Joe Girardi is known for resting his players. Some fans think it's shrewd and does a good job keeping the team's older, more injury prone players fresh. Others, however, don't think it really does all that much and just hurts the team's chances on a given night.
What will the Yankees do to avoid player fatigue in 2016?
Joe Girardi tends to rest his players a lot to keep them healthy and fresh. With a lineup full of older, injury prone guys, how should he handle resting them this season?
By Tom Scibelli
Girardi will likely rest his players in a similar manner to last season, meaning he'll give them scheduled days off as early as April in an effort to keep them healthy and fresh for the stretch run/playoffs. While all will get some days off, there are a few players Girardi will sit more than most. Here's how the skipper will (or should) handle resting each player in 2016.
A-Rod will likely get the most consistent rest this season. The 40-year-old full-time designated hitter sat a lot last year, and Girardi will again try to keep him fresh. In 2015, despite not spending anytime on the DL, he started only 138 games; he didn't play more than 13 days in a row at any point last season, and for the most part, sat about once every week.
It's debatable how effective this plan was last season. It was successful in the sense that Rodriguez stayed healthy all season outside of a few minor bumps and bruises, and he had a much better season than anticipated; slugging 33 homers and putting up a .250/.356/.486 slash. So while he was healthy and productive overall, he still wasn't fresh down the stretch. From August on, he hit just .191 with less power and more strikeouts.
Some may say that he "fell apart" down the stretch anyway, so there's no reason to rest him so much early on, but that is a logical fallacy. As a 40-year-old coming off a year-long suspension, A-Rod was a good bet to struggle down the stretch regardless of how much he rested early on. Sitting him about once a week kept him productive for most of the season, and healthy for all of it.
Being the full-time DH from the beginning this season will keep him even more rested. Given that A-Rod is going to be 41 in July, a full day off about once a week again in 2016 still probably makes the most sense. Also, every time Rodriguez sits, it opens up a chance for someone else to get a half-day off by sliding into DH.
Teixeira is an interesting case. Through the team's first 117 games, he started in 107 of them, so he was playing at a pretty normal rate for a starter but still getting some days off. Tex was having a great season, too, slashing .257/.359/.553 slash with 31 homers and 79 RBI through August 17th.
Unfortunately, Teixeira fouled a ball off his right leg that day and missed the rest of the season outside of three more at-bats. An injury like that is a completely fluke and wouldn't have been prevented no matter how much he rested early in the season.
This year, with Teixeira being a 36-year-old first baseman who has spent time on the DL in four straight seasons, it would make sense to give him more rest than say, Starlin Castro. The problem is that the Yankees have no true backup first baseman in the wake of the Greg Bird injury; either Chase Headley or Dustin Ackley would have to fill in at an atypical position.
Also, this will likely be Teixeira's last season in pinstripes, so as cruel as it sounds, there's no reason they should worry about preserving him for beyond 2016. As long as he's producing, there's no reason to not start Teixeira even more than they did last season.
The catching position is a different animal, as they receive more days off than all other positions given how physically demanding the job is. McCann started 122 games last season, which is about right for a starting catcher. However, I think it'd be a wise move to rest him even more this season.
McCann really fatigued as the season wore on. He was one of the team's most productive hitters early on, but he hit just .200 with a .307 wOBA in the second half. As a 32-year-old who has ten years of big league catching experience under his belt, it's easy to understand why the lefty needs more days off than most.
Enter Gary Sanchez. The power hitting righty is viewed as perhaps the Yankees' best prospect, and he'll be the backup catcher if he can beat out Austin Romine. Assuming he does, it makes sense to give Sanchez a lot of playing time this year, somewhere around 50-60 starts, all the regular days a backup catcher would play, plus a few more.
I understand that McCann is superior behind the plate, but Sanchez can really hit, and if he's the future Yankee backstop, he'll need catching experience to get better. Plus, it would go a long way in keeping McCann healthy and productive for the entire season.
Beltran is a shell of his old self as an outfielder and would be better suited at DH, but because of A-Rod, that's not possible. He can still hit, though, so he's an important piece of the Yankees' lineup.
Last year, Beltran slashed .276/.337/.471 with a 119 wRC+ in 128 games. He began the season getting a fairly substantial amount of rest, then headed to the 15-Day DL with an oblique injury in July. But during a stretch lasting from mid-August to late-September, he was in the starting lineup 46 straight games, and he was actually a more productive hitter in the second half.
Still, he's almost 39, injury prone, and doesn't hit lefties well anymore; he's definitely a candidate for increased rest. Sliding him into DH whenever A-Rod is out, and giving him some full days off against lefties is probably how they should/will handle the possible Hall of Fame outfielder.
I lump these two together because they're similar players in similar situations. Both started off last season well before succumbing to injury (Ellsbury) or a prolonged slump and hidden injury (Gardner). In the second half, Gardner hit .206 with a 66 wRC+, while Ellsbury put up a .220 average and 59 wRC+. So, you know, not good.
Both are still in their early thirties so don't require as much rest as the older guys, but there are injury concerns with each player. Girardi likes sitting one of them against righties, and that makes sense since they have Aaron Hicks on the bench who hits lefties well. Hicks should be in the lineup against every lefty, either spelling Beltran or one of these two.
Not many teams have to worry so much about getting scheduled days off for half of their lineup, but few teams have as many old, injury prone guys as the Yankees. Girardi has his work cut out for him.