DL projections reinforce need for rotation help

It's (finally) official: Beltran's a Yankee
Yankees still seeking righty infield bat; not close to deal with Reynolds

(Rob Carr/Getty)

The Yankees came into the offseason needing at least two starting pitchers and so far they’ve added just one, re-signing Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year contract. He was the team’s best pitcher in each of the last two seasons and makes perfect sense on a one-year deal, but he is also the second oldest starter in the AL behind R.A. Dickey. Age brings a bevy of concerns.

Chief among those concerns is injury … well, both injury and recovery time. Older players tend to take longer to heal, that’s just the way the human body works. The Yankees have had a lot of health problems in recent years (both injuries and setbacks) thanks in part to their older roster. They’ve made their bed and have had to sleep in it when it comes to players getting hurt, and given their moves this winter, they’re content with rolling the dice again in 2014.

Last week, Jeff Zimmerman at FanGraphs published his annual starting pitcher DL projections, which have been shockingly accurate over the years. It’s not a specific injury projection (so and so will have a shoulder problem, etc.), just a projection of who will visit the DL next season based on their age and workload, as well as other factors like breaking ball usage and strike-throwing ability. It’s complicated, so click the link for the full explanation.

The Yankees only have three starters locked into spots next season: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and Kuroda. A bunch of young kids will compete for the fifth spot and that fourth spot figures to go to a pitcher to be acquired later. Not only are Sabathia (career-worst year in 2013), Kuroda (crashed hard late in 2013), and Nova (erratic has hell) performance concerns heading into next season, but they’re also DL risks according to Zimmerman’s data.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Sabathia: 47% chance of landing on DL
It wasn’t too long ago that Sabathia was baseball’s preeminent workhorse, and in some ways he still is — he is one of four pitchers to throw at least 200 innings in each of the last seven seasons (Justin Verlander, Mark Buehrle, and James Shields are the others). Over the last 26 months, however, CC has dealt with a torn knee menisicus, a groin strain, elbow stiffness, a bone spur in his elbow, and a hamstring strain. He has finished each of the last three seasons either injured or in need of offseason surgery. Sabathia is getting up there in years and he’s thrown a frickin’ ton of innings in his career, and he compounds the problem by not telling anyone he’s banged up until it gets really bad (he pitched through the knee, elbow, and hamstring problems). It’s no surprise his risk of landing on the DL is so high, 16th highest among the 128 projected pitchers.

Kuroda: 43% chance of landing on DL
Kuroda has avoided the DL since arriving in New York but he has dealt with fatigue late in each of the last two seasons, so much so that he stopped throwing his usual between-starts bullpen session in September. He had a shoulder problem in 2008, an oblique problem in 2009, and a concussion (hit by a line drive) in 2010. Kuroda has topped 195 innings in each of the last four seasons and 180 innings in five of his six seasons in MLB. His DL projection is the 34th highest thanks mostly to his age.

Nova: 41% chance of landing on DL
Coming up through the minors, Nova was a workhorse who rarely missed a start. He has been hurt in each of the last three seasons though, missing time with a forearm strain (2011), shoulder tightness (2012), and triceps inflammation (2013). That’s three arm-related injuries in the last three years, albeit minor non-structural injuries that shelved him no more than a few weeks at a time. Nova has youth on his side, but his DL projection is still the 45th highest out of the 128 projected pitchers.

* * *

Now, obviously, every pitcher is an injury risk. It comes with the territory. Some are riskier than others for a variety of reasons. The pitcher most likely to land on the DL next season according to Zimmerman is Bartolo Colon (64%), which makes sense given his age, injury history, and general portliness. He’s the only active pitcher over 60% (retired Andy Pettitte is at 63%). The pitcher least at risk is Madison Bumgarner (26%). The top free agent hurlers rank anywhere from not that risky (Ervin Santana, 34%) to moderately risky (Ubaldo Jimenez, 38%) to very risky (Matt Garza, 51%).

As for the Yankees, they have three of the 45 starters most at risk of visiting the DL next season, and that’s on top of their performance concerns. The team does have some nice back-end depth in David Phelps, Adam Warren, Michael Pineda, and Vidal Nuno, but three of those four guys spent at least a few months on the DL this past season themselves. Only Warren made it through the entire year healthy. The Bombers not only need to add a starter, they need to add a durable innings guy they can count on to take the ball every fifth day.

