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November 11, 2011

Collateral Damage

The Season in Injuries: NL Central

by Corey Dawkins

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Division: National League Central

Divisional Ranking for WARP Lost (MLB Rank, best to worst):

1.       Houston Astros (1)
2.       Chicago Cubs (6)
3.       Pittsburgh Pirates (9)
4.       Cincinnati Reds (14)
5.       Milwaukee Brewers (15)
6.       St. Louis Cardinals (26)

Houston Astros
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 1.58
Number of DL trips (Days): 16 (863)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 46 (929)

Starting off with the Astros, we find the best overall team in terms of TAWL. The difficulty with this is that it is more of an indictment on their roster than it is of their medical staff. It is true that overall TAWL was the best in the majors, but the number of injuries suffered and days lost were middle of the pack. A truly dominant medical staff and front office roster construction would rank well in both areas.

Looking back at the 2011 season for the Astros, we find something different. It didn’t start well with Jason Castro needing surgery on a torn ACL coming out of spring training, but this was not the most costly injury from a TAWL/game missed point of view. Neither was losing Alberto Arias (shoulder surgery) for the season or Jeff Keppinger (recovery from foot surgery) for the first few months of the season. The most costly injury on a TAWL/game basis was Hunter Pence. He missed eight games for a TAWL of 0.1853, compared to Keppinger’s 0.2833 TAWL from 55 games missed. This equates to an 0.0232 TAWL/game ratio for Pence compared to a lowly 0.0052 for Keppinger.

By losing so little WARP, there are significantly fewer injuries to discuss than their neighbors out west. The hitters, for the most part, did well with only Clint Barmes (fractured hand) over 0.1 TAWL. The pitchers also did well, although certainly not as good as the hitters. On top of Arias, injuries to Wandy Rodriguez (swollen elbow) and Brandon Lyon (shoulder strain and surgery) cost the Astros over 0.6 WARP. Now if only they could match roster talent with their TAWL ranking, they may be in real business.

Chicago Cubs
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 2.28
Number of DL trips (Days): 11 (411)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 28 (451)

The loveable Cubbies may not have performed the best on the field, but they did awfully well in the athletic training room. Losing only 2.28 WARP due to injuries, they also did very well in the number of injuries and days lost, ranking first or second in both categories. This proves that they didn’t lose significant production from their injuries, and there weren’t many injuries to start with.

That’s not to say they were completely injury-free.  Marlon Byrd suffered multiple facial fractures after a gruesome beaning in May. Missing 39 games caused him to have a TAWL approaching .5, but he’s lucky it was not more given his injuries.  His lost production accounted for over 20 percent of the team’s total TAWL—the highest on the team. Geovany Soto (groin strain) was the only other hitter to lose more than 0.2 TAWL or account for over 5 percent.

The pitchers did not fare as well.  Led by Randy Wells (forearm strain) and Matt Garza (bruised elbow), the pitchers finished 12th in TAWL—much worse than the 4th the hitters finished. Even Carlos Zambrano (low back) and Ryan Dempster (back) lost 13 percent of the total WARP for the team, and they were not lighting the world on fire with their production in 2011.

With a new manager and front office coming on board, there will likely be changes in the medical staff, but hopefully they won’t change what they’re doing from a medical standpoint too much, because it seems to work.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 2.28
Number of DL trips (Days): 25 (1389)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 48 (1476)

The Pirates are a somewhat surprising third team in the division only because the number of disabled list transactions were among the worst in baseball.  25 DL transactions meant a 28th place finish with a 29th place finish when you look at the days missed. The starting pitchers—as is the case with most teams—took the majority of time lost, but it was the hitters who lost more TAWL: 1.53 to 1.24.

Hitters spread out the loss somewhat with three of them costing at least 10 percent of the team’s TAWL.  Chris Snyder required surgery on herniated disc in his low back, and he ended up missing 113 games, good for a .4536 TAWL. Jose Tabata also was injured for a lengthy period of time—70 games and .367 TAWL in his case—between his fractured hand and strained hamstring. The most costly to the hitters was Ryan Doumit, who missed 60 games on the season and lost .4798 TAWL, the majority being from a fractured ankle.

The highest overall, though, was to a pitcher: Paul Maholm. Maholm only missed 40 games at the end of the season with a strained shoulder, but he easily cost the team the most with a .5247 TAWL. This was almost 19 percent of the team’s total TAWL on the season. Evan Meek (shoulder inflammation) and Ross Ohlendorf (strained shoulder) filled out the remainder of the top three most costly at .3477 and .1544, respectively.

Cincinnati Reds

Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 3.67
Number of DL trips (Days): 16 (781)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 58 (913)

Most of the previous teams had at least one component where they were really great or really bad. Cincinnati, however, is fairly middle of the road.  Ranking 14th overall, they also rank 13th in number of DL transactions and 13th with number of days lost.

