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Rockies injuries: Are they a valid excuse?

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We dive into some injury data comparing the number of lost days for Rockies players to those from other teams.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Cuddyer: 110 days and counting. Carlos Gonzalez: 59 days plus the rest of the year. Troy Tulowitzki: 42 days plus the rest of the year. The middle of the Rockies' order has been decimated by injuries this in 2014. The rotation has not fared much better. Tyler Chatwood: 138 days plus the rest of the year. Brett Anderson: 115 days plus the rest of the year. Jhoulys Chacin: 107 days plus the rest of the year. Even the bullpen has been beset by injuries. Boone Logan: 38 days and counting. Tommy Kahnle and Nick Masset: 15 days, and in Kahnle's case, still counting.

There's no denying the Rockies have suffered more than their fair share of injuries to key players. The real question is, does this really excuse the team's woeful record?  In what was going to be my article for last week but the research took too long, I chronicled every National League team's injuries this year to compare disabled time to wins. Obviously having players miss time is bad for a team, but if injuries are just part of the game or a little bad luck, then shouldn't it even out over 162 games? Some teams are also quite capable of paying to overcome injuries, but that is a variable that I chose not to try and account for ... yet.

Here is how I compiled the data: I used the transaction page for each team on espn.com. When I couldn't reconcile some data, I went to other resources such as baseballreference.com to figure out when players were not available. There could be some small errors in the data I compiled, but I feel pretty confident on the results.

So to give you some idea of the raw data, the Rockies do not have the most days of players on the disabled list this year. The Rockies are nearing a total of 900 man-days on the disabled list this year while the Padres and Diamondbacks are both over 1200 man-days. Even the Reds and Braves are slightly ahead of the Rockies, both being just over 900 man-days. So how did this correlate to wins?

Winsvsdldays_medium

Not a large data set, I understand, but it does show a slight progression, or regression, with some teams that stick out. The Rockies, Diamondbacks, and Cubs show up as about the biggest underachievers on this with the Dodgers and Nationals showing an ability to overcome injuries better than others. The Dodgers went into the season knowing Chad Billingsley was a question mark and that Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford were both likely to miss time in the outfield. They also had the money to compensate for these weaknesses and have covered those 220-plus days well, even with 440 days on the disabled list from other players.

So this first look showed the Rockies not able to maintain a league average win total based on injuries, so I thought maybe it is because they have injuries to position players that are hurting them. What I found, though, was that position players being hurt affects teams less than pitchers being hurt, with the line looking much more horizontal between disabled days and wins:

Posplyrwinsvsdldays_medium

The Rockies find themselves at about the same place on this line. Due to this being more horizontal and having far more outliers, I decided that maybe it is all about pitching; specifically, about starting pitching. Maybe the Rockies will look better when comparing how many days starting pitchers were on the disabled list with the number of wins. After all, they have been without three-fifths of the starting rotation for much of the year. In fact, they have the second most days for starting pitchers on the disabled list to the Padres.

Spwinsvsdldays_medium

While the last two slides look similar, the data shows that a starting pitcher on the disabled list is almost twice as important per day as a position player. The point remains, though, that the Rockies are underperforming the league "average" even with their injuries. The Padres have been able to overcome three starting pitchers lost for the season much better than the Rockies. The Braves are in the postseason hunt despite Kris Medlen, Gavin Floyd, and Brandon Beachy barely contributing. While it would be nice to be the Brewers or Nationals, with only 27 and 57 days missed by starters respectively, most clubs have dealt with missing key parts of their rotation throughout the year.

I still think a case could be made that the Rockies lost key parts of their team much more than other clubs but that will be more difficult for me to analyze/prove. The data above, though, shows that this season should not be blamed on injuries alone. Lack of proven backup plans, gambling on injury-prone free agents/players from trades, and betting on older free agents have in part caused some of these injuries. I think leadership and management must also take the blame for not making the most of what they have and fielding a competitive team with the players in their arsenal.

So, I was unable to prove that injuries alone can be to blame for this season.  Feel free to give your own opinions below or give ideas on how I can look at this data in a better way.

On to the good, bad, and ugly:

The Good

I was very impressed with this road trip, overall. Sure the team went 2-5, but the starting pitching was respectable. Christian Bergman replaced Yohan Flande and the result was seven games with the starter at least pitching into the sixth inning. This week the starters combined for an ERA of 2.76 and it was an even better 2.23 before Jorge De La Rosa's start Sunday. Most impressive was Tyler Matzek, who had 14 innings pitched, two earned runs, and 10 strikeouts.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the bullpen has not held up their end of the bargain with the starters. Over the same time, the bullpen has had a 5.94 ERA and blown two games that could have made this a winning road trip. Rex Brothers is the biggest culprit, getting only one out while giving up three runs in two opportunities.

The Ugly

As bad as the bullpen has been, the team could have won more games on this trip if the offense had shown up at all. Twelve runs in seven games is not good, and that included being one-hit in one game and then helping Yusmeiro Petit reach the record of consecutive outs in the next game. Home cooking and some extra bats from Colorado Springs when the rosters expand will hopefully reverse this trend.