KC Royals set pretty high expectations for Bobby Witt Jr.

Can Kansas City's star measure up to his new deal?

Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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If Bobby Witt Jr. isn't an Iron Man, KC's' bottom line could suffer

Witt's new deal commits him to KC through age 30. From 31-34, he can opt out and move on; if he stays, the club can pick up his options from 35-37. But how many players who perform at a high level in their 20's do so deep into their 30's?

Performance data for major league players reflects a general performance peak around age 26. Fangraphs' 2021 Checking In on the Aging Curve illustrates performance peaks and the quick and steady decline of most players, suggesting that because the risk of "injury, a slump, or even a little bad luck" is so high and the body degrades as it ages, expecting a player to perform at a high level beyond age 30 places unreasonable expectations on his performance.

To perform at a high level annually, a player must stay healthy and on the field. Only four major leaguers played 162 games in 2023; Witt played in 158 games, but that's incredibly hard to maintain.

Baseball-Reference lists the few players who have been able to consistently post Iron Man-type, 160-162 game seasons. Only one Royal, Alcides Escobar, has broken 160 games three times. So to expect Witt to hit, let alone exceed, 158 games in any of his new deal's seasons is asking a lot.

Why does that matter? bWAR is directly tied to games played, so players who can stay on the field are statistically more likely to produce higher bWAR — the four players to reach 162 games in 2023 were Matt Olson, Marcus Semien, Juan Soto, and Eugenio Suarez, and Olson and Simien tied for third among position players in bWAR. In fact, of the top 10 position players in bWAR, eight played 152 or more games and six played 159 or more.

The Royals are paying Witt to play. If he can't stay on the field, he won't meet the high performance expectations they've placed on him.

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