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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Marchman: Getting Old Is Nothing to Fear

Much like Rutherford Chang...the Yankees collect the old and in poor condition.

The first point is easy to understand. If you look at a list of the best ballplayers in a given season, they’ll invariably be spry youngsters, and it’s natural to extrapolate that to the team level. Last year, though, the teams with the youngest lineups were Kansas City and Houston, and they were terrible. Having a lot of kids hitting for you isn’t inherently bad, of course—San Francisco and Washington did just fine with young lineups—but it isn’t an inherent good, either.

The second point is probably more important. In general, the popularity of fantasy baseball and sabermetrics has made for better-informed fans and pundits. Just as people have traditionally thought along with the manager during a game, now they think along with the general manager, worrying over payroll flexibility and efficiency. Thus fans and the yakocracy share the general mania within the industry for young, cost-controlled talent.

The value of such talent, though, is structural, largely tied up in allowing a team to pay market price for old players. Mike Trout may be the best player in the league, but what makes him such a uniquely valuable asset is that the Angels can pay him next to nothing, essentially subsidizing 31-year-old Josh Hamilton’s big contract.

Alone among all AL teams, the Yankees, even when operating under relative austerity, don’t really need anyone to subsidize anything. It’s good to be efficient, because a huge payroll is even more useful if none of it is wasted, but it isn’t necessary, at least in the Bronx.

Easy as it can be to forget as we scrutinize the contracts and obligations and weigh them against the team’s future needs, the Yankees are in the business not of getting the most wins for their dollar, but the most wins, and ancient players aren’t going to hurt the cause. There are reasons to worry about this team. Their passion for “NCIS” isn’t one of them.

Repoz Posted: February 16, 2013 at 04:47 PM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: yankees

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: February 16, 2013 at 05:53 PM (#4370807)
From personal experience, I can assure you that getting older sucks.

It is better than the alternative however.

Marchman is making a relevant point -- young players, in and of themselves, aren't any more valuable than older players of equal current ability. Their main value is cost control allowing you to buy the other pieces you need. (And of course they're hopefully still getting better, providing a team with more longterm flexibility as well.)

But I think he underplays the role of cost-controlled players in the success of the Yankees. They came back to prominence primarily on the strength of an excellent young core of Jeter, Williams, Posada, Rivera. They've managed to continue to produce some very good players over the years -- Soriano, Cano, Gardner, Robertson, Hughes.

Looking 1995-2012, WAR for the Yankees through their 5th ML season:

Jeter 27
Pettitte 24
Cano 21
El Duque 18**
Rivera 17
Gardner 14
Wang 13
Williams 10 (2 seasons)
Posada 9
Soriano 9
Mendoza 9
Robertson 7
Joba 7
Hughes 6
Cabrera 4.5
Nova 4
Spencer 3
Johnson 3

Conversely, Yanks aged 31 to 36:

AROD 29
Jeter 24
Mussina 23
Posada 22
Cone 20
Rivera 20
Giambi 19
ONeill 16
Williams 14
Damon 13
Matsui 12
Wells 9
Sheffield 8
Pettitte 8
Brosius 7
Stanton 7
Teixeira 7
Abreu 6
Ventura 5
Gooden 5
Tino 4
Gordon 4

Now the old farts win that pretty easily at 282 to 206. But think about how much those 282 cost and how much it would have cost to replace the 206 they got from fairly cheap players. That's about 12 wins a year so at today's prices that's another $60 M per year in payroll.

I thought I'd look at the Yanks 76 to 93 as a contrast. They got very little out of old pitchers -- Guidry at 19 WAR then the next highest is Key at 6. They did better with younger pitchers -- Guidry 23, Righetti 15, Figueroa 10. On offense, they hit the jackpot with Randolph 26, Mattingly 25 and Roberto Kelly 13 then it's Dent with 5 and Bernie with 4. Old offense was pretty good with Nettles 24, Winfield 20, Reggie 16, Randolph 10 and 7 more players with 5 to 8.

So, comparing the two time periods for the young players (most recent listed first)

20+: 3 3
15-19: 2 1
10-14: 3 2
5-9: 6-7 4

Now for the old

20+: 6 2
15-19: 2 2
10-14: 3 1
5-9: 9 4

So while there's a big gap among the young guys, there's a massive gap among the older ones. Apparently spending 50% to 100% more than your competitors has its benefits. :-)

** I moved Matsui down to the old farts because I recall he was paid pretty well for his first 6 seasons. I left El Duque in the first 6 group because he was pretty moderately paid (about $2 M per year).
   2. Mayor Blomberg Posted: February 16, 2013 at 08:08 PM (#4370841)
Pettitte looks a little worse for 3 of the later set in HOU, but his 35-38 years have been worth 11 WAR. His 23 (5.3), 24 (8.0), and 35 (6.0) seasons are the only times he's been over 3.5 WAR.
   3. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: February 16, 2013 at 10:36 PM (#4370863)
Getting Old Is Nothing to Fear

yes, it is (I speak from hard experience)

pre-emptive New Coke to Walt
   4. Walt Davis Posted: February 17, 2013 at 02:39 AM (#4370927)
We have nothing to fear but fear itself. And getting older.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself and getting older. And getting hit by meteorites.

The only three things we need fear are fear itself, getting older and getting hit by meteorites. And the 2012 Yankees.

No, I think I had it right there -- fear itself, getting older and getting hit by meteorites.
   5. asinwreck Posted: February 17, 2013 at 11:17 AM (#4370968)
That White Album collection...wow.
   6. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 18, 2013 at 03:22 AM (#4371229)
It is better than the alternative however.


Not always clear.

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