July 19, 2012
The Two Teams Without Any Rookies
I lied to you a little in the title of this post. I did that because I wanted you to click on this article, and I was worried that you wouldn’t if I didn’t embellish a bit. Evidently it worked. So this is where I come clean and tell you that there aren't actually two teams who haven't had a rookie play for them in 2012. But now that you’re here, you might as well keep reading! Because there is something almost as interesting as two teams that haven’t had a rookie play for them: one team that hasn’t had a rookie pitcher play for it, and one team that hasn’t had a rookie non-pitcher play for it. Those teams, unlike the ones in my title, actually exist.
Plenty of teams’ rookies have played at or below replacement level this season. Those teams might have had a better record without any rookies, but regardless, they had at least one. You can probably guess which team hasn’t had any rookie non-pitchers. This team has had one of the AL’s three oldest hitting teams in each season since 1993 (when they had the fourth-oldest). This year, they’re older than ever. Older than the Phillies, even, and by over a year. Judging by some research I did in March, this team will very likely be the oldest batting team to make the playoffs this century.
I’m talking, of course, about the Yankees, whose position players have a weighted average age of 32.7. Not only have they not had a rookie, they haven’t had anyone particularly close to being a rookie. Eduardo Nunez, at 25 years old and with 450 career plate appearances, is as close as they come, and he’s barely played. After that, the Yankees position player who most resembles a rookie is…Jayson Nix, maybe? Brett Gardner?
The team without any rookie pitchers is harder to guess. It’s the Cincinnati Reds. A month ago, I wrote an article about how the Reds lead the majors in the percentage of plate appearances made by homegrown players, thanks to some astute drafting and (probably) more than a little luck. They’re not an extremely young team, but they have had several rookie position players: Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, Devin Mesoraco, Mike Costanzo, and Kristopher Negron. On the pitching side, though, their player development powers haven't worked the same magic. Not a rookie in sight.
*Update 7/21* As commenter sdshelby points out, rookie J.J. Hoover has thrown 18 innings out of the Cincinnati bullpen this season. He wasn't flagged as a rookie in our database, which has since been corrected. So, the Reds have had a rookie pitcher in sight, if only briefly.
Both the Yankees and the Reds, by the way, are in first place. Behold the value of experience! Or the value of having an enormous payroll, or playing in a weak division and having Joey Votto and five starters who haven’t missed a turn.
The Angels have gotten the greatest contribution from rookies this season, but really, they’ve gotten the greatest contribution from rookie. Mike Trout has been worth five wins on his own. All other Angels rookies have been below replacement level.
Here’s the complete list, sorted by total rookie WARP, descending: