To the Mats with Reader Comments: How Old is an Old Yankees Team, Anyway?

Is it age or infirmity? (Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)

In response to my earlier post at Baseball Nation, community member "jetanumber2" says:

I can't wait for the ‘Yankees Are Old' article that will actually signify the Yankees being ‘old'. When was the last time the Yankees were considered ‘young."

Baseball-Reference has a page that lists the weighted ages for the Yankees' position players and pitchers year by year. You can sort them from lowest to highest. Of the ten oldest hitting teams, all but one has played on Brian Cashman's watch:

Rk

Year

BatAge

1

2012

32.7

2

2005

32.4

3

2004

32.3

4

2008

31.3

5

2000

31.3

6

2001

31.1

7

1995

31.0

8

2006

30.9

9

1999

30.9

10

2007

30.7

Yes, the oldest collection of Yankees position players is... now.

One of the arguments I've made over the years is that just because you've gotten away with something you shouldn't have been able to get away with for a period of years, you can't just assume that you're going to keep getting away it. It's possible that the Yankees have finally pushed this particular way of accumulating talent to the breaking point.

I would also argue there is a limit to just how much getting away with it there has been: there are three World Series teams above, 1999, 2000, and 2001. The rest stopped somewhere short of that point. One possible reason would be that older teams aren't especially flashy on defense. Let's add a column to the table above-the team's league rank in defensive efficiency:

Rk

Year

BatAge

DE Rk

1

2012

32.7

10th

2

2005

32.4

10th

3

2004

32.3

10th

4

2008

31.3

12th

5

2000

31.3

4th

6

2001

31.1

9th

7

1995

31.0

2nd

8

2006

30.9

2nd

9

1999

30.9

3rd

10

2007

30.7

5th

Folks like to argue about what team traits correspond to postseason success. I suspect the ability to turn balls in play into outs would rank highly-giving extra outs to good offenses is a recipe for ruin. The correlation between age, DE, and postseason success isn't perfect, as you can see here, and in fact may convey one of the ways the Yankees have been able to avoid the ravages of age: it's not how old you are, it's how well you play defense at any age.

Now the pitchers:

Rk

Year

PitchAge

1

2005

34.2

2

2003

33.6

3

2002

33.1

4

2004

32.9

5

2006

32.5

6

1988

32.3

7

1987

32.1

8

2000

32.0

9

2007

31.4

10

1980

31.4

The 2012 team, with an average age of 30.3, is down at number 27. Once again, there are some good teams in here. Heck, they're all good teams. The 1980 team, which wiped out of the playoffs all too quickly, won 103 games. Just one World Series winner in this batch, that fluke 2000 team, and a pennant-winner in the 2003 team. Let's try adding a column again, this time, league strikeout rate:

Rk

Year

PitchAge

K/9 Rk

1

2005

34.2

6th

2

2003

33.6

2nd

3

2002

33.1

2nd

4

2004

32.9

6th

5

2006

32.5

7th

6

1988

32.3

9th

7

1987

32.1

11th

8

2000

32.0

3rd

9

2007

31.4

12th

10

1980

31.4

3rd

The 2012 team is second. The 2009 World Series winners were first. That staff averaged 29.3 years of age. An older staff can get batters to swing and miss, and that goes to ameliorating poor defenses. It has been quite a balancing act that Brian Cashman has pulled off, and if he has thought through all these aspects-I'm pretty sure he has, given key acquisitions in recent years-he deserves a great deal of credit for being able to balance age with things that obviate age. However, this slump feels different, as does the long-term prognosis, by which I mean 2013. I'm not panicking, but it does seem as if Cashman will be caught between the team's need to reduce payroll, the lack of assets in the farm system, and a weak free agent market, and reloading will not be as easy this time around. That doesn't come from panic, but an assessment of the options.

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