Sunday, April 2, 2017


Photo: ESPN
The clean-cut old-school Yankees are about to shake up baseball in a whole new wild and crazy way.

As we all know, our boys have dropped a few new bombers  in the starting lineup, and the rest of MLB had better look for a foxhole to jump in because the ensuing baby boom is about to blow a lot of preconceptions about the pinstripes to smithereens.

Photo: New York Daily News
Thanks in large part to the addition of three homegrown farmhands along with some savvy prior trades and free-agent shopping, the average age of the 2017 Yankees' starting lineup dropped three and half years below last year's --  younger even than the late 90s World Series teams led by the newly minted Core Four -- making it the club's youngest in 15 years and placing it among the younger half of the league for the first time in decades.

Pretty crazy, right?

[IMPORTANT NOTE: A few quick clarifications so I don't get roasted like a Boston Market chicken here. I think I need to  emphasize this is a comparative analysis of the ages of Yankee positional starters and NOT Opening Day starting lineups or pitchers, which would be a problematic and futile exercise at best. For example, while  the Yankees' 2016 Opening Day starting left fielder was newly acquired 26-year-old Aaron Hicks, he was replaced in the eighth inning of that game by Brett Gardner who went on to start 137 games and amass 622 plate appearances at the position. Hicks would get just 19 more starts and compiled just 73 PA in that spot, so I'm comfortable calling Brett the team's 2016 starting left fielder and hope you are too. For all prior Yankee seasons, I similarly determined the player with the most plate appearances at each position as the starter. 

And for the purposes of calculating the average age of this season's starting lineup, I consider 27-year-old Didi Gregorius to be the Yankees' starting shortstop and not 25-year-old Opening Day fill-in Ronald Torreyes for the reasons stated above. Lastly, please remember, the lineups I'm about to display are not actual Opening Day batting orders but are simply intended to provide convenient position-by-position age comparisons between our our 2017 and 2016 starters. I hope that clarifies the methodology to my madness. Now that we're all on the same page, back to the craziness.]

OK, here's last year's  Yankees starters:

32 Ellsbury CF
32 Gardner LF
40 Rodriguez DH
35 Teixeira 1B
38 Beltran RF
32 McCann C
31 Headley 3B
26 Castro 2B
26 Gregorius SS

Average age: 32.4 years old

Now, here's  our  2017 starters:

33 Gardner LF
24 Sanchez C
24 Bird 1B
37 Holliday DH
33 Ellsbury CF
27 Castro 2B
32 Headley 3B
24 Judge RF
27 Gregorius SS

Average age: 29 years old

Not surprisingly to most Yankee fans, four positions specifically account for the significant drop  in the lineup's average age from last year.

Designated hitter: 3 years younger. (Holliday replacing Rodriguez.)
Catcher: 8 years younger! (Sanchez replacing McCann.)
First base: 11 years younger!! (Bird replacing Teixeira.)
Right Field: 14 years younger!!! (Judge replacing Beltran.)

Essentially, the team's starting lineup has been transformed  in a single season from one with no players under 25,  only two  under 30 and three  35 or older into a lineup with three players under 25, more than half under 30  and only one 35 or older.

See what they did there? The older/younger ratio has been turned almost completely on its head. In the space of one season. That's just nuts, and that's coming from someone who's been waiting patiently for this day to come for a long time and watched it happen every step of the way with relish.

Think how tough it's going to be for the rest of the league to process that switch -- and how much fun it will be to watch them all scramble for new cliches to paint the Bombers as it slowly sinks in the old paradigm and accompanying stereotypes no longer apply.

Speaking of the old paradigm, care to see our last starting lineup that averaged under 30?

Photo: New York Daily News
Here you go. Your 2002 Yankees. Average age: 29.5.

33 Bernie Willliams CF
30 Rondell White LF
23 Nick Johnson DH
31 Jason Giambi 1B
31 Raul Mondesi RF
34 Robin Ventura 3B
26 Alfonso Soriano 2B

With just three of nine players in that '02 team's starting  lineup actually under 30, that average  is a bit misleading, skewed strongly by Nick Johnson's tender years and a peculiar absence of anyone 35 or older

Peculiar considering Yankees history, that is.

History can be a real mother-loving double-edged sword for Yankee fans. On one hand, it's a rich and glorious story second to no other sports franchise proudly  passed down the generations. On the other hand, it sometimes feels like it's informing us nothing we'll ever witness can be so great again.

For instance, I know our team's rebuild is far from over and history teaches us we don't yet have the pitching or personnel to truly contend this year and blah, blah, blah.

You know what? Screw history. That's the past. A new baseball season is a time for making new memories and our lineup is about to shake up the status quo. So forgive me if I thumb my nose at our team's illustrious history for a little while and just revel in the promise of youth, hope and new beginnings.

I don't care about history 'cause that's not where I want to be. I just want to have some kicks.

 --Barry Millman
BYB Writer
Twitter: @nyyankeefanfore

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