Baseball fans (and analysts) love veteran players. Leaders, as some would say. The adoration extends especially strong to the pitching rotation. If a young staff lacks one or two gray beards then expect those young guns to crumble under the pressure of the major leagues. Most people would prefer ol' dependable if given the choice between scratched vinyl like Jarrod Washburn, Jeff Suppan, and Paul Byrd or three digital format arms consisting of ... say, the entire Oakland Athletics rotation.
For my purposes, I want to focus on the American League; the superior league and, by extension, the one which offers a tougher assignment for pitchers. Rather than compare ages and performance on a staff level, I simply wanted to know whether the young pitchers were holding their own. Any way I slice it, inherent selection bias resides. The youngsters like Rick Porcello, Brett Anderson, and Trevor Cahill are stellar young talents reaching the majors before most young pitchers. Meanwhile, do you think Tim Wakefield, John Smoltz, and Andy Pettitte stick around if not for some savvy?
The youngest pitching staffs - this is bullpen and rotation as far as I can tell - are as follows; Oakland, Detroit, Minnesota, Seattle, and Texas. The oldest: Boston, Chicago, New York, Kansas City, and Los Angeles. We know that a few of these teams are fielding the rotations they are out of their competitive environment.
Oakland had some hopes of competing in what appeared as a wide open division.
Detroit is making the playoffs.
Minnesota has endured some injuries.
Seattle shared faint hopes with Oakland and could have been lower if not for the budget eaters.
Texas again had some hopes and they still do.
Boston has its share of young guns.
Chicago traded most of theirs for Jake Peavy.
New York seems unlikely to ever field an extremely young rotation.
Kansas City is indefensible here, but at least they went the cheap old rotation filler route instead of Carlos Silva.
Los Angeles surprises me; I figured they would've run out of starters by now.
While this path differs from my original intent, I find Detroit's staff as one that catches my eye more than others. I'm fully capable of admitting this has more to do with Justin Verlander than anything else. Amongst the young teams, he's the best pitcher (maybe second best if you want to argue Felix Hernandez) and amongst old teams he is the best. I suppose what I'm saying is: he's good, no matter the age.
He's a fun pitcher to watch too. I had the pleasure of doing so Friday night. He throws his hard fastball early and often. The pitch is averaging nearly 96 miles per hour this season and he tosses it 70% of the time. His intent on the mound is to retire hitters by overpowering them. He does this well. When Detroit made their improbable run to the World Series, Verlander became highly publicized as the wunderkind. He's earned any and all hype that should come his way when the Tigers make October this season.
Looking into Verlander's stats led me to this tidbit.
Detroit leads the league in games in which their starter throws 120 or more pitches with nine. The second place team has five. Seven(!) of these games have been thrown by Verlander. For some perspective on this, the second and third place finishers (Matt Garza and CC Sabathia) have three apiece. Verlander has more than them combined. Only eight starters in the American League have multiple 120+ games. Verlander has seven by himself.
I have no idea whether this endangers his future performance or health -- although any starting pitcher having a season with a sub-2.9 FIP is likely to have a markedly worse season the next year - but I noticed something else while looking over his gamelogs. He is a 26-year-old and has the most starting experience on the staff and the most time spent on Detroit this year.
And here I thought veteran starters being the key was simply cliche.