March 24, 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: After years of performing very well according to DMPI, Houston took a step back in 2010. The Astros' total days lost have also trended in the wrong direction, and they finished in the bottom third of the league in 2010. The 2011 Astros may be a lot of (negative) things, but at least they figure to have their health: not a single player is rated as a significant risk to miss meaningful time.
From a pure health projection standpoint, the offense is going to be much less risky than in years prior. Clint Barmes seems dicey—we all remember that he broke his collarbone carrying venison, but that was all the way back in 2005. Since then, the only black mark on his record is the knee sprain from 2008. The only regular who projects to be a moderate risk across the board is Michael Bourn—that's due to several small injuries to his legs over the last few years, including minor groin and hamstring pulls. For someone who gets paid for his speed, any leg injury could be disastrous. Flanking him in the outfield are Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence, both of whom are lower risks. Lee has been relatively healthy over the last two seasons, but he is turning 35 this year, which doesn't bode well. Pence is just 28 years old, and it’s been over three years since his wrist fracture in 2007.
In the infield, Chris Johnson’s rating is affected by his hand fracture from the minors and his trunk strain from last year, while Brett Wallace appears to carry minimal risk (although he did experience some wrist soreness in the minors in 2010 and is nicknamed after a slow, enormous sea creature). Bill Hall is looking to take over at second base, a position at which he has remained basically healthy, aside from a partially torn calf in 2009 spring training.
The pitchers are actually a little more risky than the hitters in Houston, which has been something of a rarity so far in this series). Brett Myers is one of the riskier starters thanks to the two shoulder injuries he has suffered in the past few years. In 2007 he suffered a shoulder strain that landed him on the 60-day DL, and in 2009 he suffered a mild latissimus dorsi strain. While he certainly is not an automatic high risk, he is saddled with an elevated chance of injury. Wandy Rodriguez has already been suffering from shoulder inflammation this spring. While he rates as a low risk, he’s another pitcher with an increased chance of ending up on the disabled list this year due to spring troubles.
Two pitchers who are a little more dicey are Nelson Figueroa and J.A. Happ. Figueroa is up there because of his age, Happ because of a forearm strain in 2010 and an oblique strain in 2009. Closer Brandon Lyon saw his fair share on injuries early in his career, but he has remained healthy with the exception of a cyst in his shoulder that had to be drained in 2010. Sometimes a cyst can be the result of some damage to the labrum, but without seeing an MRI it's difficult to pinpoint a cause. If the cyst was in the labrum, that does increase the risk of further injury.
The Big Risk: Take a look at the roster. See anything you like? Pence is one of the few players on the Astros whose presence would be sorely missed. Jason Michaels would be his understudy, and while Michaels has his uses, losing Pence would eliminate the lone productive bat in the lineup.
Comeback: Most of his 2010 DL time came with his former team, but a healthy season from Happ could help solidify the one part of the Astros that actually works well.
Best Health: Hall has played all over the field, and his positional flexibility is a big part of his value. His recent health helps, too.
Worst Health: Bourn has dealt with multiple small injuries to his legs, a trend that will eventually catch up to him.