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November 14, 2011

Collateral Damage

The Season in Injuries: NL East

by Corey Dawkins and Ben Lindbergh

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Division: National League East

WARP lost Divisional Ranking (Overall Ranks—Best to worst):

1.     Washington Nationals (16)
2.     Atlanta Braves (19)
3.     Philadelphia Phillies (23)
4.     Florida Marlins (27)
5.     New York Mets (29)

Washington Nationals
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 4.91
Number of DL trips (Days): 16 (1163)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 61 (1240)

As you can see from the divisional rankings, the NL East was seriously hurting last year. The healthiest team in the NL East was the Nationals at 16th overall, and the Nats were not even that good at keeping important players in uniform. We knew that Stephen Strasburg was going to miss all or most of 2011, but other injuries surprised us. Ryan Zimmerman, arguably the most important player on the Nationals roster, ended up missing over 60 games, largely because of his abdominal surgery. This cost the Nationals 1.46 TAWL alone, close to the team totals of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Astros.

That’s not all. Some believed that Adam LaRoche would not have an impact for the Nationals if he remained healthy, but his shoulder injury and subsequent surgery cost them 1.07 TAWL, more than people might have assumed. The player who lost the most WARP per game missed was Jayson Werth. His 0.027 WARP/game lost was slightly higher than Ryan Zimmerman’s 0.023. Strasburg’s absence almost certainly cost the Nationals more than the 0.725 TAWL that was projected.

Atlanta Braves
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 5.10
Number of DL trips (Days): 18 (760)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 50 (832)

Braves fans would have a legitimate gripe about how injuries cost them a shot at the playoffs if the Cardinals hadn’t been so beat up themselves. Atlanta was different than everyone else we have covered so far in that there wasn’t one particular injury that took up the majority of the team’s TAWL. No single injury cost the Braves more than 18 percent of their TAWL, impressive when you consider the injuries this team endured. They lost the highly talented Tommy Hanson for over a third of the season between his multiple bouts of shoulder issues. He cost the Braves the most, accounting for 17.1 percent of the team TAWL. Jair Jurrjens was not too far behind. His knee troubles cost him 57 games and 0.68 WARP, good for 13.3 percent. Two other key pitching injuries, Kris Medlen (Tommy John recovery) and Peter Moylan (back surgery and shoulder surgery) cost the team 0.65 (12.6 percent) and 0.27 (5.3 percent) TAWL, respectively.

Pitchers were not the only ones injured on the team, of course. Nate McLouth had the highest WARP lost among the Braves’ hitters at 0.55. Martin Prado’s leg infection cost him 0.44 WARP. Brian McCann, the most important player on a WARP/game basis, was injured for 16 games with a strained oblique and lost 0.41 WARP. Chipper Jones’ knee surgery (0.36) and Jason Heyward’s shoulder problems (0.26) also contributed to Atlanta’s 19th-ranked TAWL. Considering the roster that the Braves have, their ranking is unlikely to change significantly for 2012.

Philadelphia Phillies
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 5.98
Number of DL trips (Days): 20 (793)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 47 (837)

Not many teams start off the season knowing that arguably their best position player could be on the shelf for some time. Chase Utley ended up missing most of his time at the beginning of the year, when he was trying to get through chronic patellar tendon issues. This cost him 61 days early in the season, as well as the majority of his 1.5 WARP lost. No one else came close to losing as much as Utley, but Shane Victorino (thumb sprain, hamstring) did surrender 0.62 WARP over the course of 28 games lost. Placido Polanco dealt with a lumbar spine bulging disc as well as a sports hernia throughout the year. He eventually underwent off-season surgery for the hernias, but that didn’t recover the 0.47 WARP he lost throughout the year.

The real strength of the team was the starting pitching staff. The top pitchers remained healthy, but Roy Oswalt, Joe Blanton, and Cole Hamels did miss time. Oswalt was on the disabled list a few times because of complications from a bulging disc in his low back and ended up losing 0.93 WARP on the year. Hamels’ issue was shoulder inflammation, but he underwent surgery in the offseason for loose bodies in the elbow. The elbow didn’t cause him to miss any time throughout the year, but the shoulder cost him 0.26 WARP. Joe Blanton missed the majority of the year with elbow problems and lost 0.44 WARP.

As with many teams, there were more than a few relievers who got hurt. The headliners for injured relievers were Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras. These two injured the two areas of the body that no pitcher wants to injure: the shoulder and the elbow. Lidge’s shoulder issues didn’t affect the team as much as one might think; he only lost 0.09 WARP. Contreras’ injury, however, cost 0.89 WARP.

Florida Marlins
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 6.70
Number of DL trips (Days): 14 (893)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 47 (973)

The Marlins’ injury situation this year exemplified how one or two key injuries can really hamstring a team. Overall, the Marlins ranked 6th in terms of number of moves to the disabled list in 2011, yet they ranked 27th in TAWL. Key injuries to Josh Johnson (2.85) and Hanley Ramirez (1.60) cost the Marlins more than 65 percent of their team TAWL. Ramirez’s shoulder dislocation was an acute episode and therefore could not have affected his play before his injury, but Johnson’s shoulder issues certainly could have.

