Under The Knife 3/17/22
Hal Steinbrenner spoke to the media on Wednesday, discussing Aaron Judge, Anthony Volpe, and the state of the Yankees in general. In that, he talked about Yankees injuries last year and so far this spring saying, from ESPN:
“I guess I could be glass half-full and say 'Get them out of the way now' rather than deal with what we had last year, in July and even August ... That was a bad case scenario. I don't want to do that again," Steinbrenner said.
"For the first half of the year last year, we had one of the most dominant -- if not the most dominant -- teams in baseball," he continued, "and then the injuries hit us. That team, for the most part, is intact. Most of them are back. The one question we asked ourselves was, is our starting rotation good enough to beat certain teams in the American League, and we reached the consensus we needed more -- and that's why we got Carlos [Rodon].”
Steinbrenner here is treating injuries like something that just happens, that are inevitable and part of the game …. and they’re not. Zero injuries is possible and reduction of injuries is easy. If Steinbrenner is so jazzed about keeping his payroll under $300 million, it would be a lot more economical to keep the players he has healthy, to hire more Athletic Trainers and therapists, to put even more resources into sports medicine and sports science (acknowledging that they already do, but they’re not at the result they want yet, so feed the fire!)
I often tell the story of an MLB GM in the mid-2000s telling me that a dollar not spent on payroll was a dollar wasted. Between that and the idea that injuries are part of the game, teams like the Yankees are hurting themselves and hurting their fans. If you take a look at Baseball Prospectus’ Injury Ledger from last year, you’ll note that the Yankees lost roughly* 5.5 wins to injury. Given that they won the AL East by 7 games and lost home field advantage to the Astros by another 7, you might say the 5.5 loss was moot.
The problem is that we never know what might have happened. Even more, there’s carryover. Pitchers like Frankie Montas, Scott Effross, and Lou Trivino are out this year with injuries that are at least in large part based on what happened last year. The need to go sign a pitcher like Tommy Kahnle - also injured again - was in part because Effross isn’t available this year. That this isn’t understood by someone who’s been in the game effectively all his life still burns me. If I were a Yankees fan, it would burn me much worse. Someday, a team will have an owner that gets this, and spends, and they’ll have an advantage that Moneyball only dreamed about.
*Yes, stat heads, I understand the WARP is not as direct to wins as WAR, nor that losing 5.5 wins doesn’t factor in the actual or expected replacement. I’m speaking in a broad generality. I wish I had the video of Keith Woolner explaining WARP to JP Ricciardi, which I think was at Saberseminar a few years back.
On to the injuries, dammit:
EDWIN DIAZ, RP NYM (strained patellar tendon)
Celebrations aren’t inherently dangerous. Pitchers have seen injuries fielding bunts, covering first, even walking across a parking lot, in the last few years, so saying that Edwin Diaz’s jump after a move-forward win for Team Puerto Rico is any different is silly. It doesn’t make it better, but it’s one of those things where we are reminded that luck still is a factor. That doesn’t make the Mets feel any better.
As I detailed in yesterday’s UTK Flash, Diaz ruptured his patellar tendon, an odd injury. The causation is both clear and unknown. Diaz jumped and collapsed immediately. It didn’t appear that he jumped very high or landed awkwardly, or that he was contacted by a teammate. There’s no evidence that Diaz had previous tendon issues or damage, but again, that’s largely unknowable from out here. Diaz was noted as a very athletic pitcher as he was coming up in the Mariners organization, so it would surprise me if there was something like tendonosis that contributed here.
His foot appeared to be at an odd angle, drooping as Diaz was carried off the field, but it may have just been the camera angle. That led many to think it was an Achilles rupture, but that can be tested very quickly and accurately, so the medical staff would have known what the injury was before they even picked him up. Diaz grabbed at the knee and watching the response from a couple angles, I never saw the medical staff test the leg, focusing instead on the knee.
The surgery happened quick, with team doctor David Altchek performing what is expected to be a standard repair on Thursday afternoon. Rehab starts immediately, but is expected to have him out the entire season. The normal rehab time is eight to twelve months, which puts the start of next season in the window. Again, past injuries are tough to find for comps, but there’s a relatively good chance that Diaz can come back at level when he does return.
For those that asked, yes, there is Hawkeye in the stadium, but I couldn’t find a good angle of the video to even get a look at what happened. With the group of celebrating teammates, I doubt there’s any chance Hawkeye got the biomechanics of the injury. The system has many cameras, but none of them are x-rays.
If there’s any upside here, it’s that there is some indemnification between MLB and teams that allow their players to play. We know the insurance has been a bit aggressive, keeping a couple players out. With Diaz’s deal unlikely to be insured by the Mets, a bit of financial relief doesn’t help much, but it’s something. It’s also the counterpoint to today’s intro, in that there’s simply no preventing this, leaving the trumpets silent for 2023.
CARLOS RODON, SP NYY (strained forearm)