Blue Jays a picture of health in 2015: Can it be sustained?


The Toronto Blue Jays were one of baseball’s healthiest Major League teams in 2015, especially on the mound. How far past good luck do these results go?

Like any sport, baseball is a game of recency bias. The Toronto Blue Jays maintained nearly perfect health outside of two freak knee injuries in Spring Training, and this level of consistency was quickly accepted as the norm. Looking past 2015 and into other recent seasons, however, it’s clear that this past year was an outlier in terms of time lost to the disabled list.

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Jeff Zimmerman of The Hardball Times released ‘2015 Disabled List Information and a Little More’ on Monday which is a must-read, especially for Blue Jays fans. According to his data, Toronto lost the 9th-fewest days in Major League Baseball due to injury, including the days games from pitchers.

A large chunk of their disabled list time comes from Marcus Stroman, Michael Saunders and Devon Travis. While multi-month injuries such as these will outweigh strings of smaller ailments in the numbers, it appears that Toronto’s low ranking is more than good fortune. Especially in terms of arms.

It’s a startling number, but just two Blue Jays pitchers required D.L. time this past season. Remove some poor luck on Stroman’s end, and we’re left with just Aaron Sanchez. “We’ve made some adjustments in our entire organization in the last few years and they’ve certainly showed dividends,” Jays’ pitching coach Pete Walker told Brendan Kennedy of The Star. “The focus is on health and constant communication with our pitchers. I think it’s really paid off so far.”

Communication seems to be the key here. Or, at the very least, communication is the easiest factor to understand above a more complicated base of physical, mechanical and scientific analysis.

“It’s talking to the pitchers, communicating with them, not creating heroes. And certainly when there are minor issues you nip them in the bud. I think we’ve been really good at doing that.”

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We’ve seen it several times now where manager John Gibbons will insert a AAA rubber-arm like Todd Redmond in the middle of a rotation cycle, especially if the team is going through a stretch of schedule with few off days. Gibbons has also been more creative with pushing back tired starters and flip-flopping the rotation. Yes, good fortune is involved here, but the Blue Jays are at least guiding that fortune in their direction.

This marks the second consecutive season that Toronto has kept injuries low after some much higher numbers earlier. In 2012, Toronto lost 1,451 days to the disabled list followed by 1,509 in 2013. Those are season-killers.

The numbers have crashed, however, with totals of 764 and 767 over the past two seasons. Given this factor and the recent surge of AAA depth seen under Mark Shapiro, Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins, Toronto should be fairly well protected against injuries derailing their 2016. It’s also another leg to stand on for those in Blue Jays management who don’t see natural grass as a “need” over the artificial turf.