The Truth Hurts

Posted by Chip Stevenson

Zumaya is grinnin' SOOOO bad

The Tags finally reached the break even point a few days ago and sit at exactly .500 today at 42 up and 42 down.  What a long, strange trip it's been so far.  Certainly, after the terrible start the Tags got off to and then falling 12 games under .500 in early June, their record doesn't seem so bad as it stands right now.  However, nearly everyone was expecting much, much more out of this team this year.  Some have pointed to the inconsistent starting pitching, others have complained about the bullpen's fetish for giving up runs and blowing games, and most people are baffled at the offensive struggles that have produced 10 shutouts and counting.  Yes, I agree that all of those factors have played some type of role in this disappointing year, but I think that the biggest reason is clearly all of the injuries we have had to endure.

Going into the year, I would have ranked the prominent position players in order of most important to least important like this:
Curtis Granderson
Magglio Ordonez
Carlos Guillen
Gary Sheffield
Miguel Cabrera
Placido Polanco
Brandon Inge

I would have ranked the prominent pitchers in order of most important to least important like this:
Justin Verlander
Jeremy Bonderman
Joel Zumaya
Fernando Rodney
Dontrelle Willis

Now, obviously you can argue the order of these lists but I think that almost everyone would have the players I have up there on their lists in some way.  

So, let's go through the position players list-  

Curtis Granderson- Broke his hand at the end of Spring Training, missed the first 21 games of the season.  Still suffering from the effects of the missed time: his timing in both the field and at the plate is clearly off

Magglio Ordonez- Started every game up until this past week when he strained his oblique muscle (a terrible injury for a hitter) and was promptly placed on the DL.  Has missed 4 games and counting

Carlos Guillen- Pulled his hamstring at the very beginning of the year, played through it but suffered the effects throughout the first month.  Started most games this year except for 4 straight because of hemorrhoids (yucky) and then 3 other days of rest

Gary Sheffield- Started the year on the active roster but was clearly hampered by his balky shoulder to the tune of a batting average barely above the Mendoza line.  Eventually went on the DL to rest his shoulder, came back and strained his oblique muscle, has missed 36 games so far this year and is still trying to find his groove

Miguel Cabrera-  Pulled his quad in the offseason playing for Venezuela, never fully recovered as he had to take time off during Spring Training, as well as a few games off at the beginning of the year, and now it's tightened up on him once again as he has missed the last 2 games.  Overall, he has only missed 2 games this year, but his quad has been bothering him all year and robbing him of most of his power

Placido Polanco-  Started the year off in a terrible slump that was later attributed to a bad back that caused numbness all the way down in his legs.  Luckily, he avoided a trip to the DL but his slow start and subsequent days off have cost him 11 games so far this year.

Brandon Inge-  Was filling in admirably until the last 2 weeks or so when he suffered a strained oblique (what is it with these guys?) that was reaggravated when he was moving a pillow- his story, not mine.  Currently on the DL and has missed 32 games so far.  

There you go, the top 7 most important position players, in my mind at least, have all missed significant amounts of time or have had their play significantly diminished trying to fight through injuries.  They have missed a total of 113 games this year, and, in my mind, it's no longer a mystery as to why the Tags have disappointed this year.  Yes, every team has injuries and every team has to fight through them but c'mon- the top SEVEN players have all been injured this year and it's only been half the year.

Now to the pitchers... Justin Verlander hasn't missed a start but Jeremy Bonderman is already out for the year with a blood clot in his throwing shoulder, Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney just came back after both being out all year up until that point, and Dontrelle Willis is all the way down in A ball trying to find home plate on Google Maps.  The pitching has been so injury plagued that Armando Galarraga (who?) has been the most consistent starter.  Losing 2/5ths out of a starting rotation is difficult to overcome by itself but it's almost impossible to overcome when combined with the injuries in the bullpen along with the injuries throughout the lineup. 

I'm not here to make excuses for the way the Tags have played so far this year.  In fact, I'm completely excited about how they have been playing recently and I think that they will be in the playoff race until the very end.  Still, the injuries are hard to ignore and it's no wonder why a team that was supposed to dominate their way to the World Series is simply treading water at the .500 mark.  People also fail to realize that long term injuries like the ones to Gary Sheffield, Joel Zumaya, and Fernando Rodney require significant readjustment periods when they finally get back to the big leagues.  So while they may have only missed, say 30 games, it takes at least another 10 or so to feel comfortable and get back into a groove.  Whether it has been bad luck or the product of a lineup full of veterans, there thankfully is some light at the end of the tunnel- Injuries heal.  Hopefully our record can heal along with them in time for some October baseball. 


Anonymous   says 12:49 AM

Very very good post. Nicely researched and put together for sure. I disagree with you though in that Granderson's timing in the field and at the plate is still off. I believe that he and Polanco are the 2 biggest reasons we went from 12 under to .500 in less than a month. However you made a very good point about the re-adjustment period later in the post. Granderson was clearly a victim of that as he hit around .240 for the first month back from his injury. This past month we have seen the Granderson of old so I think his timing/groove is back. Here are his #'s from the past month in case you don't believe me: R: 19 HR: 3 RBI: 11 SB: 3 BA: .350

Exceptional post overall

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