Playoff contenders battle injury woes

October is fast approaching and baseball fans are lamenting the lack of pennant races. But many of those teams with their tickets virtually punched for the postseason are facing a race to get some key contributors healthy.

Most Games Missed By 2011 Players to DL, By Most-Likely Playoff Teams

Entering Friday’s action, there are nine teams either leading a race for a playoff spot or within five games of one of those spots.

Among those, the Boston Red Sox have had the most 2011 contributors hit the disabled list this season with 16.

The Red Sox have the depth and star power to overcome those losses to make a playoff berth likely.

The AL has six players with a WAR above six this season and the Red Sox have three of them: Jacoby Ellsbury (8.2), Dustin Pedroia (6.9) and Adrian Gonzalez (6.1). They went 12-2 without Jon Lester in July.

But things have been rough lately without Kevin Youkilis. The third baseman was placed on the 15-day DL on August 18 and has been undergoing tests on his sore left hip. Late reports out of Boston indicate that Youkilis has bursitis in the hip and could rejoin the team this weekend.

In the meantime the Sox have gone 11-11 and seen their wild card lead over the Tampa Bay Rays shrink from eight to five and a half after Friday’s loss.

Of course not all injuries are created equal.

For example, the Texas Rangers’ missed-games total this season is 636, within a dozen of the other more “injury-prone” teams like Boston, the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies.

However, only 113 of those games have been missed by players ever named to an All-Star Game. The biggest suppliers of that 636 total are Scott Feldman (92 games), Tommy Hunter (82), Darren O’Day (60) and Eric Hurley (57).

The likely playoff team with the most combined games missed due to DL stints this season is the Philadelphia Phillies, which makes their MLB-best 93-48 record all the more impressive.

Pitching has been the source of both the team’s strength and injury woes so far. Consider how the Cy Young cases of Roy Halladay (MLB-best among pitchers 7.4 WAR) and Cliff Lee (5.9), along with the emergence of rookie Vance Worley, helped Philly go 62-36 without closer Brad Lidge and 31-16 without Roy Oswalt.

Nick Loucks and Kim Meyer contributed to this story.