March 25, 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: If not for the DMPI ranking, we could be congratulating the Diamondbacks on a job well done. They didn't have to deal with many day-to-day injuries—91 percent of their days lost were for transactions involving the disabled list—but larger injuries were an issue. Brandon Webb (372 days missed over two years) had at least a little to do with that. Surgeries—which have long recovery times, meaning longer DL stints—are the main culprit here. Arizona needs to work on reducing the number of major injuries that require significant downtime.
The new-look front office has put a new-look team on the field. New general manager Kevin Towers traded Mark Reynolds to the Orioles and signed Melvin Mora to play third in his stead. Mora has missed time on many occasions over the last three years, and there is a good chance that he will miss additional time in 2011—that hasn't been a problem in the past with Reynolds. Across the diamond, Towers signed Russell Branyan to a minor-league deal, which will be detrimental to the health of the team if he makes the big-league roster. He’s missed over 40 days due to injury in each of the last three seasons, and chances are his balky back won't allow him to buck that trend in 2011.
The middle infield looks much better from a health standpoint, thanks to Stephen Drew and Kelly Johnson, each of whom is a moderate risk for a minimum DL stint in 2011. Miguel Montero has missed nearly 100 days to injury over the last three years, so it's no surprise that CHIPPER isn't in love with him. Despite missing no time in 2010, Xavier Nady is considered a high-risk newbie thanks to the time he lost to Tommy John surgery in 2009. Chris Young doesn't present much of a health risk, but Justin Upton already has a whole lot of mentions of his left shoulder in the database.
CHIPPER has much higher hopes for the pitching staff. Dan Hudson, Joe Saunders, and Ian Kennedy are all low risks, although Kennedy comes with a caveat: he underwent surgery in 2009 on his shoulder for an aneurysm in his armpit. He handled 2010 well, but the surgery is still lurking in his record, so keep an eye on him throughout the season for signs of fatigue. Zach Duke had some risk associated with him, so when he went down with a broken hand this spring we weren't shocked. The other extreme risk is J.J. Putz, whose spring has already been interrupted due to back tightness and stiffness. He has also suffered from multiple elbow injuries in the past, on top of various minor injuries to other areas of his body.
The Big Risk: Of Upton's 2010 injuries, the one that stands out is the small labral tear in his left non-throwing shoulder—an injury that his brother B.J. also dealt with. Whether this is coincidental or the result of an anatomical variant cannot be determined without examining the radiology studies and clinical exam. The labral tear could cause his power to decrease, since the damaged shoulder is on his front side while hitting. While it is certainly possible to play at a high level with Upton's injury, it often ends up bothering players too much to continue unaffected, and at some point they require a surgical clean-up. Considering Upton's upside, there is no one of equivalent talent whom the Diamondbacks can substitute for their budding star.
Comeback: Meniscal surgery on Miguel Montero's right knee cost him over 60 days of last season, raising his risk level for this year, but he has responded well in the spring. He will need to keep his leg muscles well-balanced in order to prevent injury and come back 100 percent, but his health would be a boon to the D'backs, especially with Chris Snyder now a Pirate.
Best Health: It took Young some time to blossom, but at least he's been healthy.
Worst Health: Branyan's back makes him an easy pick for this spot, which is a bit scary when you consider that Mike Hampton is also on the roster.