The Old and the Restlesss: Weighted Team Ages

The Astros have a very young team; the Yankees do not. I’m not exactly breaking news here, but I am going to provide you some data to back up the claims. Thanks to the depth charts that we maintain here on the site, we are able to calculate team age not just by the average age of the players on the roster, but weighted by the amount of expected playing time that each player is projected to get this year. After all, having a 25 year old starter and a 35 year old reserve is not the same thing as having a pair of 30 year olds splitting the duty. Young teams often populate their bench and bullpen with veteran leaders, and there’s no reason to dramatically inflate their average team age based on the presence of those backups.

The depth charts also include expected future playing time for guys in the high minors who haven’t yet gotten the call to the big leagues, but should be expected to see some big league time this summer. The Astros weighted team age includes the playing time we’re expecting top prospects George Springer, Jonathan Singleton, and Mark Appel to get in Houston later this year, so this process evaluates a team’s age not just by what they currently have on the team but also the talent that should arrive in the near future.

Without further ado, the data.

WeightedAge

The Astros and Marlins have the two youngest teams in baseball, to no one’s surprise. The Yankees, Phillies, and Red Sox are old, but again, this is not new information. But there are still some fascinating pieces of information in that graph.

For instance, the defending NL champion Cardinals come out as the fifth youngest team in baseball. The Pirates 2013 surge — led by core stars such as Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte — makes them appear as the new young challengers in the NL Central, but the Cardinals are actually younger than the Pirates are, as St. Louis’ seemingly never-ending waves of talent just keep filling holes and providing value at the big league level. There’s a reason everyone wants to copy The Cardinal Way; they win with rosters that are comparable in age to clubs in the midst of long-term rebuilding projects.

Likewise, the Braves also deserve recognition for contending with the third youngest roster in MLB. They spent the off-season locking up the majority of their young core, but this graph is a reminder of just how young the Braves really are. The Cardinals and Braves are the best current examples of teams having both a strong present and future base of talent.

On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t really think of the Blue Jays as a particularly old team, but they rely heavily on R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle to carry their rotation, and Jose Bautista is a sneaky older player, since he developed late and doesn’t feel like he’s been around forever. While Bautista is still very productive, he’s also 33, and Edwin Encarnacion is 31. It’s not just the Toronto pitchers that are probably on the downside of their careers, and this is a roster that needs to win in the near future before some reckoning occurs.

Also in the sneaky old category, look at where the Royals and Rays are. Both teams are often talked about as being full of good young talent, but the Royals rotation is Yordano Ventura and four guys on the wrong side of 30, while the Rays lean heavily on 33 year old Ben Zobrist and 31 year old Yunel Escobar. Both organizations have produced a number of franchise-type young players over the last few years, but not as much as of late, leaving them to fill holes with veteran stop-gaps from outside the organization. There’s nothing wrong with having David DeJesus or Norichika Aoki around, but guys like that aren’t going to be productive for that much longer.

The Rays and Royals are two good examples of the trade-offs that contending teams make, however. Generally, older teams win more than younger teams, and if you’re in win-now mode, you have to fill out your roster with some veterans who can still contribute but don’t have much long term upside. The youngest teams are usually not contenders, and can afford to give playing time to guys who wouldn’t otherwise play on a team concerned with maximizing present wins. However, the correlation between team age and expected rest-of-season winning percentage isn’t actually that dramatic.

AgeWins

That’s an r of .34 and a r squared of .12, which means that you can chalk up about 12 percent of the difference in a team’s expected performance to their weighted team age. It matters, but it’s certainly not the driving force that cliches like “experience wins championships” have driven home for years. Older teams are better, but there’s a ton of noise in there too, and just loading up on veterans is no sure way to guarantee victory.

If you’re looking for an ideal combination of youth and current performance, you’re looking at a cluster of teams in that lower right hand quadrant: the Nationals, Cardinals, Rangers, and A’s. On the depressing side of things, there’s the upper left area, which houses the Twins and, most notably, the Phillies. No team in baseball has a worse combination of expected 2014 performance (.470 win%) and weighted team age (30.9 years). The Yankees are the oldest team in baseball, but at least they’re expected to have a winning season; the Phillies are the franchise with both a questionable present and a bleak future.

For those interested in seeing the full weighted age breakdowns by team, for both batters and pitchers, the full table is below.

Team Age BatAge PitchAge
Astros 26.9 25.8 27.9
Marlins 27.0 28.7 25.3
Braves 27.6 27.9 27.3
Mariners 27.6 27.5 27.7
White Sox 28.1 28.5 27.7
Cardinals 28.1 29.1 27.1
Cubs 28.2 27.4 29.0
Orioles 28.3 28.4 28.2
Rockies 28.3 28.2 28.5
Nationals 28.5 28.6 28.4
Pirates 28.6 28.0 29.1
Reds 28.6 29.5 27.7
Athletics 28.6 29.7 27.5
Rangers 28.7 29.1 28.2
Mets 28.8 28.5 29.0
Indians 28.9 30.1 27.8
Padres 28.9 29.0 28.8
Royals 29.1 28.2 30.0
Rays 29.2 29.8 28.5
Brewers 29.2 28.9 29.4
Twins 29.3 28.6 30.0
Angels 29.3 30.4 28.2
Diamondbacks 29.4 29.0 29.7
Tigers 29.6 30.7 28.6
Dodgers 29.8 30.2 29.3
Blue Jays 30.0 29.2 30.8
Giants 30.2 29.6 30.8
Red Sox 30.8 30.5 31.1
Phillies 30.9 30.9 31.0
Yankees 31.5 33.0 30.0
——- ——- ——- ——-
Average 28.9 29.1 28.8
Median 28.8 29.0 28.6



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Ruben Amaro Jr.
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Ruben Amaro Jr.

Only #2?

Sigh. More work to do.

Bip
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Bip

“Mr. Jeter, in honor fantastic career and supreme contribution to the game of baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies are proud to offer you…

a major-league guaranteed contract for 2015-2017!”

Ballfan
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Ballfan

Jamie Moyer has not officially retired I think – there is hope

Ruki Motomiya
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Ruki Motomiya

I hope Jamie Moyer returns. I want to see Jamie Moyer retire until his arm literally falls off. I want to see Jamie Moyer die, then resurrect as an all powerful lich so he can keep playing baseball.

Padraic
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Padraic

If you want to see Moyer die, just listen to him on the Phillies broadcast.

joser
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joser

Indeed, it would be awesome for the guy who pitched in the majors’ first night game to pitch a game decided by instant replay.

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