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Age Matters … Sometimes

Posted By R.J. Anderson On October 5, 2009 @ 1:23 pm In Daily Graphings | 22 Comments

Here are the lines for two of the top rookie of the year candidates:

Pitcher A: 30 GS, 180.2 IP, 6.2 K/9, 2.94 BB/9, 4.07 FIP, 4.6 tRA, 3.94 ERA, 13 wins
Pitcher B: 30 GS, 165 IP, 4.42 K/9, 2.73 BB/9, 4.81 FIP, 5.39 tRA, 4.04, 14 wins

Even if you use ERA and wins, it appears Pitcher A had the better season. Factor in the advanced metrics and it’s a pretty open and shut case, right? Wrong. As it turns out Pitcher B is getting all sorts of backing because of his age. He is 20-year-old Rick Porcello of the Detroit Tigers meanwhile Pitcher A is 26-year-old Jeff Niemann of the Tampa Bay Rays. Both are textbook rookies, yet one gets the hype while the other is getting the shaft. (Note: You can make the case neither is the rightful American League Rookie of the Year too, but this exercise imagines that Elvis Andrus doesn’t exist.)

In 2001, Ichiro was 27-year-old and rightfully won the ROY over 20-year-old CC Sabathia. Age didn’t matter then. A year prior another Seattle Mariner Japanese import won the AL ROY; this time 32-year-old Kazuhiro Sasaki defeated 24-year-old Terrance Long. So voters have passed over the younger options in favor of which they feel had the better season multiple times in the past, even in extreme cases like Sasaki’s.

Maybe it comes down to how you define award achievement. I believe it’s based purely off performance and not true talent levels or projections moving forward. Some may hesitate voting for Garrett Jones in the National League because Andrew McCuthen A) exists and B) is going to be the better player for longer. Under this mindset I suppose the Niemann/Porcello argument makes sense, but what if you throw Andrew Bailey into the mix? He’s 25-years-old, so somewhat old, but far more dominant in the aspects voters will look at – 1.84 ERA, 26 saves, only 4 blown saves, and more than a strikeout per inning.

I don’t really have answers to these questions, but I was hoping one of you did. Should age matter in all cases? Only extreme cases? How much should it make up for lesser performances?


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