As you know, the Yankees lost a frickin’ ton of players to injury this past season. Important players too. Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter missed essentially the entire year, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson both missed over 100 games, Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner missed huge chunks of time … on and on it goes. Never-ending, it seems.
Jeff Zimmerman at FanGraphs posted injury data for 2013 and, believe it or not, the Yankees did not lose the most days to injury this year. They did lead baseball with 28 DL stints, but their 1,496 days lost trailed both the Marlins (1,538) and Braves (1,536). The Royals only lost 461 days to injury this past season. Must be nice.
Of course, tons of injuries are nothing new for the Yankees. This chart really drives home the point:
That’s an average of 1,200 (!) or so days lost to injury over a four-year period. Obviously some percentage of the injury pie is just plain ol’ luck. Curtis Granderson having not one, but two bones broken by pitches this summer was bad luck. Andy Pettitte having his leg broken by a hard-hit ground ball last year was bad luck. It happens. The non-luck portion has to do with things like the team’s injury prevention strategies, the training staff, the age of the roster, etc. Age is definitely a factor — older players tend to get beat up a little bit more and they take longer to heal. The Yankees have an older roster by design and they have to deal with the injury consequences, that’s all. They make their own bed.
Health is something of a market inefficiency these days. It’s not just about who has the best players anymore. It’s about who has the best players and keeps them on the field the longest. A huge part of Robinson Cano‘s value is his durability. He’s not just a brilliant hitter and an excellent defensive player, but he plays every single day. Since he broke into the league in 2005, only Ichiro Suzuki, Miguel Cabrera, and Michael Young have played more games. Over the last five years, only Prince Fielder has played more. He’s amazing. The Yankees have struggled with injuries over the last few seasons and when it happens year after year, it’s not really a coincidence. Some teams have a knack for keeping players healthy, but New York is definitely not one of them.