By far the greatest impact was the loss of Scott Rolen. Rolen, as we know, has been battling his body for a number of years.  Rolen’s shoulder was the issue this year and ended up costing him 1.67 TAWL over 92 games, which ended up being 45 percent of the Reds’ TAWL. This .0182 TAWL/games ratio surprisingly was the exact same as Brandon Phillips, who missed only 9 games but lost .1634 TAWL. The highest TAWL/game ratio, however, belonged to Jay Bruce at a slightly higher level of .0184.

Despite others missing significantly longer amounts of time, only two pitching injuries really affected the Reds from a TAWL point of view in 2011. Between his shoulder and neck problems, Johnny Cueto’s injuries cost the Reds .497 TAWL—equivalent to only 14 percent.  Homer Bailey also cost the Reds dearly because of his strained shoulder and impingement.  That led to a loss of .3942—good for 10 percent. Overall though, the Reds pitcher did better than most and ranked 10th best overall compared to the hitters’ 16th.

Milwaukee Brewers

Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 3.98
Number of DL trips (Days): 15 (950)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 42 (1010)

The Brewers didn’t exactly get out on the right foot with the whole Zach Greinke fiasco. During spring training, we found out that he suffered a broken rib playing basketball.  He was on the disabled list for 43 days and cost the Brewers almost a full WARP (.9526). That was by far the highest level on the Brewers. It’s higher than Manny Parra (back & elbow: .5745), higher than Rickie Weeks (ankle: .7237), higher than Corey Hart (oblique: .3116), and higher than all of Ryan Braun’s troubles (calf: .3663). When you consider the TAWL/games rate, he’s a very close second to Braun: .0366 to .0340.

Would it have made a lick of difference in the divisional standings? Absolutely not. Milwaukee won the division by 6 games, so even though the Brewers were 15th overall in terms of TAWL lost, those four games would not have made a difference.

St. Louis Cardinals

Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL):6.42
Number of DL trips (Days): 17 (905)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 60 (1001)

St. Louis Cardinal fans, you should be even prouder than you already are. St. Louis ranked 26th (4th worst) in terms of TAWL, and this is despite a likely underestimation of Wainwright’s 2.82 TAWL for the 2011 season, which seems low by the sniff test alone. Of greater import, however, is the comparison to other players’ TAWL. Only Josh Johnson would have a higher TAWL by .03, and no hitters had a higher TAWL, so clearly Wainwright’s loss was a significant one.

Looking closer, the Cardinals still had a difficult run. Assume that Wainwright was healthy and had a completely neutral season, and they still would have lost almost as much as the Brewers did as a team. Matt Holiday’s injuries (appendix, finger, thigh: 1.07) and Albert Pujols (broken forearm: .6637) made up over 25 percent of the TAWL for the Cardinals.  The playing time musical chairs with the injuries surely played an even greater role than can be shown here.

Somehow, though, the Cardinals were able to overcome the injuries and still win the World Series. That’s the beautiful thing about baseball; despite everything going wrong from a physical standpoint, you can still end up champions of the world.

See you next week with the NL East!

You can find all individual team and TAWL rankings here.

Corey Dawkins is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Corey's other articles. You can contact Corey by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Shoulder,  Fractured Ankle

17 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Tarakas

It seems a little odd that, based upon this list, losing WARP to injury seems to have had a strong positive correlation with the success of a team. This is almost the exact inverse of how the teams finished for the year, and if you count winning the World Series as trumping winning the division as a measure of success, it is an exact inverse.

Maybe this is a fluke, or maybe, as you note with Houston, bad teams have less talent to lose to injuries.

Nov 11, 2011 08:27 AM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

The less-talent argument certainly has legs. However, another thing is the "resilience" of the team, its ability to absorb losses to actual contributors and replace them with somebody useful. There should be some metric for that: how well does a team do in compensating for the loss of someone important via injury? The unexpected (by some) emergence of Allen Craig as a significant offensive force was enormously helpful to St. Louis in papering over the Pujols and Holliday injuries, although Craig himself spent enough time on the DL to hurt the team. By contrast, if the Reds had had anything comparable to fill in for Scott Rolen (Miguel Cairo, Todd Frazier, Juan Francisco -- ecchhh!), the sprint to the wild-card finish line might have been even more exciting than it was.

Nov 11, 2011 09:04 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Corey Dawkins
BP staff

I think eventually we are going to be able to figure that out. The hard thing with that though is the sheer number of team factors involved. When someone like Wainwright goes does, it's not just the starting pitcher that replaces him. You need to factor in the bullpen contributions since the replacement likely won't log as many innings. How does it change your strategy and questions like that.

Like I said I think eventually we will have something like that.

Nov 11, 2011 09:18 AM
 
BP staff member Corey Dawkins
BP staff

It really does seem to be that way and intuitively it makes sense as well.

