Blue Jays Pitchers Injured at Record Pace?

The news came down yesterday: The Blue Jays’ Drew Hutchison will undergo Tommy John surgery, and Dustin McGowan will have arthroscopic shoulder surgery. By itself, the news wasn’t very remarkable — McGowan has been injury-riddled his entire career, and elbow surgeries are relatively commonplace.

Except that Hutchison will be the third pitcher on the Jays to get Tommy John surgery this season. He’ll be the sixth pitcher to go under the knife, period. The devastation has been so complete in Toronto that they might be on their way to setting records.

First it was Jesse Litsch that went down — he never made it to Opening Day and eventually needed biceps tendon surgery. A month later, Dustin McGowan went down. His surgery was just scheduled. Around that same time, Sergio Santos reported some shoulder issues. He tried to rehab the pain away, but couldn’t, and ended up having shoulder surgery. Ryota Igarashi had a month-long hamstring strain before he hit waivers.

June was the real crucible for the Jays. Brandon Morrow went down June 12th, and has since lost two months to that oblique injury. June 14th, Kyle Drabek hit the disabled list on his way to Tommy John surgery. June 15th, Robert Coello felt some elbow inflammation that has kept him out since. June 16th, Drew Hutchison went on the schneid. For the record, that’s two Tommy John surgeries and four months of non-TJ missed time, all discovered in a one-week span.

The upshot of all of this is that 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

There’s a slight caveat to these totals — they don’t include pitchers that never threw a pitch for their team that season. So players like Jesse Litsch wouldn’t appear here. But two things are immediately clear: Blue Jays pitchers are going down at an alarming (but not record-breakingly) rate this year, and they’ve done so with fewer trips to the DL. That means that when a Blue Jays pitcher has gone down this year, he’s gone down hard. Watch out, Jason Frasor.

The average DL expectancy for a pitcher is around 50 days once he hits the DL, so with 11 trips to the DL, the team should have expected 581 days missed. They’ll end up about twice as worse off. 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.

Another good sign is that those top five most-injured staffs since 2002 all bounced back the next season. Those five clubs averaged 543 days missed the year after they all topped 980 innings missed. The Blue Jays shouldn’t expect to miss as many days next year as they did this season. That would be a record.

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.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

36 Responses to “Blue Jays Pitchers Injured at Record Pace?”

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  1. Radivel says:

    You didn’t even mention Ricky Romero, who apparently has some sort of an unofficial brain injury or something. Luckily for the Jays, Canada has a great health care system. We’ve been Obamaloney-ing for decades now.

    Seriously though, this has put quite a damper on the season for the fans of the team. It’s a real “What might have been?” sort of feeling now.

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    • busch says:

      The author doesn’t mention that half of the time missed was due to long waiting times at the hospital.

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      • Baron Samedi says:


        Serious, adult human?

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      • blahblahblah says:

        Socialized Medicine – it may kill you, but at least its free… well unless you pay taxes; then it just kills you.

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      • matt w says:

        blahblahblah — since you’re at a statistics site, you might want to spend five seconds Googling per capita health spending in various countries.

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      • blahblahblah says:

        what exactly does Health Costs per Cap have to do with anything? In fact, bringing it into the equation kind of just proves my point…

        To answer your odd, misplaced question though,
        Canada – $5,800 per in 2011
        America – $7,400 per in 2010

        Considering wealthy Canadians cross their southern border to get the services here they can not otherwise get in their own country, and with the average person routinely unable to get simple procedures or having to wait years and years to receive them; well that seems like its probably about right to me…

        Just wait though, maybe soon we will all get to be on our own country wide Medicaid-like program and go into a full UK-styled system of euthanizing 640,000* people because it’s cost efficient and start making people bring their own sheets and pillows for overnight stays – maybe then we can get down to about 4K per like them too!

        (*640,000 is based off Britain’s current pace of 130,000 euthanized against a population of 62,640,000 – or 0.2% of their population. In our population of 320,000,000 that is 640K killed off early)

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      • B N says:

        Indeed, Canada has some wait time issues for non-life-saving procedures. Apparently that tends to happen when your whole country can get medical care, rather than around 20% being unable to use anything except the emergency room (and go bankrupt as a result).

