Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Over Under On How Many Yankee Regulars Rest In Twin Bill

I obviously wrote this before finding out about Kendrys Morales. And no, I am not thrilled with the deal at all. If he costs Clint Frazier a single at bat, I will be upset. And after the double-header, which player will be sent down to get back to 25? Argh!

That title is way too long! I could not think of a shorter one. Anyway, The New York Yankees have had the first two games of a cushy home series against the Orioles rained out. That is unfortunate as it would have been nice to have the easier opponent for a few games. Now they will have to play two double-headers to make up the losses. One will be on Wednesday. My question here is, despite not playing the last two days and having an off day on Thursday, how many Yankee regulars will have at least one game off during the double-header? My number is three with a lean toward over.

At this point, the "regulars" are: Luke Voit, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Cameron Maybin, Clint Frazier and Gary Sanchez. I can predict easily that Sanchez will sit one of the games as catchers never play both halves. Gleyber Torres seems to have a barking elbow, so he will sit at least one game. And Aaron Hicks is just coming back from the DL, so "caution" will dictate him sitting at least one of the games. Who is my fourth? Let's make it Brett Gardner who often sits one game of a double-header. That will mean that Hicks will play one game in center and Gardner the other.

I can somewhat understand Sanchez and Gleyber. Both are dinged a little and I get the catcher thing. That would be the only two *I* would rest. If Hicks is not healthy enough to be back and play two games, then he shouldn't be back.

But, do not be surprised if the Yankees, in their infinite wisdom and hell-fire desire to rest people, rest more than four. If so, I will be furious and it will not be the first time this season, nor will it be the last.

Let's talk about this rest thing for a minute. I did some work at to find out the adverse affects playing almost every game has on players. Obviously, I am not a numbers guru and there are flaws in my thinking. For example, I concentrate on OPS because figuring out first half and second half WAR would be beyond me. I still do not believe in the fielding statistics and no one has convinced me that they are not seriously flawed....still. So, I went by OPS. And you can follow along with my thought process with my spreadsheet on Google Sheets here (click on the word, "here").

What I found first that was interesting to me was that from 1940 to 2018, the average number of players that played nearly every game has remained around ten players per year. There are big swings and variations from year to year, but that average has held true for 70 years. But in the last five seasons, the average number of players playing at least 160 games has dropped to 7.8 players a year. So this idea of resting players is taking a hold on teams and began about five seasons ago.

There were 90 players who played 160 games or more in a season since 2010. Of those players, 51 of them or 57% had a worse second half than their first half. The same 90 produced 45 or exactly half as many worse Septembers than their season's OPS. Ten of them, or 10% played less than 100 games the following season. The latter statistic seems incidental and more of the fluke injury kind of thing.

There were several repeat players on the list. Hunter Pence did it twice and once way under-performed in the second half of the season and in the September and once way over-performed both. The same thing happened with Prince Fielder. Others that did it multiple times (more than two) had a season or two where they were worse in the second half and the last month and a season or two better. So there really was not a rhyme or reason for multiple full-season players.

There were some players who had amazing second halves and last months and some that had abysmal ones. The average season OPS among the 90 seasons was .809. The average OPS for the second half among the 90 was .802. And the last month of the season average was also .802. While there were a lot of variations among the 90, the averages as a whole do not fall off a cliff.

If I did notice one trend, it was that middle infielders seemed to suffer from playing almost every game more than most others. Among the few that really tanked in September (besides the one by Hunter Pence already mentioned) guys like Rougned Odor and Jonathan Schoop had September OPS figures in the .500s. That said, Alcides Escobar finished better in multiple seasons in the second half and the last month. So there isn't a global statement that can be mentioned about infielders.

Perhaps I should have used OPS+ or some of the stats to look at the splits. And please note that I am not anywhere close to proving anything. But my list just does not show a smoking gun that playing nearly every game means a player will be far less valuable later on in the season. Call it a conversation starter that others smarter than I can do the math justice.

I am willing to go so far as to say giving a player a day off during a long stretch is probably a good thing. I am not willing to move from my position that a player who is on a good roll should not skip a game during that roll. Nor do I think it necessary to give a player a day off when the schedule already has a day off that week or just recently. If a player is banged up a little and could use a day off combined with a scheduled day off is okay I guess.

I am just not okay with the idea that a game can be put at risk because you want to keep your best players on the bench to rest them. How about if you lose the division by a game? How about if you lose the wildcard by a game? How about if you lose out on home field advantage by a game? No, I will never accept that. I do not know if Aaron Boone makes those decisions or he is given direction by the analytics department. Every game is important and every game should be fully attempted to win. My beef is when this rest analytic stuff puts the Yankees in a poorer position to win the game.

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