Are A’s cursed? Is it bad luck? Does their medical staff suck? Are the fans exaggerating?
Seemingly every day an Athletic gets injured. Not very … what’s the word … athletic at all, one could say. The prevailing feeling is that A’s go on the DL more often than other teams do. MLB Transactions pages shed some light on that.
In 2009 the A’s actually only placed 14 players on DL*, good for middle of the pack in the majors. Two previous years were not that kind and with 25 trips in 2008 and 20 more in 2007 the A’s were only behind the Rangers and the Nationals in that two-year span.
Overall, when looking at the last three years, yes the A’s have gone to the DL about 20% more often than an average MLB team, but there were worse ones around. Here, have a look:
* CLARIFICATION: As pointed in a response bellow, I only “notice” when a team places a player on a DL in that year and MLB.com publishes that transaction. So, for example Ben Copeland was activated from the DL on May 5th 2009, but there are no records for him being placed on the DL. Or, Duchscherer does not appear in 2009 list, as he spent the whole year on the DL and was placed on it in 2008 already.
The above numbers are possibly not 100% correct. Some few transactions are perhaps missing, but even if incomplete, they serve their purpose – analysis of not how often, but in which manner the teams place their players on the DL. Read on.
So, yeah, it’s been bad. It could have been even worse, I guess. Personally, I always had less problem with injuries happening in the first place than with the way they were handled afterward. Like when everybody and their grandmother know there is no way this or that guy could play and the A’s still keep calling him day to day, only to place him on the Disabled List ten days later.
The main reason I dove into MLB site looking for transactions* wasn’t to find out how often A’s went to their most natural habitat, nor to find out how long they stayed there. I wanted to see if there is any base to my gut feeling that A’s handle injuries and DL different than other teams.
* I have one word for MLB.com, when it comes to their transaction pages. “Retrosheet”. No, actually I have more – “embarrassing” comes to mind, too. It’s the web site of an organization making zillions of dollars, you would think they could keep their data in a readable manner. That they could decide whether the month between July and September should be called “August”, “Aug.”, “8” or “08”. Whether people are activated, reinstated, recalled or returned from Disabled List. It’s not a competition in creative writing.
So, anyway, what I thought would be half an hour turned out to be more than 5, and my little script grew and grew. What I looked at was every DL transaction in last three years (not counting the current season). I tracked when players were placed on DL and looked whether those moves were made retroactively. If so, I noted how long has it taken for an organization before they made the move. I ignored all the retroactive moves made in first two weeks of the season, as those were not necessarily the slow reactions to injuries, but rather the final parts of the longer healing processes.
I guess you see where I’m going. And I guess you know what you will see bellow. The fact is, no organization in baseball is slower in placing their players on the DL than the A’s are, as the vast majority of the A’s moves are made retroactively, after first toying themselves and the public with the day-to-day approach.
Here is the list of the cumulative days of “retroactive DL” in past 3 years:
What this table shows is the sum of the days that elapsed between the injury and the consequent placement on the DL over the last three years and the average time it took the team to place the player on the Disabled List. Hey, at least he A’s lead the league in something. Rangers accumulated their waiting days over a significantly higher number of DL trips – A’s are head and a strained rotator cuff above everyone else.
In 2007 the A’s used the Disabled List 20 times. And only one time was a player placed on it without the move being made retroactive. It was Bobby Crosby, so please feel free to insert your joke here. Kotsay went through 9 day to day days, Calero and Bradley 8 each, Bradley another 5 on the next occasion, Chavez 7, Snelling 5…
It sums up to 159 days where the A’s either weren’t able to properly asses the seriousness of the injury or weren’t truthful about it, each one alarming in it’s own way. They played shorthanded for 159 days. There are probably thousand ways to get upset about it, thousand words that could be written. Thankfully, my wife helped me out with a drawing, so I don’t have to write any of them now.