We all know the Blue Jays are getting younger.
The last few years have seen the jettisoning of several veterans, including Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Lyle Overbay, B.J. Ryan, Shaun Marcum, Alex Gonzalez, and on and on …
While the team is now younger in the outfield and behind the plate, there is no spot on the roster that exudes as much youth as the starting rotation.
If Toronto breaks camp and heads North with Kyle Drabek and Marc Rzepczynski in the rotation (as I at least expect them to), then the starting five will be young – very young.
The projected starting five look like this:
1. Ricky Romero (26)
2. Brandon Morrow (26)
3. Brett Cecil (24)
4. Marc Rzepczynski (25)
5. Kyle Drabek (23)
Average age = 24.8 years old.
To put it in context, consider that the average age of the Phillies rotation is 30.2 years old.
For further context, consider this fact: 24.8 years is the youngest average age a Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation has been since 1978 and the third youngest rotation EVER in the history of the franchise.
That 1978 rotation consisted of Jesse Jefferson (28), Tom Underwood (24), Jim Clancy (22), Jerry Gavin (22), and Dave Lemanczyk (27).
The only years Toronto has been younger? Try 1979 (23.6 years old) and 1977 (23.2 years old) – also known as Year 3 and Year 1. To but it bluntly, this year’s projected quintet is the youngest the Jays have unleashed since their first three years of existence.
(Note on table below: average age is made up of the five pitchers with the most games started each year (per baseball-reference))
Judging from the above table, there seems to be a correlation between rotation age and winning. Four times the Jays have had a 30 year old rotation – three of those four years they won the division.
As if the challenge of being young wasn’t enough, if the projected five becomes the actual five, it will mark the first time in franchise history that no member of the starting rotation is over the age of 27. Even in the ’70’s the staff was lead by a Jesse Jefferson or a Dave Lemanczyk at 28 or 29 years of age.
In 2011 the elder statesmen will be Romero and Morrow at 26.
Even if that core five does change, the average age likely won’t. By most depth charts, the sixth man in the picture for a starter’s role is Jessie Litsch. His age? He turns 26 next week.
But while a young rotation might seem scary, volatile, and a sure bet for a losing team, Jays fans should take heart:
The 2010 Oakland A’s proved that there can be beauty in youth. At the end of last year their starting five were only 23.4 years of age – and lead the league in starters ERA.
But while the Jays may be young, and may take their lumps in the AL East, one thing is certain – I’d rather finish last with youth than finish third with over-the-hill pitchers. I’d rather get beaten with guys who are learning and on the upside than guys who have already learned and are coming down.
I’ll conclude with a story. In 1981 Toronto had a very young rotation (25.8 years old) lead by youngsters Dave Stieb (23), Jim Clancy (25), and Luis Leal (24). They finished dead last.
In 1985 Toronto’s rotation was a bit older (28.4 years old). They were still lead by Dave Stieb (now 27), Jim Clancy (29), and Luis Leal (28) (with Jimmy Key and Doyle Alexander throw in). They won the AL East.
Romero, Drabek, Morrow, and Cecil could be next.