Monday, July 08, 2019

Yankees Miss Jugular

The New York Yankees won the first two games in their series against the Tampa Bay Rays and built their largest lead of the year in the division. They lost a tough game on Saturday on a walk-off homer. Hey, that happens. The team still had a chance of leaving that house of horrors called, Tropicana Field, of taking three of four games. Instead, Aaron Boone said it was a good time to rest his two most reliable and versatile hitters (and All Stars), DJ LaMahieu and Gleyber Torres. The Yankees scored one run against Charlie Morton and settled for a split. Instead of stepping on the Rays' jugular, the Yankees stuck to their every game is not important way of life.

I should be ecstatic with the lead the Yankees have in the division considering all the injuries the team suffered over the first half of the season (and continue to have). I should feel good about where the team is heading into the break. The team's place in the standings beats my expectations and hopes to this point. I should be grateful, right?

I would be more grateful if the Yankees' manager and staff (and those analytic squad-mates) had more of a killer instinct. I keep going back to my lack of understanding of the value of rest when a game is lost in the process. In theory, the rested player will perform at a higher level and be worth a few more percentage points in Wins Above Replacement from being rested. What I do not get is how hypothetical "wins" are more important than actual wins.

The counter argument would be: Can you guarantee that the Yankees would have won against Morton if DJLM and Gleyber played the game? Of course not. That said, I still think the odds of winning would have been far greater. The value of DJLM and Gleyber Torres is that they are versatile hitters. Those are the types of hitters needed against an ace like Charlie Morton. Without BOTH in the lineup, the Yankees are basically full of three-outcome batters (walk, strikeout, homer). A pitcher like Morton can fully exploit a lineup like that just as Morton did with one run and a gazillion strikeouts.

 Aaron Boone said that he felt that both needed a break as the team leaned on them heavily during the first half. How heavy is heavily? Both DJLM and Gleyber Torres have played in 81 of the Yankees' 88 games. They each now have seven days off to this point in the season. That does not sound overworked to me. Gleyber Torres is 23-years-old. Brett Gardner has played 83 games thus far. He is the older veteran.  Cody Bellenger is also 23 and has played in 88 of the Dodgers' 91 games. Max Muncy is closer to LeMahieu's age and has played 89.

One could also make a point that Torres and LeMahieu will not get a normal break like the others because of the All Star Game and have to travel to Cleveland. Oh boohoo! Mike Trout played Sunday as did Bellinger. Both are the best players in their respective leagues and have to travel further away from and to home for the All Star Game than any of the Yankees' players.

I do not advocate the Billy Martin way of playing his players and his pitchers until they dropped. Boone is observant enough to see the signs that a player needs a day. But this feels all too programmed and, at the same time, illogical. All I know is that the Yankees allowed the Rays to get two games closer and keep their hopes alive and, more importantly, allowed the Red Sox to creep two games closer instead of being buried in a deeper hole come the All Star Break. AND, it hurt them in the "best record in the AL" department.

The Yankees are in a tough division that is far from decided. Injuries still present problems and question marks. Pitching is still a bit of problem. The Yankees need to present the best possible lineup on the field. That means having versatile hitters interspersed with the boppers who sometimes deliver and sometimes do not. I should be happy. And I am. But I would be happier if this team had more of a killer instinct.