March 17, 2010
Team Health Reports
The Summary: Brandon Webb's injury might be the big blow to Arizona's injury numbers and rotation, but Ken Crenshaw's training staff really can't be blamed for this. Instead, it could be that sinkerballers and shoulders might not hold up well. Seen Chien-Ming Wang or Fausto Carmona lately? The bigger concern is the minor wear down-type injuries and the way the front office assesses risk. Eric Byrnes is much more the correct symbol, an opportunity cost that stacks up days and dollars lost when it was actually a known risk. The D'backs have done this for years, across administrations, with no apparent pattern. The one interesting injury player for this year isn't Webb, but Conor Jackson, who's coming back from a fungal infection. Its a long, tough comeback, but a young, strong athlete usually makes a full recovery. Jackson could have a slow start as he gets back, but a good comp is Justin Morneau, who came back from a debilitating intestinal condition as a rookie.
Days Lost: 847
Dollars Lost: $16,448,453.80
Injury Cost: $28,720,000.00
The Cost: Arizona has steadily seen its dollars lost due to injury increase over the last few years, all the way to $16.4 million in 2009. That total is nearly half of what they have lost over the last three years ($36.6 million). Webb's count against the 2009 total was $6.3 million, while Byrnes and Jackson added $4.2 million and $2.4 million, respectively. The Diamondbacks were $2 million over the league average for dollars lost, but that didn't stop them from spending to upgrade for 2010. Arizona dished out just over $8 million to bring in Adam LaRoche and Kelly Johnson, and they also ate a great deal of money to have someone else take care of Byrnes. The Diamondbacks chose to avoid the free-agent pitchers, which could prove to be a bad decision when you take a look down at the pitchers' ratings.
The Big Risk: Ian Kennedy has been something of a litmus test throughout his career. Some scouts like his makeup and results, but others hate his delivery and his fastball. After losing most of 2009 to an aneurysm in his shoulder, Kennedy has got to fight through more than just scout's questions. Pitchers have come back from this—most notably David Cone—without a significant loss to their stuff, but if we agree with the idea that Kennedy's stuff is borderline to begin with, does the percentage lost mean less, or was he on the razor's edge with nothing left to lose? Kennedy adds to the back end of what could be a great rotation full of "ifs." If Webb comes back. If Edwin Jackson is the '09 version. If Dan Haren remains among the best in the NL. And if Kennedy stays healthy enough to answer the questions.
The Comeback: "Valley Fever." It sounds more like a bad '80s horror flick than a serious condition, but Conor Jackson learned how serious it is last year. The fungal condition indigenous to the Phoenix area can be deadly to some, but Jackson is strong and healthy enough to not have that be a concern. Once a body fights it off, it tends to return to normal, so Jackson has a good outlook medically. Whether that translates well to baseball remains to be seen. The best comps are actually guys that have come back from cancer, facing the wasting and fatigue that come with that kind of treatment, or the worst mono cases. This is going to be very clear—Jackson's coming all the way back or not, and all indications so far this spring are that he's back.
The Trend: Even with a couple devastating injuries to Webb and Jackson, you might want to overlook the results for the D'backs staff in '09. Don't. Crenshaw—a former Dick Martin Award winner in Tampa Bay—had solid, mid-pack numbers despite those two killers. With a little luck, the D'backs are not only in the hunt for an award, they're probably back at the top of the division standings. Of course, to do that, they'll need to bring back an ace from labrum surgery, keep some young pitchers healthy, and make sure that Justin Upton avoids B.J.'s health concerns. It's no small task, but this is a medical staff that's up to that task. Remember, when ASMI does its Injuries in Baseball course every year, it's usually Crenshaw demonstrating the latest and greatest in rehabs. He'll need that for Webb and more.
SP Brandon Webb: Coming back from labrum surgery isn't the sure thing it once was. Of course, that was surely bad. Now, at least there's a fighting chance, and Webb has had a year to focus, adjust, and hopefully learn. I don't have any idea if he can come back, but of the successful labrum returns, most needed more than just a year to come all the way back. Early camp reports have not been positive.
LF Conor Jackson: See The Comeback.
SP Ian Kennedy: See The Big Risk.
2B Kelly Johnson: Johnson's early-season slump, late-season loss of playing time, and history of injuries makes the system rate him a bit higher than I think is appropriate, but the system's often smarter than me. It's certainly not Skynet, but I like having to step back and question my own assumptions. Make sure you give it a ponder before picking Johnson.
RF Justin Upton: I always find it fascinating when brothers play baseball. I'm convinced there is a huge genetic component to baseball—that's right, Dad, I'm blaming you—and the sheer number of brother pairs across the game allow easy comparison. Sometimes they're very different, but sometimes not. Justin Upton's top PECOTA comp in 2009 was B.J. Upton. No surprise there, but does the elder Upton's injury history mean as much as Stephen Drew's brothers' does?
SP Dan Haren: He's been above 200 innings since '04, but the second-half fades are problematic. My system just doesn't like those, and they usually herald some underlying issue. With Haren, he's proven time and again that it's not.
SP Edwin Jackson: The Rays weren't happy when the Tigers flipped Jackson for Max Scherzer, since they'd only gotten Matt Joyce for him a year earlier. We'll see if the Tigers are happy or if he finds some level of consistency, making the D'backs happy. He is over the nexus now and has a nice progression of innings, so he's got that going for him.
SP Billy Buckner: Buckner put up nearly 200 innings last year if you include what he did at Reno. PIPP doesn't, since the innings translation from the minors is still fuzzy. He's probably not this risky, and the injuries last season actually helped give the D'backs some look at their depth.
CL Chad Qualls: A dislocated kneecap is painful, but it's fixable. Qualls has looked solid earily this spring and appears to be on the right path. The downside here is that there's some short- and medium-term recurrence risk. If you're comfortable with that, he could be a steal.
RP Clay Zavada: He's more than a great 'stache. He's a solid reliever with a reverse split, but the second-half fade is something he's going to have to show was an adjustment, not a problem.
C Miguel Montero
1B Adam LaRoche
3B Mark Reynolds: He has 556 strikeouts, zero significant injuries. I can tell you which stat I care more about when considering signing Reynolds long-term.
SS Stephen Drew: Drew might not be a superstar, but he's healthy. That gives him the chance to improve or, at worst, put up solid numbers as he heads into what should be his best years.
CF Chris Young: For those fans of specificity, Young worked with a track coach this offseason. I have no idea what that means for his health, but it's notable.