Blue Jays Pitchers Injured at Record Pace?

The news came down yesterday: The Blue Jays’ Drew Hutchison will undergo Tommy John surgery, and Dustin McGowan will have arthroscopic shoulder surgery. By itself, the news wasn’t very remarkable — McGowan has been injury-riddled his entire career, and elbow surgeries are relatively commonplace.

Except that Hutchison will be the third pitcher on the Jays to get Tommy John surgery this season. He’ll be the sixth pitcher to go under the knife, period. The devastation has been so complete in Toronto that they might be on their way to setting records.

First it was Jesse Litsch that went down — he never made it to Opening Day and eventually needed biceps tendon surgery. A month later, Dustin McGowan went down. His surgery was just scheduled. Around that same time, Sergio Santos reported some shoulder issues. He tried to rehab the pain away, but couldn’t, and ended up having shoulder surgery. Ryota Igarashi had a month-long hamstring strain before he hit waivers.

June was the real crucible for the Jays. Brandon Morrow went down June 12th, and has since lost two months to that oblique injury. June 14th, Kyle Drabek hit the disabled list on his way to Tommy John surgery. June 15th, Robert Coello felt some elbow inflammation that has kept him out since. June 16th, Drew Hutchison went on the schneid. For the record, that’s two Tommy John surgeries and four months of non-TJ missed time, all discovered in a one-week span.

The upshot of all of this is that the Jays have already lost 711 pitcher days to the DL so far this year. If you add in the days that they will lose to surgery, they’ll lose at least 1045 pitcher days this season. No team has lost as many as 1000 over the last couple of years. If you go back to 2002, you’ll see that the team is an oblique strain or two away from the top of the leaderboard:

Year Team Days on DL DL Trips
2002 Padres 1139 19
2004 Rangers 1101 18
2007 Royals 1064 15
2008 Braves 1010 18
2010 Nationals 992 11

There’s a slight caveat to these totals — they don’t include pitchers that never threw a pitch for their team that season. So players like Jesse Litsch wouldn’t appear here. But two things are immediately clear: Blue Jays pitchers are going down at an alarming (but not record-breakingly) rate this year, and they’ve done so with fewer trips to the DL. That means that when a Blue Jays pitcher has gone down this year, he’s gone down hard. Watch out, Jason Frasor.

The average DL expectancy for a pitcher is around 50 days once he hits the DL, so with 11 trips to the DL, the team should have expected 581 days missed. They’ll end up about twice as worse off. Given historical records, this seems to be within the normal ebb and flow and just due to the vagaries of chance, and not due to some organizational philosophy.

Another good sign is that those top five most-injured staffs since 2002 all bounced back the next season. Those five clubs averaged 543 days missed the year after they all topped 980 innings missed. The Blue Jays shouldn’t expect to miss as many days next year as they did this season. That would be a record.

Those facts — that the Blue Jays aren’t quite setting injury records, and that they should be fine next season — don’t quite help it hurt any less this season, on the other hand.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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11 years ago

You didn’t even mention Ricky Romero, who apparently has some sort of an unofficial brain injury or something. Luckily for the Jays, Canada has a great health care system. We’ve been Obamaloney-ing for decades now.

Seriously though, this has put quite a damper on the season for the fans of the team. It’s a real “What might have been?” sort of feeling now.

11 years ago
Reply to  Radivel

The author doesn’t mention that half of the time missed was due to long waiting times at the hospital.

Baron Samedi
11 years ago
Reply to  busch


Serious, adult human?

11 years ago
Reply to  busch

Socialized Medicine – it may kill you, but at least its free… well unless you pay taxes; then it just kills you.

matt w
11 years ago
Reply to  busch

blahblahblah — since you’re at a statistics site, you might want to spend five seconds Googling per capita health spending in various countries.

11 years ago
Reply to  busch

what exactly does Health Costs per Cap have to do with anything? In fact, bringing it into the equation kind of just proves my point…

To answer your odd, misplaced question though,
Canada – $5,800 per in 2011
America – $7,400 per in 2010

Considering wealthy Canadians cross their southern border to get the services here they can not otherwise get in their own country, and with the average person routinely unable to get simple procedures or having to wait years and years to receive them; well that seems like its probably about right to me…

Just wait though, maybe soon we will all get to be on our own country wide Medicaid-like program and go into a full UK-styled system of euthanizing 640,000* people because it’s cost efficient and start making people bring their own sheets and pillows for overnight stays – maybe then we can get down to about 4K per like them too!

(*640,000 is based off Britain’s current pace of 130,000 euthanized against a population of 62,640,000 – or 0.2% of their population. In our population of 320,000,000 that is 640K killed off early)

11 years ago
Reply to  busch

Indeed, Canada has some wait time issues for non-life-saving procedures. Apparently that tends to happen when your whole country can get medical care, rather than around 20% being unable to use anything except the emergency room (and go bankrupt as a result).

But sure. I’d TOTALLY rather go bankrupt than wait for 20 weeks to get knee surgery. Wait? I can afford health insurance? Oh, well let’s just stick with this system. Other people dying and going bankrupt is way less important than how long I need to wait to repair my thumb that I hurt skiing.

11 years ago
Reply to  busch

So Canadian citizens spend less for health care AND live a full 3 years longer. Life is good, lol.

11 years ago
Reply to  busch

The propoganda is strong with you my friend.

11 years ago
Reply to  busch

UK used to have fully public health care, went to the split public/private and costs skyrocketed.

Besides, Ricky just needs a good chiropractor to pull the giant fork out of his back, those cost money either way

Joe D
11 years ago
Reply to  busch


Can you make out that red sliver in the pie chart? Squint harder. No, harder. I promise you it’s there.

Okay, you got it. That red sliver is the % of Canadians who have electively come to the U.S. for health care.

“Finally, they examined data from the 18,000 Canadians who participated in the National Population Health Survey. In the previous year, only 90 of those 18,000 Canadians had received care in the United States; only 20 of them had done so electively.”

So 90 of 18,000 had received health care *at all* in the United States in the previous year. For example, if Aunt Bertha was visiting Detroit and got sick, she went to a hospital where she was in — Detroit.

Out of the 18,000 surveyed, only twenty had an issue in Canada and came to the U.S. for treatment in the previous year. That’s one in every 900 Canadians, or 0.1%

This notion that wealthy Candians flock to the United States for medical care is pure bunk and always has been.