Young Chicago Cubs ready to defy the odds in the next round


This year’s Chicago Cubs team is roughly five years younger than most World Series champion clubs – but that doesn’t seem to matter to Joe Maddon‘s club.

Conventional wisdom says experience matters in the postseason. Playoff experience is often used as a reason for a team adding a particular player. When playoff predictions are made, teams with the most experience and success often get the nod over up-and-coming teams.

The bottom line is that when the stakes are high and situations are super-tense – as they often are in the playoffs – players who have “been there before” perform better.

Then there is this year’s Chicago Cubs.

They are team lacking for playoff experience. Only nine of the 25 players on the Cubs postseason roster have “been there before”. But they’re winning – and they’re beating teams who have “been there, done that.”

Most of the team’s ‘headliners’ are yet to turn 26: the old dogs of the group, at least in terms of time with Chicago, are Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. However, it’s been the young guns that have led the postseason charge – including Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber.

Is there a precedent for such an inexperienced team winning through the playoffs? If you’ll recall, the storyline is fairly familiar as we’ve seen it happen recently.

Last year’s Kansas City Royals club was similarly inexperienced, but still advanced to the World Series. The 2010 San Francisco Giants lacked in playoff experience but were able to win the championship. So the precedent is there for an inexperienced club to find success, but it is certainly not the norm as most other clubs through the past few years feature several key contributors with playoff experience.

The Cubs, however, stand apart from those teams in one aspect. It’s true that both the Royals of 2014 and the Giants of 2010 were inexperienced in the playoffs, but they were also a bit more aged than this year’s Cubs team.

The average age of the Royals’ key hitters last year was nearly 28 (27.8, to be exact). The 2010 Giants’ average for contributing hitters was over 29. As for the Cubs, their contributing hitters average less than 26 years old.

So we’ve seen that inexperienced teams can find success, though it is not the norm. What about young teams: is there a precedent for them to win it all?

Going back over the last 20 years, we find that the average age for contributing hitters (those who see significant playing time) on World Champs generally falls around 30 years of age.

There are few exceptions where the average falls well below that level, with the 2003 Florida Marlins coming closest to this year’s Cubs in average age at just under 27 years (and that number is skewed largely by the presence of the then 20-year-old Miguel Cabrera).

So, speaking by the numbers, the Cubs are wandering into uncharted territory. Just another reason to love this team.

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While the numbers speak against the Cubs winning it all this year, since there is not a precedent for such a young team to go all the way, those numbers speak well for the Cubs’ future success. The Cubs have yet to enter the magical age range of 29-to-30, the age where a majority of World Series-winning clubs sit.

In looking at the average age for champion teams over the last 20 years, we find that those who see consistent success stay the same age. This means that their average age does not change significantly. For example, the Yankees clubs of the late 90’s and early 00’s averaged consistently at 30 years. The Giants clubs that have won 3 of the last 5 World Series average right around 28 years – in fact, they got younger as a club last year than they were in 2010.

We know the Cubs’ core is going to age together; we hope for a long, long time. But we also know that more key contributors are on the way – which should keep the Cubs’ average consistent as younger players fill in for veterans who move on. So while the Cubs collect their valuable playoff experience, they will also maintain a valued youthfulness.

And, hey, if the Cubs want to go ahead and break all the conventions and win it this year… we’re all for it!

Next: Cubs' Jason Motte says he's ready to return to team