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Ferguson: Age, injury and their implications on AL East staffs

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Scott Ferguson
2/24/2014 1:15:50 PM
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There is a fine line in sports betweeen age-old experience and just plain old age. Generalyl speaking in sports, getting older equates to more injuries and greater recovery time from said injuries. Yet the past two seasons, it was largely the younger pitchers of the Toronto Blue Jays, Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison and Brandon Morrow who were injured and, last year in particular, veterans R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle who pitched the most innings.

I don't know if it should concern the Blue Jays or not at this point, but the two youngest and most economical  rotations in their division belong to the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles.

With the Rays rotation as is right now with Jeremy Hellickson recuperating from an injury, David Price, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi, the likely fifth starter to start the season, have a cumulative age of 124. If Hellickson eventully supplants Odorizzi, the number will move up to 127 years. Without Hellickson, they will be spending a little over $16.4 million in total on their five-man rotation and $19.6 million when he returns. Not bad at all for a team that has been a post-season contender since 2008 and not one of those pitchers is above 28 years of age.

The Orioles made the post-season two years ago and came fairly close again last season. Their projected rotation is slightly older and a bit more expensive than the Rays. The total age of their top-five starters will be 139 or 140, depending on whether Bud Norris or recently signed Korean right hander Suk-Min Yoon slots into the rotation. If Norris is in the rotation, the cash layout is about $20 million. If it is Lee it drops off a bit to $17 million and change. The oldest pitcher in the O's rotation is recent signing Ubaldo Jimenez at 30.

The Jays and Boston Red Sox have the most 30-or-over starters at three apiece. Boston's highest paid starter is also their oldest in John Lackey, who's 35 and will be making $15.25 million this season. The BoSox will be paying just over $50 million to their top-five starters. If Ricky Romero somehow earns the fifth starter's job, every one of the Jays starters will be 29 or over and their cumulative age will be 162. That's an average age 32.2 and speaks to how the Blue Jays haven't done as good a job at developing young pitchers, like the St. Louis Cardinals have, and how their prospects have either been set back by injuries or have been traded. If Esmil Rogers or Todd Redmond fills the five-slot, the age of the Jays pitchers will still total 161, good for the oldest in the division with Boston's starting five totaling 152 years of age or 30.4 on average.

The Jays' pay for their starting pitchers if Romero is in the rotation will be $50.7 million, virtually the same as the Red Sox. Mark Buehrle will be making the most at $18 million, more than any Boston starter.  If Romero isn't in the rotation, the  payout for starters will be about $44 million.

The Yankees, as usual, are in a class all their own. They will be paying out $77.8 million to their five starters, including about $23 million each to C.C. Sabathia and rookie Masahiro Tanaka. If Michael Pineda doesn't rebound after missing two years with shoulder troubles, they might have to add another veteran starter who would push their cash outlay even higher. Even with 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda in their rotation, the total age of the Yanks current top five is 149 years or an average of 29.8 years old.

What all this means is hard to say. After all, talent is talent at any age. But Tampa Bay's average age of 24.8 for its staff, just sounds a lot better than the Jays average age of 32.2 and the Rays' record since 2008 speaks for itself.


- Did I miss something here? Roy Halladay signs a one-day contract with the Blue Jays over the off season, so he could retire officially as a member of his original ball club. There was all kinds of talk about him joining the organization, at least initially as a spring training guest instructor, with the role growing as the years progressed. Then, over the weekend, Halladay shows up at the Philadelphia Phillies camp as a guest instructor. Did the Blue Jays fumble the ball or did Halladay simply feel he owed something to the Phils for his years with that club? It makes sense in one regard. Roy would certainly know more about the Phils' up and coming young pitchers than he would about the Jays at this point and, perhaps, felt he could contribute more there. Still, it would be a shame, if, somehow, the Blue Jays have lost Roy Halladay to the Phillies again.


- I don't know if this means the wall blocking PED users from making the Hall of Fame is beginning to crumble, but relations are at least beginning to thaw. First, the Red Sox announced Roger Clemens would be inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame this summer and now Barry Bonds is at the San Francisco Giants camp as a special guest hitting instructor. Two of the most villified PED users are now being welcomed back into the fold.

Then over the weekend, ESPN's Buster Olney, one of the great  clean-up hitters in the baseball media whose opinion carries a lot of weight, wrote an article on the "incongruity" of Barry Bonds not being in Cooperstown. It may take some time, but clearly, the movement has begun to include all of baseball's greatest stars in the Hall of Fame, no matter their sins against the fans and the game.




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