Aug. 16—It would be one thing if the Guardians were like the Tigers and A's in the American League or the Nationals and Pirates in the National League — teams so deep in the cellars of their divisions it would take a miner's lamp to find them.
The Guardians are not one of those teams.
The A's, Nationals and Pirates are in tear it down to the studs and rebuild mode. The Tigers are just a team that failed to meet expectations this season, so they fired General Manager Al Avila on Aug. 10. Avila had been in the Tigers front office since 2002 and their G.M. since 2015.
No, the Guards are not rebuilding with young players. They are building toward what they hope is a deep playoff run this season with the youngest squad, hitting and pitching, among Major League Baseball's 30 teams.
All season, youth has been the theme of their improbable climb to first place in the A.L. Central. The Guardians, 62-54 before hosting the Tigers on Aug. 16, lead the second-place Twins by two games. They've won eight of their last 10 games, but the more impressive number is 55-42 since April 29, so the current hot streak isn't a fluke.
Terry Francona is cool with leaning on young @CleGuardians in the heat of a pennant race. pic.twitter.com/FYqvHEnK4C
— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) August 16, 2022
According to baseball-reference.com, the average age of Guardians batters is 26.0 years — the youngest in both leagues. The Diamondbacks are second at 26.6 and the Pirates third at 26.8. The Yankees are the oldest with an average age of 30.6.
The Guardians also have the youngest pitching staff in the Majors with an average age of 26.4 years. That's a full year younger than the Royals, the second-youngest pitching staff at 27.4. The Mets have the oldest pitching staff at 31.0 years.
Manager Terry Francona is fine with riding these young horses as the playoff race heats up. The moment certainly hasn't gotten too big for rookie Oscar Gonzalez, the right fielder who on Aug. 16 hit cleanup against the Tigers at Progressive Field. Gonzalez is batting .305 and has 17doubles in 45 games.
I don't know if there is a website with the answer to this, but I'm guessing if the Guardians make it to the World Series or even the ALCS, Gonzalez will be the first player in playoff history to have "Sponge Bob Square Pants" as his walkup song.
Left fielder Steven Kwan is having such a splendid season he no longer seems like a rookie. But he is, a rookie hitting .297 and one of the steadiest players in Francona's lineup.
"We were kind of talking about it today," Francona said. "A lot of times when you bring up guys, you kind of hope that you can throw them out there and see if they're good enough. When you're in the middle of a pennant race, sometimes you kind of have to ... It's a little bit of a big ask to have this many young guys come up and just to think that it's going to be seamless."
Neither Gonzalez, Nolan Jones nor Will Benson were with the Guardians to start the season. This is Owen Miller's second season with the Indians/Guardians, but it is the first time his load has been so heavy. He played in 60 games last season. He has already played in 103 games this season remaining with 45 remaining in the regular season.
"I want to be careful as we're making judgements on these guys, like can they play, to remember that some of these guys aren't playing every day," Francona said. "They're used to (playing daily in the minors). They're at a new level. There are a lot of challenges for these guys."
That young pitching staff — the starting rotation has the lowest ERA in the American League (1.57) over the last 10 games. The starters are 5-1 in those 10 games and the team, as mentioned earlier, is 8-2.
Here's another stat to feast on: Relief pitchers James Karinchak (14 2/3 innings), Sam Hentges (12) and Nick Sandlin (11) own the three longest active scoreless streaks by A.L. relievers on a current 26-man roster.
Want one more? OK. The only American League team with more stolen bases than the 78 by the Guardians are 88 by the Texans.
The kids are having fun. And they're winning.