clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The advantage the Yankees have on the rest of the playoff field

As the Yankees head to October, they can boast a cleaner bill of health than any other contender.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees had to fight through plenty of injuries during the middle of the year. There was a time during the summer during which it seemed that a surprisingly great season could be derailed by a number of poorly timed slumps and bumps and bruises.

In the middle of June, CC Sabathia strained his hamstring, and Adam Warren went down with shoulder inflammation. Then Aaron Hicks injured his oblique and was out for months. Matt Holliday contracted the Epstein-Barr virus which derailed his entire season. Starlin Castro hurt his hamstring and wasn’t the same for months. Michael Pineda underwent Tommy John surgery. Clint Frazier hurt his oblique, and even Masahiro Tanaka snuck in trip to the 10-day disabled list with a shoulder ailment.

These all occurred during a several week stretch midseason in which the Yankees struggled the most, and slipped from the front of the AL East into a Wild Card battle. This is without mentioning the injuries that sidelined Aroldis Chapman, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Didi Gregorius for weeks at a time early in the season.

Yet down the stretch, the Yankees have finally gotten completely healthy. Not coincidentally, the team is playing some of its best baseball in a long time. In fact, with Warren returning from injury, the Yankees are remarkably at full strength.

Warren came off the DL this week, representing the final key piece the Yankees were missing. Hicks came back earlier in the week, along with Bird and Frazier earlier in the month. At this point, a casual scan of the Yankees’ injury reports suggests that the most major injury their dealing with currently is Caleb Smith’s viral infection.

The Yankees have managed to put together an incredibly clean bill of health at exactly the right time, as they try to make a deeper run into October than their last appearance in 2015. Their lack of injury issues means the team is firing on all cylinders just as they transition to the most important games of the year.

Should this bill of health hold into the postseason, the Yankees will be able to ensure that every inning and at-bat is handled by a competent major leaguer. At full strength, they run 11 or 12 deep in serviceable or better position players. They have five or six average or better starting pitchers, five relief aces, and one of the league’s best swingmen in Warren.

This may be their primary advantage on the playoff field. It’s unusual for a postseason team to get across the regular season finish line in such good shape, and the rest of this year’s bracket has at least an important malady or two to report.

The Twins are unsure if their best hitter, Miguel Sano, is ready. The Red Sox have seen key players like Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, and David Price move in and out of action, and Eduardo Nunez is currently on the shelf. The Indians have lost top outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Michael Brantley just returned. The Astros are also down a pair of outfielders, Josh Reddick and Jake Marisnick.

On the National League side of the tournament, the Dodgers have a laundry list of injuries, although they have plentiful depth to replace almost any number of injured starters. The Nationals have long been missing Adam Eaton and Joe Ross, and only just returned Bryce Harper to the lineup. The Diamondbacks are missing Nick Ahmed, Chris Owings, and Shelby Miller. The Cubs don’t have any potential starters on the shelf other than Albert Almora, but important contributors like Jake Arrieta, Justin Wilson, and Willson Contreras have been dealing various nicks in recent days.

The Yankees won’t be forced into an uncomfortable position, starting a second-division player because of injury, in a way that virtually every other playoff team will have to. The Indians have been forced to convert second baseman Jason Kipnis into a center fielder. The Twins had to start Eduardo Escobar over Sano. Boston will have to start playoff games with Rick Porcello and his 4.65 ERA and with the inexperienced Eduardo Rodriguez.

The bottom of the Yankees’ barrel consists of players like CC Sabathia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Tommy Kahnle, all of whom have been very effective at times this year. Will this advantage be enough to make a difference in the postseason? It’s hard to say, since the Yankees’ playoff campaign could be over after one game. If they can make a long run, though, the Yankees’ health should give them a boost. Qualified, healthy big leaguers will take on every responsibility, something the rest of the field may not be able to boast.