What Went Right: Injury Bouncebacks

Yanks decline option on Mitre
Coaching staff remains unsettled for 2010

Over the next week or so, we’ll again break down what went wrong and what went right for the 2009 Yankees. The series this year will be much more enjoyable than the last.

At this time last year, the Yankees roster was anything but set. They had a huge offer out to CC Sabathia, and planned to pursue at least one other starting pitcher. That would help shore up the rotation, but clearly there were no guarantees. On top of that, the Yankees powerhouse offense went out with a whimper in 2008. Not only did the Yankees need another bat to enhance the offense, but they’d need contributions from players who underperformed in 2008.

With the acquisition of Nick Swisher, the Yankees had four players who underperformed in 2008. Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui missed much of the season with injuries, and Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher had poor seasons at the plate. Even with the potential addition of Mark Teixeira, the Yankees had a lot to worry about. Without contributions from at least two of those four, the Yankees offense wouldn’t have been nearly as formidable.

Two of four didn’t seem like asking a lot. Two of the players in question were proven veterans coming off injuries, and other two were players in their primes who each had a bad season. But as it turned out, all four bounced back. That turned out to be a key to the 2009 season. It meant the Yankees had above average contributors in eight out of nine lineup slots, with the final filled by an average player. How many other teams can boast of such a powerhouse?

Here’s how the Yankees in question performed in 2008, and how they bounced back in 2009. All stats are from FanGraphs, at risk of Jeremy Greenhouse calling me out.

Player 08 wOBA 08 WAR 09 wOBA 09 WAR
Jorge Posada .340 0.8 .378 4.0
Hideki Matsui .348 0.8 .378 2.4
Nick Swisher .325 1.0 .375 3.5
Robinson Cano .307 0.5 .370 4.4

Both Swisher and Cano both returned to their pre-2008 forms, which brought a huge boost to the offense. As you can see from the table, these were not insignificant improvements. Not only did they increase rate production over 2008, but they stayed healthy and therefore added that value over the course of the season. WAR favors Cano over Swisher by almost a full run, but that’s mostly because of the positional adjustment. Both had phenomenal seasons, especially compared to 2008.

Posada and Matsui contributed in two ways. First, they improved their net production over 2008. Even when healthy, Posada and Matsui weren’t quite where they had been in years past. Their wOBA numbers weren’t bad in 2008, but the Yankees have seen them perform much better. There was certainly fear that age had caught up with them, but they answered that charge by coming back to produce in 2009. That leads to the second part of their improvement, remaining healthy. Even with their production in 2008, they didn’t help the team as much because they were hurt for much of the season. In 2008 both stayed healthy enough to add a ton of value to the team, as evidenced by their WAR figures.

All four players certainly had the potential to bounce back after poor 2008 campaigns. Cano and Swisher were guys in their primes who had bad years, and Matsui and Posada were two veterans who faced injury struggles. During the 2008-2009 off-season, it would have been wildly optimistic to predict that all four would bounce back. The Yankees got lucky in that regard. All four contributed to the 103-win season, which set up the team’s run through the playoffs. The 2009 Yankees might have made the playoffs if only two of those four bounced back, but they wouldn’t have been nearly as dominant. While the improved pitching staff was a big part of the story this season, we shouldn’t overlook Posada, Matsui, Cano, and Swisher. Their contribution was a big part of making this season as special as it was.

Yanks decline option on Mitre
Coaching staff remains unsettled for 2010
  • Salty Buggah

    Nick Swisher = 4th Outfielder winning championships.

    • Free Mike Vick

      ahhh…remember when Nick Swisher wasn’t even good enough to play RF over Jerry Hairston Jr in game 2 of the 2009 World Series??

      its the simple things in life i treasure.

  • Bo

    Imagine if Cano could actually hit with RISP.

    He’d drive in 140 runs.

    • A.D.

      If we assume Cano could continue with the same avg number of RBI per hit with RISP as he experienced in 2009, but was able to hit at the same clip (.320 vs .209) with RISP as he did on the year, he would have driven in ~117 runs this year, assuming everything else stayed the same.

      • Tom Zig

        an extra 22 RBIs? wow

      • pete

        if he hit .320 w/ RISP, wouldn’t his overall average go up? The intersection would be something like .350, which would probably correspond to over 120 RBIs

    • http://kyivpost.img.com.ua/img/forall/a/355/5.jpg Rose

      Hey, if you met two guys named Flippy and Hambone…who would you think liked dolphins the most? I’d say Flippy, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong though, it’s Hambone.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself: “Mankind”. Basically, it’s made up of two separate words – “mank” and “ind”. What do these words mean? It’s a mystery, and that’s why so is mankind.

  • Doug

    “How many other teams can boast of such a powerhouse?”

    Is this a rhetorical question, Joe? ;-)

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Lisa: Do you know what a rhetorical question is, dad?
      Homer: Do I know what a rhetorical QUESTION IS????

      • JGS

        quote fail

        Lisa: Do you even know what rhetorical means?
        Homer: Do I know what rhetorical means??

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside


          I have shamed myself.

  • Derek

    will Edwar Ramirez ever return?

    • Tom Zig

      Call Joe Girardi and ask

    • whozat

      We try to keep discussions on-topic here. It’s in the commenting guidelines. And how would any of us even know the answer to that?

      • pat

        Or care for that matter. The days of throwing Edwar freaking Ramirez as a late inning relief option are behind us thankfully.

        • Tom Zig


  • jim p

    Lack of multiple major injuries seemed to be a key for the ’09 Yankees, as it was for the ’08 Rays. Outside of Wang for the year and A-Rod for a month, and Bruney (not a major player), I don’t think we lost anyone.

    We’d be very lucky indeed to not lose anyone for most or all of ’10. Fortunately, we seem to have a great deal of flexibility in our roster, and some good bats/arms coming up from the minors.

    • UWS

      Wasn’t Posada on the DL for a few weeks?

      • Tom Zig

        molina too

    • Stuckey

      Posada was on the DL for what, 3 weeks? With his back-up going down at the same time.

      Nady figured to be a part of the rotation and went down for the year.

      Gardner was a platoon player but got lost for a month.

      I would say the Yanks had their fair share of injuries.

      • JGS

        Nady did go down for the year, but I think you are talking about Wang there

      • jim p

        Yeah, but no CC, AJ, Pettitte, Joba, Mo, Tex, Jeter, Cano, Damon, Melky– when you consider the relatively small damage compared to other teams, and given everyone looses someone each year for some time, it was really pretty negligible lost time for the Yanks.

        • whozat

          Yeah, starting right fielder for the whole season and #2 starter for the whole season aren’t a big deal.

          Really, they had the depth to withstand two pretty big blows.

        • Stuckey

          That’s a product of the Yankees depth – that the guys who didn’t get hurt are all highly productive players – rather than the Yankees dodging a bullet.

          That’s what depth IS.

          Again, losing A-Rod, Wang, Nady, and Posada for the time they did would be regarded relatively in different light if they still we’re trotting out all-stars even with those players missing.

          Most other teams losing that production would have been wounded, perhaps mortally.

  • larryf

    and Matsui never slides! Well-sort of on topic….

  • Eric S

    It’s probably worth pointing out that Jeter had a down year in ’08 as well, and a big bounceback by him on offense (+100 OPS points) and defense (>6 UZR) made a huge difference as well.