BALTIMORE — More than anything, more than the breakout performances, the unorthodox strategies, the roster shuffling, the historical and odd accomplishments, and all the other things the most interesting team in the majors does, this Rays season is going to be defined by the pain.
Either the Rays are going to overcome the seemingly endless stream of bad injury news to get at least into the playoffs if not go deep. Or they are going to be eventually overwhelmed by the reality of having 28 entries on the injured list involving 23 players, including more than a dozen front-liners.
Obviously, the Yankees have had more injuries, with 28 players serving 35 stints, and more than 1,800 games missed, most in the majors no matter how you count it.
But a case can be made that the Rays, with 928 games lost through Friday, have been hurt worse given the context of who they’re missing and their limited options for replacements.
“The Yankees have had a lot of injuries … (but) when they get a guy hurt they go out and get someone new it seems like, they buy or trade,” outfielder Tommy Pham said. “We rely on our farm, so that’s what makes us a little bit different.”
There’s numbers show that, too.
The collective WAR (wins above replacement) value of the players the Rays have missed, according to the injury data website mangameslost.com, is the most of any team at 11.06.
The calculations are made primarily by taking the player’s expected WAR via baseball-reference.com and subtracting the actual WAR, defining what was lost, with Tyler Glasnow the Rays’ most significant absence.
The Yankees, interestingly, and contradictory to the narrative out of New York, don’t even make the top five. The Rays, through Tuesday, are followed in lost WAR by the Dodgers (8.55), Astros (6.72), Twins (5.46) and Padres (5.00).
So which injuries have hurt the Rays the most?
Without getting into ranking them all, here is a top 10 of the most impactful injuries the Rays have had to endure. (Not included is pitcher Brent Honeywell, whose season-long absence is on the minor-league injured list.) All numbers through Friday:
1. RH Tyler Glasnow
Injury: Right forearm strain, out since May 11.
Games missed while on IL: 93; 23-14 with, 53-40 without
Status: Recovering well, slated for rehab game this week, eyeing early September return in 1-2 inning role.
Impact: Though he made only eight starts, Glasnow was working like an ace, pitching well and deep into games, getting at least into the sixth inning seven times, which helped offset Blake Snell’s early inconsistency and injury. Glasnow was 6-0, 1.47 going into the May 10 start when his forearm tightened, and his injury had a domino effect. Not only did the Rays lose their winningest starter, but it led to a series of moves that shuffled the starting plans, taxed the bullpen and strained the overall depth of the pitching staff. All of which is still being felt.
2. LH Blake Snell
Injuries: Left elbow surgery, out since July 22; also, right toe fracture in April.
Games missed: 37; 52-41 with, 24-13 without
Status: Playing catch, targeting mid-to-late September return for limited innings.
Impact: Snell wasn’t pitching like last year’s Cy Young winner, just 6-7, 4.28 with the Rays only 11-9 in his starts. But after the freak April toe injury and several good and bad stretches, he’d shown encouraging signs, including a 2-0, 1.64 run in the four starts before July 29 arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips. Plus he was providing that much-needed ability to cover innings, which remains their biggest concern.
3. INF Brandon Lowe
Injuries: Left quad strain, right leg bruise, out since July 3.
Games missed: 44; 50-36 with, 26-18 without
Status: Out for regular season after straining quad Wednesday, hoping to return for playoffs.
Impact: Lowe’s left-handed power was a key part of Rays’ first-half offense with a team-high 16 homers and 49 homers when hurt, earning a spot on the AL All-Star team and favorite status for top rookie honors. And his defense at second base was better than expected. The addition of Eric Sogard has provided a decent off-set, but the offense certainly would be better with Lowe part of it.
4. RH Yonny Chirinos
Injury: Finger inflammation, out since Aug. 5
Games missed: 17; 65-48 with, 11-6 without
Status: Started to play catch, targeting late September return.
Impact: Chirinos moved from splitting starter/bulk inning duty into the rotation full time in late May and did well, 6-5, 3.55 in 17 starts (though the Rays were 8-9) and worked six or more innings 10 times. (Overall he is 9-5, 3.62.) Manager Kevin Cash said Chirinos’ injury was the one that made clear they were in trouble, coming after Glasnow and Snell were sidelined. “To know we’re in this run right here … and not have those guys for a period of time is challenging,” he said.
