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How young are the playoff teams?

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MLB: ALCS-Houston Astros at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

One thing that’s stuck out for me in watching the LCS games this year is just how bad the “proven veteran” hitters on the playoff teams have been. It’s been painful watching guys like Brian McCann and Chase Utley try to get the bat around against postseason fastballs . . . almost as painful as listening to the network broadcasters fawning over the same “proven veterans.”

So it occurred to me that the final four playoff teams, or at least their hitters, were very young. (Pitchers don’t have the same career arcs as hitters due to the role of injuries and the importance of command vs. pure stuff.) So I looked up the ages of these teams, based on weighted averages. Turns out they’re more or less average overall.

Cubs: 27.1 years (6th youngest in MLB)
Dodgers: 27.9 (9th)
MLB Average: 28.3
Yankees: 28.6, 18th
Astros: 28.8, 23rd

But wait . . . . Who’s actually producing for these teams? Since the average age is 28.3, I added up the fWAR totals for each team, based on players 28 or younger and players 29 and older:

Cubs

28 or younger: 23.2 fWAR
29+: 3.1

Dodgers

28 or younger: 23.5
29+: 6.6

Yankees

28 or younger: 20.2
29+: 7.7

Astros

28 or younger: 26.8
29+: 6.5

But maybe it’s just happenstance, seeing as how this is just four teams. Let’s look at the other four teams that reached the LDS:

Red Sox

28 or younger: 15.9
29+: 2.1

Indians

28 or younger: 15.7
29+: 11.9

Nationals

28 or younger: 19.1
29+: 6.9

Diamondbacks

28 or younger: 5.1
29+: 13.7

So except for the D’backs, these teams are not winning with proven veterans. (And most of the D’backs 29+ total came from Paul Goldschmidt, J.D. Martinez and David Peralta, all of whom turned 30 late in the season, and A.J. Pollock, who’s 29.) Maybe this is a sign of the post-steroids era, where older players can’t maintain their performance chemically. (If there’s research on that point, feel free to chime in.) But it looks to me like, at least as far as scoring runs is concerned, baseball is a younger man’s game.

And what does this tell us about the Pirates? Here’s where their production came from:

28 and younger: 2.1 fWAR
29+: 9.5

The Pirates had baseball’s third-worst offense in 2017. If they’re looking to improve solely by relying on players having better years, they’ve got an uphill climb.