If it seems as though the Los Angeles Dodgers have been plagued with constant injuries this season, it’s not your imagination. Joc Pederson has recently returned from his injury, but the latest news involves Clayton Kershaw being shut down after he experienced soreness in his back from his simulated start.
Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game, and it’s a testament to Dave Roberts’ leadership abilities that he currently has the Dodgers leading the NL wild card standings despite all these injury setbacks.
The Dodgers are still in the hunt for first place in the NL West, but thanks to solid pitching and defense, along with Roberts tactical proficiency, the Dodgers would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
It’s clear that the Dodgers have had to combat more injuries than is typical for a team in this league, but has it been a ridiculously unlucky season for the Dodgers in terms of injuries?
Kershaw’s setback is about to especially exacerbate this problem, especially given his status as the best pitcher in baseball.
I wanted to take a look at the Dodgers’ disabled list data relative to other MLB teams. The results were both shocking and disheartening.
As of July 18th, 19 different players on the Dodgers have been placed on the DL. That’s tied with the Rockies for the most out of any team.
Amazingly, the Astros have only had 4 players on the DL all season.
For some perspective, the Dodgers had 10 players on their DL on opening day, which is the most for any team since 2002.
Halfway through the season, 10 teams in the league still haven’t equaled the total of players on the DL that the Dodgers had just on day one. The average amount of players on the DL this season for a team up to this point is about 12, so it’s fair to say that the Dodgers have been especially injury prone.
Not all DL trips are created equal, though. Not only does the loss of an ace cause more negative impact than a utility bench player would, but some players are lucky enough to spend the minimum 15 days on the DL, while others are forced to take extra long periods to rehabilitate from their injuries.
When combining the total number of days that players have spent on the DL since the beginning of the regular season, the Dodgers rank 1st with 1,142 days as of July 18th.
Andre Ethier has spent more time on the DL for the Dodgers than all of the Astros players put together.
Only 6 teams have accumulated even 800 days combined for DL time, and the Dodgers add more than 300 days to that already lofty total.
The average team has accumulated 578 days of DL time for players. The Dodgers nearly double that average.
The Dodgers have a total payroll of $258,831,190, which leads the league. Based on the players who have fallen on the DL this season, the Dodgers have paid $42,047,859 of that to injured players not contributing.
That’s about 16.2% of the payroll going to players who aren’t playing. That $42,047,859 they’ve devoted to injured players this season is more than both the Astros and Marlins total payrolls just 3 years ago.
The average amount of money a team has had to pay to DL players is about $10.6 million, which is about only 25% of what the Dodgers have had to pay.
Of course, since the Dodgers’ payroll is naturally high, it makes sense that they’ll likely have to pay a great sum of money if any of their many expensive assets get injured.
Numerous players have spent the entire season on the DL. As of July 18th, that’s 108 days of the regular season. Ethier, Josh Ravin, Brandon Beachy, Brett Anderson have all spent the entire season on the DL.
Alex Guerrero was released on June 8th, but he had also spent the entire season on the DL as a member of the Dodgers.
Again, when going back to the fact that the Astros have only sent 4 players to the DL all year, it’s remarkable that a team has gotten this far in the season avoiding nearly any injuries. More Dodgers haven’t played this entire season than total players have even gone to the DL for the Astros. Those are some bizarre anomalies.
The Dodgers also have the negative distinction of being the only team with multiple players in the top 10 of 2016 payroll being paid while on the DL. Ethier ranks 2nd in the entire league with $10,622,988 collected while on the DL, as of July 18th. Only Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson has made more money while injured this season.
Anderson also ranks 5th in the league in this category, as he has earned $9,324,612 while on the DL this year.
The Dodgers’ record this season doesn’t give any indication of these terrible injury impediments, though. It’s extremely fascinating that the opposite end of this injury variable, the Houston Astros, don’t have as good of a winning percentage as the Dodgers do as of July 18th.
With Kershaw being shut down indefinitely and Hyun-Jin Ryu going back to the DL after just 1 start and 4.2 innings pitched, those DL statistics are going to look even more horrendous. Hatcher isn’t eligible to come back until the middle of September also, so the problem will continue to get worse for the Dodgers.
Not only does it take skill to thrive as a team, but there’s also a lot of luck involved. Even the most advanced of sabermetrics can’t predict when a player is going to get injured. There’s no formula to figure out how likely a player is to pull a muscle or sprain an ankle.
If the Dodgers can continue to withstand these injuries and keep in position for a playoff berth, it will be all the more remarkable.
The players on this squad should be commended for playing as well as they have in these especially unusual circumstances. With Kershaw being sidelined for longer than expected, mitigating the impact of his absence will be this team’s greatest challenge yet so far this season.
The rotation behind Kershaw will have to elevate their performances, and put up enough quality starts so that their excellent bullpen doesn’t get too exhausted as the season moves forward.
The defense behind them is solid at nearly all positions, and if their lineup can start capitalizing with runners in scoring position and get into a rhythm with their offense, the playoffs are still a realistic expectation.