Can Thome and I-Rod
make the NL adjustment?

Both Jim Thome and Ivan Rodriguez make the switch in leagues at an advanced, yet highly productive stage in their careers.

Updated: January 24, 2003, 3:21 PM ET
By by Dan Ford, STATS. Inc.
Given a clean slate, does life begin after 30 in baseball? We'll have more than one chance to find out in 2003.

Ivan Rodriguez surprised the baseball world Wednesday by inking a one-year, $10 million contract with the Florida Marlins, after spending his previous 12 years with the Texas Rangers. He joins fellow free agent Jim Thome, who left the Cleveland Indians for the greener pastures of Philadelphia in early December, to face National League pitching on a regular basis for the first time in their 13th seasons. Both make the switch in leagues at an advanced, yet highly productive stage in their careers. I-Rod enters the coming season after turning 31 last November, and Thome is a year older. So how will each adjust to hitting against virtually a whole new set of pitchers? Can they be expected to post numbers similar to those they have produced in the past, or will their production suffer from the novelty of facing unfamiliar deliveries?

For a little perspective on the issue, we searched for players with similar credentials who made an offseason change of leagues, and found that I-Rod and Thome are in rare company. Since the lively ball era commenced in 1920, only 11 other players moved between circuits during the offseason for the first time when (1) their first season in their new league fell between the ages of 30-33, and (2) they had posted an OPS (on-base + slugging percentage) of .850 or higher while logging a minimum of 400 plate appearances the previous year.