There are many ways to try and measure luck. Some prefer how much a team beats their Pythagorean win-loss record—based on a team’s run differential. That certainly tells one narrative: that a team has out-performed or under-performed their ability to score runs. This type of luck measurement tries to reward teams who are winning games by landslides but only losing by one or two runs on the assumption that they’ll start turning around some of those close losses.
Alternatively though, a team can be unlucky by incurring more injuries than other teams. Though this can partially be attributed to luck, it can also be a by-product of signing players who are injury prone. Furthermore, with injuries, there isn’t nearly as good of a way to measure production lost—especially in terms of standings.
There are sites that do try to do this however. Man-Games Lost is one and they not only track the amount of days lost to the disabled-list, but the expected impact of the player lost as well.
They recently shared the teams who have lost the most games to injury:
MLB top 5 games missed by players on the DL— Man Games Lost MLB (@ManGamesLostMLB) August 27, 2016
full list here https://t.co/RzkFXNXcIh
You’re reading that correctly; the Dodgers have lost an unbelievable 1538 games to injury as of August 26. Not surprisingly, they’ve also lost the most value because of this.
While the Dodgers’ injury woes have been well publicized, the Athletics shouldn’t be much of a surprise either on this list. Their moneyball ways have frequently led to signing players who have suppressed values because of their previous injury troubles. In this way, the Athletics bank on health of players who have already proven their major league worth as opposed to hoping they out-perform prior indications.
Interestingly though, the Athletics do not appear on the top-five list of teams with the most lost value. Although they’ve lost a substantial amount of players to injuries, they haven’t lost nearly as much relative wins.
That means the Athletics are likely playing relatively near their expected worth anyways. And, despite losing all that value, the Dodgers are defiantly a first-place team.
Unfortunately though, some teams couldn’t make it through the season without taking substantial hits in the standings thanks—at least in part—to injuries.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have lost just under 1000 man-games due to injury and sit dismally in fourth-place in the AL West with a 59-74 record.
The Angels weren’t expected to do especially well anyways—our preseason projections had them at a .481 winning percentage as opposed to their current .444 clip—though the team with Mike Trout always comes with some degree of expectations. Without Trout, who has been worth nearly eight wins by FanGraphs’ WAR, the Angels would be at 51-82 assuming their centerfielder was replacement level. That’s almost—but not quite—as bad as the Twins have been this season. If we’re not making it clear, the Angels without Trout are basically the Twins.
Thankfully, Trout hasn’t missed any meaningful time this season. Instead, the Angels have lost pretty much everyone else at some point this season. The biggest epidemic they seemed to face was to their starting pitching staff though. Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano underwent Tommy John surgery while Garrett Richards also sustained a tear in his UCL which he decided to rehab instead of undergo surgery.
Tampa Bay Rays
According to the Man Games Lost list of teams with the most meaningful losses to on-field production, the Rays rank third. The Rays rank highly in that despite having fewer than 800 man-games lost to injury this season so far which is right around the average.
That likely starts with Alex Cobb missing the entire season so far while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Add in the losses of Kevin Kiermaier, Steve Pearce, and Logan Forsythe scattered throughout the season, and the budget Rays had some bad injury luck throughout the year.
At 56-76, the Rays’ 2016 season is definitely forgettable. However, that record also makes their preseason hope forgettable too. While pundits didn’t necessarily pick them to finish high in the AL East, projection systems like PECOTA and Depth Charts were pretty bullish. Makes you think, without so many injuries, it could have been a much different season for the Rays and the entire division.
The Rockies have lost more than 800 man-games to injury, putting them right around tenth in the major leagues. Of the teams in the top-third of the league by games lost to injury, the Rockies feel like the team who has lost the most ground in the standings.
While being in a division with the Dodgers and Giants has relinquished the Rockies to unfortunate mediocrity, their team looked surprisingly promising this season. Through mid-June, the team stayed eight games back or better except for a four-day stretch. As recently as early August, the Rockies were still eight games back of first-place and just four games back of a Wild Card spot. Those aren’t great odds, but that’s still striking distance of a well-timed hot streak.
Instead of a hot-streak, the Rockies lost young slugger Trevor Story for the remainder of the season. On top of that, Carlos Gonzalez has dealt with some injury trouble, while Charlie Blackmon, Gerardo Parra, and Nick Hundley also missed time.
Seasons might not have been substantially different for these teams without injuries, but it’s definitely unfortunate that misfortune befell them in this way. Injuries are certainly a part of sports and baseball is by no means immune. It is interesting to muse about how the Angels, Rays, and Rockies seasons might look different though if they had the injury luck of the Astros instead, who have lost just 153 games to injury.