Comparing the Mets' Rotation to Other Young World Series Staffs
Sometimes youth is not all it's cracked up to be.
When the stakes are high and the pressure is on, sometimes youth and inexperience can lead a player to perform below expectations. They get blown away by the moment, it's too much for them, and the savvy of the veterans they are facing gets the best of them.
But that hasn't been the case with the New York Mets, specifically, the young starting rotation that dominated the Chicago Cubs' star-studded lineup in a four-game sweep that propelled them to the World Series. And it got me wondering, is this the youngest staff that has ever reached a Fall Classic since the invention of the League Championship Series in 1969?
After doing some digging, it is certainly among the youngest, and most effective, starting rotations in World Series history. But there are a few that have this year's Mets beat. Below are the six teams with a rotation that had an average age among their starting pitchers less than 25 years old (including this year's Mets staff). Three of them won it all, two of them came up just short.
1985 Royals - Average Age: 23.5
This staff was loaded with young arms and led the team led them to their first, and only, world championship. World Series MVP Bret Saberhagen was dominant, winning both his starts with two complete games (18 innings). He gave up just one earned run on 11 hits with 10 strikeouts and one walk. It was a performance for the ages, but he was backed up ably by the veteran Liebrandt, who would also go on to be a major part of Atlanta's 1991 and '92 World Series rotations, as well as Danny Jackson and Mark Guicza, both in the early stages of their careers.
The staff's average age of 23.5 years old is the youngest ever in the LCS era to appear in a World Series.
1972 Reds - Average Age: 24.0
The Reds had a couple cracks at the World Series before the Big Red Machines of 1975 and '76 got their titles. One of the early '70s incarnations of the Reds, the 1972 team, was led by 21-year-old Don Gullett, who started Game 1 of the NLCS. Jack Billingham was the "old hand" here, seriously dragging up the curve at 29 years old. Gary Nolan, even though he was only 24, was in his sixth Major League season, so even though he was young, he was most definitely a veteran. Ross Grimsley was in just his second year as a 22-year-old.
It was not as dominant a staff as the one the Mets have been running out there this fall, but it is a bit younger. Cincinnati ended up falling to the third of three Oakland A's teams that won the World Series in 1970, '71 and '72.
2003 Marlins - Average Age: 24.0
Of all the teams on this list, perhaps the Marlins of 2003 have the most similarities to the New York rotation of 2015. Josh Beckett was in his second full season as a starter and burst onto the scene in the playoffs, winning World Series MVP in two starts by giving up just 2 runs on 8 hits with 19 strikeouts and 5 walks in 16 1/3 innings, tossing a complete game in the clincher against the New York Yankees. Dontrelle Willis was a rookie who had a sensational campaign that earned him Rookie of the Year. Brad Penny was in his fourth year as a regular starter and Carl Pavano was the old man in the room at just 27 years old.
There are a lot of parallels to that group and this year's Mets squad.
1986 Mets - Average Age: 24.25
Everyone remembers this legendary Mets team for the veteran savvy that helped dig them out of a 3-1 series hole. They remember Ray Knight and Mookie Wilson and Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry all doing their thing. But it's also important to remember that these veteran position players were led by a very young, and very good, starting staff.
Dwight Gooden was perhaps the best pitcher in the game (Roger Clemens and Mike Scott would have argued that season) at that time, and in his second full season was still just 21 years old. Sid Fernandez was only 23 but in his third season as a big league starter, as was 25-year-old Ron Darling. Bob Ojeda was the veteran of the group, leading the league in winning percentage and finishing fourth in the Cy Young voting.
And they were just a shade younger than this year's Mets, who are next on this list.
2015 Mets - Avgerage Age: 24.75
I was actually surprised when I looked at the ages of this year's Mets staffs because I thought they were a bit younger than they actually were. Jacob deGrom is only in his second Major League season, but is already 27 years old, not reaching the Majors until he was 26. Matt Harvey is in his third year but made his Major League debut in 2012 when he was 23 and missed all of 2014 with Tommy John surgery. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are both rookies, and were it not for the excellent season by Kris Bryant, Syndergaard would likely be the NL Rookie of the Year this year.
Of course, this is probably the most dominant quartet of all the staffs listed here. Their strikeouts per nine innings are far and away better than anyone else, so you could argue this young staff has the best stuff among any of the other ones on this list.
2008 Rays - Average Age: 24.75
The Rays made the postseason behind four young arms, three of whom have had staying power. Scott Kazmir was a 24-year-old fireballer when he faced the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series and did his thing for the Houston Astros this year, helping that team reach the playoffs. James Shields was in his third season as a starter for Tampa, as was Matt Garza. And Andy Sonnanstine was in his second season, his last year was in 2011 when he made just four starts for Tampa.
They were a young staff that had a terrific run until ramming their heads against a red-hot Phillies team, falling short in their bid to help the Rays win their first ever world championship. It's still the only World Series appearance for that franchise.
So while there have been some younger starting rotations to reach the Fall Classic, there may be no foursome that combines talent and youth like this Mets group. Whatever team emerges from the American League will have their hands full.