        But sure. I’d TOTALLY rather go bankrupt than wait for 20 weeks to get knee surgery. Wait? I can afford health insurance? Oh, well let’s just stick with this system. Other people dying and going bankrupt is way less important than how long I need to wait to repair my thumb that I hurt skiing.

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      • Grant says:

        So Canadian citizens spend less for health care AND live a full 3 years longer. Life is good, lol.

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      • busch says:

        The propoganda is strong with you my friend.

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      • Smizzle says:

        UK used to have fully public health care, went to the split public/private and costs skyrocketed.

        Besides, Ricky just needs a good chiropractor to pull the giant fork out of his back, those cost money either way

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      • Joe D says:


        Can you make out that red sliver in the pie chart? Squint harder. No, harder. I promise you it’s there.

        Okay, you got it. That red sliver is the % of Canadians who have electively come to the U.S. for health care.

        “Finally, they examined data from the 18,000 Canadians who participated in the National Population Health Survey. In the previous year, only 90 of those 18,000 Canadians had received care in the United States; only 20 of them had done so electively.”

        So 90 of 18,000 had received health care *at all* in the United States in the previous year. For example, if Aunt Bertha was visiting Detroit and got sick, she went to a hospital where she was in — Detroit.

        Out of the 18,000 surveyed, only twenty had an issue in Canada and came to the U.S. for treatment in the previous year. That’s one in every 900 Canadians, or 0.1%

        This notion that wealthy Candians flock to the United States for medical care is pure bunk and always has been.

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  2. Uh Oh Cordero says:

    The Anti-White Sox.

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    • DTF_in_DTL says:

      I seem to recall lots of Red Sox pitching injuries a year or so after Ferral took over as pitching coach. Maybe I’m mis-remembering. Any comprehensive database of pitching injuries?

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  3. brendan says:

    ….you forgot Luis Perez

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  4. David says:

    Hell, they might not even have the most DL days for pitchers in the majors this year. The San Diego Padres have outpaced them fairly significantly so far, although there’s some hope that a few of the guys will be back.

    Dustin Moseley 175+ DL days
    Corey Luebke 150+ DL days
    Tim Stauffer 150+ DL days
    Micah Owings 150+ DL days
    Joe Wieland approx 150 DL days
    Anthony Bass 100+ DL days
    Andrew Cashner 60+ DL days

    Mix in at least 30 days each for Houston Street, Joe Thatcher and Eric Stults (who’s only on the roster because the guy who replaced the guy who went on the DL went on the DL…), and it’s going to be tight.

    The Padres also got the double-whammy of their three closest/best pitching prospects all have missed at least 100 days of action as well.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      I had to do the Blue Jays this year by hand, so I didn’t have 2012 for the league. This makes twice that the Padres have been hit at a legendary pace in the last decade, so that is sort of interesting.

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    • siggian says:

      Just make sure you are counting the DL days properly to do a comparison. The DL does not start until the beginning of the season, which is where I think Eno starts adding up.

      But yes, I can easily see where the Padres might have more DL days even if the DL days are being counted in the same way.

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      • David says:

        My counts were just eyeballing based on regular season (although players absolutely can be placed on the DL prior to the start of the season. You can put a guy on the 60-day from about three weeks into camp and can put someone on the 15/30-day list up to 10 days before the start of the season, although most days accumulated on the 15-day DL prior to the start of the season are done retroactively).

        This is just back-of-the-envelope tabulation. For the guys who are definitely done for the season, I gave a rough approximate of what they’ll total by the end of the year. For guys who might make a return (Bass, Cashner, Stauffer), I went optimistically with the idea that they’re 3 weeks, 2 weeks and 1 week removed from returns respectively based on where they are in rehab.

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  5. Drakos says:

    Do you have numbers for the Padres pitching staff? I don’t know that they’ve had as many injuries as the Jays but a lot of their guys got injured early. Stauffer and Moseley each only made 1 start. Luebke and Wieland only made 5 starts. Bass only made it into June before being injured.

