General Yankees


…is when you start imagining a perfectly healthy Yankees team (and root for the Sox). River Avenue Blues raises an interesting question regarding the personnel change at the top of the Bombers' training staff and how much of an impact this might have on the coming season.  

24 replies on “Pessimism…”

I hope the guy gets better.
It seems to me that a good medical staff is like a good third base coach: you don’t notice them if they’re doing a good job. You notice them when things go badly. For instance, the Mets and Bobby Meacham.

Absolutely agree Nick, all the best to him.
Ironically enough, one of my players is going to see the Mets team doctor next week re: his elbow…I tried not to make a joke to him re: the Mets track record, but I couldn’t hold back. Going to the Mets team Dr. for important health questions is like coming to me for diet advice. (By the way, my football Giants and the Mets share medical staffs, reassuring…)
As for the Yankees, I’d hope the their overall health is not all that dependent on the trainer. I mean, sure there are tricks of the trade I am sure, but players track records, personal fitness, etc…are all probably far bigger factors than this.

My impression of the Yankees’ 2009 was one of inordinate health, given the age of their key pieces. Matsui, Damon, Jeter, Posada… all ended up healthy and produced career or near-career years despite all being in their mid 30s.

Thank god Cashman replaced Matsui and Damon for better, younger players. Of course, NJ isn’t a paragon of health but at DH they have plenty of coverage in Montero and even Miranda.
Jeter’s never given any reason to doubt his health. The only time he’s missed significant time is because of a dislocated shoulder. JD Drew he ain’t. The one thing the Yankees have is depth at catcher. Great job by Cashman in planning for the future while playing to win now.

Well Matsui actually had loads of issues last year – got both knees drained, missed a few weeks – it was questionable that he was going to be available for the playoffs. He still played in like 140 or so games, but his production was limited at times.
We also lost Wang for the year and our best player for 6 weeks, and Gardner and Melky for a few stretches. We were certainly lucky on the Posada/Damon front though.

Paul, I think the same can be said for most if not all teams that make runs at titles. One team that comes to mind was the Rays in 2008. The Phillies for the most part last season. Health is most certainly a key to how your season will go/end up. Matsui was a surprise to a degree, but Damon and Jeter (thank God) have been pretty constant games played wise. Posada, well he’s a 38 year old catcher, you have hopes, you don’t have expectations with 38 year old catchers. It’s a good thing their key pieces aren’t all that old anymore, with the exception of Posada. This team is younger overall, which doesn’t necessarily mean better health, that’s for sure.
To Mark’s point: I was shocked to see Matsui played in 142 games last year. I thought the same thing, ran to fangraphs and realized wow, he played in more games than I thought. The Melky/Gardner thing was tough, especially when Melky started hitting the wall towards the end of regular season and Wang, well the Yankees thought they had too much pitching and in the end they had just enough. Injuries are truly the great equalizer.

Yup, a lot of things went right for the Yankees last season, health-wise. But let’s not forget that almost as much went right for the Red Sox, too. Yes, Ortiz sucked for a good part of the season, but can we really attribute that to injury if he played in nearly every game? We can do a rough tabulation of major injuries to key players.
A-Rod (one month)
Marte (most of the season)
Posada (most of May, so three weeks)
Red Sox:
Dice-K (although he eventually came back at the end of the season)
Lowell (hip…looks like he missed a few weeks)
Wakefield (back injury? missed about a month and a half)
Lowrie (most of the season…but should he really be considered a ‘key player’?)
I think we can estimate that for major injuries to key players, the Yankees and Red Sox actually measure out to about even on this one. I would even venture to say that the Yankees had more value lost.
Now, for minor injuries, I can’t really remember too many on the Yankees’ side. I think Robertson had a barking elbow in September that caused him to miss time. Bruney, too, missed significant time.
For the Red Sox, looks like it was mostly bench players that got sidelined, namely Baldelli. I can’t think of anyone else who missed time.
I think we can see that (if my memory is correct), despite popular opinion, the Yankees and Red Sox were actually similarly healthy last season. So let’s not pretend that the Yankees have further to fall, health-wise, than the Sox do. In fact, given each of the teams’ additions and subtractions, I would say the Sox have significantly more health risk than the Yankees going into the 2010 season.

Oh and we also lost Nady for the year. I don’t think the Yankees were particularly lucky last year when it came to injury. it just seems like that because, oddly, they suffered most of their major losses in the first 2 months of the season. Teix also started the season with a bad wrist, although he did not actually miss time – I suspect he might have, had A-Rod not also been out and the team/fanbase in a state of semi-panic.
Actually, it’s funny to think about the state of yankeedom in those first 6-8 weeks of the 2009 campaign. The new ballpark was a big, expensive, empty joke. A-Rod was out (and fools like Buster Olney were saying he turned back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight on his 32nd birthday), Wang was horrendous and then done for the year, Nady was out, Burnett and Teix were off to bad starts…the only thing people were happy about was Swisher! Then from like the end of May on everything entirely reversed course.

