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March 23, 2006

Team Health Reports

Cleveland Indians

by Will Carroll

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Click here for the Indians' 2006 depth chart.

Yellow light C Victor Martinez: If you've noticed that it's nearly impossible for a catcher to be a green, good for you. Martinez gets his yellow based solely on the risk table. If Kelly Shoppach takes a bit of the catching load off of Martinez, the trade gets even better for the Tribe.

Green light 1B Ben Broussard / Yellow light Eduardo Perez: If Tony's son sees significant ABs, then Cleveland is already in trouble. This platoon probably rates a low yellow, with Broussard near the top of the green band and Perez in the middle of the yellow. I'd have to do math to figure out how the plate appearances affect that, but that sounds like a Nate Silver column.

Green light 2B Ron Belliard: Score one for the little pudgy guy!

Red light 3B Aaron Boone: Something clicked in the second half--although you don't like to use the word "click" around knees, this was good. Boone was coming off ACL surgery and while it took him a year to get back on the field, getting his swing back obviously took a bit longer. He's still fragile--always has been--and he wore down at the very end of 2005 (his OPS by month: 499, 449, 847, 779, 809, 645). If you were married to Laura Cover, your conditioning program might be a bit distracted too.

Green light SS Jhonny Peralta

Green light LF Jason Michaels: Here's an odd one. He hasn't had 400 ABs since 2001. Players coming out of platoons historically don't do well, but Michaels isn't the typical player of this mold.

Green light CF Grady Sizemore: Todd Hollandsworth. Rondell White. Ellis Burks. Those top three PECOTA comps make me afraid, yet Sizemore still comes out green, largely on PECOTA's extremely low attrition rate. There's something PECOTA sees--Andre Dawson, Harold Baines--that thinks Sizemore may end up a DH. I'll admit not understanding what PECOTA's thinking on this one.

Green light RF Casey Blake

Yellow light DH Travis Hafner: He'll have one weird injury at an inopportune time. He'll mash for the rest of the year. At least once this season, Jamey Newberg will wail. He's a Midwestern Big Papi, just lacking the TV moment to complete the myth. He looks like Shrek.

Red light SP C.C. Sabathia: Every year, all the indicators say that Sabathia will throw a pitch and watch his arm land in Victor Martinez's mitt instead of the ball. Every year, he sails through doing what he does, hat cocked to the side. He makes a couple million and dates famous girls. I write about the indicators that his arm will fall off. Even when I'm right, he'll still be rich.

Yellow light SP Cliff Lee: This is a low yellow and an important year for Lee. The slight lefty doesn't seem like the type who can handle a Sabathia-sized workload, but he does seem like the type to have a Jamie Moyer/Kenny Rogers career, minus the late development. Lee is coming back from off-season hernia surgery.

Green light SP Jake Westbrook: A new cutter might help. Sinkerballers have a pretty good health record.

Yellow light SP Paul Byrd: He's older, has a history of elbow and back problems, and yet seems to have a supply of Mazzone pixie dust left in his pocket. Byrd is going to need the extra day off here and there, something that shouldn't be a problem with the Indians' depth.

Green light SP Jason Johnson

Red light CL Bob Wickman: Eddie Epstein says I look like him. I just wish I got his paychecks. Wickman's going to have problems making it through the season healthy, but this is a well known situation and there are plenty of candidates for his slot if he goes down a while. This is a deep, deep bullpen.

---

Dear Mark Shapiro

(I figure I should start off what will certainly sound like a love letter with the proper salutation.)

The Indians' work on the mental aspect of player development is legendary. Add in a commitment to technology, developing their staff, and an attention to detail that's downright corporate and it's little wonder that the Indians are a fashionable pick to be the next A's. Of course, the A's are still the A's, Mark Shapiro is not Billy Beane (positively and negatively), and the "small market when convenient" arguments don't work in Cleveland.

What's not noticed is just how good the Indians have gotten on the medhead side of things. Since bringing Lonnie Soloff over from Cincinnati, the Indians have improved their stats every year and could be a top contender for the Dick Martin Award just by looking at their lights above. As with every other team that's considered a favorite, the Indians made a solid, discernible shift towards eliminating, managing, and containing injuries at some point and have an organized, multi-disciplinary plan for health in effect.

Yes, the last statement sounded like a bad mission statement from Initech. You could just as easily say that the Indians simply take health seriously, but that would imply that other teams do not. Most do, but few are as focused on it. From trainers to management, from GM to area scout, there's an organizational focus on proactive health. The one Achilles heel (no pun intended) is that the team doesn't do the best job at getting players back on time. Whether this is a more conservative tack for rehab or simply that they're just average at one part of the game is hardly problematic. Everyone has room for improvement, even this team.

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