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March 24, 2010

Team Health Reports

Boston Red Sox

by Will Carroll

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Team Health Reports 

The Summary: It's no secret that the Red Sox are at the cutting edge when it comes to sports medicine in baseball. What's surprising is that after several years, no one is trying similar things. Even Boston isn't getting great results, but much of the numbers they put up are skewed by accepted risk. Curt Schilling, John Smoltz, Brad Penny, and J.D. Drew are understood for what they could be, not what they aren't. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't, though the organization's depth usually hides the mistakes. The biggest task is getting Daisuke Matsuzaka back into the rotation and healthy for a full season. He worked out at API all winter with Dustin Pedroia, who you just know is watching Patton on DVD before working out. There's no World Baseball Classic, so there's hope we'll see the ace-level Matsuzaka again. With Mike Reinold now in charge, expect there to be a faster pace of change.

The Facts
Days Lost: 799
Dollars Lost: $13,151,586.96
Injury Cost: $12,990,138.89
The Cost: The Red Sox responded after a tough injury-riddled 2008 season to find themselves just under the 2009 league average for dollars lost with $13.2 million. For the last three years, Boston has lost $53.4 million to injury. Matsuzaka came into camp out of shape and missed the majority of the season with arm and shoulder fatigue and cost the Red Sox $5.4 million during his two trips to the disabled list. Boston was also hit by trips from Smoltz and Tim Wakefield to the disabled list along with the frequent disabled list flier that is Mike Lowell. Despite only saving about a million compared to the league average, the Red Sox continued their free-spending ways. Boston shelled out over $120 million to bring in John Lackey, Adrian Beltre, Marco Scutaro, and Mike Cameron, targeting each of the position's top available free agents, at least defensive-wise. Boston has quickly become an older team through free-agent additions and with age comes risk. That risk has worked out well for them so far.

The Big Risk: While the Yankees have taken their share of heat over the "Joba Rules," no one's really paid attention to how the Sox have handled Clay Buchholz. Mostly, they've done it by forcing him and other pitching prospects to fight their way into the rotation. That's not a bad thing, especially in today's game where you need a cast of thousands to get through a season. Buchholz has had the talent to be a major-league starting pitcher for several years now, without question. He threw a no-hitter, which should make him at least a fifth starter, no matter what fairy tales you believe. Since that no-no, Buchholz has thrown less than 170 innings at the big-league level while throwing a bit less at the minor-league level. During the same period, bounced between starting and relief, Joba Chamberlain has tossed 260 innings. Service time arguments aside, there's a real question about the best way to get value from a pitcher pre-arb while keeping him healthy. If tested beyond 175 innings this year (right where PECOTA has him), we're going to find out whether or not Boston was right in how it handled Buchholz.

The Comeback: So if it was steroids, this is an easy story. David Ortiz has that shadow over him like many players, but his gregarious image helps shoo away some of the nastier blowback. If it was steroids, then unlike his friend Manny Ramirez, he's been able to pass the tests without any issue. If it was steroids, he won't be any better than last year. If it was steroids, he beat a test that netted almost a hundred of his fellow Dominicans over the past couple seasons. If it was steroids and not the wrist, his power shouldn't have come back after that terrible start at about precisely the time wrists tend to come back from injuries. Look at Rickie Weeks or Mark DeRosa, who had very similar injuries and very little steroid suspicion. If it was steroids, his age-34 season should trend more like Barry Bonds, rather than sliding downward, though we might expect a bit of a Willie Stargell-style resurgence if we didn't know he already swung for the fences every time up. Ortiz is in a contract year, he's healthy and happy, but you know what—when he comes back, people are going to say it was steroids.

The Trend: The Sox take on too many reclamation projects to be "good" with these numbers, so realize that when reading that they're midpack. The work that Reinold and the medical staff has done over the past couple seasons isn't the kind of thing that could really be measured in one year anyway. It's likely to be a 10-year period where his work on managing fatigue really becomes noticeable. Aside from his sheer lack of experience, it's hard to say that Reinold lacks in any area, hasn't done what the Sox brought him in to do, and I'm very curious how things might change now that he's holding the reins. This isn't a knock on Paul Lessard by the way. He got Pipped, a bit, and gets a chance to try and make Dusty Baker look good. I don't envy him that challenge.

The Ratings

Red light RF J.D. Drew: Drew is a pretty known quantity at this stage, so know it and use it. He's undervalued as a player as he's been for most of his career. He's productive in 100-120 games a year and above that it's all gravy. 
Red light SP Clay Buchholz: See The Big Risk

Yellow light C Victor Martinez: Martinez's health could be determined by Jason Varitek's resurgence. He's not a bad first baseman and with Lowell likely exiting the Boston stage, there's some flexibility here. The less he's at catcher, the less PIPP worries.
Yellow light 3B Adrian Beltre: Still no cup, but it's his choice, I guess. He's been healthy otherwise, which was probably small consolation as he was laying on the field, feeling the blood fill his scrotum. Graphic? Sure, but I'm hoping there's not some kid out there in Red Sox Nation that's going to convince his mom he doesn't need a cup because Beltre doesn't wear one.
Yellow light SS Marco Scutaro
Yellow light LF Jacoby Ellsbury: He's not that big a risk, barely in the yellow, but I keep coming back to one fact. The Red Sox have never had a speedy left fielder. There's really no need with that wall so close, so I'm wondering—will Ellsbury sprint back one night and smash into the Monster? It's an image I'm oddly focused on. I really hope I'm wrong.
Yellow light DH David Ortiz: See The Comeback.
Yellow light SP Josh Beckett: There's not really that much to worry about here. Beckett has some of the same concerns that many pitchers do, with some minor problems last year. The blisters that held him back as a young Marlin probably saved him from some of the innings that would be costing him now. He's as good as they come and no more risky for it.
Yellow light SP John Lackey: Lackey convinced the Red Sox brass that his arm issues the past two seasons were part of his Angels past. PIPP's not so sure. 
Yellow light SP Daisuke Matsuzaka: This spring hasn't been the healthy one everyone was expecting from Matsuzaka. None of it is bad, but it's getting to be one of those things where people expect and even look for something bad to happen. He might do better in a different environment, but he still has Cy Young stuff. 
Yellow light CL Jonathan Papelbon: Papelbon changed his delivery and attitude last year, thinking about staying healthy. He's a closer for a reason and coming up on free agency, we'll see if he gets a bit more gun-shy with that gun of his. 
Yellow light  RP Daniel Bard: A very low yellow, the system worries a bit about anyone transitioning to a new role. There's also a bit of a hit against this slot, since the Sox have used a bunch of health risks here.

Green light 1B Kevin Youkilis
Green light 2B Dustin Pedroia
Green light CF Mike Cameron
Green light SP John Lester: It's just awesome to see this guy, with his story, as a green. Just awesome.


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