Injuries, winning, and the rest of AL East

5/7-5/9 Series Preview: Colorado Rockies
2013 Draft: Ryan Boldt
(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Last week, Mike polled RAB about which player on the disabled list the Yankees miss the most. Specifically, he focused on the players who started the season on the DL, who would have undoubtedly made the team’s Opening Day roster, and would have been expected to be primary contributors – Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira.

As I contemplated my response to the poll (I voted Jeter by the way), I considered the cost of those four players. They are worth approximately $85M in annualized salary. Add in Kevin Youkilis (who was the injury-prone back up plan to the injury-prone third baseman) for the sake of argument, and we’ve accounted for approximately 40% of the total cumulative Yankee payroll in 2013 (~$228M).

Now, just out of curiosity, I took a quick jaunt over to Cot’s Baseball Contracts and looked at the other AL East rosters. I imagined what those lineups might look like if one effectively removed approximately 40% of the payroll from those rosters. In terms of players, I began by filtering out some of the more expensive contracts on the payroll, as they presumably would have been the same type of key starters that the teams were counting on the most – kind of like the Yankees. It’s not a scientific comparison by any means, but I think the point stands to reason nevertheless.

Orioles ($92M Total) Red Sox ($155M Total) Rays ($62M Total) Blue Jays ($119M Total)
Nick Markakis ($15.3M) John Lackey ($15.9M) David Price ($10.1M) Jose Bautista ($14M)
Brian Roberts ($10M) David Ortiz ($11.5M) Evan Longoria ($6M) Josh Johnson ($13.7M)
Adam Jones ($8.9M) Ryan Dempster ($13.2M) Ben Zobrist ($5.6M) Mark Buehrle ($12M)
Matt Wieters ($5.5M) Jon Lester ($11.6M) Yunel Escobar ($5M) Jose Reyes ($10M)

Frankly, it’s kind of laughable. For Baltimore, I think they could survive without Roberts (as he’s been pretty injured the last few seasons anyway). Take away Markakis, Jones and Wieters though, and I think they’re in a lot of trouble. I don’t see the Rays surviving without Price or Longoria, let alone both, and I think we’re seeing what the Jays look like when their superstars aren’t overly effective or are absent from the lineup altogether. The Red Sox started the season with Ortiz on the DL and with Lackey being, well, himself. That said, they have relied quite a bit on Dempster, Victorino, and Lester to all help shoulder the burden. Take Lester out of the mix, and that MLB leading record might not be so shiny.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this other than it’s pretty incredible that the Yankees have not only continued to win (fifth best record in the AL, seventh best record in MLB) but have really handled a brutal injury plague about as well as could be expected. After all, many of us (including me) were hoping the team could merely stay afloat. We were hoping come mid-May, the team wasn’t 10+ games back already.

Some of this success can and should certainly be attributed to guys like Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner really stepping up to the plate (see what I did there?), and Robinson Cano performing like the MVP candidate that he is. However, it’s hard to imagine most teams survive in this environment. Now, one could understandably question how much more the team can handle, or even if no one else gets hurt, how long this can last as it is. Still, I for one am absolutely pleased with where the team is all things considering.

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5/7-5/9 Series Preview: Colorado Rockies
2013 Draft: Ryan Boldt
  • Robinson Tilapia

    I’m sure others with a bit more time on their hands could come up with some decent counterarguments here but, on the surface, absolutely this. What the fill-ins has done thus far has been remarkable. It’s mid-May. Things could and, in recent history, be/have been oh so much worse.

    • Winter

      I just worry about what might happen if more players go down. We’ve already seen the effects of Youkilis’s injury (I don’t think anyone here likes seeing Nix’s name in the lineup every night) and Nunez’s injury could make that even worse (Chris Nelson???). The bullpen is looking shakier than usual with Joba on the DL and Robertson day-to-day. Right now the 8th inning options are Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan. Ugh.

      Hafner’s always a concern for injury, and any player can get hurt without warning. The Yankees have done an amazing job dealing with their injury issues and have gotten tremendous production from the fill-ins. But it seems to me that even one more injury (or two) could push them over the brink.

      • Winter

        Forgot to mention catching, but maybe that was just me trying to block it out of my mind entirely.

    • trr

      Oh, hell yeah…I mean, we sit here and nit pick and over analyze everything with obscure stats and graphs, but that’s our job…If an outsider took a cold hard look at this team he’d say how we’ve exceeded expectations, overcome adversity, and become an interesting team to watch.

      Now if we can just keep it up another 6 weeks…Hell, we made it this far, right?

  • Rick

    Very flawed in the sense that the Yankees have many more of these high priced players than other teams. Additionally flawed in the sense of cherry picking players (though I understand those teams don’t have so many players with huge contracts to pick from). Yankees still have Cano, Kuroda, Sabathia, Pettitte, Wells, Rivera, etc. that could have fit on a list for any other team in the AL East. This demonstrates that financial power helps to cover up a lot.

    • Havok9120

      Of course it does. No one is arguing otherwise. But he didn’t just pick out their most productive guys, he went by money, so arguing cherry picking seems a little silly.

      • MannyGeee

        It actually is the OPPOSITE of cherry picking. He did a statistical analysis with relevant comparisons. Would you have felt better if he picked the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th highest paid guys since CC would fall into that top 4?

