Baseball has a grueling season that begins when the snows starts to melt and ends when all the leaves are off the trees. The days of playing hurt and being on the field at all costs are well behind us as the baseball mentality has changed significantly over the past few decades.
In today's game, teams rightly view players as assets with a shelf-life, and with the increasing salaries for stars and scrubs alike, owners and general managers want the best out of their players over the longer term. New concussion protocols, more sophisticated research on arm injuries, and the lack of drug enhancers that heal bodies quickly all combine to limit the time players are on the field. Managers schedule days off and predetermine who will sit in day-games-after-night-games regardless of the time of year and teams are far more reluctant to pencil players into the lineup if they are not 100 percent healthy.
Last season only Manny Machado played in all 162 games. A few players were not too far behind, but no one else took the field in every single game. By position, here's a look at the iron men of baseball for 2015:
|First Base||Anthony Rizzo/Chris Davis||160|
|Second Base||Brian Dozier||157|
|Third Base||Manny Machado||162|
|Left Field||Yoenis Cespedes||159|
|Center Field||Mike Trout / Kevin Pillar||159|
|Right Field||Kole Calhoun||159|
Not surprisingly, Buster Posey played the least of this group of ‘iron men'. Catching wears a player down more than any other position. Posey was the only regular catcher to play in 150 games, though in 42 of those games he manned first base.
For those who are surprised that Salvador Perez is not on the list, he very well could be the catching leader! If I am only considering time at catcher then Perez is the iron man. He played in 139 games behind the dish, five more than runner up Yadier Molina and 33 more than overall catching iron man Buster Posey.
Both Anthony Rizzo and Chris Davis played in 160 games last season, but Davis played 30 games in the outfield and 22 games at DH. Rizzo manned first base day-in-and-day-out for the Cubs; it is the second time in three years he played in 160 games.
Elvis Andrus is a model of consistency on the left side of the Rangers infield. Since the Rangers brought him up in 2009, he has played in at least 145 games every single season, with at least 150 each season since 2011.
The outfield shows some familiar names, and despite dealing with a nagging wrist injury, Mike Trout still managed to appear in nearly every game for the Angels. Of his 159 games in the outfield, 156 of them were in center field.
Durability is often an overlooked aspect of a star, but just because a player takes the field every day does not mean he is accruing value. Taking a three year view, only 27 players have averaged at least 150 games per season and their results are varied.
|Name||Age||Games||Avg per Year||PA||HR||R||RBI||SB||AVG||OBP||SLG||wOBA||wRC+||WAR|
To have a player such as Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson and Adam Jones out there every day is certainly valuable for a team, and the large payouts for players like Robinson Cano and Justin Upton certainly include the notion that these players will play every day. By and large, the names on this list are productive players who are valued highly by their teams for their production and their durability.
There are names on this list one would expect, such as Trout, Andrus, and Evan Longoria, but others who are rather surprising due to a lack of value. Some teams call on players to play every day despite limited production. In one instance, over the course of 464 games in the last three years, Billy Butler has amassed a negative fWAR. He has barely been an above average hitter and provided the Royals and A's with no defensive value. Despite this, Butler is still slated as the Athletics designated hitter! Similarly, despite starting on average, 151 games per year, Jay Bruce only posted about three wins above replacement (combined over three years) while serving as a below league average hitter (97 wRC+).
Durability is generally viewed as a positive and when an All-Star takes the field 150 times per year. While playing in nearly every game is an asset for an organization, it is becoming more of a rarity to see an iron-man who will take the field every single day playing through injury and the dog-days of summer. Most players on the list above create their value in the process of taking the field daily, although a number of them simply get the innings because they are healthy and not because they are amassing large value.