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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: Despite injuries to key players, including Jamie Moyer, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies still managed to outlast the Braves, who had to deal with their own assortment of injuries. The Phillies made a dramatic turnaround over the last two years by drastically decreasing their amount of time missed per injury. The hitters were hurt more often in 2010 (roughly 70 percent of the Phils’ database entries went to position players), but the pitching staff made up 63 percent of the days lost to injury, thanks to J.A. Happ (forearm strain), Ryan Madson (foot surgery), and Jamie Moyer (elbow sprain), among others.
CHIPPER does not think highly of Philly's health up the middle. Second baseman Chase Utley, who has been dealing with right knee patellar tendinitis for much of this spring, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, and center fielder Shane Victorino are all at risk to miss a fair amount of time due to injuries. Victorino is the least risky of the bunch, but not by so much that we would put money on his staying healthy this year. Flanking Victorino is the talented Domonic Brown—who has already validated his moderate risk level by fracturing his hand this spring—and Raul Ibanez, who is 38 years old and aging rapidly, by the looks of his 2010. The remainder of the lineup doesn’t make up for these issues, with both Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard just risky enough to make Phillies fans nervous, and the pair behind the plate (Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider) showing a whole lot of red.
Philadelphia made a statement this offseason by signing Cliff Lee, in the process putting together a rotation that is, quite frankly, a little scary. Not only will their starters be good, but they will also likely remain healthy. Roy Oswalt carries the most at risk, and he’s on the lower end of the moderate level thanks to lower back and hand issues over the last couple of years. Roy Halladay’s moderate risk (on the very low end) is well deserved considering his track record over the last several years—Halladay has averaged 245 innings over the past three years. Lee is similarly rated, as he hasn't experienced any major issues in a while, but he has missed some time over the past several years from abdominal and trunk strains. Cole Hamels rounds things out, giving the Phillies a decent chance to have their top four not miss a start throughout the season (or, at least, as decent a chance as a team can get). One other key member of the staff, closer Brad Lidge, is just a shade under high-risk. CHIPPER is pleased that Lidge is giving credence to its rating for him via biceps tendinitis, though we’ve told CHIPPER not to revel in the pain of others.
The health of the core four in the rotation is integral to the Phillies' success, given the downgrades, risks, and ages elsewhere on the roster. The pitching staff that the organization has assembled is impressive, but it’s only a piece of the playoff puzzle.
The Big Risk: Utley is dealing with persistent right knee patellar tendinitis that has thus far proven resistant to traditional treatments. If the affected area is more chronic in nature, then some of the tendon tissue can actually die and can lead to an increased risk of tearing. Assuming this continues, the Phillies may consider PRP injections, in which some of Utley's own platelets would be injected into the dead area. He would then be out for several weeks, but if that approach were to fail, he'd be looking at surgery to clean out the area, consigning him to the shelf for an even longer period. Utley has a tendency to play through injuries or return from them early, but he may cause more problems by doing so—the Phillies need to get this right, or else their lineup will be in serious trouble from the start.
Comeback: Rollins has the most to prove and could do his part to save the lineup if Utley is down for an extended period of time. Rollins has been starting to break down, making three DL trips over the last three years thanks to an increasing number of injuries to his lower extremities. He underwent surgery on his left wrist to remove ganglion cysts in December, which shouldn’t affect his play but does add one more entry into the database. He’s been healthy so far this spring, a potentially good sign for the Phils.
Best Health: Cole Hamels is trending in the right direction after having several issues earlier in his career.
Worst Health: Based on CHIPPER’s output above, it’s Rollins, but given what we know about the condition Utley is dealing with, it has to be him in this spot.