Did Injuries Cost The Toronto Blue Jays A Shot At The Playoffs?

By Mark Hock

At 53-55 and ten games back of the division leading New York Yankees, it would seem that the Toronto Blue Jays have thrown away another season. While nobody should have expected them to compete this season, it’s been a disappointment to see the Blue Jays occupy the basement in the AL East. Some would argue that it’s a miracle the Blue Jays are just two games under 500 just because of how they’ve survived all the injuries this season. But is this an accurate statement? Have the Toronto Blue Jays done a good job surviving their injuries, or is this simply another excuse to hide the fact that once again the Jays are a 500 team?

Without a doubt, it’s been the rotation that has been devastated the most by injuries. Kyle Drabek, Luis Perez and Drew Hutchinson all damaged their elbows and require Tommy John surgery. Brandon Morrow is working his way back from a leg injury, and Jason Frasor was recently put on the disabled list with an elbow injury. Newly acquired closer Sergio Santos went down early in the season with a shoulder injury What’s interesting about all of these injuries is that outside of Brandon Morrow, none of these pitchers were performing well this season.

In 13 starts Kyle Drabek was 4-7 with an identical number of strikeouts (47) and walks. At 4.67 his ERA was unsustainably low, and to this point in the season his -0.2 WAR is the lowest of any Blue Jay starter. While you never wish for any player to get injured, the Jays actually improved by not using Drabek every fifth day. A similar case could be made for Jason Frasor. While he was a fairly reliable reliever in the past, his 4.00 ERA in relief was significantly below average. He may have been better than some of the Blue Jays other options, but that was due to a lack of depth in the bullpen and not a sign that he was in the middle of a quality season.

The Jays did lose a pair of quality relievers in Sergio Santos and Luis Perez. Santos was expected to close for the Jays, and his loss was significant given his dominant performance over the past two seasons. Fortunately for the Jays, Casey Janssen was able to step into the closer role and do his best Mariano Rivera impression, making the loss of Santos not as significant. Still, the Jays likely would have been a win better with a healthy Santos. The loss of Perez was negated by the fact that Aaron Loup has performed nearly identical to Perez, tossing a 3.43 ERA in 13 innings.

So far the only pitching injuries that have cost the Jays are Sergio Santos and Brandon Morrow. However, the loss of Morrow is quite significant given that he was pitching like one of the top hurlers in the game. Sadly, Morrow’s 1.6 WAR in 13 starts, thanks to a 3.49 FIP in 77 innings, leads the Jays pitching staff by WAR. The loss of Morrow has cost the Jays at minimum 2 wins, and more likely three wins on the season.

The one pitcher not named to this point, Drew Hutchinson, is a bigger loss in the long term than in 2012. His performance wasn’t anything special, and given how Carlos Villanueva and Aaron Laffey have stepped up it’s difficult to argue that Hutchinson would have been much better than Villanueva or Laffey.

While the Blue Jays have lost a few players to injury recently (J.P. Arencibia, Jose Bautista, Adam Lind), they haven’t been out long enough to cost the Jays their season. Adam Lind was much better since his return from the minors, but the fact that he missed time already because he was sent down for poor performance negates any quality performance he had in his return to the majors. J.P. Arencibia was a league average hitter with poor defence, but Jeff Mathis is having a career year with the bat and the drop off this season isn’t as large as one is led to believe. The only injury that has cost the Jays offensively is Jose Bautista. But since he’s been out for less than a month, it’s likely that Bautista’s injury has only cost the Jays 1 win.

While the injuries to the Toronto Blue Jays have been numerous, they have not been responsible for the squad missing out on the playoffs. The opening day rotation just wasn’t very strong, and the Jays didn’t have enough depth to compensate for the fact that Kyle Drabek simply isn’t a good pitcher or that the Jays might have to deal with some injuries. And while nobody could have expected this many injuries, the number of injuries simply hasn’t cost the Blue Jays their season. If the Jays plan on contending in 2013, they’ll have to make some significant upgrades to their rotation, as it’s clear that one led by Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Henderson Alvarez isn’t good enough to compete in the American League.

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