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Are the Yankees really an injury-prone team?

The number of boo-boos early in spring suggest the team is injury-prone, but what about the bigger picture?

Divisional Round - New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox - Game One Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Luis Severino, Aaron Hicks, Dellin Betances, and CC Sabathia were all sidelined in spring training with injury. Didi Gregorius and Jordan Montgomery are recovering from Tommy John surgery. Troy Tulowitzki has a well-known injury history, and Aroldis Chapman still seems to be rehabbing a balky knee, even while in camp.

It’s enough to make you ask if the Yankees have an issue keeping their players healthy. I certainly wouldn’t blame you for wondering if that’s a real problem. The trouble is, it’s difficult to tell if the Yankees are abnormally injured so far in spring training, since a bunch of injuries won’t result in Injured List trips. But, we can sort players into buckets of “significant” injury - players like Monty who are ticketed for long stays on the IL, and then players who are questionable or doubtful to be available Opening Day, like Hicks:

Through the end of camp Sunday, the Yankees are tied for the most significant injuries of any team in baseball. Not good!

Still, they’re far from the only team with health scares. The Astros and Athletics are expected to compete in 2019, and both have run into their own early injury rut. A couple dead arms in spring isn’t really enough to label an entire team as lacking in some sort of injury response.

So, let’s walk it back over the past two years. This Yankee team “arrived” in 2017, the first year we saw full-time contributions from the young stars like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Severino. Since then, they’ve seen 47 total IL assignments, and 2346 man-days lost to the Injured List. Sounds like a lot, but the league average number of IL stints is 47.16.

The Yankees are a little bit higher in terms of the number of days lost to IL assignments, though:

So here, the league average is 47.57 days lost per IL trip, with a standard deviation of 11. The Yankees have lost 49.19 days per trip over the past two years, so while it’s slightly above league average, it’s well within one standard deviation, and I don’t think you can really say that the team is much more injury-prone than you’d expect.

The one element of this that intuitively seems like the Yankees would rank higher in is days or games missed without an IL stint. We don’t really have hard data on this, but it certainly seems like Yankee players miss more weekend series with a bum leg or bone bruise than other teams do, Of course, all fans think their team is injury-prone, even when the data doesn’t bear that out.

In short, while it may feel at the moment like the Yankees are the most snake-bitten team in the majors, and perhaps they have been this spring, when we zoom out, it’s not enough to declare them definitively worse at preventing injury. With any luck, this spring will be nothing more than a blip, and the Yankees will return to sustaining injuries at essentially a league average rate.