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We May Never See Something Like 2022 Again

Production from 40-year-olds is uncommon. The level of production we saw this year is exceedingly rare.

St. Louis Cardinals Archive Photo by St. Louis Cardinals/MLB Photos via Getty Images

We all know that 2022 was a special season for the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the last time we will ever see two (maybe 3) of the greatest Cardinals ever take the field. There’s been plenty of coverage of that, though, so that’s not what I want to focus on.

What I want to examine instead is the production that the Cardinals got from 40 year olds. To begin with, it’s rare for a player to even play until age 40, but it’s even more rare for a 40-year-old to dominate.

That’s exactly what Albert Pujols did this season. He dominated. Wainwright didn’t dominate, but he was undoubtedly a good pitcher.

Do you know how rare their seasons were? Let’s find out.

Albert Pujols

I’ll start with Pujols, since we were all in awe of his second half.

Here’s a list of the best seasons (min. 300 PAs) by wRC+ for players 40+ years old since 2000.

Best Seasons by wRC+ at age 40+

Player Year wRC+ PAs Age
Player Year wRC+ PAs Age
David Ortiz 2016 163 626 40
Barry Bonds 2007 157 477 42
Albert Pujols 2022 150 351 42
Barry Bonds 2006 146 493 41
Edgar Martinez 2003 142 603 40

There are so many things that stand out to me on this table. The first is the company that Pujols is in. Barry Bonds. David Ortiz. Edgar Martinez. That’s two hall of famers and the all-time home run leader.

Pujols isn’t overshadowed by them either. He’s the only one besides Bonds to be on this list at age 42. There’s also some doubt about whether Pujols is actually 42 years old. So maybe he did this at 43 or 44 years old. Who knows? At the very least, it’s not farfetched to give him the distinction of being the oldest player on this list (at the time of the listed season),

That’s even more impressive because if a player is still in the league at age 40, that’s often the end of the line. In fact, since the start of the century, only 6 players have tallied 300+ plate appearances in a season at age 42 or older — Bonds, Pujols, Ichiro, Julio Franco (twice), Rickey Henderson, and Omar Vizquel.

Let’s go back another 25 years. Now there have been only 17 such seasons and the list now includes names such as Pete Rose and Hank Aaron.

Out of those 17 individual seasons, only 11 times did the player hit better than the league average. Here’s the thing, though. There’s a difference between above league average and what Albert Pujols did last year.

In 8 of those 11 instances, the player had a wRC+ between 100 and 115. Who were the only three to be better than that? Pujols (150), Bonds (157), and Carlton Fisk (133).

Shall we go back another 25 years? Why not? It doesn’t make much of a difference. Only Stan Musial gets added to the list with his 1963 season when he had a 98 wRC+ in 379 plate appearances at age 42. It was his final season in the league.

I think you can see where I’m going from here, but why stop now? Let’s go back to 1900. Now there’s 22 players on the list. And guess what? Not a single one of them besides Bonds had a better wRC+.

Why stop here. Let’s take Fangraphs to it’s limit. 1871. The list of 42+ year olds with 300+ plate appearances has now grown to 29. Still, nobody new has topped Pujols.

I recognize the problems of going so far back. I doubt records were keep as diligently, and the game was completely different back then. The 1900 game and the 2022 game are not the same thing. I’m not comparing apples to apples any more. I recognize that. That’s why I’m going to qualify my next statement.

Albert Pujols might have just had the best offensive season a 42 year old has ever had. Ever. My goal here isn’t to start a debate in the comments about whether juicing should disqualify a player from distinctions like this one, so I’ll just say this: Albert Pujols may have had the best age 42+ non-steroid user season ever.

He did it at age 42, but did he really? There’s a strong chance that he’s even older than that.

We already knew that this season was remarkable, but this is a whole new level. Pujols and Bonds. That’s it. And if we don’t want to count steroid users, then Pujols stands atop the summit by himself.

I want you to look back at the title of this piece now. We may never see something like 2022 again. I truly mean that.

I don’t know how the game will evolve in the future, but it took a steroid user to beat Pujols’s 2022 season. We may never see another 42-year-old do what he did this year.

Let’s look at something besides wRC+, though, because Pujols only had 351. Most of the other 42+ year olds on that list of 29 had more plate appearances. In fact, on that list of 29, Pujols ranked just 25th in plate appearances (remember, the cutoff was 300 PAs).

So, where does he rank in home runs? Second. Behind only Barry Bonds. How about RBI? Eighth, and ahead of Bonds.

His fWAR ranked 10th, but it’s important to remember that he was a DH only with 351 plate appearances. Someone like Cap Anson in the 19th century played defense. That helped him rank ahead of Pujols 3 times on this list.

That’s why I’m not concerning myself with defense.

More plate appearances may have helped him rank better in the counting stats, but if they came in the first half of the season that might not be true.

Regardless, Pujols may have just had the best offensive season the game has ever season from a non-juiced 42+ year old. I know that’s a lot of distinguishers, but it’s an old game. There’s been plenty of 42+ year olds to play the game.

