Sep
03

A health-ful perspective

By

By the time the 2008 season ended for the Yankees, the team could have been considered among baseball’s walking wounded. According to Baseball Prospectus’ Will Carroll, last year’s Yankee team lost 1460 player days to injuries, and many of the old Yankee corps were trending into the red for 2009. Yet, the Yankees have stayed remarkably healthy, and because of that, they are in a prime position for a run deep into October.

Last year started out on a bad note for the Yankees’ overall health. On the first day of the season, Jorge Posada hurt his shoulder throwing down to second. He would go onto play just 51 games all season, and the Yankees’ catcher spot would never recover. Jose Molina, Chad Moeller and Ivan Rodriguez were inadequate replacements to say the least.

Posada, though, wasn’t the only Yankee to miss time last year. Hideki Matsui made it through just 93 games before his knees gave out. A-Rod hit the DL with a quad strain in late April. Chien-Ming Wang went down with his career-derailing foot injury.

Outside of the time lost to the disabled list, the 2008 Yankees featured its fair share of banged-and-bruised players. As Tyler Kepner details in this excellent profile of Derek Jeter, the Yankee captain battled a lingering quad injury and a hand injury for much of the season. Joba Chamberlain had a shoulder issue, and Andy Pettitte‘s arm didn’t last the year. While the 2009 Mets take the injury cake, the 2008 Yankees were no slouches.

This year, though, the story has been entirely different. Alex Rodriguez missed the first six weeks with injury; Jorge Posada missed a few weeks with a hamstring strain; Chien-Ming Wang has been a non-factor all season; Xavier Nady, we hardly knew ye. Outside of those injuries — and just two of them had a long-term impact on this season — Mariano’s sore groin is the most significant pain to hurt the Yankees in recent months.

Now, I don’t mean to downplay Nady’s or Wang’s absence. The Yankees, though, have managed to overcome those problems. Nick Swisher has been one of the team’s most productive hitters this year. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Nady topping Swisher’s numbers. That leaves Wang as the most significant missing piece this year. So instead of missing their starting catcher, number one starter and DH for much of the season, they’ve been short a mid-rotation starter, and that’s it.

Meanwhile, the banged up Yankees haven’t been feeling it this year. While, for example, Paul O’Neill limped to the end of his 2001 season, Jeter, Damon and Pettitte, the guys who always play hurt, have been feeling great. I don’t need to analyze the numbers for us to know that their contributions have all been much greater this year than last. We see it everyday.

In the end, the Yankees’ 2009 success so far has rested primarily on the fact that Darrell Rasner and Sidney Ponson were replaced by CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. The defense, with Mark Teixeira at first and Nick Swisher in right, is far superior too than last year’s. But the Yankees’ medical staff deserves some credit too. It isn’t easy to keep a team of position players mostly all on the wrong side of 30 healthy, and so far this year, Gene Monahan and crew have.

Categories : Musings

71 Comments»

  1. Here come 20 comments about how the team’s health was just jinxed.

    • J.R. says:

      Yeah and they are well deserved.

      • Yeah and they are well deserved.

        Right. Because writing about it on a blog has any impact on the players’ health and/or likelihood of injury.

        • J.R. says:

          It’s the same as everyone jumping on Kay the other night for saying Pettitte was perfect.

          It’s a good post, just maybe better for post season reflections.

          • See, I don’t think a lot of people were getting on Kay for “jinxing” the PG, but rather just annoyingly talking about it every single second. It’s also frustrating when he says things like “perfect through three” or something. Sure, after the 6th inning or so, yeah, get excited about it and get talking about it. After three or four, it’s nothing too special yet.

            • kimonizer says:

              Even my wife noticed Kay mentioning it so much. She wasn’t even paying attention, just happened to be within ear shot of the TV and it was really bugging her.

          • Thomas says:

            It’s the same as everyone jumping on Kay the other night for saying Pettitte was perfect.

            Compared to the Sox, who’s announcers don’t mention that it is a perfect game, just repeatedly show the scoreboard to show there are no hits. That is clearly the reason that Wakefield threw that no-hitter this year.

            Wait, Wakefield lost that no-hitter. These superstitions must just be a load of bull then.

            • It’s not a superstition at the fan level, it’s a reminiscence. You don’t mention a no-no to the pitcher during the game. This is true at all levels. I never mentioned the fact to pitchers then, and I don’t talk about it now. It’s just something some of us like to do.

              Also, it’s annoying to hear someone mention it with every inning, and even more annoying with every out. Everyone who’s watching knows what’s going on by the fifth inning.

              • “It’s not a superstition at the fan level, it’s a reminiscence.”

                Maybe for you, but not for a lot (a ton) of fans. And, really, I think you’re kind of contorting yourself here to defend this practice. Of course it’s a superstition. Call it whatever else you want, but the idea that someone who is not in direct contact with the pitcher in question shouldn’t mention an ongoing potential no-hitter or perfect game is a superstition.

