Monday, August 30, 2004

Cardinals - An Old Team?

As I watched the Fox broadcast on Saturday, Steve Lyons made a statement that made me scratch my head. To paraphrase, he pointed out that the Cardinals “are getting older, so they have a sense of urgency to win this year."

Now, I don’t know about you, but I was perplexed. Cardinals? Old? That doesn’t stack up with my opinion of this team. Yes, there are guys like Woody and Walker. But there are also guys like Molina, Luna, and (some forget) Pujols. So, I decided to look into this situation further.

For starters, I looked up the average age of all 30 major league teams. ESPN has this information on their website, with the average being over the entire 40 man roster. Much to my surprise, the Cardinals are in fact an older team in MLB. The average age of the Cardinals is 30.8 years, 3rd highest in the majors and tops in the NL. The average age across the majors is 29.3, with the median age being 29.4. Interestingly, the oldest two teams are the Yankees (32.5) and the Red Sox (31.4). Do the national media have the same concerns about these teams from the East Coast? Somehow I doubt it. But I digress.

However, there is less reason for concern in regard to the age of the Cardinal team. Rather than kicking out a couple of old guys to bring down the average – one could make the same argument for most teams – let’s break it down by the role of players on the team.

Starting Rotation

Woody Williams 38
Matt Morris 30
Chris Carpenter 29
Jeff Suppan 29
Jason Marquis 26

Yes, I suspect that Woody is at the end of his career, despite the great numbers he’s putting up yet again. Between Woody and Morris, my guess is that if they are back at all, it will be at a reduced cost. More likely, however, the Cardinals will see some combination of Rick Ankiel (25), Dan Haren (23), or Adam Wainwright (26) taking over for one or both of those guys next year.


Eldred 36
Kline 32
Izzy 31
Tavarez 31
King 30
Calero 29

The bullpen is a little older, but still not ancient. Eldred is skewing the age higher here, and I am not too concerned about finding a replacement for the 6th guy in the pen (despite how good he has been since June 1st). In my opinion, bullpen pitchers should be easy to find at a discount rate, and most teams overpay for their services. (See the success of Calero for Exhibit A of bullpen pitchers that can be found on the cheap.) I should also note that Al Reyes is currently driving up the average age of the Cardinals, as he is 34 years old and on the 40 man roster.


Matheny 33
Molina 22

If anyone had any doubts about Molina taking over from a defensive standpoint, that collision at home plate on Saturday should erase those doubts. Matheny may be back next season, but I suspect it won’t be at the $3.5 million he’s making this year.


Womack 34
Anderson 30
Rolen 29
Renteria 29
Pujols 24
Luna 24

This group should be enough to put the “Need to win this year” crowd at ease. The best two hitters on the team – who are also 2nd and 3rd in the majors in win shares at this writing – have not reached 30 yet. Pujols shouldn’t hit his peak for another 2 or 3 years, which is scary to say the least. Womack has been solid this year, but I am not convinced it hasn’t been a fluke. If he is not back, it will not be the end of the world. I would like to see Renteria back, and suspect we will.


Ah, the true culprits in driving up the age of the Cardinal team.

Walker 37
Sanders 36
Taguchi 35
Edmonds 34
Mabry 33
Cedeno 30

Technically, Ray Lankford is also in this group at the age of 37, even though he is in Memphis for at least another couple of days. I think Walker and Sanders should have enough gas left in the tank to be not only productive again next year, but above average producers. Edmonds shows no signs of slowing down, but age is bound to start catching up with him. And Taguchi likely won’t be back next year – at least, not at $1 million.

Overall, the outfield position is probably the area of most concern for the long term condition of this team. The Cards are set through 2005, but after that Walker and Sanders will be gone, and Edmonds will be getting close to the end. On top of that, the Cardinals are a bit shallow when it comes to outfield prospects other than John Gall.

So, on one hand I stand corrected. The Cardinals are an older team when compared to other teams. But on the other hand, I see no reason as to why the Cardinals should not be back next year in the hunt for their 5th playoff berth over a 6-year span. They will have to make some moves to improve their outfield prospects. (Daric Barton to left field?) With that being the glaring weakness, however, and with Walt having more than a year to work on it? I can’t say that I am losing any sleep over the age of this team.


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