A new trend is rising up in Major League Baseball, and in this postseason it's been hard to miss. As we sit on the brink of the championship round of the playoffs, it's time to recognize a new era of MLB: The youth movement.
It's out with the high paid, clunky, old squads, and in with the young and energetic.
The past few days of the 2013 playoffs have given us the best examples of this change. Tonight the A's hand the ball off to RHP Sonny Gray, a 23-year old rookie, in Oakland's series deciding game five with the Tigers. He will oppose one of baseball's tops pitchers in Justin Verlander.
Meanwhile Wednesday night, in game five of the Cardinals-Pirates series, Pittsburgh opted to have Gerrit Cole, another 23-year old rookie, face off with St Louis' Adam Wainwright.
Staying with that series, in game four of the NLDS, the Cardinals were led to a 2-1 victory against the Pirates using three pitchers, all 23 or younger, to knot the series at two games a piece.
This trend isn't limited to pitchers. The average age of all the team's that qualified for the 2013 postseason is 28.7.
Think about the centerpieces of some of these teams. Jason Kipnis, Matt Adams, Wil Myers, Andrew McCutchen.
This trend seems to have changed the landscape of successful teams in baseball. Teams like the Yankees, the Red Sox (of last year), and the Phillies (of three years ago) are being phased out. Those squads, typically built with older, expensive players, are no longer sustainable.
In this postseason, seven of the 10 teams were outside the top 10 in payroll.
MLB is becoming more about building a team, rather than buying one. The faster young players make it to the show, the longer they stay on their rookie contracts at the top level, and in turn teams' payrolls drop.
Plus, with the struggles of the Yankees and Angels, along with the Red Sox and Dodgers of last season, teams are more scared of handing out long-term big-money deals than ever.
This poses an exciting time for baseball. Just as we thought it was falling behind the NBA as the second most popular sport, youth in MLB is giving the league a second wind.
Young players are inexpensive, which means all those small-market teams can afford them. That, plus the added wildcard spot keeps more teams in the mix across the nation, which should put MLB back on the rise.