Have 2016 Yankees Gotten Old Overnight Like 1974 Detroit Tigers?

As the Yankees of 2016 have trouble early, I start to compare them in my mind to the 1974 Detroit Tigers who stand as the bar for teams that got old all of a sudden.

Background

I started rooting for baseball in 1973 when I was 11 yrs old. The Yankees were a middle-the-pack team; the top teams in the American League were the Oakland A’s, the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, and the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers had won the World Series 5 years earlier and the AL East title in 1972.

Detroit Got OLD All of a Sudden in 1974

Then in 1974 the Tigers got old all of a sudden. That’s what the announcers said back then. They fell off the earth. They went from 85-77 in 1973 to 72-90 in 1974 to 57-102 in 1975.

  • In 1974, the heart of Detroit’s lineup — Al Kaline and Norm Cash — were both 39 years old. Cash — their power-hitting 1st baseman — hit .228 and found the bench — after having hit 19 homers and .262 the year before. He retired after the season.
  • Kaline hit .262, his second straight year of  a mediocre-for-him batting avg — he collected his 3,000th hit in 1974 and retired.
  • Dick McAuliffe their 32-yr-old gold-glove second baseman, was traded to the Red Sox just before the 1974 season for young Ben Oglivie; a smart trade as McAuliffe would only play another year. But that dropped Detroit’s talent at 2nd base.
  • Frank Howard, who had hit 12 homers off the bench for Detroit in 1973, retired before the 1974 season at age 36.

Here’s what Detroit’s team looked like in 1974, with the age of each player:

Pos Name Age G AB HR RBI BA OBP SLG
C Jerry Moses 27 74 198 4 19 .237 .282 .359
1B Bill Freehan 32 130 445 18 60 .297 .361 .479
2B Gary Sutherland 29 149 619 5 49 .254 .282 .313
SS Ed Brinkman 32 153 502 14 54 .221 .266 .347
3B Aurelio Rodriguez 26 159 571 5 49 .222 .255 .306
LF Willie Horton 31 72 238 15 47 .298 .361 .529
CF Mickey Stanley 31 99 394 8 34 .221 .270 .325
RF Jim Northrup* 34 97 376 11 42 .237 .300 .362
DH Al Kaline 39 147 558 13 64 .262 .337 .389
Pos Name Age G AB HR RBI BA OBP SLG
LF Ben Oglivie* 25 92 252 4 29 .270 .353 .385
CF Ron LeFlore 26 59 254 2 13 .260 .301 .323
1B Norm Cash* 39 53 149 7 12 .228 .327 .416
DH Gates Brown* 35 73 99 4 17 .242 .312 .384
3B Ike Brown 32 2 2 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Pos Name Age G AB HR RBI BA OBP SLG
Team Totals 30.2 162 5568 131 579 .247 .303 .366
Rank in 12 AL teams 4 3 10 12 10
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2016.

 

OK now for the 2016 NY Yankees so far:

Pos Name Age G AB HR RBI BA OBP SLG
C Brian McCann* 32 19 65 3 7 .262 .351 .415
1B Mark Teixeira# 36 22 76 3 10 .224 .352 .355
2B Starlin Castro 26 22 82 3 12 .305 .345 .488
SS Didi Gregorius* 26 20 67 2 4 .224 .254 .343
3B Chase Headley# 32 19 60 0 2 .150 .268 .150
LF Brett Gardner* 32 20 71 2 5 .254 .369 .366
CF Jacoby Ellsbury* 32 22 85 1 8 .235 .278 .341
RF Carlos Beltran# 39 22 83 4 9 .253 .276 .434
DH Alex Rodriguez 40 18 65 4 8 .185 .274 .400
Pos Name Age G AB HR RBI BA OBP SLG
UT Aaron Hicks# 26 16 23 0 2 .087 .160 .087
UT Ronald Torreyes 23 10 21 0 2 .381 .381 .524
UT Dustin Ackley* 28 7 16 0 0 .063 .167 .063
UT Austin Romine 27 9 17 0 1 .294 .333 .353
Team Totals 32.1 22 731 22 70 .233 .304 .360
Rank in 15 AL teams 14 9 11 12 14
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2016.

