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Baseball is oversaturated by analytic nerds and it’s diminishing the entertainment value of this game. Analytics themselves are exceptionally useful in theory, however the way they’re applied is objectively making the sport worse. A perfect example of this is the Yankees resting a healthy DJ LeMahieu for utility man Marwin Gonzalez.
The team will say Gonzalez is 3-5 lifetime in at-bats against Blue Jays RHP Alek Manoah while DJ LeMahieu is 0-8. A tough matchup regardless of who plays, but sitting the Yankees’ best contact hitter given that minuscule sample size is laughable at best. And then, of course, the Yankees are well known for resting healthy players to keep them fresh for the season. Either way, there’s no sensible reason LeMahieu isn’t leading off tonight — at some point common sense has to take precedent.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 3, 2022
Yankees/Blue Jays is a divisional game that both teams should desperately want to win. Our problem is that teams are now consulting analytics and passing on short-term gain to obsess over the perceived “marathon” of a season. Technically a positive to worry about healthy, but how far can we go? Sitting players while healthy and jeopardizing tonight’s game could be all it takes to lose a tight divisional race down the stretch. So sitting one of your best players to improve the odds of staying healthy is worth a sure-fire worse lineup tonight? We just can’t get behind that. Every team’s best player should play nightly unless they’re ailing. LeMahieu isn’t hurt — he’s part of a scheduled rest day.
Applying data is a habit all front offices must learn. Pretending equations don’t exist that were designed to build the best possible lineups is a team destined for failure. That said, consulting is not the same as relying, and it appears that’s what we’re watching. Common sense would say the Blue Jays want to pitch to Marwin Gonzalez before DJ LeMahieu, regardless of the numbers. As someone who played baseball, I can attest to the fact that eight at-bats doesn’t determine a positive or negative matchup. And I also believe the Yankees know this (at least I hope they do.)
What’s overwhelmingly likely here is that the Yankees decided this past weekend that LeMahieu would get a breather tonight. Give him a rest to improve the odds DJ LeMehieu is on the field come October. It’s a ploy old school players and fans of baseball can’t resonate with and this observation tees up an interesting question:
If Major League Baseball knows the majority of their fans are returners that want the healthy players to play, why would they allow organizations to manage rosters by sitting healthy players? Failing to entertain those that attend the games, and there’s already very few in those stands, is a recipe for disaster. Perhaps commissioner Rob Manfred’s next mission should be how to give your audience what they paid to see?