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January 14, 2014

Overthinking It

Will the 2014 Yankees Have the Oldest Offense Ever?

by Ben Lindbergh


You have to hand it to the Yankees. Fresh off a 2013 season in which they fielded baseball’s oldest collection of position players—and, in perhaps not entirely unrelated news, either led the league or ranked second in games and salary lost to injury and percentage of payroll lost—they’ve spent the offseason growing even grayer.

2013 Yankees Age and Injuries (MLB rank in parentheses)

Weighted Batter Age

Games Lost

Salary Lost

Percent Payroll Lost

31.91 (1)

1396 (2)

$83.17M (1)

36.5% (2)

Part of this is passive aging, the kind that happens at any position where a team stands pat. Returning Yankees who, as of today, look like locks for the Opening Day active roster—in descending order of age, Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter, Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira, Brendan Ryan, Brett Gardner, Francisco Cervelli, and Eduardo Nunez—are, in accordance with the way time works, now even older than they were in 2013. But the Yankees have also aged actively, signing five over-30 free agent position players to big-league deals: Carlos Beltran (who’ll be 37 this season), Brian Roberts (36), Kelly Johnson (32), Jacoby Ellsbury (30), and Brian McCann (30). The suspension of 38-year-old Alex Rodriguez is the closest they’ve come to a youth movement.

On the pitching side, the Yankees figure to be a lot less ancient. Having lost Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte to retirement, New York could enter the season with only one post-prime reliever (Matt Thornton) and three under-30 starters, barring a buzzer-beating Bronson Arroyo signing. But with every lineup slot assigned to someone who’s fit for Carrousel—unlike last year, when Brett Gardner played most of the season at age 29—the Yankees have seemingly assembled a historically old offense.

The oldest hitting team in the AL era (1901-2013) was the 2006 Giants, with a weighted batter age of 34.46. That team featured only one starter under 30—27-year-old catcher Eliezer Alfonso, backed up by 35-year-olds Mike Matheny and Todd Greene—and got over 2000 combined plate appearances out of 41-year-olds Barry Bonds and Steve Finley and 39-year-olds Omar Vizquel and Moises Alou. The next season, Brian Sabean cemented a now-outdated reputation for being irrationally attached to veterans by trying to construct a roster around an even older Bonds. The 2007 Giants gave enough plate appearances to 20-something bench bats to lower their weighted average batter age to 33.54—the second­-oldest of the AL era—but their youngest starter was Bengie Molina, who turned 33 that July. In Bonds’ final season, San Francisco won only 71. For teams of a certain age, success is tough to sustain.

Here are the 10 oldest hitting teams of this 113-season span, along with team TAv and winning percentage:

Year

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Related Content:  New York Yankees,  Age

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