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February 28, 2004

Team Health Reports

Boston Red Sox

by Will Carroll

Lineup

CF Johnny Damon
3B Bill Mueller
SS Nomar Garciaparra
LF Manny Ramirez
DH David Ortiz / DH Ellis Burks
1B Kevin Millar
C Jason Varitek
RF Trot Nixon
2B Pokey Reese / 2B Mark Bellhorn

Rotation

SP Pedro Martinez
SP Curt Schilling
SP Derek Lowe
SP Tim Wakefield
SP Byung-Hyun Kim

Closer

CL Keith Foulke

Staring down the "Evil Empire" won't be easy if part of the Rebel Alliance is banged up, broken, or otherwise in close proximity to Jim Rowe. While Theo Epstein has been bringing state-of-the-art ideas to the front office, he's also been adjusting the risk tolerance of the organization. If one of the basic tenets of Moneyball-friendly organizations is getting the most bang for the buck, then watching any of those bucks sit on the shelf is waste. While the Red Sox could be wasteful with their revenue stream, they aren't.

The key to the team is, of course, Pedro. Providing more than a third of the PECOTA projected VORP for this staff is pretty amazing considering the five-deep quality. But just as it's been the case for the last few years, this team can only go as far as Pedro takes them. Pedro is watched more closely than any other pitcher, and the continuing focus on preparing his body to pitch makes Chris Correnti one of the real up-and-coming trainers in the business. New manager Terry Francona wasn't known for a light touch with pitchers in his Philly gig, but this is Francona v2.0.

If Pedro can do what he did last year, the Red Sox will have more than a fighting chance in baseball's version of Spy vs. Spy. Pedro gets a yellow light based on injury history, but honestly, he's much less likely than last year to come up lame.

Curt Schilling was an object lesson in the frangible nature of injury analysis during the 2003 season. Felled by a broken hand and an appendectomy, Schilling's season looks worse on the stat line than it does to the medheads. Two injuries did cost him time, but both were singular--one trauma and one injury sure not to recur. It's a testament to medical advances that Schilling missed only three weeks after his appy. Four years removed from his shoulder surgery, Schilling may surprise people by being a green light player, but many singular injuries are no worse to players the following year than no injury at all.

While Tim Wakefield is nearly a sub-green (white light?), B.H. Kim faces the same questions he did at the start of the last season. His conversion to the rotation didn't last long enough to answer questions about his durability, so the questions remain. Kim is likely to hit a wall at some point near mid-season. But there's just not enough research to judge how mechanics of his type will hold up, and honestly, I can't follow the keys of evaluation with him like I can most pitchers. Kim's yellow light is cautionary, but again, like last year, there is a greater chance of him breaking out than breaking down.

I wanted to give Johnny Damon a red light based on his collision last October, but while it seems like his head would still be hurting, there's no evidence there. I briefly considered factoring in his horrible beard and haircut, but that too passed. In fact, the only red light on the team is prodigal DH Ellis Burks. Burks' advanced age and injury history surely deserves a red light, but as a platooned DH, he's also very unlikely to play so much that he injures himself. In injury analysis, there's something to chance and opportunity, but I haven't yet figured out how to factor that in.

There are a few yellow lights--Pokey Reese, Mark Bellhorn, and Jason Varitek. For the second base tandem, these are based on recent injuries that took longer to heal than expected. For Varitek, position and age are enough to push him slightly into the yellow. None are major risks, though Varitek doesn't have much backing him up.

The Red Sox, at least in injury analysis, don't live up to their name. When I sat down to go through all the factors, I fully expected the Sox to look as colorful as the Yankees THR. Instead, there's enough green in that lineup to cover the Monster--and perhaps enough to get past the "Evil Empire" once and for all.

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