Baseball is trending younger, and that's not exactly a newsworthy statement. It's been talked about at length here and elsewhere for years, as young stars like Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr. arrive in the big leagues prepared to succeed immediately, and as teams become more aware of the aging curve and the larger contracts that declining veterans command. We know that speed peaks young, and fastball velocity might, too.
Youth is the name of the game, is the point, and "Father Time remains undefeated" is a favorite saying in baseball just because it remains so true. Time comes for everyone. ("You're older than you've ever been and now you're even older," as one particularly sobering song reminds you.)
Everyone, it seems, feels the effects. Everyone, that is, except for Minnesota's Nelson Cruz, who is merely having one of the greatest "old" seasons in the history of the game — and one of the greatest second-act careers ever — at just about the most important time. He's been worth 3.1 Wins Above Replacement, and his record-setting Twins entered play Monday leading the AL Central over Cleveland by … three games (and increased that lead to four games by the end of the night).
But before we get to age — and we will get back to his age — let's set it aside for a minute. Let's ignore the number on his birth certificate, and look just at his standing among all other qualified Major League hitters this year. This isn't just about being older. Around the Statcast lab, we favor two different metrics to evaluate hitter skill. The first, expected wOBA, looks at quality of contact (based on exit velocity and launch angle), as well as amount of contact. The second, FanGraphs' wRC+, is park-adjusted, based on outcomes, and sets "100" as league average.