It's (finally) official: Beltran's a Yankee
Yankees still seeking righty infield bat; not close to deal with Reynolds
  • ropeadope

    The pitcher most likely to land on the DL next season according to Zimmerman is Bartolo Colon (64%), which makes sense given his age, injury history, and general portliness.

    I think you meant general porkliness. Still wish we had him, though.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    question: what percentage of starters actually make it through the season without hitting the DL? Has got to be less than 50%, no? Would be nice if anybody can provide some data for the last seasons.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I remember reading something 2-3 years ago that said 40% of starters in Opening Day rotations have hit the DL at some point in a given season, historically.

      • Bavarian Yankee

        only 40%? I’m a bit surprised about that because every year my fantasy starters seem to be on the DL for ages :)

        • RetroRob

          Vaguely related to this conversation, there’s only one team in the history of MLB to have the same five starters pitch every game. In other words, no injuries or substitutions, no need for the sixth starter swingman that year. Every pitcher started approximately 32 or 33 games. It was a Seattle Mariners team, although off the top of my head can’t remember which year.

          I don’t know if I’m more surprised that more than one team has never done this, or that a single team has ever done this.

      • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

        But this doesn’t include those guys who start the season on the DL, right? So the overall number should be closer to or over 50%.

    • TWTR

      It would, and I would like to see it broken down by age.

  • http://www.pinstripepundits.com Derek

    The odds aren’t shocking for CC, Kuroda, and Nova. Is there anything similar for position players? I’d imagine Teixeira, Jeter, A-Rod, Beltran, Ellsbury, Soriano, McCann, all would have fairly high percentages. Heh, that’s just about every starter. Yikes.

    • forensic

      I’d like to see Brian Roberts’ projection. What’s higher than 100%?

  • LarryM Fl

    If I recall correctly. A team which reaches the WS use about 7/8 starters. Teams that use more than 7/8 are not slated to make the WS. Apparently, the depth of starting pitching only goes so deep.

    So I can believe that 40% of any teams staff will be on the DL.

  • Bobby D

    Let’s hope the yanks can add at least one if not two quality arms. At least one for the rotation and one for the bullpen!

  • Giuseppe

    For Pete’s sake, ‘DL Projections?!’

    • vicki

      health is the new metric, baby.

      • forensic

        Yup, durability is the 6th tool that the Yankees are sorely lacking all over the roster.

  • Justin B

    I’m hoping we sign E. Santana. He’s the best available and should be worth 3 WAR a year for the next 3-4 years……..and maybe, we can still get Tanaka or trade for another quality starter.

    • jsbrendog

      god no. i hope the exact opposite.i would rather the yankees miss the playoffs again next year than pay ervin santana what he wants or have him on the team for 3-5 years.

      • forensic

        I agree. Santana just strikes me as inevitably being Hughes 2.0 in YSIII.

    • Justin B

      Santana is better than the other options….outside of a trade. He’s been an all-star (I know that’s pretty meaningless) and was worth 3 WAR in 2010,2011, and 2013. There isn’t a better free agent option. I doubt we can trade for two quality starters. We might not even get one on a trade. Sign Santana and at least we have a guy who is a good bet to be worth 3 wins over replacement.

  • nope

    Their odds of Pettitte landing on the DL are way off. I project it at 0%.

  • Alkaline

    Never tell me the odds.

  • qwerty

    Even if CC, Kuroda and Nova all land on the DL we still have Phelps, Warren and Nuno to back them up, all at the same time if need be. Jose Ramirez and Michael Pineda or Dellin betances can take the 4th and 5th spots and we’re good to go :)

  • csonk

    CASHman has put the proverbial band-aid on the pig with this newly destructed roster. Overpaying injury prone OF’s, all eggs in an empty rice basket, & a 2B that doesn’t even need to play to get hurt. Good luck. They’ll remain competitive (on the surface) much like last year’s team, but the reality is they don’t have a horseball’s chance (just like last year’s team). CC, AT BEST, is a solid #2 at this point. Nova nobody knows WTF will do/be, but even his top end isn’t anywhere near #1 anyway. Kuroda is toast by mid-August. Who is going to face the Tigers, A’s, Angels, Rangers, Boston ACES if they even sneak into the playoffs somehow? That ass-clown makes me hate being a Yankees fan at times. There aren’t good odds that any every day player or top 3 Pitcher (Kuroda is the lone exception) doesn’t land on the DL for SIGNIFICANT time – thats a heckuva plan.

    • qwerty

      Why are you asking them to do something that’s not possible? That’s like a Rays fan telling the GM to sign Shin Shoo Choo or extend David Price. It’s not a possibility.