The remainder of the injuries contributed the other 35 percent of the TAWL and included Chris Coghlan’s knee issues, John Baker’s recovery from Tommy John surgery, Logan Morrison’s foot sprain, Donnie Murphy’s wrist strain, Clay Hensley’s shoulder fracture and sprain, and Ryan Webb’s shoulder inflammation. All of these injuries put together did not equal the effect of Johnson’s injury, which is also an indictment of the talent surrounding Johnson and Ramirez. Unless the Marlins land a prized free agent, this is unlikely to change in 2012.

New York Mets
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 8.37
Number of DL trips (Days): 20 (1601)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 55 (1674)

Where do we begin? The Mets ranked 29th in TAWL, 21st in both number of DL trips and number of DL+DTD trips, and finally, dead last in the number of days missed for both. Summing up, they were bad all around from a medical perspective (shocking, we know). Johan Santana missed the entire year as he recovered from surgery on the anterior capsule in his shoulder. He lost about 2.48 WARP, which was only 30 percent of the team total. Chris Young had the same surgery that Santana did and ended up missing almost the entire year and almost 0.5 WARP. The rest of the pitching injuries did not affect the final TAWL total significantly.

The hitters’ health was worse. David Wright’s two-month absence due to a lower back stress fracture cost him 1.22 WARP, while Ike Davis’ tortured rehabilitation cost him almost as much. Jose Reyes’ hamstring troubles resurfaced, costing him 0.57 WARP in the process. His 0.020 WARP lost/game was second only to Wright’s .021. Jason Bay started off the season on the disabled list with a strained oblique and then had several nuisance injuries throughout the rest of the season. Those ailments cost him 0.49 WARP. Angel Pagan’s rib stress fracture caused him to forfeit 0.65 WARP.

All told, the Mets had a higher TAWL than all but one team, and at times it showed on the field. In the next few weeks, we’ll discuss the American League and the surprising team that was affected most by injuries in 2011.

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

Related Content:  Surgery,  Shoulder,  WARP,  Year Of The Injury

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

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Matthew Avery

The time lost doesn't tell the whole story for the Braves. Heyward was never right, and Prado took another month or two after returning to action before he got back to form.

Nov 14, 2011 06:42 AM
rating: 1
 
ragerd

EVERY team has these. Chase Utley hitting .260 isn't "right" either.

Nov 14, 2011 07:09 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Corey Dawkins
BP staff

I agree it doesn't factor in. As we get more data, we should be able to figure out the effect of playing through injuries. Right now though, this can give us a rough idea of how much injuries effect teams.

Nov 14, 2011 09:37 AM
 
PeterBNYC

It is no surprise that injuries devastated the Mets, who continue to display the marginal competence of their medical and training staff. In particular, on the basis of published information, Wright's injury was misdiagnosed for months, with the appropriate imaging never even done! And it is impossible to fathom the misghandling of Davis's high ankle sprain, unless that was a misdiagnosis as well. The Wilpons need to demonstrate a commitment to the resources and personnel necessary to sustain team health. In New York City, a woirld capital for medical facilitiers and teaching hospitals, what is the problem?

Nov 14, 2011 06:54 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Corey Dawkins
BP staff

Without knowing the exact details of Wright's injury(i.e. when the xray was done, when the MRI was done, how long his pain was going on, etc), it can't be known if it was misdiagnosed. Anything else would be purely speculation and possibly unprofessional on my part. I do know that in my experience, stress fractures in the back never get 100% better in a few weeks. I also know that severe ankle sprains can often have some associated cartilage damage that may not present itself until a few weeks to months later.

Ike Davis' ankle may not have been misdiagnosed but instead more of a mis-prognosis so to speak. Every few weeks, it was a let's wait and see approach. At some point, a hard decision needs to be made about surgery or not. This is the discretion of the surgeons, who I'm sure take the Athletic trainer's reports into consideration.

I agree that they should commit more resources to improve team health, but this should also include the scouts, front office, and everyone else in baseball operations at the major and minor league levels. Until this happens, I'm not sure much will change in Queens.

Nov 14, 2011 10:02 AM
 
amazin_mess

At what point do the Mets decide to fire their trainers. This is a chronic problem. And Ike Davis' injury was ridiculous. Only the Mets can turn a hangnail into a season-ending injury.

Nov 14, 2011 09:27 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Corey Dawkins
BP staff

Not sure it was a hangnail but I can see your point. Sometimes in organizations (not even medically related) the slate needs to be wiped clean in order to change the culture. Maybe this is the time for the Mets.

Nov 14, 2011 10:03 AM
 
ScottyB

So, assuming (yes, I know...) that Davis and Wright (and Murphy and Pagan) are healthy, and that Santana can be at least a percentage of his former self, the Mets improve without having to add players???

and yes, I know I probably posted something to this effect the past 3 years, too. Life as a Mets fan

Nov 14, 2011 11:59 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Corey Dawkins
BP staff

theoretically yes, but I'm not sure it will actually happen

Nov 14, 2011 12:35 PM
 
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