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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: Cleveland's roster didn't inspire much confidence heading into 2010—and that was when it was still full of healthy players. Losing Grady Sizemore for most of the year and then having Carlos Santana knocked out shortly after being called up didn't help matters any. The Indians ranked in the top 10 in the majors for total entries in the injury database, and their DMPI, while an improvement over the 2009 campaign, was still worse than average.
Sizemore ended up losing over 140 games to knee surgery and has only recently begun playing games during spring training. Santana missed 60 games due to his own knee surgery after a collision at the plate last year, and Asdrubal Cabrera missed over 60 games because of surgery for his fractured forearm. The rest of the offense seemed to suffer from their own bumps and bruises, hence the lack of rosy outlooks for most of the position players. There is still a significant chance that in 2011, one (if not more) of the starters will miss significant time due to injury. The Indians decided they didn't have enough players missing enormous chunks of the season on the roster, though, so they signed Nick Johnson to a minor-league contract—we assume this was done to teach all of the impressionable youngsters on the roster how not to attempt to stay on the field.
The one saving grace from a medical point of view is the pitching staff. After missing over 60 days in 2008 with a hip strain, Fausto Carmona has been healthy over the last few years. Despite an odd delivery, Justin Masterson has managed to avoid injury thus far. Mitch Talbot did miss some time in 2010 with shoulder inflammation and a mid-back strain, so even though he is a low risk, we're a tad more leery of his prospects. Both Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco are low risks, which leaves Talbot as the only starter worth worrying about (from a health perspective, at least). Closer Chris Perez did stay healthy in 2010, but he experienced some impingement in 2009 spring training and then underwent ankle surgery to remove an extra piece of bone after that year. Overall, though, it's hard to complain about all the green on the pitching side of the ledger. If only the Indians could do something to keep their position players on the field as well.
The Big Risk: It's not the player that has been talked about the most during spring training (Sizemore), but Santana. The Indians have something special in Santana, and that gives them a large advantage over teams of similar market size. Even though Lou Marson was rated highly, Santana is clearly a far superior player from an offensive standpoint. Losing Santana would take a serious hitter out of the lineup, one who boasts positional scarcity points in addition to his actual performance.
Comeback: Santana again. He had a rather unusual surgery to repair just the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) in his knee. It’s rare for that ligament to be injured in isolation; instead, the LCL is usually damaged along with the ACL or tears of the meniscus, causing serious knee instability. Santana was lucky—in a relative sense, we mean—that this injury was not much worse.
He has come along well, and the reports from spring training have been excellent. Obviously, any surgeries on the knee are concerning for catchers, but this procedure didn't involve the joint surface or meniscus, which become more problematic with deep flexion of the knee. Santana should return to full effectiveness, meaning that the Indians got a little lucky.
Best Health: Masterson has remained healthy with a rubber arm, so he deserves this spot even without extra credit for not getting sick to his stomach while watching the defense behind him fumble all of those grounders he induces.
Worst Health: You realize Nick Johnson is on this team, yes? Like, the Nick Johnson.