clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Analyzing the Yankees’ rotation of starting lineups

New, 38 comments

The Yankees haven’t employed a singular starting lineup in recent years, instead preferring to rotate their starters. How might this look with the 2020 Bombers?

MLB: ALCS-New York Yankees at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have gotten into the habit of employing a wide variety of lineups and defensive alignments over the course of a season, with only four defensive alignments being used more than twice last season—and none more than five times. While some of that was due to the “Next Man Up” mentality, some of it was also by design. After all, the team brought on DJ LeMahieu originally to play every day, but at a different infield position each day.

Even so, you’ll still see a lot of people discussing the Yankees’ lineup, but in many ways, that’s a misrepresentation. More likely, we’re going to see a batting rotation, with many of the team’s starters having regular rest and a rotation at the designated hitter spot. As a standard means of operation, there are plenty of benefits to such a rotation, including keeping players fresher over the course of the season—and keeping them healthy.

Because of this, let’s take a look at how such a system could theoretically play out realistically. Since we don’t know the results of spring training roster competitions, position changes, and (knocking on wood) potential injuries, I’m going to presume a “base” lineup that includes Giancarlo Stanton in left field, Gio Urshela at third base, and Miguel Andujar as the designated hitter. Additionally, the bench will consist of Kyle Higashioka, Tyler Wade, Mike Tauchman, and Clint Frazier, and the only position besides third base and designated hitter that Andujar will be used at is one game at first base.

Obviously, there’s a good chance that this will not be the final selection of position players that make the Opening Day roster; please remember that this is a primarily hypothetical exercise to better the methods that Aaron Boone will likely be using in managing his lineups.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ve decided to assume no off-days, and utilize a seven-day cycle. Obviously injuries and days off will mean that a strict rotation would not be used, but it does give us an idea of how a rotating lineup might look.

Yankees Potential 7-day Lineup

Positions Lineup 1 Lineup 2 Lineup 3 Lineup 4 Lineup 5 Lineup 6 Lineup 7
Positions Lineup 1 Lineup 2 Lineup 3 Lineup 4 Lineup 5 Lineup 6 Lineup 7
Catcher Sanchez Sanchez Sanchez Higashioka Sanchez Sanchez Higashioka
First Base Voit Voit LeMahieu Voit Voit Andujar Voit
Second Base LeMahieu LeMahieu Wade LeMahieu LeMahieu Wade LeMaheiu
Third Base Urshela Andujar Urshela Urshela Andujar Urshela Urshela
Shortstop Torres Wade Tores Torres Torres Torres Torres
Left Field Stanton Tauchman Stanton Frazier Tauchman Stanton Frazier
Center Field Gardner Gardner Tauchman Gardner Gardner Tauchman Gardner
Right Field Judge Judge Judge Judge Stanton Judge Stanton
Designated Hitter Andujar Stanton Frazier Andujar Judge Frazier Sanchez

There are numerous advantages inherent with such a system. For example, every player gets ample rest—at least one day off per seven games. Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez, Stanton, and LeMahieu would sit out once per week, while Luke Voit, Brett Gardner, Andujar, and Urshela would sit twice. This would put the first group on a 139-game pace and the latter on a 116-game one.

Moreover, under this rotation, every player on the roster receives regular playing time, with only two players—Tyler Wade and Kyle Higashioka—playing fewer than half the games. It also spreads the designated hitter spot around, giving Stanton, Judge, and Sanchez about 23 half-days off over the course of the regular season that keeps their bat in the lineup.

Of course, the Yankees will almost certainly not follow this practice as strictly as I’ve laid it out here, preferring instead to mix and match based on matchups and to give the team’s biggest stars a bit fewer days off than that. This model, nonetheless, does give a blueprint into the philosophy that the Yankees have taken into roster construction. Indeed, even the fact that we’re discussing such a model as plausible is a testament to the depth built by the front office, a depth that extends even beyond the players chosen for the model above.

Should injuries hit or the playoff hunt down the stretch be tight, you’d be likely to see this model ignored in favor of playing the best-performing players on a more regular basis. By embracing this philosophy, however, the Yankees put themselves in a position where their players can be as healthy and as fresh as possible when the most important games arrive in eight months.