Lowrie was the starting shortstop, so yeah, I’d say he was pretty key. And Lowell missed a couple weeks, but the hip affected his performance — on offense and especially defense — for far longer than that.
Those lists look similar, but the length of time and the respective roles of the players are key to consider, I think.

I mean, I forgot Gardner, who was the starting CFer, so I could make him ‘key’ for the Yankees as well (although I don’t think you or I would consider him such). And Nady as well. So now you’re looking at an overwhelming majority of key players lost for the Yankees.
The Red Sox really didn’t suffer all that much from injuries last season, at least no more than the Yankees did. You can argue that lingering injuries affected performance, but the Yankees had several lingering injury issues that also could have affected performance. Matsui’s knees, Damon’s…everything, Joba’s mechanics/lingering elbow issues from last season, A-Rod’s hip, etc.
I just don’t think it’s valid to state that the Yankees were healthier/luckier than the Sox in 2009, and use that statement to state that they have farther to fall, health-wise, than the Red Sox do, in 2010.

Nady and Gardner, regardless of their perceived value, were both starters before their injuries. So really the only players, of the starting 9 (non-pitchers, including DH) that weren’t lost for extended periods of time were: Tex, Jeter, Damon, Matsui and Cano.
The one injury that really makes me think is Nady. Swisher would have been that much more impressive if he had been able to take days off for Nady and vice versa. It was clear that at times Swisher hit a wall and without any really alternative, Girardi stuck with him. Nady was the perfect fit for the RF platoon, for lack of a better word. Instead of J-Hair, you get Nady, think what you’d like about him, but Nady is far better than J-Hair offensively. Especially when not being overexposed and overused. Same situation went on in CF, both Cabrera and Gardner were very good over short periods.

It’ll be a fun year. If you told me Damon and Matsui would be get one year deals worth 8 mil, I would’ve thought the Yanks would scoop them up. Ah well. Matsui probably would make his money back from Japan alone.
Now with the rotating DH, it should also give rest to more people. It’ll be tricky since Rays is always threatening, and you can’t really count on the wild card every year, but hopefully they have enough gas (200 mils worth) to last them to the playoffs to start burning..

Swisher’s pretty much the definition of a streaky hitter, so yeah, having a viable replacement for his bad slumps is very useful. Oh and Nady really kills lefties so he’s valuable regardless.
Wang was supposed to be the #2 starter coming into the season. I actually still think he will be good again (for the Nationals, unfortunately), too – I think the Yanks or SOMEone really effed up the rehab from his 2008 injury.
I had forgotten Posada actually did miss about a month.

The Yankees were more healthy than the Sox last year, by most measurements. It’s no big deal, it’s not an insult to say that the Yankees had a great accomplishment last year aided by better health – that is typically exactly what happens with winners. It’s not an excuse for the Sox, either: health is part of the game – better teams and more successful teams tend to be more healthy. So it goes.
Let’s look at it in the following (somewhat crude) manner, by primary starters (and backups/first off the bench, so the same number of players and as close to the same number of man-games as possible without me having to spend more than the 20 minutes I spent on this damn comment!) and games played – let’s throw out Lowrie and Nady since they were both injured early and replaced quite quickly, let’s look at their replacements’ health, to level the field. Let’s not discuss how shitty Nick Green was as a player, I frankly don’t care – just looking at games lost to injuries, that’s it. As I said it’s a bit crude but regardless it gives a snapshot of the health of the top-tier/starting crews.
1452/1671 man-games, or 86.89% played, broken down as follows:
Posada 111/162
Tex 156/162
Cano 161/162
Jeter 153/162
A-Rod 124/162
Damon 143/162
Melky 153/162
Swisher 150/162
Matsui 142/162
Gardner 108/162
Molina 51/51 (I am not going to divide backup catcher by 162)
1374/1676 man-games, or 81.98%
Tek 109/162
Youk 136/162
Pedroia 154/162
Green/Gonzo 147/162 (takes care of shortstop position)
Lowell 119/162
Bay 151/162
Ellsbury 153/162
Drew 137/162
Ortiz 150/162
Baldelli 62/162
Martinez 56/56
And let’s look at the starting staffs:
Sabathia – 34 starts
Burnett – 33 starts
Pettitte – 32 starts
Joba – 31 starts
Wang – lost season
130 starts from the top 4, really fantastic as far as I am concerned.
Beckett 32 starts
Lester 32 starts
Penny 24 starts
Wakefield 21 starts
Buchholz/Dice-K – 28 starts
That’s 109 starts from the top 4, 137 from the top 6.
There was a difference between the two teams, and this also helps explain the difference between the two teams’ seasons: the Yankees were better, more healthy, their depth and talent allowed them to excel. In some ways, the Sox achieved quite a great deal when you consider the vast difference in the health of the rotations and the reasonable man-game difference in injuries to position players – arguably this was due to the Sox’ depth. But that’s another discussion. ;-)

