Consider this line that I tweeted earlier today from Busch Stadium where the Cardinals hosted the Cubs.
The last game in a series is often considered a “Getaway Day” for the visiting team, and there are times when the lineup reflects greater concern for the next series than the current one. That Getaway Day often consists of an early afternoon game that follows a night game, so it makes perfect sense to rest a player or two. Players who may need an extra day off:
- Aging veterans who have trouble playing back-to-back days due to the whole “running and throwing” thing that baseball players are required to do (except in the AL where those people are called “Designated Hitters”)
- Players with nagging injuries that would benefit greatly from 24-30 hours of legitimate rest and treatment
- The starting catcher, because a man really should the amount of squatting performed in a short period of time
- Any player who shows up for batting practice while wearing leather pants while holding a carry-on bag
Back to the tweet: The batting averages for each player in the Cubs’ starting lineup appeared on the board, and the numbers were enough to inspire awe in even the most ardent Cubs supporter (like the guy wearing the SOTO jersey in front of me). Just imagine this:
- Reed Johnson – .182
- Blake DeWitt – .000
- Starlin Castro – .371
- Jeff Baker – .111
- Ian Stewart – .267
- Joe Mather – .167
- Geovany Soto – .120
- Marlon Byrd – .071
- Paul Maholm – .000
So, the Cubs have an opening day payroll of around $110M, and you’re telling me that Alfonso Soriano ($18M in 2012) sits to give Joe Mather a few at-bats? Do you see what is wrong with this picture?
- The cleanup hitter, Jeff Baker, has hit 10+ HR in a season only once, and that was 4 years ago.
- The guy hitting in the 2-hole has exactly the same batting average as the starting pitcher who has only had 1 plate appearance prior to today.
- Soto has caught the bulk of the innings behind the plate, so if anybody needs a day off, it would seem like Soto would be a great candidate.
Think of the situation the Cubs find themselves in to this point. Entering Sunday, the Cubs were 3-6 and trailing the division leading Cardinals by 3 games. Sure, the season is still young, but why not take a shot at stealing a game and a series against the #5 starter for the Cardinals? The Cubs likely won’t contend or event simulate contending this season, but it does not hurt a bit to try and snag a few wins here and there when the other team may be looking ahead just a bit or isn’t at full strength. After all, the Cardinals fielded at team without Lance Berkman, David Freese, Allen Craig, and Skip Schumaker. If the Cubs face the Cardinals at full strength, the task of winning a few against a division rival does not get any easier. Sunday represented a great opportunity to take a shot, and the Cubs failed to go all-in on that opportunity.
Naturally, the fantasy baseball implications for using Getaway Day lineups should not be ignored. While it makes sense that many players could benefit from an extra day off, the missed chances to fill the stat sheet impact fantasy leagues in a significant way. The implication for fantasy owners is that adding a weighting factor for players who tend to take very few days off should be considered. Maybe Starlin Castro deserves a bump up the rankings at SS, because he has played all 10 games the Cubs have played this season. The lesson here could be that owners should consider carefully whether or not a team’s ultimate goal and respective fortunes strongly correlate to what a particular player does, that player deserves a longer look in your fantasy rankings.
On the other hand, the lesson really could just be that Getaway Day lineups are a bad idea for teams dwelling in their division cellars.