An alternate AL universe

Injuries have changed the course of two American League division races

Updated: September 27, 2012, 3:23 PM ET
By Ben Lindbergh | Baseball Prospectus
Jacoby EllsburyAP Photo/Charles KrupaJacoby Ellsbury is one of the many key Red Sox who missed significant time this year.

Driven by deep data sets, sophisticated technology and collaboration between skilled statistical and scouting staffs, major league teams have become increasingly adept at projecting player performance. In some respects, assembling a roster is the easy part of building a winning team.

The hard part is making sure that roster remains intact. Speaking at Internet Week in New York earlier this year, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane stressed the importance of predicting and preventing injuries:

"The biggest indicator now -- for a sports team -- of whether you're going to be successful or not is whether or not you stay healthy. The health of baseball players, the health of football players, is going to be a better predictor of a team's performance. And the guy who gets his arms around that is going to be the wealthiest man in the world."

Ben Lindbergh

Baseball Prospectus
Ben Lindbergh is the editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus. He has interned for multiple MLB teams and is a member of the BBWAA.