The Giants just had an abnormally bad week, and I’m not just talking about dropping three out of four to a Wild Card contender. During the Mariners series, Brandon Belt left the game with a hyper-extended knee, and the Giants placed him on the 10-day disabled list. Pablo Sandoval left the game in the sixth Sunday with a hamstring strain. He also went to the disabled list. Most concerning of all, Johnny Cueto left after the fourth inning of Friday’s game with elbow pain, and now there’s a “strong possibility” for Tommy John.
Injuries have been a prevailing theme for the 2018 season. It seems like every time the Giants get a player back, they lose two more. The Giants have hung around .500 all year and they’ve theoretically been close to a playoff spot all year. It makes one wonder, where would they be if they had been able to stay healthy? What if Madison Bumgarner didn’t get hit in the hand? What if Mac Williamson didn’t collide into a wall right when he had put everything together? What if Brandon Belt’s appendix didn’t try to kill him?
The Giants have been hurt by injuries certainly, but every team has been hurt by injuries. And every fandom thinks their team has been hurt the most by injuries.
Do the Giants have a right to complain?
Here’s a chart of all 30 teams with their cumulative number of days their players have missed while on the disabled list. All these numbers come from Roster Resource.
First, the Astros can screw right the hell off.
Second, the Astros have been very fortunate with injuries this year.
Third, there are some caveats to address. This doesn’t include players who are missing time because of suspensions. For instance, the Astros’ total isn’t going to go up because Roberto Osuna, alleged domestic-abuser whom the Astros traded for despite a “zero-tolerance policy related to abuse of any kind,” is unavailable to pitch until August 5.
This also counts players who weren’t figured to contribute. The Mets have an extra 124 days of time because David Wright is still under contract though the odds of him ever playing again are extremely slim.
The Giants are right in the middle of missed days, but that’s a little misleading. The Royals are right ahead of the Giants, but the plurality of their missed time comes from Nate Karns and Jesse Hahn. The fact that those guys haven’t pitched all year isn’t the reason the Royals are one of the worst teams in recent memory. It’s their *looks at Baseball-Reference* everything else.
Roster Resource also has a “roster effect rating” which tries to contextualize the amount of time missed. Using this metric, the Giants rank as the seventh most impacted. Here’s the Top 10:
Roster Resource isn’t especially transparent in how it calculates this, only saying it’s determined by their preseason value. That would be fine if it were going by projected WARP or fWAR, but it appears to rank players on a scale of 1-10. Kris Bryant is ranked a 10. Mike Trout is also presumably a 10 (It doesn’t actually list what his value is, another reason for suspicion.). Sure, Bryant one of the very best players in baseball, but there’s no way he’s as good as Trout.
Now, what I could do is look at every player that has missed time with an injury, look at his projected 2018 WARP, prorate that over the time he’s missed on the disabled list, and add up the lost WARP for every team. But that sounds like a lot of work to do for the 500-something players that have gone on the disabled list. Instead, I’m going to eyeball it.
Every team deals with injuries, so for a team to really be hurt by injuries, they need to have the trajectory of their season completely altered. For that to happen, a team needs the proper intersection of having some very good players but not a lot of depth.
The Rangers, Padres, and Mets were going to be bad before the season started, so they can’t say they’ve been hurt the most by injuries. The Mets have had their share of injury problems, but that’s likely a cause of how they handle their pitchers and not because their players keep getting hit on the hands on with baseballs.
I cannot, in good conscience, ever proclaim the Cardinals have been unlucky with anything especially as long as they get a completely nonsensical competitive balance pick in the Amateur Draft. Nor can I say that the Dodgers have been unlucky when (A) they’re in first place and (B) Max Muncy.
Oakland is currently outperforming their Pythagorean record by four games, so they’re doing just fine.
That leaves the Diamondbacks, Nationals, and Angels as the other teams that have been legitimately hurt by injuries.
If there’s a team that fits the “has some great players, but not a lot of depth” mold better than the Giants, it’s the Angels. The Angels’ season has been a disappointment after winning the offseason. Zack Cozart is out for the season, Matt Shoemaker has made just one start, and Shohei Ohtani sprained his elbow. While the baseball gods were merciful and allowed Ohtani to continue hitting, his value was still roughly cut in half. With all of the little injuries that have piled up, the Angels have had to use the most players this season at 52. Most other teams, including the Giants, are between 43-46.
The Diamondbacks haven’t had their season fundamentally altered—they’re right where they were supposed to be—but they missed AJ Pollock and Jake Lamb for two months, and Taijuan Walker made only three starts before needing to get Tommy John surgery. With a healthy roster, maybe they’re in a better position to win the NL West.
That leaves the Nationals, and if there’s a team that’s had their season fundamentally altered, it’s the Nationals. The Nationals were the hands-down favorite to win the NL East, and now there’s a possibility they’ll trade Bryce Harper. They probably won’t, but the fact that they’re considering it tells you how far they’ve fallen. They’ve had to deal with extended injuries to Stephen Strasberg, Daniel Murphy, and Adam Eaton. According to Jeff Passan, the injuries aren’t the only things that have held the Nationals back, but they still aren’t helping.
The Nationals perhaps have a stronger claim to the most injury-ridden team than the Giants. With all the broken bones and rupturing organs and disintegrating elbows, the Giants are still like the Diamondbacks in that they’re where they should be but wondering would could have been.
If the news about Cueto likely needing Tommy John prompts the Giants into selling off any combination of Andrew McCutchen, Sam Dyson, and Will Smith, they could say that injuries have drastically altered this season. But what really wangs chung is how the Giants will likely be without Cueto for next season as well. So even if this season hasn’t been tanked by injuries, the Giants have reason to complain.