March 7, 2011
Team Injury Projection
The Team Injury Projections are here, driven by our brand new injury forecasting system, the Comprehensive Health Index [of] Pitchers [and] Players [with] Evaluative Results—or, more succinctly, CHIPPER. Thanks to work by Colin Wyers and Dan Turkenkopf and a database loaded with injuries dating back to the 2002 season—that's nearly 4,600 players and well over 400,000 days lost to injury—we now have a system that produces injury-risk assessments to three different degrees. CHIPPER projects ratings for players based on their injury history--these ratings measure the probability of a player missing one or more games, 15 or more games, or 30 or more games. CHIPPER will have additional features added to it throughout the spring and early season that will enhance the accuracy of our injury coverage.
These ratings are also available in the Player Forecast Manager (pfm.baseballprospectus.com), where they'll be sortable by league or position—you won’t have to wait for us to finish writing this series in order to see the health ratings for all of the players.
Hitters in approximate Depth Charts order at time of publication
Pitchers in approximate Depth Charts order at time of publication
Summary: Stephen Strasburg, like Mark Prior before him, was known across the country before he ever threw a pitch in the major leagues, making his debut one of the most highly anticipated events of the season. The eye-opening start to his major-league career served only to burnish the young right-hander’s legend—that is, until he fell victim to Tommy John surgery in September. Strasburg will miss most, if not all, of 2011 recovering from the procedure.
Washington needs to avoid being the MASH unit that it was last year, though as you can see by their DMPI rankings, they haven’t had much success in that regard in years. The Nats made one of the more surprising moves of the offseason by signing Jayson Werth, who has a moderate risk of injury in 2011. He was inked to spark the offense and replace the high-risk Josh Willingham (and his balky knees), which he very well may do—Willingham’s career-high for games played is 144, and he has averaged just 116 contests per year over his last three seasons.
The corner outfield spots aren't the only positions under new management at Nationals Park, as first base is now Adam LaRoche’s responsibility. LaRoche replaces Adam Dunn, whom he resembles as far as his position and low-risk CHIPPER rating are concerned—the similarities vanish after that, but at least LaRoche should show up to play every day. With Dunn out of town, losing Werth or Ryan Zimmerman (moderate risk) for any period of time will cause serious problems for the offense.
On the pitching side of things, Washington will almost certainly be healthier compared to 2010. Last year, Washington went without the services of Chien-Ming Wang (who will likely start 2011 on the DL as well), Jordan Zimmermann, Tyler Walker, Ross Detwiler, Luis Atilano, J.D. Martin, Garret Mock, Jason Marquis, and, of course, Strasburg, for large chunks of the season due to surgeries and recovery time. We mentioned Strasburg above, but Zimmermann, Detwiler, and Tom Gorzelanny will help provide depth to a rotation that was desperate for just that last year. Even though the Nationals are not likely to be NL East contenders in 2011, they appear to be headed in the right direction and are likely to be much healthier this year.
The big risk: As has been the case in years past, Ryan Zimmerman shoulders a huge load on offense, since the lineup is just not good enough to carry the team without him. Zimmerman has stayed fairly healthy, though his nagging hamstring injury has knocked him out of some games (it never required a DL visit). Losing Zimmerman for any length of time would install Alberto Gonzalez and his 2011 PECOTA-projected slash line of .249/.288/.329 at the hot corner.
Comeback: After undergoing Tommy John surgery late in 2009, Jordan Zimmermann missed most of 2010 before coming back and pitching well down the stretch, with the exception of a few too many long balls. With 2011 his first full year back from surgery, his workload will likely be monitored very closely. Zimmermann may be listed as the number-three starter, but in reality he's the team's top hurler until Strasburg returns next year. As a nod to his importance, Washington is talking about putting a limit on his innings in 2011.
Best: John Lannan’s contribution to the team may come as a number-five starter, but he should at least be healthy, which would be a welcome change of pace for the Nats.
Worst: Rick Ankiel has had a career full of surprises, both as a pitcher and as a hitter, but you shouldn’t be shocked if he gets injured this year. He has the highest injury rating on the team and has averaged just 105 games per year over the last three.