Wash Is Just Gonna Wash
As Peter Ellwood pointed out in the introduction of a recent article seenhere, at SDI we take pride in digging deeper than most to make sure no stone is unturned and that what you think is happening on the field is actually happening. With this in mind, I have been paying close attention recently to one narrative in particular from last season to see if things have actually changed.
Let’s first setup some parameters for this discussion because it’s not an apple to apples discussion and requires some comps to be fair and accurate. The most difficult aspect of analyzing lineups from two or more different seasons is comparing platoon positions or analyzing a position that was a revolving door because of injury. For the sake of this article, I am going to not bring the catcher and first base positions into this discussion because of the platoon nature of those positions. In 2012, a combination of Mike Napoli (72), Yorvit Torrealba (49), Geovony Soto (44), Luis Martinez (10), and Brandon Snyder (1) all logged fewer than 100 games behind the plate and all teams use platoons to get through the grind each season at that position. I also felt it was necessary to exclude Mitch Moreland and first base from this discussion because of how first base has been used the last three years as well. No first baseman logged over 100 games last year with Mitch Moreland playing the most at 95 games, so for the sake of just comparing full-time players we will only look at the other 7 positions (excluding the pitcher obviously). There are four players that have the same role in 2013 that they had in 2012 (Kinsler, Andrus, Beltre, and Cruz) so their analysis will be fairly straight forward, but not so much with Josh Hamilton and Michael Young. Last year the outfielders that played the most games were Cruz, Hamilton, and Murphy in that order with Gentry and Martin fourth and fifth respectively. This season the leaders in playing time among outfielders are Cruz, Murphy, and Martin with Gentry being fourth. With David Murphy essentially replacing Josh Hamilton in the outfield and Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry taking David Murphy’s role from 2012 I think it’s fair to use those replacements as the comps for our study. Essentially the comparison that will be used will be the 7 regular players from each season. Those players are shown below:
Now let’s look at the same numbers for this season with the appropriate players
plugged into the everyday roles they have this season.
As you can see this liberal use of the bench and Ron Washington’s newfound philosophy of resting his starters has resulted in ONE extra day off for the regulars. That is even with the presence of an aging and crippled (hyperbole) Lance Berkman and a quasi-platoon system in centerfield with Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry. With the emergence of Mitch Moreland as an automatic entry into the daily lineup it has eliminated the need for five first basemen, so that limits Washington’s lineup flexibility as well. Also, the fact that Ron Washington is being praised for his use of the bench revolves mostly around the use of Craig Gentry and Jeff Baker. Leury Garcia through 40 games has only started four games and has played in only twelve games during the first quarter of the season. The 2012 equivalent of Gentry and Baker has to be Craig Gentry himself and Brandon Snyder. Craig Gentry was a fourth outfielder for most of the 2012 season and Brandon Snyder was the second most active bench player used early last season. The chart below shows the playing time for each during the first 40 games first in 2012 and then in 2013:
Before we crown Ron Washington the next Joe Maddon in progressive managing let’s remember that his regular starters have only one extra day off this year than they had last year at the same time. It’s easy to get caught up in false narratives and buy into stories without looking at the facts, but Ron Washington hasn’t done anything different this year than he did in 2012 in regards to playing his regular starters. He has to be cautious of the aging Berkman, but once we get into the heat of the summer and a pennant race I would imagine that concern would fade away as well. Let’s hope that as we move forward and the season gets longer and hotter, Ron Washington begins to utilize his bench more and gives his starters a chance to have fresher legs going into the fall.