Much has been said here about the Yankees and their injuries, much of which by the YFs has been along the lines of: "The Yankees are doing well despite their problems." Much of this talk has failed to take into account the fact that the Yankees had played only about a week’s worth of games with those injuries, as well as for the fact that the Red Sox also are hobbled by key injuries.
SF emailed me a question before he left for vacation, and I thought it a good one to ask here. What injuries do these teams have, and how have our respective teams fared during those injuries.
In this study, I’ve included all DL stints or players who have missed at least five consecutive games but weren’t put on the DL. I excluded DL stints that started before the season began because teams know going into the season this will occur and plan accordingly. Part of how well you play during injuries is the ability to adapt to unexpected absences. Carl Pavano, for example, is anything but an unexpected absence.
Here are all the players for the Yankees that have seen time on the disabled list this season, and the dates they’ve been there. In parentheses is the team’s record during that DL stint:
- Gary Sheffield — May 6 to May 22 (8-8)
- Hideki Matsui — May 12 (7-6)
- Tanyan Sturtze — May 14 (5-6)
- Bubba Crosby — May 17 (4-4)
- Shawn Chacon — May 17 (4-4)
And for the Red Sox:
- Coco Crisp — April 11 (21-12)
- Trot Nixon — April 12 to April 16 (3-2)
- David Riske — April 12 to May 22 (20-14)
- David Wells — April 13 to May 25 (20-13)
- Mike Holtz — May 17 (4-3)
- Lenny DiNardo — May 25 (1-0)
The key periods of time for both teams, where two or more key players were out because of injury:
New York: May 12-22, when Sheffield and Matsui were both on the DL. Their record: 5-6
Boston: April 12-16, when Nixon and Crisp were both on the DL. Their record: 3-2. The Red Sox during this time also had Wells on the DL after his failed return, and the Sox’ record during the Wells/Crisp DL stint: 19-12
Further, the Yankees were in first place (Murray Chass take note) by six percentage points when Matsui went on the DL May 12. By the time Sheffield returned on the 22nd, the Yankees were 2.5 games back. The Red Sox, on the other hand were up 1 game on April 13, when Wells joined Crisp and Nixon on the bench. They still are up 1 game.
What conclusions can be drawn from this?
- The Red Sox have played better through their injuries than the Yankees. The Yankees are at best a .500 team over the past several weeks. The Red Sox have played at a .600 clip. As you can see, the Red Sox have a winning record during each player’s stint on the DL, even during the overlaps. The Yankees have a winning record during just one of those DL stints.
- During the two time periods that most resemble each other — the five games in which the Sox were out two starting outfielders and the 11 games in which the Yanks were also out two outfielders — the Red Sox had a better record than the Yankees. However, the Yankees also went 3-2 in their first five games, then went 2-4.
Several times, arguments have been made about whose loss is more important, etc. I’d consider Crisp and Matsui to be roughly equivalent. Sheffield was significant, and Nixon approximates him in that both teams lost two outfielders, but the length of time for which the Sox lost Nixon is nowhere close to that for the Yankees and Sheffield. The closest thing to the magnitude of Sheffield’s injury is the Sox’ losing 15-game winner Wells. Likewise, this does not take into account reduced performances from players playing while hurt or ill (Damon, Varitek, Giambi, Ortiz, et al).
The Yankees’ injuries might be more severe, and it’s clear they’re affecting the team more than the YFs here seem to admit. The Yankees’ ability to hang around first place is more a factor of the Sox’ own problems and injuries than any Yankee "heart" (as Jon Miller vomit-inducingly called it the other night).
The Sox’ injuries have played a key role in helping the depleted Yankees hang around. Losing Crisp has been mitigated somewhat by Pena and the emergence of Youkilis, but Crisp is clearly a better hitter than Pena and is faster than Youk, and the Sox usually have two automatic outs in any given lineup because of it. Without Wells, the Sox have been searching for a fith starter for the better part of a year, to no avail, and the man they’ve been using was just put on the DL himself. The bullpen has been reduced, partly by injury, to a two- (sometimes three-)man staff.
So all that to basically say: It’s too close to call, and it’s too early in the season. The Sox are more injured than appears because their three key losses (Crisp, Wells and Riske) have been essentially season-long injuries. Thus it’s disingenuous to say, "The Yankees are injured and they’re only one game out of first, so the Sox better watch out when we get healthy," because, um, the Sox aren’t healthy either, yet they’re performing better than the Yanks.
The fact remains that the Yankees have not been good over the past two weeks. They’ve been a .500 club, good for third in the AL East, and poor enough that if they continue to be a .500 club, they will be not only be treading water, they’ll be sinking in it, especially as the Sox begin bringing players off the DL in the upcoming days. The Sox have helped them stay in the race largely by losing two winnable games in what could have been a three-game sweep this week.
Those two games are the difference between half a game and 4.5 games in the AL East. They also highlight the importance of the head-to-head matchups between these teams. Before that series, the Sox were headed in one direction (10-4 in 14 games), the Yankees in another (7-7 in 14 games). If those trends continue in the upcoming weeks — and injuries like the ones we’ve seen cost Damon, Giambi and Posada more playing time — no number of Matt Clement starts or late Terry Francona hooks will help New York stay near the top.