August 24, 2017
Let It Eat
Injuries are a part of baseball, and they present hurdles that every team must overcome. Pretty much every team has lost at least one top-five player on its roster for some period of time, and many more regulars and depth players are lost along the way. Bones break. UCLs snap. Ligaments sprain. Hamstrings pull. Heads get knocked. And replacements take the field.
While that makes “injuries are killing my team” a lame excuse, there are some teams that have more cause to lament their luck than others. One cool source for tracking those teams comes via Roster Resource, which runs a disabled list tracker that tells you exactly how many days every player on every team has missed this season. They even have their own formula for how much each team has been impacted by injuries. We won’t get into that formula here, but it’s fun and worth the look.
The results of the DL tracker are interesting enough in and of themselves, but I wanted to take it a step further. Rather than try to answer “which teams have suffered the most this season,” I wanted to ask “which units have been most decimated by injuries?” Which parts of which teams have lost so much star power, so much depth, or so much of both that their collapses are justified, or their resiliency is all the more impressive?
Some of these answers won’t surprise you. Hopefully a few will. And if you don’t see a part of your favorite team listed below? Yes, I feel bad for you, too.
Angels Starting Rotation
Wow. The Angels didn’t figure to have an amazing rotation heading into the year. But, if you chose to believe, you could see how they’d end up with a slightly-above-average squad anchored by Richards and with mild-upside arms like Skaggs and Meyer at the backend. Instead, the Angels have had to rely on Ricky Nolasco, Ramirez, and Chavez for the bulk of their innings, with a bunch of injured arms and Bridwell picking up the rest of the slack. With that in mind, it’s truly remarkable that the Angels have the 12th-best starters’ ERA in the game at 4.32 (though their DRA is 18th at 5.11). Give pitching coach Charles Nagy the MVP award.
Bad Luck Level: Walking under a ladder while breaking glass because you tripped over a black cat.
Reds Starting Rotation
The Reds' rotation is a collection of tire fires that have coalesced into one super tire fire that burns brighter than the sun. They’re flirting with a 6.00 ERA on the season. Their DRA is 6.44. Everyone knew the Reds would be bad this year, but no one has to be this bad, even when rebuilding. Still, it’s not entirely their own fault. Cincinnati’s two most experienced arms with any upside—DeSclafani and Finnegan—have essentially been non-factors. Veterans you’d hope would eat up innings in non-embarrassing fashion like Arroyo and Bailey have missed a ton of time. And none of their rookies like Garrett, Cody Reed, or Robert Stephenson have stepped up. The end result is hard to watch, but the Reds are just as much victims of bad luck as they are choosing the wrong arms.
Bad Luck Level: It starts raining as you change your flat tire on the side of the road. You were driving home after your girlfriend dumped you. Oh, also, you’re a Reds fan.
Mets Starting Rotation
Odds are, when you think of one unit that’s been decimated by injuries this season and you don’t live in Seattle, you think of the Mets' rotation. And oh my, it has indeed turned into a MASH unit. Thor has barely pitched, which serves as further proof that if god is real, he hates us. Guys with checkered injury histories like Matz, Harvey, and Wheeler have continued their injury-prone ways. Even the young cavalry has gone down with injuries. The end result is the fourth-worst starters’ ERA in the majors (5.08) for a squad that could’ve finished top four if healthy. Why do the Mets always have to Mets so hard?
Bad Luck Level: A Stark who travels south.
Mariners Starting Rotation
How many times must the Mariners prepare to kick the football only to have Lucy pull it away? Seattle is one game above .500 as I write this. They have a talented lineup and, by ERA, a top-10 bullpen. Where would they be if even one of the arms above had stayed healthy all year? If we were spared 27 starts from Gaviglio, Bergman, De Jong, and Gonzales? Life isn’t fair. At least Mariners fans are used to it.
Bad Luck Level: A Spinal Tap drummer.
You only start three outfielders. Teams only really need four or five. That makes it pretty incredible that seven individual Nationals outfielders have missed time already this season, including two supposed lineup mainstays in Eaton and Harper. If you’ll recall, the Nats gave up a ton of pitching prospects for Eaton before the season. And if you’ll recall, Harper is one of the best players in baseball. Losing them would be bad enough, but to lose capable depth in Taylor, Werth, and Goodwin, too? Just brutal. I, for one, blame Dusty Baker for letting these outfielders throw too many innings.
Bad Luck Level: Roy Sullivan.
Rangers Starting Rotation
This is sort of cheating on the Rangers’ part, because they knew Ross would be on the DL to start the year and because Andrew Cashner is Andrew Cashner; when he leads your planned starters in time not on the DL, something is wrong. But Hamels, Perez, and Griffin were reasonable bets to log innings before the season, so there’s some bad luck there. Plus, look at the names of replacements above. Bob Dole was more inspiring. This is a team that truly couldn’t afford injuries to one or two of its starters. Then most of them got injured. Part bad roster construction, yes, but part bad juju, too.
Red Sox Setup Crew
I’m largely staying away from relievers because every team’s relief corps is decimated by this point in the year, but the Red Sox's eighth-inning job is turning into the Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor. Smith and Thornburg, each of whom rightfully could’ve claimed the job if healthy, have yet to throw a pitch this season. Kelly missed a solid month right as he was pitching well. And now Barnes is on the DL with a mysterious case of “can’t pitch on the road.” If I’m Addison Reed, I’m taking out life insurance ASAP.
Bad Luck Level: They’re relievers, so grab a small violin but on one will cry for you.
I had trouble grouping all of the injured Giants together, but I knew I couldn’t leave them out. Pretty much every Giants player your average fan can name has been on the DL at one point or another this season. Then it clicked; even if I narrow my search to Giants who’ve been All-Stars in the past three years, the list is quite impressive. And this doesn’t include Hunter Pence, who was last an All-Star in 2014. San Francisco wasn’t considered a big favorite coming into the year in part because they were a top-heavy team with lots of star power but a mediocre supporting cast. That means that when the star power gets hurt, you’re left with a .403 winning percentage.
Bad Luck Level: Your winning lottery ticket fell out of your hands and was blown away.
Dodgers Starting Rotation (but does this count?)
(“Notable” Replacements: Brock Stewart.)
So here’s the thing about the Dodgers: yes, their rotation has been ravaged by injuries, but with a few exceptions, I’m not really sure it counts as “bad luck.” Kazmir, Hill, Ryu, and McCarthy are notorious for their poor baseball health. The Kershaw and Wood breaks were rough, but together they missed just 45 days, or about 9-10 starts combined. The real argument for bad luck here is Urias, but the Dodgers are built to be so deep that his injury alone wouldn’t do them in. It’s an extreme version of what we discussed with the Rangers above. It’s not bad luck when something stays true to its nature.
Bad Luck Level: Nah, you asked for this. Except for Kershaw and Urias. That’s bad luck.
- Rockies Starting Rotation (technically 301 games missed, but hard to quantify because of so many swingmen)