Paul Molitor has used 125 different batting orders in 150 games this season, which seems like an accounting error, except lineup fluidity is sort of standard operating procedure in Major League Baseball these days.
Molitor wastes little time contemplating the first name to write down in his lineup each morning. That takes about two seconds.
Brian Dozier played in his 142nd game Monday night in the series opener at Yankee Stadium. He batted leadoff for the 141st time.
“For a manager to have guys that you know you can pencil in there almost every day,” Molitor said, “that has a lot of value.”
Dozier’s combination of power and slick defense made him an All-Star second baseman, but his durability should not go overlooked in dissecting his importance to team success.
Dozier is on pace to play 154 games this season, on par with his previous three seasons. From 2014 to '16, his games played totals were 156, 157 and 155.
He ranks seventh among position players in Major League Baseball in games played (609) since 2014.
Dozier shrugged when asked about his reluctance to take days off.
“They pay me to play,” he said. “I’ve always felt I should play.”
Even on days when he physically doesn’t feel like playing.
That becomes especially challenging late in the season when a player’s body feels like a pop-up in the Whac-A-Mole game at the end of a kid’s birthday party.
“There are a lot of days like that,” Dozier said.
Dozier turned 30 in May, so he’s not old in baseball terms. Based on his power production the past few seasons, he’s still in the sweet spot of his prime. But his body requires more maintenance than when he first became a professional.
He noticed himself lacking energy late in seasons a few years ago. So he hired a personal nutritionist, who recommended he eliminate fried foods from his diet, which is like asking a teenager to stay off Snapchat. Dozier said he hasn’t consumed anything fried in two years.
“French fries,” he said, offering a favorite temptation.
This past offseason Dozier hired a massage therapist, whom he visited once a week.
“That helped my hips stay flexible,” he said. “Your body changes [as you get older] and you find ways to make sure you’re still at the highest level.”
Dozier ranks 20th among all MLB position players in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) since the 2014 season, which underscores his value relative to the rest of the league.
Dozier’s name appeared in trade rumors last offseason and again before the trade deadline, which is a foolish notion. If anything, the organization’s new brain trust should consider signing Dozier to an extension with his current deal set to expire after next season.
Dozier and Molitor establish a goal each season for Dozier to play between 150 and 155 games. They could write that down in ink.
“He finds a way to get it done even when he’s not 100 percent,” Molitor said.
Dozier learned the importance of durability as a young player by watching and studying veterans that he respected. The trick, he said, is to find ways to remain productive when aches and pains interfere with physical function.
“It might be that I can’t create power that day,” he said. “But maybe you can get a guy over or play good defense. I’ve always taken a lot of pride in that.”
His presence at the top of the lineup and at second base have become staples in a season in which Molitor has shuffled his batting order like a Vegas card dealer.
Winning becomes a soothing agent, too. Being in contention for a playoff spot makes body aches more tolerable, compared to playing out the string of a 103-loss season.
“This would be a whole different conversation if we were where we were last year,” Dozier said. “I like to say, cowboy up. Once you step between those white lines, you find a way to be productive. You can always have an ice bath after the game.”