Sports Illustrated’s Will Carrol opens his latest piece on baseball injuries with the following paragraph:
I don’t know Eno Sarris or his Gladwellian hair. I do respect his work and enjoy reading him at Fangraphs. That said, his last piece was … well, it was just off. Maybe I hold Fangraphs and Sarris to a higher standard. Fangraphs is the thought leader when it comes to sabermetrics, and Sarris, as I said, is a solid writer. Let’s start with his premise, that the Blue Jays are being injured at a record pace. That’s not the case. Forget all time record (1,378 days, by the 2006 Nationals), the Jays aren’t even the most injured pitching staff this season. That mark goes to the Red Sox, year-to-date, who have a lead on them of more than a player-year (180 days.) The Jays are, at this point in the season, fourth in days lost, behind the Red Sox, Yankees and Padres.
While Eno Sarris’ piece for FanGraphs is titled “Blue Jays Pitching Staff Injured At Record Pace,” it’s followed by a very important question mark. In fact, Mr. Sarris’ findings in the body of his article on the Blue Jays pitching staff are very similar to the findings of Mr. Carroll, who has no hair of which to speak ill or well. If he had read beyond the headline and perhaps not been blind to punctuation, he might have saved himself the time and energy that Mr. Sarris had already gone trough.
This, from Mr. Sarris’ piece for FanGraphs:
The Jays have already lost 711 pitcher days to the DL so far this year. If you add in the days that they will lose to surgery, they’ll lose at least 1045 pitcher days this season. No team has lost as many as 1000 over the last couple of years. If you go back to 2002, you’ll see that the team is an oblique strain or two away from the top of the leaderboard:
Year Team Days on DL DL Trips 2002 Padres 1139 19 2004 Rangers 1101 18 2007 Royals 1064 15 2008 Braves 1010 18 2010 Nationals 992 11
Given historical records, this seems to be within the normal ebb and flow and just due to the vagaries of chance, and not due to some organizational philosophy.
While it’s never stated fully in the body of the piece that the Blue Jays aren’t the most injured pitching staff in baseball, it wasn’t the point of the article to compare the club’s injury woes to other teams this season. Mr. Sarris was doing a service to his readership by putting this year’s run of bad luck in historical context, coming to the conclusion that:
Those facts — that the Blue Jays aren’t quite setting injury records, and that they should be fine next season — don’t quite help it hurt any less this season, on the other hand.
For the sake of full disclosure, it should be mentioned that Mr. Sarris does write for this site from time to time, and I would count him as a friend, as much as one might count another whom they’ve never met in real life. Unfortunately, Mr. Carroll’s unnecessary introduction to his article takes some of the luster away from his hopeful summation, which bears a striking resemblance to that of Mr. Sarris’ fine work.
The Jays are one of the teams best positioned to step back, assess everything they’re doing as an organization, and trying to fix this issue. Alex Anthopolous and John Farrell should be able to lead this, but again, I want to measure results, not good intentions.