Wash Is Just Gonna Wash

wash
I love false narratives.

As Peter Ellwood pointed out in the introduction of a recent article seen here, 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.  

As most fans know when the 2012 season came to an end the most dominating storyline was the attack against Ron Washington and his overuse of his starters.  It was well documented that he ran some of his veterans into the ground and thus  caused their collapse in Oakland and consequently against the Orioles in the Wild Card playoff game. There were several valid reasons why he wasn’t able to rest his starters and a weak bench being reason number one and I will not argue with that point because last year’s bench was a major weakness of this team.  Other fans were hung up on the Michael Young narrative and Washington’s admiration for Mr. Leadership and fingers were pointed elsewhere up and down the lineup as areas that Wash could have rested some of his “guys”. Early on during this season we have heard several media outlets praise Ron Washington for the increased amount of rest his starters are getting and the much more “liberal” use of his bench. There is little doubt that Ron Washington is aware of this more than he was in 2012, but it’s important to dig into the actual numbers and use of the lineup before we map out the parade routes. Now that the 2013 season has reached the 40 game mark and is roughly 25% completed, I think it’s fair to evaluate and analyze how Ron Washington has used his bench this year compared to last.

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:

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Through the first 40 games of the season this year compared to the first 40 games of last year let’s compare the number of full days off by the regulars in the Ron Washington lineups. A full day off means they did not enter the game and were not credited with game count on that particular day. Here are the numbers for the 2012 campaign through 40 games:
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*Adrian Beltre started the season injured and didn’t start the season as an everyday starter

Now let’s look at the same numbers for this season with the appropriate players
plugged into the everyday roles they have this season.

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*Berkman is handled with care and didn’t play in several interleague contests

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:

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If you want to concede some credit to Ron Washington it is in this area because of the extra playing time his top bench guys appear to be receiving in 2013, but that compliment comes with caution as well. The extended use of Craig Gentry in 2013 has been more about the struggles of Leonys Martin early on in the season than it was about Washington’s new substitution philosophy because as Martin has heated up Gentry has only started three games since May 5th. Jeff Baker’s playing time early on this season was tied directly with David Murphy’s struggles during the month of April. As Murphy begins his normal ascent to his average, Baker has also seen his playing time wane during the recent weeks with only two starts since May 5th.

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.

Jeff  Johnson is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Jeff.Johnson@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @Houstonhog
Jeff Johnson

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