In his upcoming book, Bill James lists the top 25 major leaguers under the age of 30. Baseball Digest Daily got a hold of the list, which consists of 13 hitters and 12 pitchers.
To achieve his “Young Talent Inventory,” James first eliminated from the list all players who were 29 years old in 2007 or older, to give a definition to “young talent.” Then he used two widely used statistics—“runs created” for position players and “runs allowed” for pitchers—as the basis for comparison. However, James made several adjustments and then took into account how many years the player has left before he is 33 years old.
So. The first step in constructing a list of the best players under the age of 30 is to eliminate anybody that is 29 years old. Bill James. Baseball Genius.
Scott Kazmir is ranked as the 3rd best pitcher (6th overall), behind Fausto Carmona and Felix Hernandez. James Shields makes the list as the 9th best pitcher (20th overall). What? No Jason Hammel? Kid K’s ranking seems about right, especially as a left hander, but we are not sure we would rank Shields ahead of both CC Sabathia and Brandon Webb, although it is closer than many would think. Shields is a year younger and it would be difficult to argue that he very well could have won 19 games with the Indians or 18 games with the D-Backs.
Noticeably absent from the list of top young hitters are the Devil Rays own Carl Crawford (26), BJ Upton (23) and Delmon Young (22). Do you think the Nationals would hesitate to trade Ryan Zimmerman (#11) for any of those three? Of course not. How about the O’s and Nick Markakis? or the Pads and Adrian Gonzalez? And those are just the obvious players that the Rays young trio are obviously superior to. Arguments could be made for 4-5 others on the list.
We are not sure why CC, Upton and Young were left off the list but we can only imagine what “adjustments” James made to his calculations. Maybe he didn’t want 25% of the list to be Devil Rays. Because clearly, baseball is played on a calculator and having that much talent on one team would lead to 125 wins according to his abacus. And clearly “adjustments” needed to be made to the calculations to explain why the Rays did not win 125 games. It doesn’t matter though. He is Bill James and he is smarter than all of us.