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March 23, 2010

Team Health Reports

New York Yankees

by Will Carroll

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Team Health Reports 

The Summary: No athletic trainer in the game now has been around as long as Gene Monahan, but don't call the Yankees medical staff old school. The consistency the Yankees have despite accepting a ton of risk with older players is pretty amazing. They do put a ton of days on the disabled list, but most of those are risks like Jorge Posada, whose known shoulder issues are balanced with the knowledge that the medical staff is keeping him productive a lot more than most late-30s catchers should be expected. The numbers in 2009 were down a bit, despite new facilities, in large part due to the long-term injuries to Chien-Ming Wang and Xavier Nady. During the building boom of the Selig reign, new training rooms have often helped medical staffs drop numbers by increasing rooms and adding new modalities. Perhaps it doesn't show in the raw numbers, but keeping Alex Rodriguez, Posada, and A.J. Burnett healthy for most of the season certainly had value. You can see it in that fancy new ring, if not a Dick Martin Award. (Note: Monahan is out for spring training dealing with his own medical issue. We wish him the best.)

The Facts
Days Lost:
682
Dollars Lost: $20,431,592.93
Injury Cost: $12,851,388.89

The Cost:
New York keeps spending on players and it keeps losing on injuries. The 2009 season continued the Yankees' recent trend of losing more than the league average, as they lost $20.4 million. The boys in pinstripes have been one of the teams that have paid the most for injuries over the last three years, losing $73.6 million. Just think about what the Yankees could have done with the money they lost. They could have bought one of the game's top pitchers and first basemen with that chunk of change. Oh, wait... They still were able to do that. The Yankees have never let the cost of injuries slow them down in the free-agent market, and they probably never will. New York lost a combined $11.7 million on injuries to Nady and Alex Rodriguez, and another $5.3 million on Wang and left-handed reliever Damaso Marte. The Yankees toned down their spending in the offseason, making their only splashes in bringing back Pettitte and bringing in Nick Johnson—two guys who could very well give the Yanks yet another year of high dollars lost.

The Big Risk: The problem with Joba Chamberlain isn't that he doesn't have a role or doesn't have good stuff. It's that it hasn't translated into results. Chamberlain has stuff that still excites scouts and leaves hitters grumbling, but when you look back at the results, it's ordinary. He's worth about 1.0-1.5 wins, depending on how you look at it. He was more valuable as a starter than as a reliever, but he could be pushed back to the bullpen if Phil Hughes, who was better as a reliever, wins the fifth slot in the rotation. The Yankees have kept Chamberlain together, which leaves him with the chance to do all the things people have hoped, but deep down, the reason that the "Joba Rules" were developed is the same reason any team watches out for a young pitcher—they didn't think he'd be healthy any other way.

The Comeback: Posada came back from his shoulder problems and looked pretty solid as a hitter. There have always been questions about him defensively, but by most defensive systems, he was no worse and, in some ways, better last year. Perhaps he was staying within himself, as the old saying goes. A year out from the shoulder problem, things should be better. Sure, he's another year older and will share time behind the plate, but that should actually help things. Posada doesn't have the wear and tear that most catchers do—he converted to the position late. There will come a time when he'll have to hang up his catcher's gear and join this generation's Yankees heroes on the sidelines, but like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, he'll likely be able to choose when that is.

The Trend:
The Yankees spent much of the last decade fighting a problem you wouldn't have expected: depth. Through most of the 2000s, the Yankees spent top dollar on big names, but not much behind them. As Brian Cashman took more control, the Yankees seemed to consider depth more and more, much in the way that the Red Sox had for a few years ahead of them. It would be easy to just throw the checkbook at the problem, but the Yankees focused more on getting pieces and parts. Edwar Ramirez, Chad Gaudin, and Eric Hinske made big contributions and got the same ring that the multi-millionaires did when they won. Depth helped the Yankees get past injuries and should help again this season. The Yankees also stopped accepting a lot of risk with signings, Burnett aside, and their injury numbers have gotten a lot better over the last three seasons.

The Ratings


Red light C Jorge Posada: See The Comeback.
Red light DH Nick Johnson: Johnson's a known quantity at this stage. He breaks down, but for the Yankees, that's not a significant problem. On one side, if he's not available, Posada gets some extra rest. On the other hand, Jesus Montero, among others, could play DH over an extended period of time. That makes the Yankees the perfect team for taking the risk here.
Red light SP A.J. Burnett: Burnett has been healthy three years out of the last eight. Will it be four of nine? It's hard to find someone as painfully inconsistent besides Chris Carpenter, but Burnett is actually healthier, if not quite as good.
Red light SP Andy Pettitte: Pettitte is not bulletproof, but like many old pitchers, there's a survivor effect. When Pettitte next breaks, that will likely be the end, but so what? 
Red light SP/RP Joba Chamberlain: See The Big Risk.
Red lightCL Mariano Rivera: Rivera is a constant red, but if you've read these before, you know that it's mostly the annual period where he comes up sore, takes some time off, and comes back with that hammer of God cutter intact. Yes, it's likely, even probable, that he'll hit on the DL, which is what defines red. I'll take Rivera every time, risk or not.
Red light RP/SP Phil Hughes: 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.
Yellow light 3B Alex Rodriguez: Rodriguez's hip is the major issue.
Yellow light SS Derek Jeter: Jeter has been healthy over the course of his career, which is one of the reasons he is still good. As much as he's done, it seems like there's not much mileage on him. It just looks too easy for him, doesn't it? He is aging and is at a risky position, but he's still close to a green even now.
Yellow light RF Nick Swisher: Swisher's odd career patterns really confuse PIPP. He's probably not that risky, but then again, if uncertainty is risk, I'll say that Swisher is very uncertain.
Green light 1B Mark Teixeira
Green light 2B Robinson Cano
Green light LF Brett Gardner
Green light CF Curtis Granderson
Green light SP CC Sabathia: Sabathia's workload is an issue, but he's proven time and time again that he can handle what would kill some pitchers. He has an appetite for innings.
Green light SP Javier Vazquez


Related Content:  Yankees,  Phil Hughes

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