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March 6, 2006

Team Health Reports

Florida Marlins

by Will Carroll

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Click here for the Marlins' 2006 depth chart.

Yellow light C Miguel Olivo: The interesting thing here is that there's a chance the Marlins could have three catchers in the lineup most days. Players like comfortable roles, so I can't advocate a rotation, but that would certainly be interesting from a health standpoint. How about keeping Olivo at 100 games, Matt Treanor at 30, and let Jacobs and Willingham for another 30? If you ask why the team should keep Treanor around even though he's recovering from a torn labrum, you're not paying attention.

Yellow light 1B Mike Jacobs: Jacobs is at yellow because the system still sees a lot of catcher in him. Add in the increased playing time that he'll see with his new team and the memory of the missed 2004 season and I'm surprised this isn't red.

Green light 2B Dan Uggla: Take this green light with caution. Uggla's a Rule 5 pick handed the job by Pokey Reese's walk-off. There's next to no information about Uggla that the system can use and even calling around to places he's played like Lancaster and Knoxville didn't stir up much info. Uggla's like that guy who's in your high school year book who no one seems to remember. With the Marlins, that guy has a major league job.

Green light 3B Miguel Cabrera: The difference between Cabrera and Albert Pujols is a couple years of age, a couple of homers, and that Cabrera doesn't have the health problems. That's filthy.

Green light SS Hanley Ramirez: Despite a lack of positional security over most of his career as a Red Sox prospect, Ramirez shouldn't have that problem now that he's with the Marlins. He'll be backed up by Alfredo Amezaga, who tore tissue in his foot in what was the most painful injury I saw all year.

Red light LF Josh Willingham: Willingham was projected as a catcher or first baseman, not as a left fielder, and the Marlins are still hoping that he can play catcher. However, it's also pretty clear that Willingham's bat is far more important than his ability to play pitchback, so while I'm not advocating having him burn his chest protector, it would make a lot more sense to see him standing in front of the Teal Curtain on most days instead of squatting down in front of the ump. Perhaps making the choice that much easier for the time being, Willingham suffered a stress fracture in his forearm last season that's much more worrisome for a catcher than it is at any other position.

Yellow light CF Eric Reed: Let's see what have we here... he's a speed-based player that had a career-low in steals after hernia surgery, and he also missed much of 2004 with a wrist injury. If our minor league data was built into this system, you could take an "E" out of his last name to get a sense of how much the Fish can really count on him.

Yellow light RF Jeremy Hermida: He's young and has had wrist problems, so as much as PECOTA and Joe Sheehan love him--Cobie Smulders, indeed--he does have some health concerns.

Green light SP Dontrelle Willis: When it comes to workhorse pitchers, Sir Mix-A-Lot appears to have had it right. Willis, Livan Hernandez, and C.C. Sabathia have a lot in common in this department. Does this mean that Jennifer Lopez can pitch?

Yellow light SP Sergio Mitre: He goes from being the insurance arm the Cubs use when someone breaks to his team's #2 starter. That's going to force a big jump in innings from the 140-160 range he's averaged the last three years bouncing between Chicago and Iowa, and probably puts Mitre in a position to top his career-high 168.2 IP in 2002 (at Lansing).

Yellow light SP Brian Moehler: Scuffy looked great in the first half before fading so badly that everyone suspected an injury. The Marlins think he's healthy enough to eat some innings before Yusmeiro Petit is ready.

Yellow light SP Jason Vargas: He's young but will be asked to pitch major innings, and although it looked like he merely filled in at the major league level last year, his 73.2 big league innings were on top of the 108 minor league frames he already tossed. At 23, that sort of workload is a bit of a concern. He lacks the third pitch most starters need, but reminds me of a young Eric Gagne.

Yellow light SP Josh Johnson: A young pitcher that will be asked to go more innings than ever before. Stop me if you've already heard that one.

Red light CP Joe Borowski: Borowski was hit by a comebacker that broke his wrist, derailing his comeback from rotator cuff surgery. The wrist injury made a lot of people forget that the shoulder was the problem that sapped what effectiveness he had a few years back. Closers who only get their first shot through some sort of Faustian bargain seldom get second chances.

--

The point of injury analysis, and more importantly injury management, is to prevent injuries, save days and dollars lost, and ultimately to keep the talent on the field in order to win the most games. We've come a long way with this concept in the past few years, and are also making advances in working with the data, notably in Tom Gorman's work on injury accounting in this year's edition of the Baseball Prospectus.

The Marlins screw this whole concept up. At the heart of this sort of analysis is an appreciation of the cost of injuries on the field. When a player--any player--is unable to play, he must be replaced. In most cases the replacement is a lesser talent, and in the long term, relying on that replacement will cost the team runs. The short term is a completely different animal: replace Mike Lieberthal with Todd Pratt and you could get something like the game last May where Pratt went 4-for-4 with a bomb. You still don't want Pratt as your starter, but you've got a spare who won't kill you.

The latest fire sale leaves the Marlins with a team that will be bad in the short term, hopeful in the long term when it comes to talent; but for now, they have a team where injuries just might not matter. By now, we all understand the concept of replacement level, and at times, this team looks like the Replacement Level All-Stars. Aside from Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, the Marlins have such a small gap between their "front-line" starter and the assumed backup that an injury would have nearly no cost to them in terms of talent on the field.

For example, with Pokey Reese already out of the picture, take some solace in the fact that Rule 5 pickup Dan Uggla shouldn't be any worse. If Scuffy Moehler is out for ten days, Yusmeiro Petit could Pipp him. Joe Borowski could be replaced by any number of relievers or hot dog vendors. This is pretty much the case throughout the lineup, with the two notable exceptions. What about Hanley Ramirez and Jeremy Hermida, you ask? Those two prospects certainly have more value, but the inherent statistical flukiness that seems to go with the territory when we're talking about rookies makes it just as likely that their replacement might be more valuable within this season.

The training room is not supposed to be a meritocracy. Players come in and expect the highest standard of care whether they are a $20 million superstar, a rookie, or Lenny Harris. Unfortunately, the rewards aren't the same, and trainers get better results by keeping their best players and pitchers healthy. The Marlins may well be the best test of that we'll ever see.

Related Content:  The Who,  Year Of The Injury

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