 

The Yankees average age (32) for their starting lineup and bench is older than Detroit’s average age (30). Both teams are near the bottom of the league in batting average (Det was 10th out of 12; Yanks are 11th out of 15) and their On Base Percentage (OBP) is almost identical (.303 vs .304).

Back When 34 Was 34 and Some Players Lost It at 32

This was in the pre-steroid era when 34 was 34 — most hitters’ best years ended at age 34 and they retired — and those rare specimens that continued to play into their late 30’s typically put up inconsistent batting averages and performances; an era similar to the current post-steroid era.

Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, who both had terrific comeback, monster years last year when they were amongst the leaders in homeruns and RBI the first 3/4 of the season — both look old all of a sudden at 36 and 40. Carlos Beltran, who has seemingly been belting the ball — only has a .276 OBP.

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Maybe the scariest player in the lineup is NOT Chase Headley, who is batting .150 but is still getting on base with walks — but Jacoby Ellsbury, who had a brief hitting spurt and stole home one game, but for the most part looks old all of a sudden at 32. And he is signed for this year and another 5 years (5th year is team option) at $21 mil a year!

Pitching

Some good news is that the Yanks have some youth and mostly decent ages on their pitching staff; Detroit’s staff was older (although pitchers can usually pitch well past 34 unlike hitters). Overall the Yankees, especially with their 3-ace-reliever ballpen, have a better pitching staff than Detroit did.

Detroit’s pitching:

Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H SO
SP Mickey Lolich* 32 16 15 3.82 42 42 17 0 308.2 315 214
SP Joe Coleman 26 23 15 3.53 40 40 13 0 288.1 283 202
SP Jim Perry 37 14 13 4.03 35 34 7 0 203.0 225 66
SP Woodie Fryman* 33 6 13 5.36 34 29 1 0 169.2 200 119
Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H SO
CL John Hiller* 30 10 5 1.44 65 0 0 38 125.1 89 124
RP Mike Strahler 26 4 5 4.37 22 11 1 0 80.1 84 37
RP Fred Scherman* 28 2 2 4.23 34 0 0 1 61.2 59 28
RP Ed Farmer 23 3 0 5.00 24 0 0 2 45.0 52 28
RP Bob Miller 34 4 2 3.43 22 0 0 1 42.0 34 23
Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H SO
Team Totals 30.3 85 77 3.90 162 162 39 46 1447.2 1468 911
Rank in 12 AL teams 5 8 8 11 1 9 7 2
Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H SO
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2016.

 

Here is the 2016 Yankee pitching staff so far:

Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H SO
SP Masahiro Tanaka 27 1 0 2.87 5 5 0 0 31.1 24 28
SP Michael Pineda 27 1 3 6.33 5 5 0 0 27.0 35 30
SP Nathan Eovaldi 26 1 2 4.38 4 4 0 0 24.2 23 28
SP CC Sabathia* 35 1 2 5.06 4 4 0 0 21.1 25 15
SP Luis Severino 22 0 3 6.86 4 4 0 0 19.2 32 12
Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H SO
CL Andrew Miller* 31 1 0 0.00 9 0 0 5 9.0 3 15
RP Dellin Betances 28 0 2 2.38 11 0 0 0 11.1 8 24
RP Johnny Barbato 23 1 1 5.73 9 0 0 0 11.0 8 13
RP Chasen Shreve* 25 1 1 5.40 10 0 0 0 8.1 7 9
RP Kirby Yates 29 0 0 3.52 8 0 0 0 7.2 6 11
Pos Name Age W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H SO
Ivan Nova 29 1 0 5.11 5 0 0 1 12.1 14 7
Team Totals 27.3 8 14 4.62 22 22 0 6 193.0 198 201
Rank in 15 AL teams 13 3 14 4 11 14 9 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2016.

 

The Future Back Then for Detroit

Detroit’s fall from grace started a rebuilding period for them that lasted 5 years — they won 74 games in 1976 and 1977 and were back into the mid 80’s in wins by the late 70’s. Detroit became one of the better teams in the eighties, winning a World Series title in 1984.

The Yankees Future

The Yankees are having their worst start after 22 games since 1991. Since 1994 the lowest amount of wins the Yanks have had in a season is 84, an incredible run of success. That said, the Yanks haven’t had a top-10 pick in the June draft in 23 years — since Derek Jeter in 1992.

 

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