Pujols had a season I will never forget and I hope this article helps reinforce just how great his season was. He is simply unbelievable.

Adam Wainwright

The first thing that stood out to me about Adam Wainwright’s season was his durability. He threw 191.2 innings and took the ball 32 times. That ranked him 13th in innings pitched this season. After removing all pitchers younger than 30, he moves up to 6th.

(As an interesting side note, Miles Mikolas threw the most innings of any 30+ year old pitcher this season with 202.1 IP.)

That’s pretty good. There were 291 pitchers over the age of 30 who threw a pitch this year. Ranking 6th in innings pitched is elite territory.

But let’s not forget that he isn’t 30. He’s 40. (Well, okay, fact-checkers, he’s 41 now but he was 40 for most of the season so I’m calling him 40).

There were only 4 40+ year old pitchers this season (I guess we can say 3 if we don’t want to include Albert Pujols). Only two were starters - Wainwright and the ageless Rich Hill. The difference is that Hill threw only 124.1 innings. The only other 40+ year old pitcher not named Albert Pujols was Oliver Perez. He threw 4 innings.

So, it’s basically just Rich Hill and Adam Wainwright. Maybe Waino will keep pitching to compete with Rich Hill. After all, he would look like a coward if he didn’t.

I’m definitely not trying to goad Wainwright to come back. Definitely not. I wouldn’t do such a thing.

(Rich Hill is planning to come back next season, so, honestly, the Cards should just trade for him. Who wouldn’t love to see a rotation of Wainwright, Hill, and Mikolas? It might not be great, but it sure would be fun!)

Since Wainwright was in a class of his own this year, let’s see how he compares with other 40+ year old arms since the start of the century.

I would make a table but it would be way too long, so I’ll just tell you the necessary details. I sorted Fangraphs’ leaderboards to see each individual season for pitchers at age 40 years old or more since 2000.

In innings pitched, Wainwright’s 2022 season ranks 26th. That may not seem great but let me break that down. There are 25 individual seasons ahead of him. 6 of those came from Jamie Moyer. 3 were from Roger Clemens. 3 were from Randy Johnson.

If we look at how many names (not seasons) are ahead of Wainwright, there’s only 10 names ahead of him. Only 10 pitchers have thrown more innings in a season at age 40 or older than Adam Wainwright since the start of the century. That’s pretty good.

Interestingly, only 4 of those players are hall of famers. Then there’s the whole Roger Clemens debate, so basically about half of the 10 players ahead of Wainwright are, and I’ll use this term loosely, hall of fame caliber.

Wainwright is in great company, but he’s in a lot of company. You might be asking, then, why did I title the article the way I did? That’s because the game has changed.

No 40+ year old pitcher has thrown more innings in a single season than Adam Wainwright did this year since 2015, when both Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey did so.

Colon also cleared 200 innings in 2014, but then you have to go back to 2008 to find the last time before a 40+ year old cleared 191.2 innings.

Adam Wainwright is in a class of his own. What he did this year simply doesn’t happen any more.

If you’ve been listening to the playoff games, you’ve probably heard commentators bemoan the “five and dive” style of pitching today.

Adam Wainwright has never been that, but that is the way the game has trended. Starters are throwing fewer innings than ever. It’s always been rare to see a 40-year-old pitch in the majors, but it’s gotten more rare.

So have 200 (or 190) inning seasons. When you combine the two, you hardly ever see it anymore. In fact, since 2010, there hasn’t been a single 40+ year old pitcher not named R.A. Dickey or Bartolo Colon to throw 190+ innings in a single season. Well, until Wainwright, that is.

What Wainwright did this year used to be more common, but the game has changed. Now it’s more than rare. No one does what he does. And he might just come back and do it again. When he retires, I don’t know the next time we’ll see a pitcher clear 190 innings after turning 40.

We enjoyed watching Wainwright do it this year and we may enjoy watching him do it again next year, but that’s probably it.

He had a solid season, but when it’s put into this perspective, it makes it all the more impressive.


I don’t know if we’ll ever watch someone as old as Pujols hit as well as Pujols ever again. In fact, it hadn’t happened ever before (except for Bonds).

I also don’t know when we’ll see a 40+ year old pitcher do what Adam Wainwright does. The game is moving away from that, not towards it, so it may be a while.

Both of those things are unique. But they were accomplished by teammates. Even if someone, at some point, manages to do what Pujols or Wainwright did this year, I can guarantee you, they won’t have a teammate do so as well.

This is what I mean why I say that we may never see something like 2022 again. A 40 year old innings eater and a 42 (or more) year old slugger on the same team don’t come around very often. And they especially don’t put up the numbers that Pujols and Wainwright did this year.

This was a season I’ll always remember because I may never see anything like it again.

Thanks for reading! I hope this article helped put these incredible seasons in perspective. Are there any players who you think could match Wainwright’s innings at age 40 or Pujols’s wRC+ at age 42? Let me know in the comments and enjoy your Sunday!