The most important story of the week – impending Tommy John surgery for Marlins ace Jose Fernandez – fits right into the early-season, near-epidemic narrative: Pitchers are blowing out their arms with alarming frequency, and nearly every team has a woe-is-us tale about one injury or another.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are lousy, but would be less so with 2013 all-star Patrick Corbin. The New York Mets might be able to contend in the National League East with electric-armed Matt Harvey. The Atlanta Braves lost 40 percent of their starting rotation during one week of spring training, and are leading their division even with Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy done for the year. Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore went 17-4 a year ago. Last month: Tommy John surgery, done for the year.
And then we have the Texas Rangers. This week, the franchise that reached the postseason each season from 2010-12 and last year lost a one-game playoff to be a wild-card team found out it would lose pitchers Martin Perez (to, you guessed it, Tommy John surgery) and Matt Harrison (with a back injury) – perhaps both for the entire season. This as the Rangers, with five consecutive winning seasons, entered the weekend at 20-21 and more banged-up than any team.
“That was a big blow,” Manager Ron Washington told reporters. “Those were two guys we were depending on.”
According to data compiled by the Web site mangameslost.com, the Rangers – who have 13 players on the disabled list – have lost 369 man games to injury through May 15, by far the most in baseball. (Next most: the Nationals, a distant second at 253).
Harrison and Perez join Tanner Scheppers (elbow), Derrick Holland (knee) and Joe Saunders (ankle) as starters who have spent time on the disabled list – an entire rotation’s worth. Already, nine pitchers have started at least one game for Texas.
The Rangers’ plight has known no bounds, from the infield (Jurickson Profar) to the outfield (Engel Beltre) to behind the plate (Geovany Soto). If not for the remarkable Yu Darvish (3-1, 2.33 ERA, 54 strikeouts in 46-1/3 innings headed into Friday night’s start against Toronto), free agent acquisition Shin-Soo Choo (AL-best .442 on-base percentage) and closer Joakim Soria (one base runner and no runs allowed over last nine appearances), the Rangers would be truly flailing.
What’s the flip side to this discussion? There must be fortunate teams. Of the 26 clubs who provide data for mangameslost.com (which doesn’t include Baltimore, Detroit, the Mets or the White Sox), the Indians have suffered the least, with just 70 games lost to the disabled list through May 15. And yet Cleveland, a playoff team a year ago, entered the weekend in last place in the AL Central.