Being Yankee fans, we never hear the end of it when it comes to old players. Every year, even the best analysts predict the deterioration of players like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Mariano Rivera. Granted, Rodriguez may be in a decline, but at the end of the year, this team never seems to feel the impact of age.
I’m not the oldest Yankee fan at TYA, but I’d say these yearly accusations of being an old team have gone on for close to a decade. According to the critics, this team wasn’t supposed to win it all this year, and they didn’t, but they certainly finished with the best record in the American League. They also finished with the highest combined fWAR in the American League, the highest team wOBA and wRC+ in baseball, and the fifth highest K/9 and the fifth lowest BB/9. They also finished with the highest combined team age.
Someone has to tell these players that being old means you’re supposed to be bad, because the oldest team in baseball was arguably the best team in the American League this year. It got me thinking, how old are the Giants and the Tigers? These teams don’t appear overtly young, and yet they’re both playing each other in the World Series this year. Maybe being a young team isn’t so important?
I think this graph speaks for itself, but I’ll explain it in case anyone’s confused. It’s good to be old.
That blue line decreasing from 31.1 to 26.3 shows the combined age for each team. That squiggly red line that’s bouncing up and down from 52.3 to 17.6 shows a team’s combined fWAR. And that straight black line is a linear trendline showing the line of best fit. This sloping line indicates that as age decreases, fWAR decreases.
How significant is it? The correlation coefficient is 0.614, which is statistically considered a strong correlation. While it’s obviously not a direct relationship, it does show that being old usually means more fWAR.
How can you explain this? Better players usually play later into their careers, be it long-term contracts or talent. Players like Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera are good examples of the talent category, in that they wouldn’t be playing this late in their careers if they weren’t highly talented. Alex Rodriguez would be an example of the long-term contract category, in that he earned playing time because of his high talent previously in his career. (Not that he isn’t still talented.)
Teams with lower ages, are likely producing lower fWAR’s because they fall into a category of rebuilding. These teams must play young players to develop them, and they also may have less depth, which forces management to play young replacement level players they would normally be on minor league teams.
The idea that old is good doesn’t mean the Yankees should go out and buy every 40 year old player on the free agent market, but it does mean that older players should still be highly valued. With the type of stigma that’s carried over aging veterans, this older market is something that Brian Cashman has taken advantage of with a lot of success. This is what he had to say on the topic.
“Do we need to get younger? Only if it gets us better. Do I want us to be younger and better? Yes, but will I sacrifice, would I go younger to make us worse and forego better choices that are older that make us better? No,” Cashman said on WFAN with Mike Francesa Tuesday afternoon. “In theory, I want us to get younger and better, but in reality, that’s not always realistic; it depends on what is immediately coming through your system and if you feel that the players currently knocking on the door are potential everyday guys.”
At the moment, considering the Yankees have to hold down a $189 million budget in the 2014 and 2015 season, it’s probably a good idea that they try to acquire a few cheap and young players to replace someone like Nick Swisher. Living off one year deals to older players on the free agency market becomes a risky gamble when you don’t know what the agency class will look like in the coming seasons. That said, if the Yankees decide to go with a player like Ichiro Suzuki in right field or a David Ortiz as the designated hitter, I wouldn’t be too upset. There are discounts on veteran players out there, and it’s time to stop criticizing the front office for building an old team, and start appreciating them for their thriftiness.
Check out the complete Team Age v. Team fWAR chart after the bump.
|Team||Age||Pitcher fWAR||Batter fWAR||Total fWAR|
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