Carleton: What a difference a day off makes

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on July 2, 2013:

Imagine a world without weekends. No days off at the end of a long string of days doing whatever it is you do to gather your thoughts and rest. (Or at least do a different kind of work. The lawn doesn’t cut itself, after all.) The weekend is nice, because even if you aren’t “doing anything,” you still get a reprieve from your job or classes or whatever you do the rest of the week. But imagine that the weekend was taken away. You just became a professional baseball player.

Baseball is unique—and beautiful, at least from the perspective of the fan—for the fact that teams play almost every single day. I can imagine that players might have different adjectives for it. Players do get the occasional Monday or Thursday off, but it’s often a travel day, and travel is hardly a relaxing activity. It’s always game day. The term “everyday player” does not exist in basketball or football, because, well, football players have a game once a week. On top of that, the game of baseball itself is one that requires immense amounts of concentration. In the field, a player has to be ready on each pitch to spring into action, despite the fact that on most pitches, he won’t be needed.

Baseball is also largely unique in being the one sport where individual players are given scheduled days off on days when the team is playing and they are healthy and would otherwise start. Bench players in baseball should more properly be called “occasional starters,” because they get to fill in on the days when the regulars need a breather. Recently, I’ve been looking into the idea of roster construction and how teams might allocate their roster spaces (and payroll) in a more efficient manner, and this is an interesting area to look into. How important is it that a team have a good bench, not only for the inevitable injuries that will happen during the season, but for the purposes of giving its starters a rest every now and then?

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Originally published: July 3, 2013. Last Updated: July 3, 2013.