The word "luck" is probably overused in baseball analysis. Allow a lot of hits on balls put in play? Bad luck. Get a lot of hits when you make contact? Good luck. You're lucky when you win too many one-run games and unlucky when you have a losing record despite outscoring your opponents. All of those ideas have a lot of merit, of course, but continually referring to them can unintentionally make baseball seem like a game of keno.
Injuries are tricky things to place on the luck spectrum, too. For example, is it bad luck that Carlos Beltran missed time with knee problems this year? No, that has more to do with the angry snapping turtles that live in Beltran's knees. It isn't bad luck. Most injuries aren't bad luck, but "bad luck" is often used as a synonym for "unexpected."
So the headline of this piece is something of a red herring. But it wouldn't make sense to call it "Which Team Has Been Hosed The Most By Injuries This Year?" because I'm not looking to just tally up the injuries. I'm looking for the most unexpected injuries. The Phillies have been ravaged by injuries, but two of the most significant are to a second baseman with chronic knee issues, and a 35-year-old pitcher. That's not bad luck. That's a team getting bit by the risks inherent to those specific players. Same goes with the Cardinals, who've had to deal with injuries to Chris Carpenter and Lance Berkman. Tough losses, but they're older players, and they came with risks.
It's hard to call injuries to young pitchers "unexpected." They're young pitchers -- the praying-mantis babies of the sports world. Out of 1,000, a few will develop as hoped.
But it's still a little wacky for two of the team's best pitchers (Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino) to need Tommy John surgery, especially right after the team's best trade chip (Joakim Soria) also underwent the procedure. It's probably a stretch to call Paulino a young pitcher -- he's 28 -- but that's still 25 percent of the pitching staff that the Royals were hoping to contend with.
Suddenly it's June, and you wake up to find that your team has used Jeff Suppan, Jason Marquis, and Kip Wells in the rotation. If you just started following the 2012 baseball season, you'd probably assume there was a flesh-eating virus making the rounds. The Padres have fallen on some desperate times.
The Padres have lost an entire rotation to injuries -- Anthony Bass, Joe Wieland, Tim Stauffer, Dustin Moseley, and Cory Luebke. That's … really awful, depressing, and impressive. I mean, if you're going to be supremely unlucky, why go half-assed? They get bonus points for losing Luebke to Tommy John just after signing him to a long-term extension.
For a while there, the outfield was Troy O'Leary in left, Carl Everett in center, and Trot Nixon in right. And I'm not referring to 2001. That was the starting outfield for the Red Sox two weeks ago. Look it up.
If healthy, a Carl Crawford/Jacoby Ellsbury/Cody Ross outfield had a chance to be something good. Crawford was a great bounce-back candidate, and Ellsbury was coming off an MVP-type season. It's hard to call the Crawford injury poor luck, really, but losing Ellsbury after a second baseman sat on him is a rough turn of events.
Also worth mentioning: The Red Sox traded an outfielder for a closer who promptly got injured, and now that outfielder (Josh Reddick) is having a fantastic season. It's hard to chalk up an Andrew Bailey injury to bad luck, but the idea that they swapped out a healthy outfielder in the deal makes it qualify.
It's not exactly bad luck to lose a young pitcher to a shoulder injury, but it sure is when a team a) just acquired him to be a major part of the rotation, and b) used up the super-valuable trade chip that they were hanging onto like the last of the insulin in a bomb shelter. And apart from Michael Pineda, they also lost Brett Gardner (elbow), Joba Chamberlain (trampoline), and Mariano Rivera (astral minders telling him to chill out for a bit and avoid detection) -- none of which were exactly predictable injuries.
This is a decent choice, as they have their best hitter (Evan Longoria) on the shelf with the first hamstring injury of his career, a young pitcher on the DL with shoulder fatigue (Jeremy Hellickson), and another pitcher on the DL for a while because of a leg that was fractured on a comebacker (Jeff Niemann). All three players were off to good starts, too. The Rays had the pitching depth to withstand the losses, but that doesn't mean they weren't unlucky.
Well, you knew this was coming. It's probably hacky to reference Spinal Tap drummers continually, but danged if it doesn't fit. I think one of the Blue Jays starting pitchers is actually on the DL for choking on someone else's vomit, too. Worth looking into.
Like the Royals, the Blue Jays have lost their best young starters to injury. But they didn't just lose Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek to torn ligaments -- they also lost Brandon Morrow to an oblique tweak, new closer Sergio Santos to a shoulder problem, and the guys who were supposed to provide depth to the rotation, like Jesse Litsch and Dustin McGowan. Litsch is on the 60-day DL with some sort of freaky infection that could be career threatening. Just awful.
The easy answer is "Blue Jays". But I keep going back to the Padres. Five starting pitchers in a couple of months is hard to top. Maybe you can give the Blue Jays bonus points because they still have designs on contending. It's close, though. There are no winners here.
The only thing I'm sure of, based on the last four contenders up there, is that the only answer we know for sure is "Not the Orioles." They've lost Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold, and Tsuyoshi Wada, so they aren't a lucky team, but, cripes, that AL East. The baseball gods have something of an east-coast bias this year. The baseball gods can be complete asses.