Our first Pinch Hitter of the weekend is 23-year-old Adam Yafei from Brooklyn. Adam just completed his BBA in accounting at Baruch College and currently works at Brooklyn Veterans Hospital. In May, he and his wife will celebrate their fourth anniversary.
Adam says his favorite all-time Yankee is Mariano Rivera, and so his blog topic might come naturally. He calls this post – Durability: The Sixth Tool.
That’s how many days were missed due to injury by Yankees players in 2012, ranking 2nd  in all of baseball behind the Padres who led with 1,883. To put that in perspective, Yankees players missed a grand total of nearly five years’ worth of playing time due to injury this past season. In retrospect, it is actually quite amazing that the Yankees were still able to come away with an AL-best 95-67 record when considering the circumstances.
Let this offer a sliver hope to those who may not be particularly fond of some of the team’s offseason moves thus far. Perhaps the injury frequency will regress in 2013, but it certainly isn’t encouraging that amongst all teams, Yankees players, on average , have missed the most games per season when expanding the data to cover the past three seasons. With many of their older, high-impact players tacking on another year of “wear and tear,” it goes without saying that injury prevention will be a key factor in the team’s success or failure in the 2013 season.
Durability is a relatively underrated skill possessed by players and, as the title suggests, it is often overlooked by some talent evaluators. It is very easy to understand why it is important for teams to keep their starters on the field. A team gets zero production from a player who is physically unable to perform. As a result it is imperative for a team to minimize these occurrences since their replacements, usually bench players, are generally inferior.
Take Robinson Cano, for example. Since 2007 , his first full season, he has played no less than 159 games in each season. That is pretty incredible in and of itself. That, coupled with his usual elite production at a premium position, provides the Yankees with a great deal of value and makes it even harder for the Yankees to lose him as a free agent at the end of the season. Cano’s durability, in my opinion, is a skill and the Yankees should look to identify possible traits or tendencies that foster durability in a player and factor it prominently in their assessment of a player’s “tools.”
Still unmentioned to this point, however, are the significant injuries suffered by top prospects in the Yankees farm system in 2012. Manny Banuelos (elbow), Jose Campos (elbow) and Austin Romine (back) all missed most of the season while Angelo Gumbs (elbow) missed two months and Mason Williams (shoulder) missed the last month or so. Of course not all of these injuries could’ve been prevented, but it is very important to try to limit significant injuries whenever possible so these elite talents can continue their ascension unimpeded.
One can only assume that the injuries and setbacks to the pitchers were part of the reason that the Yankees reassigned  their long time pitching guru, Billy Connors, as well as  minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras. To replace Contreras, the team hired Gil Patterson , who was the pitching coordinator in Oakland the past five seasons and was actually drafted by the Yankees in June, 1975 with the seventh overall pick and served as a minor league pitching coach in the Yankees organization from 2005-2007.
Hopefully these changes will help the Yankees to keep their pitchers healthy and to resupply their major league team with some affordable talent in the coming years, especially at a time when the purse strings are a bit tighter than usual.
Associated Press photo