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March 3, 2010

Team Health Reports

Chicago White Sox

by Will Carroll

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Team Health Reports  

The Summary: Herm Schneider's staff could argue they deserve another Dick Martin Award after another great year in 2009. They belong at the top of any discussion about how an effective medical staff can contribute to a winning team. Despite "heavy" workloads on the starting staff and a bullpen that is made up of guys with thick medical files prior to coming to the Sox, they all just seem to cruise along. Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye were kept healthy and productive despite chronic problems. The one black spot on last year was the plantar fasciitis that sidelined Carlos Quentin. There's no one, aside from Albert Pujols, that has played through that, so it's hard to knock the Sox here. If they can get Quentin back and keep up the rest of their work, the South (Side) may rise again.

The Facts
Days Lost:
291
Dollars Lost: $3,021,467.39
Injury Cost: $6,548,750.00

The Cost: The White Sox were one of the few teams to be well below the league average in 2009, losing only $3 million due to injury. Chicago has consistently been one of the more successful teams in the dollars lost category; losing $19.7 million over the last three years. The vast majority of last year's injury cost came from the 48 days that Chicago's prized 2009 additon, Jake Peavy, was on the disabled list. Peavy's 2009 count for the Sox was $2.1 million. Chicago brought in the huge contracts of Peavy and Alex Rios last season, and it's not too hard to think that the training staff's strong work the last few years allowed them to absorb the extra $116 million. The Sox saved nearly $11 million dollars compared to the rest of the league, and they spent the money this offseason by giving Mark Teahen and J.J. Putz a combined $17 million. Whether that money has been well-spent can be debated, but the training staff sure has allowed them to be able to spend the money.

The Big Risk: Peavy's ankle looks fine following an offseason of hunting, fishing, and working on his stability. Peavy should be ready to return to ace level. We can't park-adjust risk, but look to his starts as the best measure of how this staff dealt with him. The ankle injury that Peavy suffered isn't one that should linger. In those late-season starts, it was clear that the ankle, even braced, didn't cause significant observable changes in his mechanics. Since we have a discrete time frame on the injury, it's likely that Peavy didn't have a period where his arm was being overtaxed.

The Comeback: Almost no one comes back from plantar fasciitis. The one big exception? Pujols. Of course, he's not human, and Quentin is. The effectiveness of the medical staff at keeping Quentin productive could be the difference between first place and fourth. One new therapy that's being used is called lithotripsy. Originally developed to help with kidney stones, it consists of pulses of sound being carried into soft tissue to break up the small osseous spurs that cause the inflammation. If you've ever stood in front of a speaker at Prive on a Friday night, you still have no idea what this is like. Pujols described his experience as "like being hit on the feet with sticks." We'll see if the advanced techniques of sports medicine and a great staff can make Quentin like Pujols in at least one way.

The Trend: The hardest thing to find in sports is consistency. It's worse in sports medicine, where even good staffs can be whipsawed by one bad unlucky injury. Over the last 10 years, the White Sox have just been good. Schneider is in the first row of the class picture of the old school, but no one can argue with the results. Over and over, his ability to get players back ahead of schedule and keep them back has helped the White Sox outplay their expectations. There's no reason to think that will stop until Herm does. 

The Ratings

Red lightRF Carlos Quentin: See The Comeback.
Red light SP John Danks: Danks has put up two 195-plus inning seasons. That either makes him really good or really risky. Maybe both. This is just into the red zone, so don't panic. The underlying baseline for young pitchers is very high.
Red light SP Freddy Garcia: When the Sox traded Garcia, whispers were that even Ozzie Guillen didn't think Garcia had much left. He showed that he didn't, but the Sox do hope they can keep him together long enough to eat some innings.
Yellow light SP Gavin Floyd: Floyd just missed his second 200-inning season last year due to a hip problem. It's said to be cleared up. His rating isn't significantly different from Danks', except for the age factor. It's hard to say we're overrating the risk on Danks and underrating it on Floyd, but that's what it feels like.
Yellow light SP Jake Peavy: See The Big Risk.

Yellow light CL Bobby Jenks: Jenks is just under the red level after a series of injuries rendered him ineffective last year. He's already said to be behind schedule this season, since the Sox had him focus more on his weight than his arm. We'll have to see how that all works out.
Green light C A.J. Pierzynski
Green light 1B Paul Konerko: There are ratings that will come up and I say "huh?" This is one of those. Konerko's factors come up just shy of yellow, but I'm stunned with his history that it doesn't come out red. Part of it is that PIPP sees a DH here, especially now that Jim Thome is gone. 
Green light 2B Gordon Beckham: Beckham stays green despite bouncing around positions. The position change risk gets a little overblown since it's not well understood. It's risky only in the short period where the change isn't natural, even going down the positional risk ladder. Changing positions with a full offseason plus spring training should be less risky.
Green light SS Alexi Ramirez
Green light 3B Mark Teahen
Green light LF Juan Pierre
Green light CF Alex Rios
Green light DH Andruw Jones
Green light SP Mark Buehrle
Green light RP Matt Thornton

Related Content:  Year Of The Injury

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Premium Article An Agent's Take: Crisi... (03/02)
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