                It being annoying to hear Kay talk about it so often is a different issue altogether, and there’s nothing wrong with that feeling. That’s just a matter of taste and I agree, I’m not a Kay fan either. But I think it’s pretty likely that most people who didn’t like Kay mentioning it didn’t feel that way not because they didn’t like the frequency of the mentions, but rather that they didn’t want him to mention it at all. And that’s superstitious.

                • jsbrendog says:

                  i was at the burnett mets game at newshea. he had not given up a hit. my friend texted me with could it be a no hitter? hit given up to the next batter. this obviously means that it was all his fault.

                  :-P

        • Makavelli says:

          Isn’t that what a “jinx” essentially is though?

        • toad says:

          What’s the matter? You never heard of attracting the evil eye? Bad thing to do. :-)

  2. pete c. says:

    All due respect, has anyone here heard the expression, “knock on wood”.

  3. J.R. says:

    Jinx man, next injury is on you and this post.

  4. You know, I was trying to avoid this topic until November…

  5. Jersey says:

    I wasn’t worried about Mo before.

    I am now.

  6. My, oh my. I forget that baseball fans are more superstitious than baseball players sometimes.

  7. Tom Zig says:

    Its just a market correction, right Ben?

    Everything went wrong last year, so everything is going right this year to make up for it.

    • Pretty much.

      My point is basically that while the new additions get a lot of credit for being good, we can’t discount what avoiding the DL means for this team. It’s not like they haven’t faced injuries. Losing Wang and Nady are significant, and A-rod’s absence could have been worse. It’s just that they have minimized the damage this year when last year they could not.

      • kimonizer says:

        Some credit needs to be given to Cashman as well for constantly maintaining strong 25-man and 40-man rosters and for having given us really good organizational depth.

        For instance, not falling for the temptation of trading Swisher before the season meant that the effect of Nady being lost for the whole year was negligible. Then going out and getting Hinske and Hairston to replace the depth lost when Swisher became an everyday player further softened the blow. The fact that all three have done quite well offensively also helped the overall impact of Posada’s missed time. We were able to survive with Cervelli and Cash for a period because there was so much offense everywhere else we did not need as much from the catchers. Cervelli is also an example of the quality of the team’s organizational depth at some important positions(catcher, relief pitching) that are hard to find quick fixes for in the trade market without getting fleeced.

        On the pitching side, having pitching rotation depth has meant that we have been able to really preserve the farm. Remember that injury actually impacted three of our top seven starters. Obviously there is Wang, but Hughes had to go into the bullpen because of Bruney and Marte injuries, and IPK went down with injury as well. That is why Mitre is the number five right now. Having Mitre as option eight before the season started has meant we didn’t need to trade for lesser or equal options (Washburn, Bannister) and lose prospects (as today’s earlier posts proved). Add to that the fact that we already had arms in the minors to replace people like Veras, Ramirez, and Albaladejo when they got bad. In the past we would have had to trade for an Allan Embree type to fortify the bullpen. The work Cashman did in constructing very viable 25 and 40 man rosters cannot be overstated.

    • The Fallen Phoenix says:

      It usually does not really work that way, but sure, if it helps.

      ..it’s interesting (and not at all surprising) that the healthier teams tend to be more successful than those that are not. With the plentiful, mostly accurate performance data that now exists in the industry, most front office executives seem to know (there are, of course, exceptions – Dayton Moore, I might be looking at you) how to put together a winning baseball team.

      Sure, there is still room for shrewd trades and free agent signings, but it seems like one of the single most important things a team can do to ensure its success is to keep its players on the field (and effective) as often or as long as possible. It has been well-documented how Tampa had a stable, healthy, and effective rotation all last year, which contributed (along with the emphasis on defense, which many teams have emulated this year) to its successful run prevention.

  8. Salty Buggah says:

    Just to be safe….knock on wood we stay healthy.

    Other than that, health is awesome.

  9. Makavelli says:

    I remember the 2004 Boston Red Sox starting rotation was said to have NEVER missed a scheduled start during it’s turn in the rotation. If this is true…when was the last time this has happened? It seems extremely rare…

  10. Tim says:

    Wang was just terrible. I think ‘injury’ was a good word for go home and sleep it off

  11. Dela G says:

    This thread will not jinx our team

    i guarantee it

  12. Joe says:

    “Nick Swisher has been one of the team’s most productive hitters this year”

    Really, I know he walks a lot but Swisher is not a good hitter, as of today he still has more K’s than hits…that’s not good, no matter how much you walk.

    I get the point that he has done as much as Nady would have done but he is NOT one of the most productive hitter this year, you could easily say almost every other starter has been more productive.

    I know there are many other stats besides Avg, but hitting the ball is still important, and if you are a .230 -.250 hitter your not very good.

    • Tom Zig says:

      But if you slug near .500 and have an OPS of .862 you are a good hitter. How many bad hitters have an OPS+ of 124?

    • 23 HR and a .490 SLG don’t do it for you?

