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March 31, 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: Almost out of the gate, the Athletics lost John Meloan, Joey Devine, Josh Outman, Justin Duchscherer, and Eric Chavez. Given their roster construction, it's not surprising that they deal with injuries in the volume they do. The 2007 and 2010 campaigns hit them the hardest, as the Athletics ranked in the bottom third overall and twice finished dead last in total days lost, but even their "best" showing in 2008 put them in no better position than the middle of the pack.
Two-thirds of the Athletics' starting lineup is an injury waiting to happen. In the last year alone, Coco Crisp has undergone shoulder surgery on his labrum, suffered a strained hamstring, twice fractured the little finger on his left hand, and strained an intercostal muscle, so he's not someone to expect in the lineup every day. Daric Barton hasn’t missed a significant number of games, but he did have off-season hip surgery in the 2008-2009 offseason. While this doesn’t factor into the days lost numbers, CHIPPER still picks up on it (you can't put one by us, Barton!). Trading for David DeJesus shows that the Athletics aren't too concerned with the number of injury-prone players on the roster. As long as his thumb is healthy, DeJesus should contribute, but it's not like his last injury was an isolated incident.
Josh Willingham came to Oakland via trade as well, bringing his own significant injury history with him. Willingham's season ended early due to knee surgery to correct a medial meniscus tear—this chunk of time lost dropped his games played average over the last three seasons to 116. Hideki Matsui will continue to serve as a designated hitter after signing with Oakland—were he still an outfielder, his risk ratings would be more troublesome. Second baseman Mark Ellis has been on the DL multiple times in each of the past three seasons, causing him to miss almost an entire season's worth of games in that time span. In 2008 he was sidelined by his shoulder, in 2009 his lower leg, and in 2010, his thigh. CHIPPER foresees another ailment in 2011. Kurt Suzuki, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Cliff Pennington are all lower risks for the upcoming season, though, giving Oakland some hope of keeping at least a few players on the field. It probably doesn't help that their fourth outfielder, Ryan Sweeney—who will undoubtedly pick up loads of playing time covering for the high-risk starters—is considered a high risk himself.
Say what you will about Oakland's lineup construction over the years, but at least they seem to have pitching figured out. Unfortunately, the injury bug pops up here as well. Trevor Cahill suffered a stress reaction in his shoulder blade, but otherwise has remained healthy. Brett Anderson is more risky than his rating shows: in 2010, he missed time due to an elbow strain and elbow inflammation, missing over half of the season. Gio Gonzalez hasn’t missed any regular season action, but he did miss almost three weeks due to shoulder stiffness in 2009. He hasn’t had any difficulties since, but his past problems are worth noting. Dallas Braden and Brandon McCarthy fill out the rotation, and both have had difficulties with injuries in the past. Braden suffered from elbow and forearm soreness in 2010, and in 2007 he had off-season shoulder surgery. McCarthy’s past is even worse, as he's missed time on multiple occasions due to stress reactions in his shoulder blade, shoulder soreness (in both 2009 and 2010), and a long bout of forearm inflammation that sent him to the DL in 2008. Both of these players should be considered at least moderate risks.
Closer Andrew Bailey missed some time due to an intercostal strain between his ribs, and he also had surgery on his elbow late in the year to remove loose bodies. He was not placed on the DL for the elbow surgery, but he did miss 16 games. Bailey has been placed on the disabled list with a forearm strain to start off 2011, so in real-time, his risk to miss more than 15 games has increased.
The Big Risk: One thing the A's have done well during the last few injury-plagued years is build a deep roster. Players like Crisp, DeJesus, etc. have come relatively cheap because of the health risks involved, and the A's have been able to shoulder the burden by rostering bench depth like Rajai Davis, Sweeney, and others—players who are capable of putting together 400-500 productive plate appearances, or of playing quality defense, but who spend their time on the bench waiting for the starters to hit the DL. For this reason, the A's have no huge individual risk, even with all of the potential injuries on the roster. If Willingham goes down, some players will shuffle around, and one representative from the group of Sweeney, Chris Carter, and Conor Jackson (if he isn't hurt, anyway) will end up with a boost in playing time. The A's have no shortage of quality young pitchers, so even if Brett Anderson were to go down, the A's could survive. Their methods are risky, but at least they remember to plan for them.
Comeback: Trevor Cahill has proven that he can be at least somewhat successful after coming back from a not-so-common stress fracture of the scapula. This was the second injury to his shoulder in the last few years, as he also missed time with a rotator cuff strain after being drafted. Given that the injury occurred early in the year, he did respond very well, but it will be interesting to see whether there are any aftereffects this year.
Best Health: Even though we may have some slight concerns about Cahill’s shoulder, CHIPPER doesn’t have any.
Worst Health: With four DL moves in two years, Jackson easily takes this spot.