle takes what he (to his credit) admits is a leap of faith and assumes that Burnitz will be healthy all year.

It's true that Burnitz has a better health record than any of the other players on his comparable players list. But it doesn't seem to concern Eagle that many of the players on that list - Ron Gant, Reggie Sanders, Frank Thomas (the '50s Pirate, not the White Sock), Ray Lankford, Roy Sievers - played pretty regularly into their mid-30s until injuries or age forced them to the DL or to part-time duty. If a player is 37 years old, it is indeed an enormous leap of faith to assume that he'll stay healthy, even if that player has a good health record. It's also a pretty big leap of faith to assume he'll continue to produce at his established levels (which, in Burnitz' case, probably still wouldn't get him to 30 home runs).

For a dose of realism, here's Baseball Primer's ZiPS projection for Burnitz:

541 AB 21 HR
.240/.311/.412

ZiPS probably doesn't 'know' that PNC Park is friendly to lefties, so we might expect that Burnitz will do a little better, but not by much.