Much of the Phillies' struggles last year had to do with the kids.
You see, the veterans rolled right along in 2014. Chase Utley had a terrific season at age 35, as did Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz. Marlon Byrd, at 36, hit 25 homers. Those four vets led the Phils' position players in fWAR last year, with only Ben Revere, the youngster, among the team's top five.
Last year, those immature kids were the worst. Cody Asche was worth just half a win. Darin Ruf was the only other player under 30 with a positive fWAR, and Domonic Brown was, quite simply, the worst baseball player in the sport last year.
The kids were not alright. This was how it looked.
In 2014, players over 30 generated 12.4 fWAR, while the players under 30 generated 0.2 fWAR. And while it was great to see the veterans playing so well, it was disheartening to see the younger guys, for the most part, struggle so badly.
This year, the numbers look quite different through the first month of the season.
Through May 3, there is not a single veteran player older than 30 who has played at a level above a replacement player. Ruiz, Howard, Sizemore, Francoeur and Utley have combined for -1.8 fWAR, with Utley's staggering -1.0 fWAR "leading" the pack.
The under-30 crew, on the other hand, have provided the few decent performances the team has seen this year. Freddy Galvis (0.9), Odubel Herrera (0.6), Ruf (0.2), Revere (0.1), and Asche (0.1) have all been above replacement level (if only slightly for most), with Cesar Hernandez the lone under-30 player below replacement level (-0.2) so far in 2015.
That puts the young folks at 1.7 fWAR through the first month of the season, as compared to the vets' -1.8.
What is going on here?
Frankly, if there is any trend we should be rooting for, it's this one. The veterans were bound to regress, although no one saw Utley's struggles taking on the massive proportions they have this year. And while the team isn't exactly missing Byrd, his replacements, Francoeur and Sizemore, have been dismal.
The progression of the younger players is encouraging, Galvis in particular. Herrera seems to have a good idea at the plate, and his defense will hopefully get better the more he plays in center. And while Asche has cooled after a hot start, he definitely looks more comfortable in the big leagues this year than he did last year.
Are any of the younger players All Stars? Probably not, although Galvis' batting average will certainly keep him in the discussion if he keeps it up. But it's still good to see.
Will it continue? It's hard to imagine Utley won't get a little bit better as the season goes on. It's hard to believe he went from a 4.5-win player to a guy who's worse than Cesar Hernandez. But it's clear the vets are on the way down, with the younger guys hopefully on the way up.
Whatever it is, it's certainly different than last year.