Those teams at the very bottom tend to have the least amount of overall talent and therefore doesn't have as much to lose. No matter how many injuries the Astros had, they were not going to compete this year against Milwaukee and St. Louis.

In many ways, the teams that have the most to gain or lose are the ones just under the top teams, where one or two games could make a significant difference.

Nov 11, 2011 09:12 AM
 
RedsManRick

Perhaps the look at the Cardinals' WS win as being despite their injuries, we should consider that their injuries hid just how good of a team they were. Clearly Wainwright was never there, but they were relatively healthy come playoff time, no?

Nov 11, 2011 10:10 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Corey Dawkins
BP staff

Well Holliday wasn't healthy and a few others but it's still remarkable in my book.

Nov 11, 2011 10:58 AM
 
CRP13

Having a team comprised almost entirely of 21-year-olds will help a team's odds of being healthy all season.

Nov 11, 2011 10:20 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Corey Dawkins
BP staff

not necessarily. they may not get hurt as often but when they get hurt it tends to be more severe

Nov 11, 2011 10:56 AM
 
Pat Folz

That's interesting, I thought it was the opposite: young players get hurt just as much but heal more quickly. Not saying you're wrong, obviously, just surprised. Is there enough good data to make an assertion like that?

Nov 11, 2011 11:50 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Corey Dawkins
BP staff

They do heal quicker for the same injury but they get different injuries and ones that tend to be more severe.

But again younger heals faster and oftena better outcome for the same injury.

Nov 11, 2011 13:22 PM
 
Pat Folz

Interesting! Thanks for the info.

Nov 11, 2011 14:41 PM
rating: 0
 
Sharky

Corey, can't wait to see the writeup on the Mets. They kept Reyes largely healthy, but with Ike Davis et al., it seemed the Mets were up to their usual tricks. What's the the water at Citi Field?

Nov 11, 2011 12:24 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Corey Dawkins
BP staff

Not sure but I'm not going to drink from it

Nov 11, 2011 14:13 PM
 
Sean

Does the Cubs' injury situation factor in Andrew Cashner?

Nov 12, 2011 17:10 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Corey Dawkins
BP staff

Yes it did. Based off previous years and his work this year he was only cost the Cubs 0.1 WARP.

Nov 12, 2011 17:19 PM
 
Kevin Jebens

I understand that because it's based off past value, maybe the Cubs #4 and #5 SP weren't very high in WARP (though I assumed Wells would be more of a value lost than Cashner). However, just because Cashner had no previous history to establish a WARP, it doesn't mean we didn't lose anything because of him. Because of Wells and Cash going down, the Cubs tried to stretch our James Russel (losing all of his 5 starts), and then we used such wonderful players as Rodrigo Lopez (Cubs lost half of his 16 starts), Doug Davis (Cubs lost 8 of his 9 starts), Ramon Ortiz.

We can't know how Cashner, and even Wells, would have done. But the saber stat of WARP doesn't seem to cover the damage done in real terms of the Cubs' season. Even if your #4 and #5 SP aren't projected to be amazing, they're supposed to pitch. Losing both those guys means you're relying on emergency options (which, when using old has-beens, are in my opinion worse than replacement players, despite Davis' barely positive WAR).

I really feel that stat of WARP, or in this case TAWL, doesn't accurately reflect the crisis and destruction the Cubs faced due to losing two-fifths of their rotation for the season.

Nov 13, 2011 05:24 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Corey Dawkins
BP staff

You're right about Wells. His 44 games missed cost the Cubs about 0.4 WARP, a significantly higher rate than Cashner.

But here's the problem, these pitchers you mentioned likely pitched better than Cashner would have. Cubs lost half of Lopez's starts, but scored a grand total of 7 runs in the last 5 of his losses. I'd argue that just about any pitcher on the Cubs staff (and most pitchers in the game) still end up with a loss in the majority of those games. Lopez had a WARP of 0.3 on the season.

James Russell certainly was worse but he wasn't consistent starter during that time. He switched back and forth from starter to reliever. Even with that he never gave up more than 4 runs in 4 IP, certainly not great but sounds about replacement level to me. (yes his first emergency start was 4 ER in 1.6 IP and was a total bomb) His WARP on the year was 0.1.

The Cubs scored more than 3 runs just twice in Davis' 9 starts. In fact they averaged less than 3 runs per game in all of his starts, including the one he won. His WARP was 0.1.

In the 3 starts by Ramon Ortiz (with a lot of bullpen appearences between his second and third start), the Cubs scored a total of 5 runs of support. His WARP was a tad under replacement level on the year (including his relief appearances)

So all told these pitchers gave the Cubs 0.5 WARP, or 0.2 higher than Cashner's total last year. Yes it's impossible to predict what Cashner's true WARP would have been, but you're arguement that the Cubs suffered greatly as a result did not seem to hold true upon further inspection.

Not many pitcher can win with run support consistently under 3.

Nov 13, 2011 06:58 AM
 
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