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Archive for May 27th, 2011

(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

Baseball is a young man’s game. Nothing drives that point home more than watching an aging superstar slowly lose his skills. Even though extraordinary figures like Nolan Ryan, Mariano Rivera, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens seem to defy the debilitating effects of father time, in the end, all great athletes are eventually conquered by their fleeting youth.

It has been often suggested that the advent of testing for PEDs (which many will probably take to mean steroids, but, more relevantly, also includes amphetamines) has led to a resurgence in the number of younger players having success. It’s nearly impossible to determine whether the decline of performance enhancers has had such impact, but we can at least try to see if, in fact, the game’s best players have become increasingly younger in recent years.

Average Age of MLB Players, All vs. WAR Leaders, 2000-2011 YTD

Note: “Top” categories composed of 30 best position players and 20 best pitchers ranked by WAR. In cases where there were ties, more players were included in the average.
Average age determined via a weighted average based on innings played at each position (plate appearances for DHs) and player age.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

The chart above reveals that the average ages of the top players and pitchers in baseball have gotten younger. For position players, the decline has been more gradual, while the trend for pitchers has been much more dramatic. Also evident from the chart is both top pitchers and positions players have gradually become younger than the average age of all comparable players. Regardless of whether the impetus for this trend is PED testing, cyclical turnover, better player development and injury management or some combination of the many variables at play, the re-emergence of youth in the game seems unmistakable.

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