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Rich Hill

His mindset increased his longevity in the Majors.

Rich Hill pitches with intensity and aggressiveness.
Rich Hill pitches with intensity and aggressiveness.
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

In his career, Rich Hill started 14 games against the Diamondbacks with an ERA of 6.27. The Diamondbacks won 12 of the 14 games. Saturday’s win broke the recent 9-game losing streak.

Rich Hill is the oldest active player in the Majors. He is more than 43 years, 144 days old. He played for 19 seasons, so far. Of the ten oldest active players, Rich Hill played for the most Major League teams (13). In addition, after the first 6 teams, he played he played for the Ducks, an Independent League team. Including non-active players, the record for most teams is held by Edwin Jackson, who played for 14 teams. But if you count the Independent League Ducks, Rich Hill tied the record when he was traded to the Padres.

The oldest Diamondbacks player is Evan Longoria. He is the 16th oldest active player. On October 7 of this year, he will be 38 years old.

Looking at the ten oldest active players, five are starting pitchers, one is a relief pitcher, and four are position players. It is remarkable that half of the ten oldest are starting pitchers. Three reasons not to expect that fact follow.

First reason is frequent maximum exertion. Common sense is that starting pitchers experience maximum exertion about 15-20 times per inning, and depending on the pitcher between 4 and 8 innings per game. Their maximum exertion of between 60 and 100 times per game is more than any other position.

Second reason is extreme motion and constant repetition. “One reason for this [pitcher injuries] is that the pitching motion is extreme and the constant repetition required to prepare and to compete creates undue demand. Those [demands are] at the shoulder, elbow and forearm. Even hips and knees are vulnerable because of the generation of power from the lower extremity; and ankles can be prone to sprain.” Quote from Recovery Physical Therapy P.C. website.

Third reason is pitchers experience more injuries. Ben Linbergh’s wrote an article that had a graph (data from Baseball Prospectus) showing the number of IL stints for pitchers and position players. His purpose was to show the increased injuries in 2020. In my view, his graph shows two additional points of interest:

  • Ignoring the increase in 2020, between 2010 and 2019 the number of IL stints increased by about 50% for pitchers and 50% for position players.
  • Every season except 2016, pitchers had more IL stints than position players.

Rich Hill’s mindset increased his longevity in the Majors.

Rich Hill keeps himself in top physical shape. When something isn’t right, he thinks of the solution as a puzzle piece that needs to click with everything else. He builds on his physical skills by working on a mindset that allows him to be intense and aggressive with every pitch.

In 2015 Rich Hill went from the Majors to the independent league. When he said that the mental aspect of his game was more important in the last ten years, my view is his mental game is his biggest strength and that it allowed him to make it back to the Majors and stay in the Majors.

Supporting quotes follow.

“…I think in anything there is always another level, there’s always something else that you can get to and reach for it. It’s not necessarily craziness that’s being portrayed out there, it’s just an intensity, it’s really the passion for pitching. I love to pitch. And really that’s what it is at the end of the day, it’s trying to be … what you see out there on the mound and maybe a little bit of animation and stuff like that, it’s just trying to constantly stay on myself and focusing on the moment and every single pitch. It’s not about what happened the pitch before, the inning before, the game before or whatever happened the day before, it’s just about focusing and giving a hundred percent effort on that pitch.” — Rich Hill, January 2018

“Putting the right pieces of the puzzle into the map and having it click, that the biggest thing.” — Rich Hill, March 2021

“Along with the work ethic and the amount of time that goes in the gym, it’s also the amount of work that goes into the mental side of the game. And being able to take that intensity and that aggressiveness and channel it when I’m on the mound. That’s something that’s certainly been beneficial, more so in the last ten years.” — Rich Hill, January 2023

Will Rich Hill add another season and perhaps play for a 15th team? The likely answer is, “Yes!”

Tables Showing the Older Players.

The following table shows the ten oldest active players.

Data from Baseball Reference and Wikipedia.

The following table shows a few of the oldest non-active players that were interesting. I remember an AZ Snake Pit discussion about Bartolo Colon being an iron man. He was the 37th oldest player in the Majors per Wikipedia. In 2009, former Diamondback Randy Johnson’s last game made him the 27th oldest player ever. Also, the table puts the top ten active players’ ages in context of historical data.

Data from Baseball Reference and Wikipedia.