        Because the Sox wouldn’t take that bet. That would pull Dempster who has been good not great and instead throw Napoli or Victorino in the list instead.

        • LK

          I think the overall point that the Yanks have exceeded expectations in the face of a ton of injuries very much stands, and this was a fun way to look at it.

          That said, I don’t think you can say things like, “the Yanks are missing the guys who rank in spots X, Y, and Z on their payroll, so those are the guys who are comparable on other teams.” The Rays, with their miniscule payroll, have to get elite production from their highest paid guys or they’re completely fucked. The Yankees best player is far and away Cano, who doesn’t even rank in the top 5 in salary among players on the team. A-Rod is the highest paid player, but I don’t think anyone expected elite production out of him. It’s not correct to say that the Yanks losing A-Rod is equivalent to the Rays losing Price because they’re the highest paid players – it ignores the vastly different situation the two teams are in.

          • http://riveraveblues.com Matt Warden

            That’s kind of the point though, LK. The Yankees invested a ton of cash into some of these guys on the DL. Sure, none of them are the team’s best player, but they absolutely still were expected to be important contributors. Losing A-Rod did hurt. So did losing Tex and Curtis. And the Yankees by all rights should have been f&#@ed (at least many of us worried they would be) just as the Rays would be if some of their contributors disappeared. The only difference here is the Yankees are willing to spend more to stay afloat while the Rays probably are not.

            The point here is that I’m not sure other teams would necessarily be able to sustain these kinds of losses — especially when they happen all at once in a hyper competitive division. I chose payroll as convenient means of finding a distribution. You can use whatever mode of filtering you want. I think the point stands though.

      • vicki

        i know ‘cherry picker’ is fightin’ words on a blog that favors stat analysis, but the rest of his point is fair.

        the 40% doesn’t really translate for teams with much smaller payrolls. to the tune of > $100M smaller.

        of course the only other team i’d even sit down and talk DL’s with is the dodgers and they’re just lost.

        • Rick

          Right, never meant to apply cherry picking in a confrontational sense. It was an interesting post, just flawed in the sense that it’s hard to find comparisons based upon how many more higher paid players the yanks have. They should though, their financial wherewithal should be maximized in a system with no salary cap.

    • Mike HC

      No big deal because that list was just meant to be a loose comparison, but I would have at least left out each teams best player, considering having Cano raking in the middle of the order is a major reason the Yanks have succeeded (Adam Jones, Longo, and Bautista)

  • Eddard

    They just need to get through this road trip and then reinforcements will start trickling in. Granderson, Youk, Joba should be back this month. Teixera a few weeks later. Then we just need Frankie and Jete in late June/July. Who knows about Pineda.

    People have been fretting day in and day out since before the season and look where they are, right in the thick of the race. I’d rather have this bunch than the over hyped Angels or Jays any day.

  • MannyGeee

    We also forget that this team has a DL list that would in fact have the 15th highest payroll in the league. And they could in fact FIELD A TEAM with just their injured guys. Remarkable.

    Truth be told, it helps to have the financial pull that the Yankees possess. However the starting 9 is Ichiro, Cano, and a ton of dudes who are under team control and scrap heap pickups. And the Wells abortion contract, but I consider that a scrap heap pickup considering no one thought he was worth A PENNY, let alone the 13M over 2 years he’ll be getting from us.

    That is significantly worse than a lot of teams in the league on paper, yet here we are. Pretty bitchin if you ask me. Madden or Farrell would be crowned king of baseball in the same situation, while Girardi will not get a sniff of credit.

    • jjyank

      Agreed. And you make a good point with the last sentence there. I think there are a lot of fans that are seething at the mouth to jump all over Girardi and management in general, yet I feel fairly confident that if the Rays had this many injuries to so many key players and were still sitting at a cool .600 winning percentage, Maddon and Friedman would be getting worshipped.

    • vicki

      hat-tip to joe, yes. too, the upside of scrap heap – even when they don’t magically world-beat upon donning pinstripes – is they bring those veteran presents, calm and composure in the face of struggle.

  • Mike HC

    So far so great. I do have some reservations that we will be able to keep this up with the current lineup though. We have the 8th best run differential in the AL, so some of this feels like we are winning with smoke and mirrors.

    • vicki

      smoke and mirrors, bah. aura and mystique!

      • Mike HC

        Very true!

    • trr

      Yeah Mike, but we knew this was gonna be a bumpy ride during the first half, and maybe the worst is still yet to come.

      I wasn’t here last year so I don’t know how people would deal with, say, an 8 game losing streak…

      • Mike HC

        Based on how we collectively handle a bad 6 innings, I’m guessing not well.

      • jjyank

        You don’t want to know, trr, trust me.

        • trr

          Believe me, I hope I don’t have to!!

  • And in merrie olde England

    That picture is hilarious, Teix looks like he is barely moving but his calf is going all out. It’s not Montero-bad running but he’s really on his heels.

    • vicki

      one of life’s little pleasures is watching teix run. he looks like a warner bros. cartoon.

      • Mike HC

        His controlled breathing cracks me up every time.

  • johnnybk

    Some credit is due to girardi. The last few years cashman has signed vets for the bench that we all kind of go “meh” over, then they end up playing big roles and having success. He can still be frustrating, but he’s doing a great job getting the best out of this roster.

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