Prince Fielder’s streak of 327 consecutive games played ended tonight due to reported flu-like symptoms. Given Fielder’s famed dimensions (espn.com and si.com list him as 5’11″ and 268 lbs), he’s not the first guy who’d pop into mind when hearing that a player had just ended a 327 consecutive games played streak.
One can be certain that the streak will become talking-point No. 1 when Scott Boras markets Fielder for his long-term free agent contract, especially in light of wide-spread concerns that a player of Fielder’s size will not age well after age 30.
Fielder is 26 this year, and I doubt that how many games he’s able to play in a row in his mid-20′s will have any predictive ability on his ability to play 140 or 150 games a season after age 30.
In apt comparison, perhaps, would be Frank Thomas (6’5″ 270 lbs). In 1996, he had a 346 games played streak ended with a stress fracture in his left leg. He still managed to play in 141 games that season and played in at least that many games through 1998, the year in which was 30 years old.
After passing age 30, he only managed to play 140 or more games in a season four times in 10 seasons, even though he was used almost exclusively as a designated hitter during that period of his career.
The point, I guess, is that no matter how healthy a 250 lb-plus player is in his mid-to-late 20s, they have a hard time staying in the lineup once they pass age 30.
By the way, Ryan Howard (6’4″ 255 lbs) is also 30 years old this season. As such, I expect he’ll begin to have recurring injury problems sometime in the next two or three seasons, in spite of the exceptional health he’s shown so far in his major league career.