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March 28, 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: Last year's Rockies incurred plenty of database-worthy injuries, racking up the days lost, but on a per-injury basis they were one of the most successful teams in the league. That constituted a significant improvement coming off of a season in which they were one of the worst clubs from a health standpoint. Jeff Francis, Huston Street, Greg Reynolds, and Taylor Buchholz all missed 40-plus days to kick off last season, but once the campaign was actually underway, the Rockies' medical staff was able to keep the damage to a minimum.
CHIPPER doesn’t think Colorado will go through 2011 unscathed. Dexter Fowler, Jose Lopez, and Seth Smith appear to be safe bets to miss minimal time, but that’s about it for positives. Carlos Gonzalez is a moderate risk—the 25-year-old has 14 database entries in the last two years (10 in 2010 alone). They are all for minor injuries, but as anyone who watched the collision between him and Ian Stewart knows, the difference between a leg contusion and cracked ribs can be less than a foot at times—just ask Jacoby Ellsbury. Troy Tulowitzki had his wrist fractured by a pitch in June, though he showed no ill effects on the field once he returned. He missed just two more games the rest of the way, though he always seems to have one small thing or another bothering him. Todd Helton’s back has limited him for some time now—it is somewhat surprising that a 37-year-old first baseman with chronic back issues and a back surgery to his credit isn’t rated worse.
Ian Stewart held up well until his oblique strain cost him almost a month toward the end of last season, and he suffered an MCL sprain in his left knee this spring. It’s certainly true that Jason Giambi has become a greater risk at this point in his career, but he is only a pinch-hitter, so his playing time will be limited. Chris Iannetta will likely see the bulk of the time behind the plate—his greatest vulnerability seems to be to lower body strains, based on his injuries in the past several years.
You can breathe, Colorado: CHIPPER likes Ubaldo Jimenez’s chances to stay healthy. Jorge De La Rosa’s major injury last year was a strain to the flexor tendon in his middle finger. He missed over 70 days because of it, though he will likely be fine throughout the 2011 season since his moderate risk is toward the lower end. Aaron Cook has had a rough year and a half with injuries. In 2009 he suffered a shoulder strain that put him on the shelf for over a month, and in 2010 he missed a total of 55 days between a right big toe sprain and a fractured right fibula. He has already missed time in camp for shoulder inflammation, followed by a fracture of his right ring finger.
Jhoulys Chacin and Jason Hammel have avoided similar fates, and both project to be healthy in 2011. It’s surprising that Huston Street’s risk is so low. He has suffered from multiple bouts of inflammation in his shoulder and upper arm over the last two years (on top of small trunk strains), so his low-risk rating should be taken with a grain of salt.
The Big Risk: Any major injury to Troy Tulowitzki could have disastrous consequences for the Rockies in 2011. He has already shown that he can be somewhat injury-prone, and that makes us all concerned. The Rockies seem less concerned, given the extension they signed him to over the winter. It would be difficult to replace any cleanup hitter's production, but when you consider his position and the high quality of his defense, it’s even more apparent that there is no comparable substitute for Tulo.
Comeback: Carlos Gonzalez could go one of two ways from an injury standpoint. One direction would take him down a dark scary road with signs labeled Chipper Jones on the left, Eric Chavez on the right, and Milton Bradley straight ahead. The other path, which is more likely and a lot more pleasant, would lead him to a future in which he cuts down on the number of injuries as he learns to take better care of himself at the major-league level. Gonzalez plays all out, which is what you want from a player, but you don’t necessarily want him to be reckless with his body, especially when that body boasts Gonzalez's talent. If he doesn't cut down on his 10 database entries from 2010, there could be trouble.
Best Health: If you had just escaped Safeco and landed in its polar opposite, Coors Field, you would feel as healthy as Jose Lopez, too.
Worst Health: Major ankle surgery, major wrist surgery, three years in the majors… yup, Jose Morales qualifies for this spot.