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March 5, 2008

Team Health Reports

Philadelphia Phillies

by Will Carroll

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The Facts
Head Trainer: Scott Sheridan
Player Days Lost: 1,049
Dollars Lost: $19.95 million
Three-Year Rank: 14

Scott Lauber from the Wilmington News-Journal made this real easy for me by essentially writing what I would have written here. He also did it two weeks ago, so I won't bother to try to re-create it. What I will note is the trend line for the Phillies is a bit aberrant. Scott Sheridan's first year on the job isn't atypical, in that any new athletic trainer is going to make for some changes, and whether they're good in the long term or not, the short term can often move negative. It doesn't help that he's following long-time trainer Jeff Cooper, one of the best in the business; in Philly, it's like being the third baseman after Mike Schmidt.

So, in his second year, Sheridan is going to be asked to answer whether last year's numbers were fluke or trend. It's not that they were that bad; on a purely statistical basis, they were slightly below the median, but the injuries to the pitching staff picked up significantly. Yes, there were the flukish oblique strains, an injury that no trainer has yet figured out how to forestall. If there's any positive trend, it's that the Phillies got guys back, effectively and ahead of schedule, in a year where one game meant a lot. Getting Cole Hamels back or keeping Brett Myers healthy in his incarnation as the club's closer are all positives, which makes me think that with a year under his belt, we'll see an improvement on the raw numbers for Sheridan's staff.

Since it is essentially the same team that Sheridan has back, this situation will provide an excellent year-over-year comparison. With the known risks in the rotation and the same solid but thin lineup, we'll know next year if the Phillies have a longer-term health issue.

The Big Question
The bloggers at The Good Phight ask: "Will Cole Hamels pitch 200 innings in 2008?"

Let's start off by acknowledging that 200 IP is a high bar to set; last season, only 38 of 717 pitchers made that cutoff. If you assume that there were 150 starting slots, that's still the top quintile (if you like those statistical thingies). Hamels had a 50-inning jump last season, and broke down almost immediately after crossing the 30-inning line. Coincidence? I think not. I'd expect that Hamels will consolidate his level in a similar 180-inning range, and if he's able to survive in much the same way that Justin Verlander did in 2007, that he'll then be ready to take a big step forward about the time he gets in front of an arbitrator.

C Carlos Ruiz Yellow light: He's got the job, but with only Chris Coste (Green light) behind him, Ruiz will be asked to make a big jump in games played this season. Coste's book is coming out, but don't think that it might not affect playing time. Ruiz is closer to red than a full yellow, and anything involving his appearing in 125 games would put him solidly there.

1B Ryan Howard Green light

2B Chase Utley Yellow light: Utley's wrist injury didn't seem to bother him in the least after his return. There was a slight power drop that showed itself more in doubles than in HR. That bodes well for this year, though some power drop in the first half wouldn't be a surprise. If it stays at level, it's a big endorsement of Sheridan's rehab planning.

SS Jimmy Rollins Green light

3B Pedro Feliz Yellow light: Few seem to realize that he's already 32, and at the hot corner, that's pretty old. The stats of guys like Scott Rolen and Troy Glaus--the injury stats, I mean--factor in here. One interesting note is that the two big moves on the field this year, Feliz and Jenkins, came over from two of the top three medical teams.

LF Pat Burrell Green light

CF Shane Victorino Red light: Like Jacoby Ellsbury, Victorino doesn't seem the type to go red. By way of explanation, it's the type of player--young, early-career center fielders--and not the specific player that's risky.

RF Geoff Jenkins Yellow light: Jenkins comes in as a placeholder. Paired with some combination of Chris Snelling (Red light) and Jayson Werth (Red light), he's going to give Ol' Cholly Manuel some options. As long as he's essentially a half-time player, he's likely to be pretty effective.

SP Cole Hamels Red light: I once compared Hamels to Mark Prior. It was meant as a compliment, but could work either way. Hamels' back and elbow problems make him riskier than most. For more, see today's Big Question.

SP Brett Myers Red light: If you want to compare Myers to John Smoltz, you can. I just don't think it's correct. Myers missed a month with a shoulder strain and survived as a closer. Back in the rotation, I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see him have a similar shoulder problem by midseason.

SP Jamie Moyer Yellow light: Age discrimination is illegal, so I hope Moyer doesn't press charges. Given his age, this is actually a very positive projection.

SP Kyle Kendrick Yellow light: Kendrick was a big surprise as a rookie, and while he went 200 innings over two levels last season, only 120 were at the major league level. Doing it all in the bigs puts him at risk and gives the Verducci Rule a big test.

SP Adam Eaton Yellow light: It's not related at all to Eaton, but the next two starters would likely be J.D. Durbin (Yellow light) or Chad Durbin (Red light). I don't think they're related, so it might be even more of an oddity. There's also Travis Blackley (Yellow light). All that adds up to the idea of Eaton not getting as many innings as it would take to get him to red. However, he's still very risky, in more ways than one.

RP Tom Gordon Red light: That he's still good after all his problems over all these years is a real testament to modern sports medicine. Expect him to continue the pattern of getting hurt for a while sometime during the season, but good the rest of the time. I'm a bit worried that the early-season closing he'll be asked to do might not be a good thing for his durability.

CL Brad Lidge Green light: Umm, so much for being green. Lidge had off-season surgery on his plant knee, then had a second surgery on the other side of that same knee. While it's a minor injury and an equally minor surgical correction, the concern is that it might alter his already tenuous mechanics and cause some sort of secondary cascade. Since the Phillies have Gordon available, they can afford to be cautious with Lidge at the start of the season. Apart from that, he's relatively healthy, though his intermittent control issues worry me about his elbow's longer-term durability.

Lineups courtesy SportsBlogs Nation.

Related Content:  Year Of The Injury,  Trainer

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