One of the keys to writing about a ballclub on a daily basis is looking at the long-term trends and not getting worked up over short-term hot streaks or slumps. Thus, someone in my position should not get too giddy over an eight-game winning streak like the one the Yankees finished 10 days ago. Nor should a 1-7 streak, like the one the Yankees are going through now, make him overly pessimistic. From this perspective, that the Yankees have hit .218/.313/.287 with only two home runs (not to mention four stolen bases and three caught stealing!) during those eight games should be dismissed as a flukes, as should the pitching staff’s 4.48 RA during that time.
Yet, one cannot help but thinking sometimes. The Yankees are the oldest team in the American League. The average age of their batters, weighted by playing time, is 30.2 years old, trailing only the White Sox and Red Sox. Their pitchers are the oldest in the league at 30.6. Next year, they could have a 39-year-old catcher, a 37-year-old shortstop, a 35-year-old third baseman, a 31-year-old first baseman, and 30-year-old outfielders in center and right fields. Depending on how left field and designated hitter are disposed of, Robinson Cano could be the only regular under 30.
No single old player is automatically a threat to a team’s record, but when you have a big collection of them, you run the risk of declining skills and injuries hitting in waves. The Yankees have already demonstrated this in 2010. Derek Jeter has had the worst season of his career. Alex Rodriguez has missed time with injuries and isn’t having a season that’s up to his usual standards. Jorge Posada has done about what he always does when healthy, but he often hasn’t been healthy. On the pitching side, it’s hard to say if malpractice by A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez was caused by age or their general fecklessness or both, but you can certainly chalk Andy Pettitte’s balky groin up to an aging body.
Is it likely that a team that has been cooking along all season suddenly got tired in September? No. Is it possible? Sure, particularly when you add in the injuries to Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner. And never mind this year, I keep wondering what the age of the club will mean for next year. Who on the current roster is likely to have something like a peak season in 2011? Seems to me that the list is limited to Robinson Cano on offense, perhaps Mark Teixeira. On the pitching side, CC Sabathia should be good for another go-round at his present level, close enough to a peak for anyone else, and I’m hopeful that Phil Hughes can put it all together at 25. Other than that, we’re probably looking at consistency or worse.
For all I know, the team will rally tonight and hit .350 for the remainder of the season, and this post will look foolish, your host having fallen prey to the short-term alarm system I described above. Even if thinks work out well this season, the danger for 2011 remains.
A Couple of Links
My colleague Marc Normandin compares Jon Lester to CC Sabathia and finds that Lester is having a better season.
I have a new original song up at Casual Observer Music. No baseball theme this time—we’ll be doing another of those shortly—but I hope you will enjoy this tale of losing "her" to the guy on the other end of the internet.