Blue Jays should stagger off days for Devon Travis and Russell Martin
While it makes sense that John Gibbons wants to rest Devon Travis and Russell Martin regularly, does it have to be on the same day?
Before I even get into this, I’m more than willing to acknowledge that we’re just seven games into the season, and the Blue Jays could have plenty of plans for their long term schedule. Perhaps my entire point will be moot in a week or two, but I’m going to make it for now anyway.
John Gibbons should try to avoid resting Russell Martin and Devon Travis on the same day.
I completely understand and appreciate why the Blue Jays’ skipper would want to give each player regular rest, as I think it’s a smart strategy for the long game of the 2018 season. Gibby has discussed the idea of playing the duo for two out of every three games, at least in the early going of the calendar anyway.
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It makes sense, as Devon Travis has struggled to stay healthy throughout his short MLB career, and giving him a regular day off should go a long way toward keeping him off of the disabled list. There was even discussion this offseason about whether or not his body was capable of playing an entire 162 game season. When you’re asking that question, easing him into a workload and gradually ramping him up sounds like a good idea to me.
As for Russell Martin, he’s now 35 years old, and he has over 1500 games to his credit as a big leaguer. That’s a lot of miles on a catcher’s legs, and while he’s been incredibly durable throughout his career, no one lasts forever. Martin has seemingly faded a bit as the last few seasons have gone on, and last year was held to just 91 games played because of a variety of nagging injuries. In order to maximize his value and keep him fresh for a potential playoff run, regular rest makes sense for him as well.
All that said, I wonder if it’s necessary to rest them on the same day. The “rest days” have come twice already in the early Blue Jays’ calendar, and so far John Gibbons has elected to sit the two talented regulars during the same game. Luke Maile has held down the catching duties and has looked great at the plate, and the Jays have turned to a combination of Yangervis Solarte and Gift Ngoepe to fill in at second when Travis has been on the pine.
So far the difference hasn’t been that tremendous, as Maile has swung the bat well in limited plate appearances, and Solarte has been a welcome addition to the lineup with his energy, and his performance. Ngoepe has struggled at the plate, but has proven to be a capable defender anyway. In a perfect world where Troy Tulowitzki was on the roster as well, Ngoepe would be in Triple-A, and a rest day for Travis would go to Solarte or Aledmys Diaz, who has also looked good in the early going as well.
However, I think the expectations for depth pieces like Diaz, Ngoepe, and Maile should be pretty low, especially at the plate. Maile hit just .146/.176/.231 in 130 at bats last year while battling knee injuries, and Ngoepe hit just .222 in a short stint with the Pirates last year, collecting 54 at bats. Diaz has a much higher upside, but it’s hard to say where his ceiling will be, and he’s been pressed into starting duties at shortstop for now anyway.
By no means am I trashing on any of these players, as I see their defensive and depth value, however it’s probably not fair to expect them to hit when they’re in the lineup, and should probably be considered a bonus when they do, especially for Ngoepe and Maile.
Because of that, I wonder if it’s better to try and stagger their off days, thus keeping as much of the offensive attack in place as possible. While the Blue Jays have gotten off to a decent 4-3 start through the first seven games, they’re not lighting the world on fire on offence just yet. As a team they’ve slashed .239/.316/.468, collecting 48 hits in the first seven contests, good for just under seven hits a game as an average. That’s not awful, but if you remove the 15 hits in Tuesday’s offensive outburst, they’re down to 33 hits in six games, good for just a 5.6 average.
Until a few of the regulars can get healthier, and/or Tulowitzki can ever make it back on the field, I would argue that keeping one of Travis or Martin in the lineup every game should be a priority. As I said to start things off, I understand that Gibbons may do just that once the schedule provides a few off days to give him some flexibility, and I truly hope that’s the plan. Perhaps the combination of Maile/Ngoepe/Diaz will hit more than I would expect as well, and I’d be okay with that too.
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However, I don’t think that’s something the Blue Jays can count on. So if there’s a way to keep as many weapons in the lineup as possible, as simple as that is, why not do it?