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Do the Yankees rest players more often than other teams?

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Fans criticize the team’s load management philosophy, but resting players is part of a larger trend across MLB.

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

People who love surprises should check out the Yankees’ lineup each night. The batting order has dozens of permutations and it feels as if anyone could be slotted in to play any position in any given game.

The most baffling aspect of it all? The Yankees don’t always play their best healthy players whenever they can and at every possible opportunity. The team practices a philosophy of keeping with players’ previously scheduled off days in lieu of automatically putting their biggest bats in the lineup. This past week, the Yankees both played a weaker player over a more skilled one (when Mike Ford started at first base) and used players in positions they don’t regularly play, even when doing so wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Why do the Yankees rest their players so often? It makes some sense that the Yankees schedule off-days for the purposes of load management. Outside of that, it’s not always clear why a player will get the night off. Is it to nurse a nagging minor injury, the result of a specific front-office analytical recommendation, or some other strategy? It’s hard to say because the team has remained rather private and vague when it comes to discussing players’ health.

Is the Yankees’ policy toward player rest uncommon? To better understand current MLB practices surrounding off-days and rest, I took a closer look at whether the Yankees differ from other teams in this regard. Aaron Judge has been among the healthiest regulars on the team’s roster in 2021, so it’s useful to peruse his game log to see how they have kept him away from most bumps and bruises.

Here is a rundown of starting right fielders in the American League and the number of games they have played in during the 2021 season:

No. of games played by AL right fielders in 2021

Player Team Position Age No. of games played
Player Team Position Age No. of games played
Taylor Ward Angels RF 27 26
Anthony Santander Orioles RF 26 29
Nomar Mazara Tigers RF 26 29
Max Kepler Twins RF 28 37
Teoscar Hernandez Blue Jays RF 28 38
Adam Eaton White Sox RF 32 44
Hunter Renfroe Red Sox RF 29 45
Stephen Piscotty A's RF 30 45
Manuel Margot Rays RF 26 50
Josh Naylor Cleveland RF 24 50
Jorge Soler Royals RF 29 50
Aaron Judge Yankees RF 29 53
Joey Gallo Rangers RF 27 54
Mitch Haniger Mariners RF 30 54
Kyle Tucker Astros RF 24 55
Data: baseball-reference.com

The Yankees probably receive the most pushback for the way they rest Judge. The team seems extremely resistant to deviating from its original off-day arrangement, even when injuries and other variables alter the Yankees’ lineup options. Do other teams behave in this way? It’s easy to criticize the team without knowing other clubs’ load management philosophy. The question is, do other teams rest players as often as the Yankees?

Looking at the number of games played by other right fielders across the league shows that Judge, in fact, has played in more games than most of his peers in the American League. This fact surprised me. Fan sentiment and complaints had given me the erroneous impression that Aaron Judge rests, like, every other day (I realize some of his games played are as a DH).

This is a breakdown of the number of games played by MLB players in 2021, according to their age:

games played by MLB players, by age

Considering the team’s injury history the past few seasons, it’s logical that the Yankees would err on the conservative side to avoid wearing players down over the long 162-game season. Even so, the Yankees’ load management strikes me as inconsistent. The team rests players who are healthy, and yet, Luke Voit and Giancarlo Stanton were recently activated from the IL when both players — especially Voit — might have benefited from more substantial rehabs.

Even if other clubs rest guys as often as the Yankees do, the team would benefit from not going against basic baseball common sense.

  • If a player is hot, continue to play him.
  • Hot streaks should come before lefty-righty matchups.
  • If a pitcher is dealing, keep him in the game.

(Oh, and don’t pinch-hit Mike Ford when he hasn’t played in two weeks and the season is on the line.)

However much they rest players, the Yankees would drive fewer fans insane if they followed the above maxims.