Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
In the first half of the 2009 season, Phillies left fielder Raul Ibanez was an MVP candidate, batting .312 in his first 285 plate appearances, with 22 home runs and a .968 OPS. Then he suffered a core injury that ended up being a sports hernia.
After a stint on the disabled list, Ibanez batted .232 in 285 plate appearances, with a .771 OPS and 12 home runs. He underwent offseason surgery, began swinging a bat again in January, and continued his slow recovery into the following season. Ibanez batted .243 in the first half of 2010, with a .723 OPS.
All of this is to say that the Yankees should be worried about Luke Voit (sports hernia) and to some extent Gleyber Torres (unspecified core issue). Even when players push through core injuries, as Torres did last night while going hitless in five at-bats and striking out twice, the discomfort can severely limit production.
When you add Voit and Torres to Aaron Hicks (elbow) Edwin Encarnacion (wrist) Giancarlo Stanton (repeated setbacks everywhere on his body), you realize that the Yankees have encountered yet another health crisis that threatens to undermine their championship aspirations.
We have become so accustomed to the Yanks using their depth to overcome injuries that we assume they will continue to do so. But ask yourself how you would feel if the playoffs began with a hobbled Torres, a rusty Encarnacion or Stanton or Hicks, and an absent or diminished Voit. That's not enough bats.
Every core injury is different, of course, but every time a player or team downplays one, my mind goes back to Ibanez.
On the beat during that 2009 season, we asked him over and over if his injury was impacting his play. He refused to make excuses, and downplayed the severity. This is what we expect from athletes and teams. But his play was severely impacted.
Anyone watching the Yankees after Voit returned from the IL could see that he was not himself, swinging with his arms and upper body, and appearing unable to fully utilize his lower half. Then he hit the IL again, this time with surgery as a possibility.
"I felt like I was affecting my play and not giving my best," Voit said last week. "It's frustrating. Everything else is going through my head and I am not worrying about my at-bat and just trying to worry about waking up and feeling good, instead of waking up and playing the game of baseball."
The Yankees are left to hope that Torres does not follow the same trajectory. Initial tests were promising; his initial game was not.
The Yankees won on Monday, with contributions from Mike Ford, Breyvic Velara, and the fact that the Orioles are tanking.
But it's worth noting the growing list of injuries to players who will need to contribute in October. The Yankees are deep and resilient, but these injuries are reason for concern.