Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Are the Yankees too old?

The average age of the 2013 Yankees roster is the highest in the major leagues (31.9 years old) and has been put forward more than a few times this year to explain the Yankees struggles.

There are a few factors for why the Yankees average is so high:

Signing veteran players of other teams
Committing to long term contracts historically (A-Rod)
Players wanting to play for the Yankees and potentially retire as a Yankee

You can look at it two ways: a) Older players have more experience, may be more mature and could be more grounded or b) Older players are more injury prone, may be looking to wind down in their last season or two to avoid serious injury that will affect them later in life or in some cases may have lost their passion for the game.

I am not saying that any of the Yankees (or players for other teams) are winding down or not playing with passion but it’s a human trait and not always a conscious thing. Think about it, when you’re about to go on holiday, you’ve got one or two days left at work, do you start to coast along a bit? I would say that more people do than don’t (even if they won’t admit to it).

The more worrying factor is that older players are more prone to injury. This year we have seen Jeter, A-Rod, Pettitte and Youkilis all end up on the DL. In Jeter’s case, there have obviously been numerous trips there of varying lengths. These guys may not be the oldest on the team but they are some of the oldest, especially A-Rod who is 37 and Pettitte who is 41! The older guys on the team have been playing hard for careers that in the most part have lasted 15-20 years! Baseball is a physical sport. Not in the sense of football but when a team plays 162 games with the starters playing potentially 150-155 of these each season, stress is put on different parts of the body and nobody is invincible, therefore at some point, something has to give.

Nowadays, pitchers see having Tommy John as essential to furthering their career, it is almost a rite of passage and whilst, in the majority of cases, this does help in some way, surgery is usually employed to repair something that has broken. If you rebuild something that has been broken, does it return to its previous solid state? No, generally it is weaker in the part that broke. With regards to tendons and ligaments, these can be strengthened and built up again after surgery but this takes time and they still probably won’t be as strong as previously. Look at Jeter’s injury issues this season, he keeps antagonising the ankle injury that kept him out the start of the year. It seems like every time it heals, a countdown clock starts before it goes again and he’s back on the DL.

The average age of the other teams the Yankees are competing against is shown below:
Boston – 29.7
Tampa Bay – 29.5
Baltimore – 27.7
Texas – 29.6

When you look at it like this, you could say it’s easy to see why the Yankees are struggling given we are chasing teams with younger average ages (at least 2 years younger). I would like to point out though, we have had one of (if not the highest) average aged team in the majors since the mid 90’s! This is not and can not be the entire story. The Yankees have played badly at times, some players have not performed as they should and there have been some very strange management decisions (WHY are Joba and Hughes still around?).

At the moment we are 3 games out of the second wild card spot and whilst the new two team wild card playoff game could work to our advantage (we are 5.5 behind the first wild card spot and unlikely to take this). We have a team of players who have been to the playoffs on numerous occasions and have the experience of playing in and through October.

At the moment, the age of the Yankees does seem to be dragging them down when it comes to injuries but we’ve been pretty unlucky too and we’ve had some calls go against us. If we can make it to October, we could just see the age of the 2013 Yankees work for us, rather than against us when (hopefully) experience will start to shine through. If the Yankees are being seen as the old dogs who have maybe had their day, then let’s try to go out there and show these young upstarts that experience pays dividends!

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)