(The following was originally published at SB*Nation’s Pinstriped Bible)
Forget about sabermetrics. When it comes to evaluating the 2013 Yankees, geriatrics might be more appropriate. Although, it seems like just yesterday when a youthful core of Baby Bombers were breaking onto the scene, they are all grown up now…and then some. Time sure flies when you’re having fun.
Age hasn’t suddenly crept up on the Yankees. In fact, it’s really an old story. For most of the past 10 years, the Yankees have regularly fielded a relatively more mature team. Some years, it’s been the pitching that was long in the tooth, and other seasons, the lineup has had some extra mileage. So, what makes this year different? The Yankees are hoping the answer is nothing.
Oldest Offenses in MLB History
|2006||San Francisco Giants||0.472||3rd of 5||90||33.6|
|1998||Baltimore Orioles||0.488||4th of 5||107||33.1|
|2012||New York Yankees||0.586||1st of 5||112||32.7|
|2007||San Francisco Giants||0.438||5th of 5||82||32.7|
|1999||Baltimore Orioles||0.481||4th of 5||108||32.5|
|2005||New York Yankees||0.586||1st of 5||115||32.4|
|1945||Detroit Tigers||0.575||1st of 8||93||32.4|
|2004||New York Yankees||0.623||1st of 5||111||32.3|
|1982||California Angels||0.574||1st of 7||114||32.3|
|2005||San Francisco Giants||0.463||3rd of 5||86||32.2|
Note: BatAge = Sum of Age*(PA+G) divided by Sum of (PA+G).
In 2012, the average age of the Yankees’ offense was 32.7 years (weighted based on plate appearances), which surpassed the 2005 team as the oldest in franchise history. Even more significantly, the Bronx Bombers’ bats collectively ranked as the third oldest of all time (out of 2,746 teams). Still, despite what so many people seem to view as a handicap, the Yankees were spry enough to score the second most runs in baseball, while posting an impressive OPS+ of 112. Unlike youth, run production isn’t necessarily wasted on the young.
So, what does Father Time have in store for the 2013 Yankees’ offense? Even though Alex Rodriguez will miss considerable time and Raul Ibanez has shuffled off to Seattle to become an ancient Mariner, the 2013 Yankees are not only one year older, but the offense will likely continue to rely heavily on veteran players. As result, the average age of the team’s hitters could top out at 32.8, based upon Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections. Granted, some of the PECOTA assumptions seem suspect, particularly the playing time allotted to David Adams, Austine Romine, and Eduardo Nunez, but those estimates are actually skewed toward youth. In other words, this year’s offense isn’t getting any younger.
Oldest Pitching Staffs in MLB History
|2005||New York Yankees||0.586||1st of 5||94||34.2|
|2005||Boston Red Sox||0.586||2nd of 5||96||33.6|
|2003||New York Yankees||0.623||1st of 5||110||33.6|
|1935||Boston Braves||0.248||8th of 8||77||33.2|
|2002||New York Yankees||0.640||1st of 5||114||33.1|
|1945||Chicago Cubs||0.636||1st of 8||123||33.1|
|1988||Houston Astros||0.506||5th of 6||98||33.1|
|1989||Houston Astros||0.531||3rd of 6||93||33|
|2004||New York Yankees||0.623||1st of 5||96||32.9|
|1931||Brooklyn Robins||0.520||4th of 8||100||32.9|
|1945||Cincinnati Reds||0.396||7th of 8||94||32.9|
Note: Pitch Age = Sum of Age*(3GS + G + SV) divided by Sum of (3GS + G + SV).
Although the current Yankees’ pitchers are not exactly spring chickens, as a group, they are more youthful in comparison to the offense. With an average weighted age of 30.3 in 2012, the staff barley ranked among the franchise’s oldest quartile and just cracked the oldest decile in major league history. However, with most of the pitching staff returning, the average age can only go up. Using BP’s innings pitched projections, the Yankees’ 2013 staff would post an average age of 31.1, or almost a full year older than in 2012. Is that reason for concern? Perhaps, but the biggest contributors to the staff’s inflated age are Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera, three pitchers who have aced the test of time. Otherwise, the Yankees boast several strong young arms in both the bullpen and rotation. They just have to hope the kids can rise to the billing of their forebears.
Yankees’ Average Combined Age (Hitters + Pitchers), 1901-2013E
As it has been for most of the past decade, age will be a constant theme surrounding the 2013 Yankees. However, just because the team’s extreme seniority is a reality, doesn’t mean expectations for success are a fantasy. As the chart above illustrates, the Yankees have done very well when they’ve field a relatively older team (see here and here for more details), so historical precedent is in the team’s favor. Then again, there is such a thing as too old, especially with baseball seemingly trending back toward being a younger man’s game. Have the 2013 Yankees’ reached that threshold? We’re all about to get a year older finding out.