Over at The Hardball Times, Jeff Zimmermann posted his annual review of disabled list stays. This used to be an offseason highlight for White Sox fans, because Herm Schneider and his crew used to dominate these rankings, but this season's audit has the Sox continuing their slide toward the middle.
Not that the Sox are in terrible shape. In terms of overall DL stints, they were tied for the fourth-fewest. In terms of fewest days missed, the injuries hit them harder than usual (they finished 14th). While they still own a comfortable lead in fewest days missed on the 10-year and five-year leaderboards, the Twins and Mariners have the Sox beat over the last three years.
Still, it doesn't look like a true down year for injury management when parsing the data. The injury bug just happened to devastate the Sox with targeted strikes, especially in the bullpen.
You can divide the Sox's 13 DL stints into three groups.
Imaginary or inconsequential
The good news is that 23 percent of the DL trips and 30 percent of the days lost to injury were either imaginary or inconsequential:
- Felipe Paulino said he was healthy before going on the DL with "right rotator cuff inflammation" for 163 days.
- Jeff Keppinger counts for 44 days, but I don't think he counted as a person to the White Sox this year.
- Moises Sierra suffered a very convenient back injury that allowed Avisail Garcia to return to the roster during the second half of August. Miraculously, he only needed the minimum required 15 days.
Out of the 747 injury days, 31 percent of them were the result of occurrences that didn't even give Herm Schneider and the crew a chance.
- Avisail Garcia staking his claim to right field at Coors with his shoulder, resulting in a 128-day absence.
- Adam Eaton running full-speed into the wall and missing 17 days.
Matt Lindstrom tearing his sheath in his right ankle coming off the mound, knocking him out for 84 days.
The remaining injuries, which account for 39 percent of the team's DL days, did allow the medical and coaching staffs to get together and make calls.
Five DL trips proved to be rest enough for nagging injuries:
- Gordon Beckham missed 24 days with a strained oblique.
- Eaton's nagging hamstring knocked him out for the minimum.
- Jose Abreu's ankle got him for 15 days.
- Conor Gillaspie battled a bone bruise in his hand for 15 days.
- Zach Putnam missed 15 days after his shoulder started barking.
For Eaton and Abreu, their statuses had been questionable leading up to the DL stints, but Ventura didn't give them much sitting time. We might've bickered about it more had they required longer or multiple DL stints. Instead, they came back in full working order, so the time off might have been both unavoidable and beneficial. That's what happened with Gillaspie, who got four days off before officially landing on the shelf.
The timing of Beckham's injury caused him to miss an extra nine days. He strained his oblique in the middle of March, so he used a rehab stint as the rest of his preseason, more or less
That just leaves two whoppers:
Nate Jones missed 178 days due to a microdisectomy on his back, followed by Tommy John surgery.
- Chris Sale couldn't bounce back from a 127-pitch outing, and ended up on the DL for 34 days with a flexor strain.
These are the only ones where hindsight might have the Sox kicking themselves. They had a hard time pinpointing the source of Jones' issues -- they started by calling it a glute injury during spring training, a strained hip in early April, and eventually a back problem that required surgery in early May. But then you read about Melky Cabrera playing for four months with a tumor on his spine, and maybe nerve problems in the back are hard to nail.
Sale's problem was far more simple -- he threw a personal-high amount of pitches, and a lot of them in high-stress situations, which resulted in his third annual injury scare. The Sox struggled to define his timetable, and they started to get defensive about it, too. Fortunately, he came back in dominant form, so rust didn't exacerbate the issue.
That's probably as bad as it got for the Sox, and distance and context minimizes the total damage assessment (the Rangers are Antietam by comparison). However, while the Sox could manage the total amount of injuries, they couldn't always manage the consequences thanks to a lack of depth.
A study in contrast: When Beckham and Keppinger missed the first few weeks of the season, the presence and performance of Marcus Semien made it bearable, and almost beneficial. But the Sox had no such answers when Jones and Lindstrom went down, and a noble idea for the bullpen crumbled under the stress.
That's why Rick Hahn's work is far from over, even though he's accomplished more than most thought possible at this point. A true contender can survive a couple of injuries to non-A-listers, but the Sox are covered like a cut-rate hospital gown with the bench they have right now. It doesn't seem like it can remain that scanty for long.