5. INF Yandy Diaz
Injuries: Left foot fracture, out since July 23; also, left hand bruise, right hamstring tightness.
Games missed: 49; 47-34 with, 29-20 without
Status: Out for regular season, possible return for playoffs.
Impact: Keeping Diaz on the field was an issue as he’s out for the third time, and watching him play defense sometimes an adventure. But he unlocked the power he had with 14 homers in 78 games, hit the ball hard, and was a valuable and needed weapon against lefties, with a .311 average and .976 OPS.
6. INF Matt Duffy
Missed 103 games (19-8 with, 57-46 without) from start of season due to hamstring tightness. Returned July 23, playing third regularly, hitting okay (.244, 620 OPS) , lacking power. Defense still shaky from missed time.
7. INF Joey Wendle
Missed 82 games and counting (24-24 with, 52-30 without) in three stretches due to hamstring strain, right wrist fracture and soreness. Close to return from rehab at Triple-A. Did so much last year playing all over field but can’t stay healthy. Losing him limits flexibility, and, with Lowe, offense vs. right-handers.
8. C Mike Zunino
Missed 18 games (64-48 with, 12-6 without) due to quad strain, returning May 31. Had been warming after cool start with .290 average, .888 OPS in previous 18 games before injury and said he felt like he’d found something; has hit .141/.507 in 48 games since return, so apparently has yet to get as comfortable.
9. LH Jose Alvarado
Missed 30 games (46-29 with, 19-11 without; also missed 25 games on personal leave, 11-14 without) with oblique strain. Started season well as de facto closer, struggled, missed time for family matters, came back and got hurt, struggled since returning. Early season Alvarado would be a huge help.
10. OF Austin Meadows
Missed 15 games with right thumb sprain (67-48 with, 9-6 without), returning May 10. Overall totals are still impressive (.278 average, 23 homers, .880 OPS), and realistically he couldn’t have kept up pre-injury pace, hitting .351 with a 1.097 OPS. But in 87 games since returning is hitting .262/.832.
The others injured
Other players who were on the IL, and games missed. Those with an asterisk are no longer in the organization:
*INF Christian Arroyo, 41
LH Anthony Banda, 129
*C Anthony Bemboom, 54
RH Diego Castillo, 14
1B/DH Ji-Man Choi, 6
RH Jose De Leon, 86
OF Avisail Garcia, 9
CF Kevin Kiermaier, 8
C Michael Perez, 30
INF Daniel Robertson, 33
RH Chaz Roe, 9
*RH Ryne Stanek, 9
*RH Hunter Wood, 12
This is the last year teams can expand rosters to 40 in September as there’s a limit of 28 coming in 2020, and expect the Rays to take close to full advantage to bolster their pitching staff and get even more creative in covering innings. … The words were written on theplayerstribune.com for Josh Hamilton’s recent induction into the Rangers Hall of Fame, but still had to sting a bit given all the time, money and heartache the Rays invested in trying to get him right through his drug issues: “I was meant to be in Texas. I was born to play ball for the Texas Rangers. That’s a fact. I believe that with all my heart.” … Thought the Rays would have more than four games against their new spring neighbor Braves in North Port, the only trip less than 45 minutes from Port Charlotte. Also, it’s weird to play the Pirates on March 22 and then for real in the season opener four days later. … Expect a Trop exhibition to be added on March 24. … Two media member moments last week of note: 1) Radio man Dave Wills tweeting a photo including (seriously!) his Marcia Brady cuff links and getting a response from actor Maureen McCormick. 2) TV reporter Tricia Whitaker discovering while interviewing pitcher Aaron Slegers they overlapped attending Indiana, and while her duties include covering the baseball team. … Kevin Cash was voted second best AL manager behind Oakland’s Bob Melvin in Baseball America’s Best Tools polling. … Whatever the theory was behind the monochromatic white uniforms for Players Weekend, more contrast is needed to make the names and numbers readable. … MLB.com’s Will Leitch picked Emilio Pagan’s EMILIOOOO as the best Rays nickname. … Glasnow veered from sports into the real world last week, tweeting links to raise money and sign petitions to help save the Amazon rain forests.
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays