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March 31, 2011
Team Injury Projection
San Francisco Giants
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: Check out all of that green in those total days lost and DMPI charts—the Giants have been able to keep their players on the field, and when they have lost them to injury, they've gotten them back quickly. Health helped them win their first World Series since moving to San Francisco, and they should remain competitive if they can avoid the DL again in 2011.
The Giants' past success is no guarantee of similar results in the future, though. Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez practically cannot avoid injuries. Torres has suffered multiple lower body injuries, always a concern for a player who earns his paychecks with his legs. Sanchez has shoulder problems despite surgery on his labrum in December of 2009—he underwent a second procedure this past offseason to relieve the pain at the front of the shoulder. The surgery involved a part of the biceps called the long head—this can become severely inflamed in cases of chronic impingement. The results of the procedure are generally excellent, and there is almost immediate relief once the impingement is resolved.
Aubrey Huff is a somewhat elevated risk primarily due to his age, as he has remained healthy for the last few years. If he ends up moving back to the outfield from first base, though, the Giants may want to keep a close eye on him. Buster Posey won't get time at first like he did last year, but he's expected to be healthy as a young full-time backstop. Pat Burrell's neck gave him trouble in Tampa Bay, but overall he has not been injured often enough to get CHIPPER worked up (though he is 34 years old). Pablo Sandoval, Miguel Tejada, and Cody Ross are all considered low risks (though Ross does have a more extensive injury history prior to 2007). Tejada's low-risk rating is impressive, given his (now accurate) age, as is that of Sandoval, who isn't known for being svelte.
On the pitching side, the Giants have perennial Cy Young contender Tim Lincecum, who has remained healthy throughout most of his career. Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner, and even Barry Zito are less risky than most of the remaining pitchers in the major leagues—just take a look at those nearly bare days missed columns above. Matt Cain did suffer from some elbow inflammation this spring, but he has made all of his starts since mid-March. Jonathan Sanchez’s injury history is also not immediately apparent. In 2007 he twice strained his rib cage, and he also strained his rotator cuff in 2008. Barry Zito has always been a pitcher who could be counted on to start every fifth day, if nothing else. He did have a forearm strain this spring and was subsequently placed on the 15-day DL to start off the season, a rarity for him.
Ace reliever Brian Wilson is also having some trouble with injuries this spring. His issue wasn’t so much a forearm strain as it was a multitude of little things that eventually led to a strained oblique. In the beginning of camp he had difficulty with back spasms, and upon returning he was struck on the hip by a batted ball. Since that time, he has been dealing with an oblique strain and was placed on the DL. He has been improving, and this strain will likely keep him out only for another week or two—the Giants seem optimistic that he may even return for the second series of the season.
The Big Risk: The lineup has the depth to overcome injuries to many players, but the rotation cannot afford to lose Tim Lincecum, one of the lone stars on the team. He dealt with back spasms in 2009 and looked a little off in the late summer of 2010 (though he bounced back from whatever was bothering him), but to this point, the Giants have never been without their ace. They lack the means to replace him—Luis the Brazilian cab driver doesn't count—so a lack of Timmy would do a lot of damage to the Giants' hopes in what is expected to be a tight race in the NL West.
Comeback: Dan Runzler suffered a scary injury last year: a patellar dislocation of his left knee. The first time you see this particular injury, you automatically think the absolute worst, because it looks gruesome. A patellar dislocation can be extremely painful, can swell up massively, and can take a while for the muscle bulk to return to normal. Once it does find normalcy, Runzler may wear a slightly different brace, but he should be fine otherwise.
Best Health:Considering that he's a catcher, it's impressive how healthy Posey is expected to be. Surely that will change with age, but as of right now, Joe Mauer he is not.
Worst Health: Sanchez and Mark DeRosa made this a bit of a battle, but the edge has to go to Sanchez, since he always has something wrong with him, whereas DeRosa's injuries were mostly confined to the 2010 campaign.