Waaaaiiiit a minute. SF, you sly dog. You can’t equate Varitek sitting on the bench due to awfulness and Posada missing time due to injury. That should take care of most of the difference between the two lineups: I dare say Sox catchers missed nary a day due to health reasons. You also can’t call Penny unhealthy, you have to call him un…performy. Buchholz replaced him just fine, health-wise. The difference in health between the Yankee rotation and the Sox rotation is that Wakefield missed about a month and a half. And even that’s somewhat negated by Dice-K not missing the entire season. There was simply not a vast difference in health in the rotations, just a vast difference in consistency of starters. Your analysis is severely flawed, I’m sorry to say.
Sorry, I’m just not buying the “Sox succeed despite setbacks” line. They had just about the same number of health-related setbacks as the Yankees did, perhaps even less.

It is crude, without a doubt. I am not trying to be sly here – happy to have the field clarified. In fairness, I am trying to account for suckiness – counting Green and Gonzo as one player, washing out Nady and Lowrie, etc.
As for Posada, the thing is that he missed a great deal of the season prior, and was two years removed from his last full season, in which he played 144 games. He appeared in 111 games, what were the realistic expectations for him at 37? Certainly not 144 games, correct? What realistic fan would have expected Posada to catch that many games? Regardless, I understand your point about blending suckiness with injury. Again, part of this is expectations – I am not sure I would buy into a claim that one thought Posada was going to catch 145 games coming off an injury at the age of 37, so we each adjust our critique of the situation accordingly.
As for the staff, I think that four pitchers each making more than 30 starts apiece is pretty darn good. The Yanks lost Wang, the Sox lost Wake (probably should be expected at this point, he always gets hurt – so see my above claim regarding Posada, nobody should count on 30 starts out of Wake at this point) and Dice-K. But the staff differentials don’t really seem worth arguing about, to me – Wang was only one body, he got hurt, and the Yankees were healthier as the Sox lost significant time to two bodies. And if the Yanks get 130 starts out of those four guys again then I will be very nervous, just because it will imply that high-quality talent is healthy and performing. If the Sox’ staff has another year like last year, health-wise, I won’t give them much of a shot.

I also wonder if you look at the lineups from August 1st through the playoffs what you would get for a percentage of man-games played by starters. In other words, which teams broke down as the season wore on? And pertaining to the top post, is there any correlation between how healthy teams are towards the end of the season and the training staff’s talents or conditioning coach’s skills?

So wait, if we’re factoring in realistic expectations, we can ignore JD Drew, pretty much ignore Wakefield (he was 42, what do you expect?) and give the Sox extra credit for healthy seasons from Beckett, Ortiz, Penny…like you said, it just becomes an incomprehensible mess. Both the Red Sox and Yankees were fairly healthy teams last year.
Re: the rotations, I said that there was a difference, and that difference was Wakefield, but that the difference was slightly negated by Dice-K coming back and making healthy starts, whereas Wang had surgery.
I just really don’t see the vast differences in health. I think the most fair thing we can say is that the Yankees and Red Sox were similarly healthy teams last year. I think what magnifies the illusion that the Yankees were ‘inordinately healthy’ was that they had a fairly consistent rotation and lineup, whereas the Sox had to do some shuffling that mostly came from performance issues (Varitek, Penny).

I think you’d really see the main difference between the two teams from June onwards. Most of the Yankees’ health concerns were abated by the end of May. Come June, they were pretty much firing on all cylinders through the playoffs. The Sox’s injuries were more spread out.

Varitek was benched because he was sucky, but he was sucky in part because he had a series of injuries — neck strain, foot problems. I’m not sure how we treat those, and how much better we could have expected Varitek to be with better health, or even how much better health we can project for a full-time catcher of his age.
Most of the Yankees’ health concerns were abated by the end of May.
Which would certainly lead to a perception that they seemed inordinately healthy for a team with a lot of key components in their mid-30s, particularly as the season went on and the expectation for injuries increases. Maybe the correct answer is that we’re both right — the Yankees were not “inordinately healthy” when compared to the Red Sox, but in fact they were just that for the final two-thirds of the season.

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