By September of last season, the Orioles looked absolutely worn out. The O’s finished the year by going 15-18 in their final 33 games of 2013. Chris Davis hit just .217/.304/.451 in September, while Adam Jones hit .233/.292/.447 and Manny Machado hit .194/.225/.306 (prior to his season-ending knee injury).
Basically, September sucked.
I firmly believe that the overuse of Davis, Jones and Machado is what led to this crazy dip in their statistics in the final month of the season. Davis played 1,377.2 innings at his position last season, the most of any American league first baseman. Adam Jones led all of baseball in innings at center field (1,394), while Machado finished second among third baseman with 1,390 innings.
Similarly, J.J. Hardy played 1,417 innings at shortstop last season (most in AL) and Matt Wieters was behind the plate for a Major League leading 1,201 innings. (Both of those guys played well in September though, so they don’t help to illustrate my point about being worn out down the stretch.)
In order to avoid the late season dip and prevent the fatigue caused by overuse, manager Buck Showalter is going to have to be award more off days to his star players throughout the season. Adam Jones doesn’t need to play 160 games again this season, it’s much more important that he hits above .233 in September instead.
Showalter addressed this concern in recent comments to CSNBaltimore.com’s Rich Dubroff:
“I want to be able to get some of these guys off the field,” Showalter said. “I’m not going to continue to just assume that they’re going to play 150, 160 games out there. You look at everybody else in baseball. That’s a break from the norm, so you’re stupid if you’re not preparing for life without them now and then.
“They’re not going to like it. Having Nicky and Jonesy in the dugout for nine innings is not a whole lot of fun. I think it’s going to make them better.”
With some flexibility at left field with David Lough and Nelson Cruz, options at second base (Ryan Flaherty, Jemile Weeks and possibly Jonathan Schoop) and in the infield (Flash can play anywhere), there’s no reason that Davis, Jones, Machado, Hardy and Wieters shouldn’t see a bit more time off this season. Even if that time off is as the DH.