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Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Young players have officially taken over Major League Baseball

This summer, when we asked major league veterans to talk about getting old, only one of them—Adam Jones, father of two sons—brought up Lightning McQueen.

Aging is not so much the body breaking down, Jones theorized, as the fact that every generation is better than the one before it. “It’s not an excuse, but the game’s gotten harder. That’s all it is: the next generation. It’s like that line from ‘Cars 3.’ His grandpa told him, ‘You’ll know when to retire. The youngsters will tell you.’ I’m nowhere near that, but the next generation’s here, and they’re really good.”

It was the car’s uncle, not his grandpa, but otherwise Jones knows of what he speaks. The next generation is here, and they are really good. This is true of every generation—a universal truth—but it has probably never been more true in baseball than it is right now, right this very second.

A commentary on young players, using statistical evidence to consider if they are, indeed, better than ever before- I will leave it to those who know the numbers better to debate this point.

QLE Posted: December 05, 2018 at 05:12 AM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: youth

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   1. puck Posted: December 05, 2018 at 10:32 AM (#5794109)
The article has more in it than Jones's quote about the game being harder would suggest. There's some stuff to dig in to--do players 25 and under out perform the rest of players as a group, effects of travel ball, aging curves.

One thing it didn't mention much was the huge financial incentive to play players in their first several years of service time.

The article links to a 2013 Jeff Zimmerman article on aging curves...I'll have to go back and read that one. His summary:

But recent data show there’s no longer a hitting-peak age. Instead, hitters arrive at their peak and simply decline with age.
   2. DL from MN Posted: December 05, 2018 at 03:31 PM (#5794268)
That was certainly true with Delmon Young. He was drafted based on his MLB caliber bat but there was no upside from how he hit at age 18 and his defense was bad.
   3. donlock Posted: December 05, 2018 at 04:38 PM (#5794301)
Although the article was about hitting, outfield jobs are also being taken over by younger players.

Adam Jones was not considered up to the demands of being a regular center fielder. There are not many players who play outfield in their mid 30s, much less cf. Lorenzo Cain and Charlie Blackmon are still playing cf at 32.

Adam wants to play 4 more years as an outfielder. Nick Markakis also wants to keep playing outfield. They are both free agents. Justin Upton, Brett Gardner and Andrew McCutcheon are older players who probably will not play much cf again and will be lucky to keep playing ML outfield for too much longer.

The only outlier who comes to mind is Curtis Granderson, who played regular centerfield for the Mets at 36 but not much there since for Blue Jays or Brewers.He is also a free agent.
   4. bbmck Posted: December 05, 2018 at 05:20 PM (#5794326)
Starts in CF by Age 2009-2018:

35+: 165, 123, 62, 60, 78, 10, 13, 157, 139, 44 (Mike Cameron 230, Rajai Davis 170, Curtis Granderson 99)
30-34: 1099, 1042, 1438, 1098, 965, 1170, 914, 1354, 1437, 1129 (Coco Crisp 505, Angel Pagan 496, Jacoby Ellsbury 475)
25-29: 2483, 2628, 2431, 3340, 3237, 2718, 2642, 2589, 2632, 2938 (Andrew McCutchen 758, Adam Jones 750, Melvin Upton 694)
Under 25: 1232, 1194, 1029, 485, 713, 1111, 1416, 893, 814, 941 (Mike Trout 641, Andrew McCutchen 414, Colby Rasmus 327)

The 2012 low point for young CF is 41% of the games by Mike Trout 110 and Bryce Harper 89. The 2015 high point is Mike Trout 156, Joc Pederson 137, Mookie Betts 130, Odubel Herrera 121, Marcell Ozuna 108 and Billy Hamilton 103. Bryce Harper in his decline phase hit 330/460/649 and could only handle 13 starts in CF.
   5. Greg K Posted: December 05, 2018 at 05:27 PM (#5794328)
Steve Finley is 53, but I wouldn't bet against him still being able to play major league CF!
   6. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: December 05, 2018 at 08:03 PM (#5794389)
Aging is not so much the body breaking down, Jones theorized, as the fact that every generation is better than the one before it.

But I mean, that is pretty much bs. It is mostly aging, right. Yes each generation is better than the last, but not by that much.

The decrease in eyesight, hand-eye coordination, reaction time, strength, durability, endurance, as you move into your 30s is very very real. Some of them might seem trivial, or even imperceptible as you experience them gradually from day to day. But they happen. And the margin for error in hitting major league pitching is so small, that it does not take much.
   7. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: December 05, 2018 at 08:57 PM (#5794407)
But I mean, that is pretty much bs. It is mostly aging, right. Yes each generation is better than the last, but not by that much.

I can attest to this, for sure. I'm no world class athlete, but I didn't need glasses when I was 23 and I did when I was 33. I never had backaches at 23, despite being massively overweight, while I did at 33, despite being in borderline perfect shape. People age. It's what we do. It starts sucking pretty early.
   8. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: December 05, 2018 at 08:58 PM (#5794408)
#6 I agree.

It's the aging. Here are 3 names for you.

Andruw Jones, Devon White, Paul Blair. Arguably 3 of the greatest CF ever. What do they have in common? After ages 30/31 their fielding stats dropped. They simply became less effective. That wasn't other guys getting better; it's called getting old.
No one beats father time....ever.

   9. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: December 05, 2018 at 09:06 PM (#5794412)
Relevant to #8 is Jay Jaffe's piece on Andruw Jones at Fangraphs. Makes a pretty good case that Jones probably belongs in the Hall, but won't make it in large part because he had no second half to his career.
   10. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: December 06, 2018 at 05:29 AM (#5794474)
Right, to bring this back to the other A Jones - Adam not Andruw - you can just look at his raw Range Factor, to see that he has actually gotten worse. I mean once in play, it is really just you and the ball. Other players don't factor into it (ok you probably do need to factor in strikeout rates). Yet he is making far fewer plays now, than when he was in his early/mid-twenties.

Age RF/9(cf)
22 2.78
23 3.21
24 3.01
25 2.78
26 2.75
27 2.34
28 2.51
29 2.54
30 2.44
31 2.39
32 2.38

I mean if his age 27 season was around 2.6 or so (which maybe he was struggling with an injury, or just had some random variance etc) that would be basically the textbook aging curve right there.

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