Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Millennials vs. Generation X

I don't watch much tv, and especially not "reality" tv, but I saw commercials for the latest season of Survivor, which pitted Millennials against Generation X, and it made me wonder (not for the first time, by any stretch): what if we did this in baseball?

Just like with my Vin Scully piece, I'm a little late capitalizing on this (for the dozens and dozens of readers who stumble upon my blog), but better late than never. A little research revealed that Survivor featured two teams of ten, and that both my baseball generations and the Strauss-Howe generations are a little older than the Survivor "generations". Survivor's youngest member of Team Gen-X was born in 1982, and its oldest Millennial was born in 1984 (no contestants were born in 1983). I place the Gen-X/Millennial split at 1980-1981, and Strauss & Howe have it pegged at 1981-1982.

With that said, I used the Play Index at baseball-reference to come up with two teams of ten players each (nine fielders and a DH), based on their year of birth and 2016 WAR:

CCarlos Ruiz1.81979CBuster Posey4.71987
1BMark Teixeira-0.619801BFreddie Freeman6.51989
2BChase Utley2.019782BJose Altuve7.71990
3BAdrian Beltre6.419793BKris Bryant7.71992
SSJimmy Rollins-0.11978SSCorey Seager6.11994
LFCoco Crisp0.41979LFChristian Yelich5.31991
CFRajai Davis0.41980CFMike Trout10.61991
RFNelson Cruz4.71980RFMookie Betts9.61992
DHDavid Ortiz5.11975DHEdwin Encarnacion3.71983
PRich Hill4.11980PJustin Verlander6.61983

I set criteria of at least 40 games played at each position, and 20 games at DH, although I had to lower the standard to get a qualified shortstop for Team Gen X. And I cheated in a couple of other places, too: Bryant played 40 games in left field and Manny Machado played 40 games at shortstop; I ignored them and went with Yelich and Seager.

Still, to no one's surprise, Team Millennial would mop the floor with Team Gen-X. The Gen-Xers really only have four good players - Beltre, Cruz, Ortiz, and Hill - and are basically replacement level at four other positions, whereas Team Millennial has an all-star at every position, including both league MVPs. To put the Gen-Xers WAR total - 24.2 - in context, the top 9 position players and best pitcher on the 2016 Cubs combined for 39.4 WAR.

The WINS total assumes that all other players used by either team over the course of a 162-game season are equal. In other words, if neither team derived any advantage from any players beyond the ten starters, the Millennials would have a record of 103-59 against Gen X. (There were only 55 Gen-Xers left in MLB in 2016, so if I were to fill in the rest of the 25-man rosters with players from the teams' respective generations, the Millennials' much greater depth would give them an even better win-loss record.)

So...when was the last season that an all-star team of Gen Xers would probably have beaten an all-star team of Millennials? You have to go back to 2008:

CKelly Shoppach3.41980CJoe Mauer5.61983
1BAlbert Pujols9.219801BJustin Morneau4.21981
2BChase Utley9.019782BDustin Pedroia6.91983
3BChipper Jones7.319723BDavid Wright6.81982
SSJimmy Rollins5.41978SSHanley Ramirez6.71983
LFManny Ramirez5.91972LFCarlos Quentin5.31982
CFCarlos Beltran6.91977CFGrady Sizemore5.91982
RFRyan Ludwick5.51978RFNick Markakis7.41983
DHMilton Bradley5.21978DHJosh Hamilton5.41981
PJohan Santana7.11979PTim Lincecum7.91984

Pujols and Utley were still in their primes, and Chipper and Manny each had their last great seasons. This time, I cheated for the Millennials, lowering the DH threshold to 10 games to get Josh Hamilton in the line-up.

Utley and Rollins are the only players that make either team in both 2008 and 2016, although I suppose I could have cheated and put Pujols at 1B and Beltran at LF or CF on the 2016 team (both had productive seasons, but primarily as DH's).

The complete turnover on the Millennial team from 2008 to 2016 serves as a reminder that not only is Generation X aging and rapidly disappearing from the game, but many stars from the first Millennial wave - Mauer and Wright and Han-Ram (although he's found new life, and a career high in RBI, at first base) and Sizemore and Lincecum - are also way past their primes and deep in decline (or retired, in Sizemore's case). We're all getting old.

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