In Moneyball, Billy Beane uses a number of advanced statistics to find undervalued players on the market. His rival, the New York Yankees, don’t need Sabermetrics, since they have wagons full of cash. While that’s partially true, (the part about all the money) the Yankees were one of the first organizations to implement advanced statistics, well before the story took place in 2002. Now that the Yankees have a budget, we’re starting to see them take a step forward in finding undervalued players.
Most recently, the Yankees have signed Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Kevin Youkilis, and Ichiro Suzuki. The average age of these players is 39 years old, and for a team that just finished 2012 with the oldest average age in baseball, fans are worried about regression. That doesn’t bother Brian Cashman.
Two months ago, I took a look at the age of teams in comparison to their overall fWAR. While teams like the Nationals represented a young team that played well, older teams were much more likely to outperform younger teams. I explained a few scenarios to why this is, for instance the Astros are forced to use young players who belong in the minor leagues. You’ll see that the top 10 teams in age were far more competitive than the bottom 10 teams. 6 of these teams made the playoffs, while only 2 of the bottom 10 teams made it, the Athletics and the Nationals.
While it doesn’t necessarily mean that old is good, my interpretation was that fans may have an exaggerated perception of player decline. After all, it seems that you’re more likely to read an article about how terrible the Alex Rodriguez contract is, rather than a piece on Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, or Torii Hunter overcoming age regression.
It’s important to note that the Yankees aren’t just targeting any old players that are willing to sign one-year deals, a lot of these players appear to sport peripherals that say they’re drop off in numbers wasn’t regression, rather it was a matter of small sample size. Kuroda, Pettitte, Rivera, and Suzuki have long track records of consistency and athleticism, while Kevin Youkilis has the quintessential old player skills. Yesterday, Ichiro Suzuki signed with the Yankees, and he had this to say about the organization’s perception of age.
“I believe the Yankees organization appreciates that there is a difference between a 39-year-old who has played relying only on talent, and a 39-year-old who has prepared, practiced and thought thoroughly through many experiences for their craft,” Ichiro said. “I am very thankful, and I will do my best to deliver on their expectations.”
It may look like Ichiro regressed in his previous two years, but other numbers indicate that the drop off in production was a side effect of small sample size. You could say the same for Kevin Youkilis.
With the success of aging teams of late, the aging player looks to be the new undervalued commodity. The Yankees would obviously be no stranger to this concept. Now that the budget is in sight, they’ve stacked the team with five players that own an old age tag, and it’s not even Christmas yet.