The Age Game
I came to my computer today with the intention of making the undebatable case that youth wins championships and is a better recipe for success. I even had a catchy title (Forever Young…At Heart) and plans of attacking the Yankees relentless pursuit of older talent and inability to groom young players within their organization. With Joba Chamberlain’s season-ending Tommy John surgery being scheduled, it seemed appropriate to discuss whether the Yankees could develop young talent and find success.
The game is getting younger. At least that was my blind opinion and premise going in. The Yankees of old (pun completely intended) were going to have to shift their player mentality to keep up. It makes sense right? While the Yankees can boast 5 championships in the last 15 years, teams with young talent were catching up. The Rays, the Giants, the Diamondbacks, and the Indians all seem to be getting younger. Gone were the days of trading away talent for seasoned veterans in an attempt at another ring.
But then I did my research. Thanks to baseball-reference.com and their vast amount of player info, I was able to calculate the average team age of each of the last 16 World Champions.
Keeping in mind that these ages include any players that made the roster throughout the course of the season, it is possible that late season additions or injured player replacements may cause a slight skew, but not enough to affect our conversation. As you can see, of the previous 16 World Series Champions, nine of those teams had an average age over 29. And of the Yankees five championships during this period, only two of those teams had an average age over 30.
So really, what are the Yankees doing that other teams aren’t? Some teams may be spending less money to do it, but youth is not the sole ingredient for success. The current leaders in each division are split evenly with three teams having an average team age over 29 (Red Sox, Phillies, and Giants), and three teams with an average team age under 29 (Indians, Rangers, and Cardinals).
The Indians are doing it with a talented group of young players (their average age is just 27.34), the Red Sox and Phillies are doing it with a core of successful veterans (both teams have an average team age over 30), the Cardinals; Rangers; and Giants are doing it with a combination of young talent and experienced veterans.
Will the trend eventually turn toward younger and younger talent? I think so. The Indians, floundering for over a decade, seem to have turned it around. The Rangers made it to the World Series last year with a core of young players. The Giants and the Padres battled until the last game of the season last year, both with teams built on youth. While there will always be teams trading for veteran players and relying on experience over youth, parity in baseball will continue to grow as younger players are developed and utilized properly.
While we may not be looking at a league with a “Forever Young” mentality yet, teams like the Marlins, Rangers, Indians, Giants, and yes even the Pirates are blurring the line between youth verse experience. TV executives turn your heads now because you shouldn’t be surprised if we are looking at a Pirates verse Indians World Series in the near future. And that’s great for baseball.