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February 26, 2008

Team Health Reports

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

by Will Carroll

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The Facts
Head Trainer: Ned Bergert
Player Days Lost, 2007: 923
Dollars Lost, 2007: $14.72 million
Three-Year Rank: 20

The formula has been relatively simple for the Angels during the Mike Scioscia era: when they're healthy, they win, and when they aren't, they don't. It's that simple. The graph for the Angels' days and dollars lost looks like a rollercoaster at Disneyland more than any solid trend, but isn't that then a trend? The bigger question is what we can learn from this.

Bergert and the Angels benefit from their close association with Dr. Lewis Yocum, but it also seems to make them a bit passive. They tend to work more on rehab then prevention, which leads to an in-season ramp-up of injuries, especially late in the year. Gary Matthews Jr. is a good case study; he's always worn down in-season, and was under a heavier workload in part due to his new contract. With a history of minor knee problems, it's the type of thing that perhaps could have been seen coming and minimized in July. Instead, it worsened quickly, and Matthews was out for the playoffs. Without the full details, there's no way to tell exactly how this went down, but this pattern has occurred enough to know that it's precisely the type of thing that comes up in Anaheim.

The lineup is still a bit older, especially in the outfield; the expected transition to all of their minor league phenoms hasn't quite worked out. That makes maintenance and prevention an even bigger part of what could help the Angels succeed. Anyone who can keep Francisco Rodriguez healthy this long deserves some credit. I just wonder whether or not the Angels should have more rings.

The Big Question
The bloggers at Halos Heaven ask: "Is Vlad Guerrero too young to be relegated to DH in the hopes of alleviating his 'Montreal' knees?"

There's a big difference between Guerrero's chronological age and his "skills age." The turf did take its toll, but he hasn't gotten magically healthy in Anaheim-he's just slowed the decline. The knees and back aren't going to get better, but they could be maintained. The shift to DH will help slow the decline even further. Although it takes his still-fearsome arm out of right field, that's more of a Dan Fox question of whether there's significant actual value to his arm. Dan does note that "his value as a thrower is tied up primarily in his reputation at this point, so the cost to the Angels of moving him would be directly proportional to whoever replaced him. It's not like he's throwing out the guys who do challenge him in large numbers. Even if they replaced him with a really poor thrower, given the normal range, I can't see it costing them more than five or six runs in a season." Overall, the answer is that there might not be a "too young" component to Vlad's DHing if it can help keep a significant offensive player in the lineup, both now and years down the line.

C Mike Napoli Green light: Napoli's green is partially a reflection of handling, and partially of their depth. Napoli had the typical bangs and bruises that a young catcher will have, but he's also ably backed up. Mike Scioscia--who I'm told knows a thing or two about catching--knows that he needs to keep Napoli healthy. Last year's back injury is worrisome, but they tend to be binary in catchers; either transient or career-ending. I think it's the former here.

1B Casey Kotchman Red light: Odd injuries, like Kotchman's bout with mono or Todd Helton's intestinal condition, can really throw off the system. It knows how to deal with a torn ligament, a sprained ankle, or an oblique strain. His grading out as red really seems too high, and, at 25, I'd bet on Kotchman having more upside than risk despite the rating.

2B Howie Kendrick Yellow light: Kendrick's wrist keeps him in the yellow range, though it appears that he's moved out of the period where it has any major effect on his hitting. I don't think this indicates that he's injury-prone, though the data doesn't seem to agree. Young players who get hurt, even in traumatic ways, tend to get hurt more often down the line. Finding out why this is true is something that's going to take more years of data and someone better with numbers than I am.

SS Erick Aybar Green light: Aybar's green light is mostly based on how he was used rather than what he is. He had some minor injuries last season, including a hamstring strain, but he recovered quickly and showed no problems on his return, so there's little chance of recurrence. He gets his green because of a low PA total combined with playing multiple positions; utility guys don't normally get the chance to get hurt that much. Aybar is likely to be a 500 PA guy this year, so this time around, he will.

3B Chone Figgins Blank: In one of the great mistakes of the THR era, I missed an off-season surgery. I'll have to re-run Figgins' rating once I get back to Indy, but having a hamate bone removed usually drops power, which isn't a tremendous concern for Figgins; without the surgery, Figgins rated green.

LF Garret Anderson Red light: Anderson would be better-suited for DH, but with Guerrero shifting there, the old Angel's time off of the field will be limited. Since the "arthritis" diagnosis of a few years back, Anderson's nevertheless decreased his risk profile, but with DH not as much of an option, how Mike Scioscia gets Anderson some rest and fills that outfield slot (perhaps Reggie Willits for speed, and Juan Rivera for power) could be one of the most interesting choices for the AL West favorite.

CF Torii Hunter Green light

RF Gary Matthews Jr. Green light: I hate this green. Matthews' knee problems are going to cost him some time, but the system thinks the shift to a corner will help. Before you ask, no, the HGH accusations don't factor in here.

DH Vladimir Guerrero Red light: I ran this as if he were playing right field, since it's reasonable to think that he'll play at least part time out there. Of course, that would shuttle Matthews back and forth between fields, but would also allow Garret Anderson some DH time. Guerrero is aging quickly; he's going to be productive for at least a few more years, but the commitment he showed to conditioning after his back injury seems to have faded.

SP John Lackey Green light

SP Kelvim Escobar Red light: I love the easy reds. Escobar will miss at least the first month of the season after being shut down, putting his throwing program well behind schedule. The rest he should have had in the offseason didn't help, since this is the same thing he dealt with last season. Paired with a knee injury, one has to wonder about his mechanics. The Angels did something like this last year with Jered Weaver, so having Joe Saunders and Nick Adenhart available minimizes this loss.

SP Jered Weaver Yellow light: His shoulder is healthy, for now, but he's had problems off and on over his entire life on the mound. It's the result of a slinging motion and the long takeaway, but correcting it would reduce his deception. The Angels would rather take their chances with how he throws, and then deal with the inevitable flareups. Weaver's a guy you couldn't pay me to sign long-term.

SP Jon Garland Green light: Mostly because the shoulder tightness that cost him velocity never pushed him to the DL, he's green, but you should be wary about him, because I am.

SP Ervin Santana Yellow light: His struggles and odd home/road split confuse the system a bit here, so the risk is more that he doesn't put things together and loses his position in the rotation than it is a real injury risk. With his slider, he could be a closer at some point, though he'd have to relieve on the road too.

CL Francisco Rodriguez Red light: This is what, year five of my predicting that his arm will fall off? One of these years I'll be "right." The fact is that Rodriguez's arm, for whatever reason, is stronger than most, holding together under what appears to be incredible strain. I'd kill to get him in an Ariel workstation and find out what those forces really are, at the very least to learn whether my eyes have been lying to me again.

Justin Speier Yellow light: I used to think that 100 was the number of appearances that would really tax a reliever if he did it year after year; for some reason, Scott Sullivan is the guy who comes to mind. Scot Shields (Red light) didn't even hit 80, but his workload appears to have taken its toll. Speier's load has been kept lower, which is why he's more likely to step in if Rodriguez comes up lame.

Lineups courtesy of SportsBlogs Nation.

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