Throughout the spring, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus has run through his team health reports. Today he hits the Yankees (sub. required). There aren’t many surprises in the article, as I suppose is the case for fans of each team. We’re intimately familiar with the team, and that includes each player’s injury history. The reports seem better resources for teams of which you’re not a fan. But, in any case, we’ll have a look at what Carroll says about the Yankees.
Carroll notes that the Yankees have lost a lot of money to injured players over the past few years, but that’s to be expected. They spend more on players, so when those players get hurt they will lose more to their DL stints. Last year they were again among the league leaders in dollars lost to DL time, mainly because Alex Rodriguez missed a month, but also because Xavier Nady and Chien-Ming Wang missed almost the entire season. What would interest me is a breakdown of time lost to the DL as a percentage of overall payroll. That might make the Yankees look a bit better.
Even with the total dollars lost, the Yankees have done a good job keeping their best players on the field. A-Rod, minus some fatigue in June, remained healthy following his surgery. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, two of the team’s elder statesmen, avoided injury in 2009. Jorge Posada spent a couple weeks on the DL, though not related to his surgically repaired shoulder. That held up just fine. Also, other than Marte in the bullpen and Wang in the rotation, the pitching staff held up remarkably well. So, again, it appears that the Yankees lost more money to the DL than most teams last season because they just spent more on players.
Surprisingly, Carroll lists Joba Chamberlain as the Yankees’ big risk. Not Nick Johnson, not Posada, not even A.J Burnett. His explanation is that the Yankees devised the Joba Rules because they thought he wouldn’t have stayed healthy otherwise. I suppose, though, that the same could be said for any 23-year-old pitcher who maxed out at just over 100 innings previously in his career. That doesn’t take away from Joba’s risk this season, though.
In terms of the red-yellow-green rankings, there aren’t many head scratchers. Mariano Rivera in the red is strange, but Carroll explains the rating and further says that it likely won’t much matter. Nick Swisher rates a yellow even though he hasn’t hit the DL since 2005. He hasn’t missed more than two days with an injury, at least according to Baseball Injury Tool since 2007. Still, the strangest ranking is Phil Hughes as a red. It’s not that Hughes doesn’t present an injury risk — he did, after all, miss significant time in both 2007 and 2008. However, Carroll’s reasoning seemingly falls victim to the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy:
Hughes is in much the same boat as Chamberlain, but the difference is that Hughes has broken down under a starter’s workload even when not terribly taxed. As a reliever, he really seemed to find himself. For all the talk about Chamberlain being pushed to the pen, I have no idea why anyone would take Hughes out. As a starter, he’s very red. As a pure reliever, he’d be a very low yellow.
No, he didn’t break down as a reliever last year. Yes, he got hurt as a starter previously in his career. That doesn’t create causation, though. Young pitchers get hurt. It happens. Hughes also came up to the majors as a 20-year-old and might not have been physically ready for that type of workload. I can understand why he’s a risk, but again, I don’t think the reasoning is particularly sound.
Overall, the outlook for the Yankees in 2010 appears fair. The older players present injury risk, but other than Posada it doesn’t appear they’re more risky than any other group of veterans. Also, as Carroll notes, the Yanks do have some options if they lose certain players to the DL. Anything can happen with injuries, as we’ve seen over the past few years, but right now, on March 23, the Yankees are doing well. We have at least that to be thankful for.