March 15, 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: The health level of a team isn’t the sole predictor of success, but it certainly should be included in the discussion. Despite improving in the last several years, Baltimore’s pitching staff was hit hard by injuries in 2010: Jim Johnson (elbow sprain), Mike Gonzalez (shoulder strain), Jason Berken (frayed rotator cuff and labrum tear), and Koji Uehara (elbow and hamstring strains) all missed more than 50 days due to their respective injuries. Factor in Brian Roberts (abdominal strain), Felix Pie (shoulder strain), and Lou Montanez (thumb strain) all missing 49 days or more, and it’s easy to see why this team didn’t come together until late in the year. Unfortunately, some of their new acquisitions are just as risky.
Vladimir Guerrero was signed to DH, and Derrek Lee was inked to play first. In addition, the Orioles dealt for Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy to man the left side of the infield. Out of that group, only Hardy stands out as being a high risk, with the remainder all low-to-moderate risks. However, Roberts, Pie, and Luke Scott are high risks at this point in their careers, with Adam Jones coming in just under the high risk threshold. Most of the younger players, including Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, and Nolan Reimold, are expected to remain healthy throughout the year.
Justin Duchscherer is as close to a lock as a player can get to miss more than 15 games during the season. His hip—which has bothered him for years now—has been limiting in the spring, to the point that the Orioles are sending him for an MR arthrogram (in which dye would be injected directly into the joint). This is done to provide a better visualization of the joint to facilitate a search for labral tears. He has played in one game this spring, and there is a good chance that he will begin the season on the disabled list.
Potential closer Uehara is also having difficulties staying healthy this spring, as his elbow has been giving him trouble. There is a high chance that we will see a repeat of his 2010 campaign, in which he was effective when he made it to the mound but didn't do so nearly often enough.
If Baltimore is able to avoid the injury bug in 2011, the team can continue down the path to respectability that it started on in the second half of 2010. With the injury issues that they've already seen this spring, though, that becomes a less likely scenario.
The Big Risk: We’re seeing the Orioles’ most significant risk start to slip already. Roberts was a high-risk player coming into the season, and he began having back issues this spring that were eerily similar to those he experienced last year. As anyone who has suffered from lower back injuries—especially herniated discs—knows, they can be extremely debilitating at times. Disc issues can often incite spasms which restrict motion and cause severe pain associated with twisting motions. Unfortunately, these motions are ones that baseball players are called upon to make every day, which is why Roberts missed so much time in 2010. Given the problems the team had both defensively and in the lineup without its second baseman in 2010, labeling Roberts the greatest risk for the present is a no-brainer.
Comeback: Mike Gonzalez is a Tommy John survivor looking to put the shoulder strain he suffered in 2010 behind him. With no other shoulder issues in the past, he should be able to come back strong without any worries about further damage. While Tommy John has an impressive success rate these days, it's not 100 percent successful, and when you pile shoulder issues on top of recovery, the success rates drop even further. If Gonzalez remains healthy, the Orioles may be able to hold onto whatever leads they have even if Uehara misses significant time.
Best Health: Markakis has averaged just under 160 games a season the last four years, and CHIPPER sees no signs of that pattern stopping just yet.
Worst Health: Duchscherer has the rare distinction of rating lower in our injury forecasting system than the player it's named after. You try coming up with a backronym for DUCHSCHERER, though.