The Toronto Blue Jays have had an up-and-down season so far. How much has luck and injuries factored into their results to date?
Generally speaking, the Blue Jays record is a product of many factors. These elements include talent level, roster decisions, on-field tactics, preparation, schedule, luck, and injuries. This article is part of a two-part series: Part One focused on cluster luck, and this piece (Part Two) will deal with injuries.
For comparison purposes, I will assess the Jays and the other teams vying for the American League wildcard spots as at June 20. Onto Part Two!
I previously looked at the injuries incurred by the 2017 Blue Jays. Injuries should be looked at on a relative basis because all teams suffer injuries. I have used two proxies to quantify the impact of injuries. Days on the Disabled List (“DL”) and salaries paid to players while they are on the DL. The latter is not perfect. For example, the impact of days spent on the DL by a low-salary starter is more detrimental than identical days spent on the DL by a well-paid, lesser-skilled starter. However, the dollars paid has some value for analysis purposes.
The source of the injuries information is Spotrac and is as of June 20, 2018. bWAR data was obtained from Baseball-Reference.com.
(1) Key player defined as a batter with the largest dollar impact on DL dollars
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- Troy Tulowitzki accounts for $9.1 million and 85 days of the DL figures;
- Josh Donaldson represents $5.2 million and 42 days of the DL data;
- Based on ZiPS preseason fWAR projections, Donaldson’s absence has had a greater impact than the loss of Tulowitzki (Donaldson – 5.6; Tulowitzki – 1.6);
- However, Yangervis Solarte (0.9 bWAR) and Aledmys Diaz (0.5 bWAR) have partly compensated for the loss of The Bringer of Rain and Tulo; and
- Injuries have had a more harmful impact on the Blue Jays position players than the other AL wildcard contenders. However, a perusal of the bWARs posted by the Angels, A’s, and Mariners indicates that injuries are not the only reason for the Blue Jays trailing the other wildcard contenders. Relatively poor hitting (per FanGraphs, Blue Jays rank 8th in the AL with a wRC+ of 98) is one area of underperformance.
(2) Key pitcher defined as a pitcher with the largest dollar impact on DL dollars
- Injuries have affected the Blue Jays pitchers the least;
- However, the data does not reflect the loss of Roberto Osuna, whose last appearance was May 6; and
- In terms of ZiPS preseason projections, the Blue Jays (Stroman – 4.5 fWAR) and the Twins (Santana – 2.5 fWAR) have been negatively impacted the most by injuries to pitchers.
The last word
There were preseason projections that had the Blue Jays in the wildcard mix. The Blue Jays are currently 11.5 games behind the second-place wildcard team. On the plus side, the cluster luck deity has looked favourably upon the home side. On the injury front, the Blue Jays are 13th in the American League in terms of days on the Disabled List for all positions.
However, when dollars paid to players on the DL are considered, the Blue Jays are 1st (most) on the chart. While the injuries have been a detriment to performance, the team’s bWAR compared to the other AL wildcard contenders indicates that there are other factors (e.g., poor starting pitching) that have contributed more to the Blue Jays underperformance than injuries.