With the 3 year extension given to Pirates GM Neal Huntington, alot has and will be made of whether it is deserved or not. While i do agree that the undertaking of this rebuild has been done the 'right' way and have been a firm supporter of the FO, I am also of the idea that 2 years would have been fine to see the project come to fruition.
With that said, alot is being said about the formation of the current team and the 'August Slide' and how with our current players there is no indication that 'the streak' will end anytime before say 2015. Fans like to use young, successful teams like the '08 Rays as reason why we should be better now, or even earlier this year, comparing us to the Indians with their early success this season. While age-wise these teams are indeed on the younger side, if one were to dig a little deeper they would see that sometimes age and experience are a completely different creature.
Let's look at the key performers from the 'uber-young' and surprising '08 Rays who came from nowhere only to lose the WS to the Phillies.
- catcher Dioner Navarro ('08 age 24) - indeed a youngster at a Mccutchenesque 24, Navarro peaked between 23-25 and going into '08, already had 255 games caught since arriving for NY at age 20. this would place '08 at about his 3rd full season.
- 1st Carlos Pena (age 30) certainly a vet who had been around since '01. Broke out in '07 with 46 hrs.
- 2nd Aki Iwamura (age 29) also a vet of many professional games and a huge star in Japan. Aki had already had one full season under his belt by the time '08 came around. he started is career in '98, so '08 would have been his 11th season of pro ball.
- ss Jason Bartlett (28) the no-hit, all field ss was in his 4th full season and had entered the league in '04
- 3b Evan longoria (22) now here is a youngster ..the 3rd overall pick in the '06 draft showed why in '07 in the minors with 26hr 95rbi .921ops... he was ready
- LF Carl Crawford (26) at Neil Walker's age of 26 had some injuries in '08 in what was his 7th season!
- CF BJ Upton (23) certainly young at a Tabata-like 23 but had already broken out in '07 and by the time '08 came around, he had 224 ML games in
- the other OF , Util. and DH spots were split between Gabe Gross (28 5yr vet), Cliff Floyd (35), Eric Hinske (30), Willy Aybar (25 - league since '05), Ben Zobrist (27 - couple stints since '06), Johnny Gomes (27 - 4th full year)
- SP James Shields (26) '08 was his 3rd full year ..in '07 he got the taste with 215 inn
- SP Andy Sonnanstine (25) younger than our SP's at 25 , '08 was his 2nd season and peak year
- SP Matt Garza (24) the youngster and TB newcomer had 133 IP before his breakout year
- SP Edwin Jackson (24) another young guy who had tastes of the bigs for 5 seasons leading up to his breakout year of '08
- SP Scott Kazmir (24) seemingly young at 24 but had been around since '04 and had logged about 570inn already
- RP's not much to say about youngsters here as most of them were 30+ lead by Troy Percival (38), Dan Wheeler (30), Trevor Miller (35), Grant Balfour (30), and JP Howell (25)
As you can see, outside of the rookie Longoria, most of the position players while 30 and under, were experienced beyond their years. Many had been given shots at early ages basically because the teams were horrible, but if looking at the start of the 'Crawford' era and the buildup around him starting in '03 and Upton in '04 , you had 5 years before anything came together. The starters were very young age-wise but guys like Shields and Kazmir had already logged tons of innings. They got innings eater years from Sonnanstine and Jackson whose ERA's were nothing special and Garza in his breakout season. Before '08 they were pretty much ...like the Pirates.. finding the right combo of vets and letting the youngsters gain experience at the ML level.
In comparison to the Pirates going forward you will find their 'core' group to be very inexperienced. lets take a quick look with their '12 ages:
- Andrew Mccutchen (25) just becoming the type of player we were hoping going into his 4th season (Crawford in year 7 when they started winning)
- Neil Walker (26) should be hitting that peak age and after a little regression should bounce back especially power wise in what will be his 3rd season, although i still question whether he is the '10 or '11 version.
- Jose Tabata (23-4) with extension in hand and coming through an injury-filled season, knows what he has to do to survive a full year now. still will be only year 3 for the youngster so alot of time ahead for him
Pedro Alvarez (25) hitting mid-20's next year its time for the '08 #2 overall to step up Longoria style in his 4th season of proball and 3rd go around in the bigs
- Chase d'arnaud (25) Jordy Mercer (24-5) believing this is the ss options moving forward, to win soon we need one of these '08 draftees to break out
- Alex Presley (26) could be in his first full year in '12 as a starter
Josh Harrison (24) this rookie will certainly be in the utility mix in his first full year
- Mike McKenry (27) Eric Fryer (26) - backups of the future with Tony Sanchez coming soon..both just getting their first real taste of the bigs this year
- Charlie Morton (28) was this the breakout? 9-9 3.81era certainly nothing to sneeze at in his first 20+ start season.. peripherals kinda scary but was on point a good chunk of the year
- James McDonald (27) will hit his 2nd full year and putting up a a .500 record and high 3 low 4 era isnt bad.. could he be in for a big year with this experience?
- Jeff Karstens (29) still looked at as the #6 starter although his 9-8 3.32 era numbers suggest otherwise. is this , his first full year as a starter, his breakout year? and can he do more in '12?
- Brad Lincoln (27) will he become the workhorse that was hoped for when drafted 1st in '06 in just his first full year? nice numbers at the end of this year may have cemented his shot for a rotation spot in '12
- Jeff Locke (24) Rudy Owens (24) taking over for Paul Maholm should be simple for any of these young lefties and time spent in the majors before '13-14 will make them ready for the Pirates best team
As you can see the average experience that the '08 Rays had far exceeds what we will carry into '12-13. The 'McCutchen Era' will hit 6 years in '15 and using that view we are a full 4 more years from WS contending. This may be true but in looking at the closer to mid 20's and after ages of most of our 'core' types moving forward, i would place '13 as the possible year we start to contend with our 'vets' coming from the now core and contributions from younger players like Starling Marte ,Tony Sanchez, and Gerrit Cole (who will also be mid 20's) being important. Of course possible upgrades via free agency and trades may have an effect, and the older vet presence (Cliff Floyd, Troy Percival) is needed, but overall its the addition of a little seasoning that could help these young Bucs finally conquer the streak and the NL..