After Raul's age 29 season in 2001, he had played part-time for 4 years and "amassed" this career line:
Anemic as they are, these numbers are even bolstered by a breakout season in 2001 when he put up an .847 OPS. Before 2001, hitting almost exclusively against righties, his numbers were even worse: .241/.295/.383 (.678 OPS) in 518 PAs.
Compare Raul's pre-30 stats above to those of another late bloomer, through his age 29 season in 2008:
Ibanez even makes Werth look like a precocious overachiever by comparison.
However despite his inauspicious start, and while he had not played full-time yet, his 2001 season (.280/.353/.495) showed there was some hope he could still be a major league hitter...
Over the decade to come Raul would accomplish the following among players in their 30s in all of baseball history:
(the top 25 in each are shown below)
He accomplished this in large part due to his durability:
There was nothing spectacular in this decade (see his stats below, or at BB-Ref). The only category he ever led the league in was Games Played in 2005, and his most impressive stat was his 123 RBIs (3rd in the AL) in 2006. His top 10 finishes: Slugging: 9th in the NL in 2009 (.552)
Runs: 10th in the AL in 2003 (103)
Hits: 6th in the AL in 2008 (186)
Total Bases: 7th in the AL in 2006 (323), and 9th in 2008 (304)
Doubles: 7th in the AL in 2008 (43)
Triples: 6th in the AL in 2002 (6)
Home Runs: 9th in the NL in 2009 (34)
RBIs: 3rd in 2006 (123), 5th in 2008 (110)
There was nothing spectacular in this decade (see his stats below, or at BB-Ref). The only category he ever led the league in was Games Played in 2005, and his most impressive stat was his 123 RBIs (3rd in the AL) in 2006. His top 10 finishes:
Slugging: 9th in the NL in 2009 (.552)
Ibanez' OPS of .823 in his 30s only ranks 121st in history for that age group, but consider some of those who are below him:
- Craig Biggio .821
- Jim Rice .813
- Eddie Murray .809
- Nap Lajoie .809
- Andre Dawson .808
- Johnny Damon .807
- Pete Rose .804
Note: Stats for ages 30-39 are calculated by summing the age 30 through age 39 seasons, based on their age as of June 30 of each year (i.e. not from one's 30th birthday to his 40th birthday).
One other notable accomplishment is that he joined the short list of players who hit 30 or more doubles in 10 consecutive seasons (as reported at BoopStats):
(By the way, Pujols finished with 29 doubles in 2011, as well as 99 RBIs and a .299 batting average, breaking 10-year streaks in all three categories. Even when he fails he does it with style.)
A player's 30's are the 2nd half of their productive years -- typically less than half, and typically less productive, but we are not talking about the small number of freaks of nature who are productive into their 40s. Ibanez rose to the top tiers in several categories in the 30-39 age group by surpassing many of the best players in the game.
He may yet become one of those freaks playing well into his 40s, and many Phillies fans will be following him with interest wherever his end-of-career travels take him.
(click to enlarge)
Age 30-39 lists from Baseball Reference's Play Index