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The Tampa Bay Rays and Depth: A Winning Strategy

The Rays are an incredibly deep team. We've mentioned this a million and one times on the site, but last night's game against the Yankees really drove the point home for me: Consider this: the Yankees currently have four players on the disabled list - their DH, their centerfielder, their catcher, and a middle reliever. Michael Kay* last night mentioned multiple times (especially at the end of the game) about how the Yankees were beat up and not playing at their full strength. "These aren't the Yankees," he intoned.

*These are the disadvantages of living in the New York area - being forced to watch the YES Network every time the Rays face the Yanks.

And yes, I definitely agree with Kay - these aren't the Yankees we're used to seeing. When the Yankees have their back-up catcher, Fracisco Cervelli, batting in the six hole, you know something is wrong. Their line-up is supposed to be deadly one through nine, not one through five. They're a much weaker team right now than they would be if it weren't for injuries.

That said, though, look at the Rays. The Rays have three players on the disabled list right now - their rightfielder, their bullpen ace, and their catcher. They've also recently released their starting DH for being entirely ineffective. Sound familiar? It should - the Rays have had to replace players this season in every spot that the Yankees have. In fact, you could make the argument that the Rays have had more significant injuries than the Yankees; while the Yankees have had more injuried, the Rays are missing key players like J.P Howell and Kelly Shoppach for large portions of the season (in Howell's case, the whole season). How would the Yankees fare without Joba Chamberlain for the entire season? Or without Jorge Posada?

Anyway, the point isn't to downplay the Yankees' injuries and claim, "Oh, we're suffering more!" Not at all. The Yankees have had to deal with lots of injuries recently, including having have Nick Swisher down for a couple days, and I think in the end they've been hit a tad harder than the Rays. The point I'm getting at, though, is that all teams suffer from injuries over the course of the season, but some teams are simply more prepared to deal with those eventualities. The Yankees trusted to luck, hoping that multiple key players wouldn't go down to injuries over the season, while the Rays chose to make their own luck and stocked their system with valuable back-up options at every position. I'll take John Jaso, Reid Brignac, Hank Blalock, and Joaquin Benoit over Francisco Cervelli, Marcus Thames, Juan Miranda, and Mark Melancon any day of the week.