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  6. ALEastbound says:

    This probably was never the year but it feels like the Jays should be 20 games under .500 so I give the current group a lot of credit for hanging tough in the AL east. Don’t have it handy but they did have a positive run differential as early as one week ago.

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  7. ecp says:

    Royals have had three TJs this year too, and a few other assorted pitcher injuries; they’re probably running second to the Jays in lost pitcher days.

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    • tj says:

      Four – Soria, Duffy, Paulino and Blake Wood. The rest of the staff has been relatively healthy – Sanchez notwithstanding. C, 2B, CF have not.

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  8. walt526 says:

    Fortunately for the Jays, Canada’s health care is publicly funded.

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    • Baltar says:

      I assume you’re being ironic. The players are surely covered by health insurance and are probably not being treated in Canada.

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  9. aaron says:

    Take it with a grain of salt, but I heard some horror stories about the training staff of the jays from a guy who actually worked with them last year….he said there were members of the staff who were unqualified but just had connections to get their jobs, and that they did no work on injury prevention just dealt with them after they happened.

    He talked about tommy john too…said there was a muscle under the bicep (bracitus? or something?) that needs to be stretched out regularly for big leaguers otherwise it gets so tight it just goes…and you cant really do it yourself, but the training staff would never massage it and stretch it out for the pitchers, they just waited till someone got hurt to go to work.

    Anyways its all hearsay and not indicative of anything, but it’s interesting to hear the perspective of someone right in the clubhouse.

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    • siggian says:

      And yet last year the Blue Jays were relatively injury free.

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      • defjams says:

        Who cares? It takes a course of years for the UCL to deteriorate to the point that it needs replacement….ligaments are not magically replenished to full strength when the season ends….so of course it’s possible that a lackluster training staff has made these pitchers more vulnerable to injuries

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  10. Joe blows says:

    Maybe it Canada.. AJ left the Jays and he been healthy ever since.

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    • Radivel says:

      He also left the Yanks and stopped sucking. This is proof that playing for the Yanks makes you suck.

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  11. Kortez says:

    Interesting because John Farrell comes from the Boston Red Sox and the Red Sox have a lot of such injuries, too.

    Is it possible that there is a correlation here?

    Is it possible that by no longer engaging in such activities such as a real long toss that pitchers are becoming more susceptible to UCL injuries and other injuries in the shoulder area?

    There needs to be a scientific set of studies conducted on such possibilities with real data and not just the feelings and superstitions which pervade baseball. Such studies might be truly beneficial. The results might be truly surprising.

    Science should be used …

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  12. dddd says:

    Stop making excuses. Teams suffer injuries and still can pull through, case and point the Yankees. Maybe this team is just poorly constructed

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    • JaysSaskatchewan says:

      Perhaps having the payroll of 2 teams gives the Yankees more depth?

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    • TtD says:

      True enough, the Yankees have been hit, but to compare the two is being a little facetious. Most of the AL East teams have been hit hard this year with the injury bug, but in the Jays case, they have had greater frequency and quantity of injuries, and in key spots of the team. The Yankees have been blighted, but never to the point that at least one key facet of the team wasn’t working (the offense is the key to the Yankees, and while weakened, it’s never been fully wiped out this year). The same can be said of the Rays, they’ve been wrecked, but their starting pitching has survived enough, and the backend of their bullpen has been healthy, they’ve weathered the storm.

      In the Jays case, they’ve been hit in all facets of the game this year, they lost the backend of their bullpen (Santos/Perez/Frasor), lost their SP (Morrow/McGowan/Litsch/Hutchison/Drabek), and lost large chunks of their everyday lineup (currently Bautista/Lind/Lawrie/Rasmus/Arencibia and Encarnacion playing hurt). Hell they even lost the prospects and filler that could have stood in to injury (D’Arnaud/Farina/Carreno/Coello/Snider). No team could survive such a mess, not even the Yankees.

      The Jays are maybe fielding seven players that would be on their best lineup atm (Escobar/Johnson/Davis/Romero/Alvarez/Oliver/Janssen) with any regularity, and even some of them are questionable.

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