Biggest Reasons the New York Yankees Have Been Able to Withstand Injury Woes
Every Major League team knows going into a season that they will have to deal with injuries along the way. The teams that best handle those setbacks are the ones that have successful seasons.
To date, the New York Yankees have been able to weather a storm of ailments to hold the best record in the American League.
Virtually every facet of the "Bombers" has been affected by injury over the course of the first four-and-a-half months of the season. From relievers to starting pitchers to outfielders to infielders, the Yankees have had players missing extended periods of time.
Yet, they roll on.
This article will examine three of the main reasons that Yankees fans will continue to celebrate more often than not in spite of the breakdowns of key players.
He is the GM we Yankees fans love to hate.
Brian Cashman has bore the brunt of criticism over the years from the "Bomber's" faithful (yours truly included) for failures of players like Javier Vazquez, Scott Proctor and Darnell McDonald. The trade of the promising Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda, and the resulting season-ending injury to Pineda didn't help matters any.
For all the bad things we like to dig up on Cashman's wheelings and dealings, some things cannot be overlooked. Namely, the fact that his patience and timely maneuvering have saved our beloved franchise's season.
On March 16, the Yankees GM inked beloved southpaw Andy Pettitte to a one-year deal. At the time, there were questions as to how effective the 40-year-old would be, having not pitched since 2010. Exactly two weeks later, Michael Pineda would throw his final pitch of the 2012 season.
Did Cashman know that an injury was about to happen? Of course not, but he does go by the philosophy that you can never have enough starting pitching. Never has that been more true than this season.
There are two other pitchers signed this past winter that offer further proof of the solid base Cashman has built in the Bronx.
Freddy Garcia was re-signed by the GM in December and prior to the Pettitte signing, was slated as one of the starting five pitchers. With the addition of Pettitte, the 35-year-old was bumped from the rotation only to find himself back in the mix when Pineda was shut down.
After getting demoted to the bullpen due to poor performance as a starter in April, the resilient Garcia proceeded to pitch well in relief—throwing 17-plus innings with an ERA of 1.53 over a two month span. That happened to correspond with the team's loss (to a strained oblique) of star reliever David Robertson.
On June 27, both ace CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte were shut down for extended periods of time with injuries. Garcia stepped up, and since then has been a solid starter going 4-2 with a very respectable 3.64 ERA in his latest stint in the rotation.
Hiroki Kuroda was signed by Brian Cashman in January and has established himself as the team's most consistent starter. Following last night's sparkling gem (a two-hitter) against the powerful Texas Rangers lineup, the 37-year-old former Dodger is 11-8 with a 3.06 ERA. Imagine where the team would be without him.
Pitching isn't the only area where Cashman has demonstrated an uncanny ability to patch holes before they occur.
Brett Gardner, arguably one of the best left fielders in the game, was placed on the DL in the middle of April and has missed virtually the entire season. How would the team be doing had the club not signed Raul Ibanez and re-signed Andruw Jones?
Brian Cashman's ability to stay ahead of the injury game is a major reason why the Yankees continue to be the class of the American League in 2012.
In spite of reportedly working to lower payroll, he has managed to make key acquisitions that have had instant impact upon the success of the team. He should be applauded for it.
I've often questioned some of the moves Joe Girardi has made as manager of the New York Yankees. It appears that he'll let his "binder" dictate his actions too frequently, and I've felt that he lacks a sense of flow to the game at hand.
This season, I've witnessed a different leader emerge. Yes, he still will leave himself at the mercy of what the statistics tell him to do in a given situation, but how he has dealt with injury after injury to his star players makes him, in my opinion, a candidate for Manager of the Year.
His ability to plug in the right player at the right spot in the order, at just the right time, has left even this staunch Girardi-doubter impressed.
For example, on August 8, the manager moved the struggling Curtis Granderson from his customary spot at or near the top of the order and put Nick Swisher in the two-hole (moving "Grandy" to sixth in the lineup). The impact was immediate. That day, Granderson went 3-for-5 with a HR and four RBI. Swisher was 2-for-3 with one RBI in a 12-8 win over the Detroit Tigers.
Since then, "Swish" has remained on fire batting behind Derek Jeter. He has hit .300 with 10 RBI in the seven games since.
That is just one instance out of many similar successful managerial moves that Girardi has made with the lineup this season.
As with Brian Cashman, Girardi's success hasn't been limited to just one faction of the team. He has been masterful at utilizing his relievers and starters. The team ranks ninth in all of baseball in bullpen ERA and is fourth in save percentage. The team's starters rank first in baseball with 53 wins coming from the "front five." That is no small feat given the fact that Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia have missed significant time, and Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes have been inconsistent at best.
While many of us will continue to cringe when we see Joe leafing through his pages of statistics on the bench, his patience and ability to pull the right strings to this point in the season have helped the Yankees to the front of the AL East.
On May 3 of this year, the New York Yankees suffered what they considered to be a "worst-case scenario" when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered while shagging fly balls prior to a game against the Kansas City Royals.
At the time, eighth-inning specialist David Robertson was named the closer and the inconsistent Rafael Soriano would move into the setup role.
One week later, Robertson fell to injury—enter Soriano.
Since May 10, the former Tampa Bay Ray closer has had 28 saves (in 30 attempts) and a 1.75 ERA.
While he will never be mistaken for the great Rivera, he has filled in admirably, becoming one of baseball's best stoppers. His "untuck" of the shirt upon a save has been established as his signature with Yankees faithful.
When he was first signed in 2011, the intent was for Soriano to bide his time as the setup man until Rivera retired. At that time, he would assume the closer role for the "Bombers."
Only 2011 was a slight disaster for Rafael. He battled control and injury issues all season and finished with a 4.12 ERA with just 39 innings pitched. Clearly, being a setup guy just wasn't his thing.
Now, without Rivera and with Robertson's inability to pitch effectively as a closer, the Yankees have formed a dependency on the once-shunned reliever.
He has become one-third of the biggest reasons that the New York Yankees have been able to withstand injuries that would have crippled other teams.
No one knows what the rest of the season will bring—more injuries or setbacks to be sure—but with the magic that Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi and Rafael Soriano have spun this season, the team seems to be in more than capable hands.