      • Tom Zig says:

        Although imagine if Swisher could hit .300. He’d OPS well into the .900s

        • Well, I imagine if he hit for more contact, the power would suffer. If he didn’t have such a pronounced home/road split, he’d be freakin’ glorious. I know he’s got a .254 BABIP so it would appear bad luck is a culprit, but I don’t have any H/A batted ball splits so I’m not sure if it’s bad luck or just not hitting the ball well.

          • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

            turns out he had a conversation with $man in late april/early may…$man asked him not to show up Arod when he returns, and he could stay behind Tex too that would be helpful. on the road, he could be himself a bit more, but tone it down in front of NY’s dog-like media.

            of course, NICK SWISHER said yes.

      • Swisher’s been good and I disagree with everything else in Joe’s comment except for his assertion that Swisher hasn’t been one of the Yankees’ most productive hitters this year. The only way that’s true is if when you say “one of the most productive” you mean the entire lineup. He’s probably been the 7th most productive hitter on the team, behind Jeter, Damon, Teixeira, Rodriguez, Posada and Cano. You kind of have to cast a pretty wide net to call Swisher one of the most productive hitters on the team this season.

        • That’s a very fair assertion HCM.

          • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

            heh, given how well the entire team has hit, its unfortunate that you can accurately make that statement.

            he is, in his defense:
            6th in hits
            3rd in HR (tied)
            6th in RBI (with 72, 4 RBI makes him second…)
            most importantly, IN THE GRIT CATEGORY…
            1st in sac flies. eat that pedroia.

    • Doug says:

      If you love batting average so much, then why don’t you marry it?

    • JGS says:

      Ryan Howard has only had one season in which he didn’t have more strikeouts than hits–2006, when he won the MVP with 182 hits and 181 Ks

    • kimonizer says:

      I really thought that when Swisher got his average over 250, started nearing 25 home runs, and walked so much that it was apparent that he was going to constantly be on base that these kind of myopic analyses would start to go away. I guess not.

      • 23-4EVER says:

        Wanting a starting OF to hit over 250 is not a bad thing or “myopic analysis”. the post above mentioned that OPS, OBP, etc are also important, that response was to the claim that Swisher is productive/a good hitter. I agree he is not.

        At the end of the day hitter need to hit, anyone who goes to the plate wants to get a hit, thats not saying there are not other good things that can happen besides a base hit, but nobody goes tot he plate looking to only walk.

        Swisher hit 230 most of the year, only after a hot streak is he up to 250, thats not good. Like the poster above I value Avg over walking…Im not ignoring the other stats, so the commentors who replyed dont have to whine about it…its just a persons opinion

    • A.D. says:

      if you are a .230 -.250 hitter your not very good.

      You’re not very good at hitting for average, but thats about it. Swisher is OPSing over .850, which actually makes him quite good, however despite that he’s still the 2nd worst amon regulars (only out OPSing the CF spot), but that really shows how great the team is hitting as a whole.

      Don’t play the avg bs, thats not who swisher is, he may not hit for avg, but he gets on base at a better clip than Matsui, Cano, or Posada so far this year.

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      Sigh…
      So I’m guessing OBP, OPS, slugging, OPS+ don’t matter? It’s just the batting average to determine whether you are good or not?

      • A.D. says:

        .277 > .275 > .274

        Therefore

        Ramiro Pena > Brett Gardner > A-Rod

      • 23-4EVER says:

        stop crying…OBP, OPS, etc are important, but so is Batting Avg…I cant understand why some people around here get so personally offended when someone criticizes a player with a low batting avg…Ive looked at every new stat out there and it has not replaced the importance of batting avg to me…

        also not everyone has the time it take to study all the new info out there, enjoying baseball does not require spending ten hours a day on baseball ref.com…if someone does not have the time to go over all that stuff they are still allowed to have an opinion…so stop bitching

    • Ed says:

      Really, I know he walks a lot but Swisher is not a good hitter, as of today he still has more K’s than hits…that’s not good, no matter how much you walk.

      More K’s than hits isn’t good, but it’s not necessarily bad either.

      I get the point that he has done as much as Nady would have done but he is NOT one of the most productive hitter this year, you could easily say almost every other starter has been more productive.

      I completely agree with that statement. He’s actually one of the weakest hitters on the team. However, this year’s team has the 4th highest team OPS in its history so that’s not really a bad thing.

      I know there are many other stats besides Avg, but hitting the ball is still important, and if you are a .230 -.250 hitter your not very good.

      He’s not very good at getting hits. But he’s very good at hitting the ball for power, and he’s also way above average at drawing walks. I’ll gladly take a player that’s good at 2 out of those 3 areas, especially if power is one of the ones he’s good at.

  13. Charlie says:

    i’m nitpicking, but swisher hasn’t been one of the team’s most productive swisher. jeter, tex, damon, a-rod, cano, matsui and maybe posada have all been more productive. not a knock on swish’s fine season, though. i’m just sayin

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