Durability, old age, and the YankeesBy
This is no secret, but the Yankees have an old roster. Their position players averaged 32.7 years of age last season (weighted by playing time), making them the oldest group in franchise history by a little more than three months. New York is returning almost the exact same squad this year, except with Brett Gardner (29) replacing Raul Ibanez (40) in left and Ichiro Suzuki (39) replacing Nick Swisher (32) in right. The DH spot remains unaccounted for at the moment. Barring something unexpected, they’ll set a new record for average position player age again this year.
With relatively old age comes many things, namely injury concerns. Not only do older players tend to get hurt a little more often, they also take longer to recover. It comes with the territory and is a valid concern for the Yankees this coming season. Derek Jeter (ankle) resumed baseball activities today following his October surgery, but we won’t know if he’ll be ready for Opening Day until well into Spring Training. Alex Rodriguez (hip) isn’t coming back anytime soon, probably not until after the All-Star break according to Dr. Bryan Kelly.
One thing these old Yankees do have going for them is a track record of durability. Ichiro has played in at least 157 games in 11 of his 12 years in MLB, and his 485 games played over the last three seasons are tied with Prince Fielder for the most in baseball. Robinson Cano is right behind those two at 480 games since 2010. Curtis Granderson has appeared in at least 156 games in three of the last four years and ranks 24th in games played (451) over the last three seasons. Jeter (447) and Mark Teixeira (437) are also among the top 50 in total games played since 2010. By my count, the only other team with more than three players on that list is the Tigers with six.
Now past durability does not guarantee future health, of course. Jeter’s been remarkably durable over the years but that didn’t prevent him from crumbling to the ground with the ankle fracture during the postseason. Teixeira played in 155+ games in four straight seasons before battling a cough, wrist issues, and a calf injury last summer. Granderson missed a month with a hamstring problem in 2010 and an ulcer landed Ichiro in the DL in 2009. Heck, CC Sabathia has been the model of pitcher durability over the years and he landed on the DL not once, but twice last season. He’s not a position player, but I digress.
Anyway, I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. The point I really wanted to make is that while injuries and recovery from those injuries stand out as concerns stemming from the team’s age, I’m just as worried about these guys staying productive all season. Older players don’t just get hurt and miss time, they wear down and stop being productive down the stretch. The 162-game schedule is no joke, especially when you’re talking about guys on the wrong side of 30 who have been playing 150+ games annually their entire careers. It’s one thing to get hurt and be replaced by the fresh body, it’s another to stay healthy but not produce.