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March 9, 2008

Team Health Reports

New York Mets

by Will Carroll

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The Facts
Head Trainer: Ray Ramirez
Player Days Lost: 1,087
Dollars Lost: $23.27 million
Three-Year Rank: 21

In light of current events, you might expect that this report has changed a bit since we first ran the numbers... or has it? The Mets' injury situation is certainly one that reminds us of that of the Yankees last year, but I'm hardly the only one to notice that. I may, however, be the only one that noticed that the Yankees ended up OK last year. Does that mean that Mets fans should step away from the ledge, and that it's better to be injured earlier in the season?

The answer is yes, Mets fans shouldn't get carried away with despair, because the answer to the second part will help Mets fans feel a little better about their fates and fortunes. While an injury is never good, and having the depth to cover for it always is, there's no real pattern in the data to account for the timing of an injury. Chase Utley's going down didn't slow the Phillies' pennant pursuit, the loss of a significant portion of the Rockies rotation actually improved it*, and while injuries aren't all random, there is a randomness to their distribution. What a grouping of injuries tests for the Mets (or any other team) is its depth and the resources of its medical staff.

So, the issue for the Mets isn't the number of injuries, but is instead what they do well and not so well. This organization sees a double bias in the rankings, one that leads to the disconnect with their reputation within the game. Ray Ramirez and his staff have to handle a number of accepted risks by GM Omar Minaya, and are responsible for players like Moises Alou, Luis Castillo, and Pedro Martinez, but those risks are taken in part because of the excellent reputation for rehab work by Ramirez and his crew. The addition last year of Chris Correnti, Martinez's personal rehab coordinator (and a big reason the Red Sox got their first ring this century) has only added to that capability. Because of this tolerance for risk that is the product of a solid relationship with the front office, the Mets see more days on the DL than one would expect, but unlike many teams, they don't look to cook the books.

This acceptance and its part in the construction of their roster prevent them from being too high in the rankings here, but the team is more interested in bringing home a World Series trophy than a Dick Martin Award. There's a point at which a team can take injuries, a "bend but not break" mentality in the training room that's built on depth and a bit of a Moneyball-esque injury arbitrage. Whether the risks they've taken will range past the breaking point remains to be seen.

The Big Question
The bloggers at Amazin' Avenue ask: "After suffering through leg injuries in his first two pro seasons, Jose Reyes has been mostly injury-free since 2005. What, if anything, can we credit for the change in health?"

As much as I'd like to give a simple answer here, like "Vern Gambetta's workouts" or "hanging out with Rickey Henderson," I'm not sure there's any one thing that helped. Instead, I think it was all of the above. The Mets really threw the kitchen sink at the problem, but the key was that Reyes really bought in. A commitment to change appears to work, so along with good tools, good personnel, and a little luck, the Mets ended up with one of the best three shortstops in the game. Now, just as some teams do with certain skills, I wonder if the Mets feel confident in their ability to do it again. Rocco Baldelli would be a lot better in right fielder than Ryan Church would be.

C Brian Schneider Yellow light / Ramon Castro Yellow light: Together, they're about what you'd get from an average catcher, but in reality, having both of them will make each slightly healthier than if this was one 500 PA catcher. Of course, a guy who got that many PAs could probably hit more than this pair.

1B Carlos Delgado Yellow light: Delgado's hip problem is the source of most concern, in that he's always been a leg-drive guy at the plate. One doctor suggested that Delgado may have some issues due to his early-career catching, but that was a long time ago, making it very tough to find any real evidence of connection. If we assume that Delgado's on the same road that David Ortiz is, he might be a look into the future for Big Papi.

2B Luis Castillo Red light: Castillo's chronic knee problems aren't going to be fixed by having them 'scoped, but the idea was that it would make him more comfortable and perhaps more functional for a period of time. The early returns are mixed, and that usually means there will be more problems along the way.

3B David Wright Green light

SS Jose Reyes Green light

LF Moises Alou Red light: What Alou is has always been more important than what he is not. He's not durable, but even without all his injuries along the way, he might not have been. When healthy, he'll hit, and when he's not, the Mets have options.

CF Carlos Beltran Yellow light: Beltran's knees are just one more on the list of problems that are taking Beltran from greatness to mere goodness.

RF Ryan Church Green light

SP Johan Santana Yellow light: Yellow? Mets fans exploded when the THR Matrix was published, stunned that their multi-millionaire savior was anything but green. My advice to them is that nothing's automatic in baseball, and while Santana's not a terrible risk, he does have a history of minor elbow problems and some minor mechanical issues.

SP Pedro Martinez Red light: He looked very solid in the course of coming back, and has once again put himself in a position to succeed. The question now is stamina, and the likelihood is great that he'll come up sore enough to miss a start or end up on the DL for a time. I think he'll be very effective the rest of the time.

SP John Maine Green light

SP Oliver Perez Green light: Yeah, I'm surprised by this one too.

SP Mike Pelfrey Red light: Pelfrey's odd mechanics combined with Rick Peterson's tinkering actually makes for something of a negative, at least in the short term. Add in the apparent innings increase that Pelfrey will see if he can stick in the rotation, and there's plenty of opportunity for him to get hurt. There's no anti-Shocker bias in the system, though along with Rice, maybe there should be.

CL Billy Wagner Yellow light: Wagner always seems to wear out by late August. Last season's faux attempt at a changeup didn't help, but let's stop blaming Wagner and start looking at Willie Randolph and Rick Peterson. It's up to them to keep Wagner effective.

RP Duaner Sanchez Red light: There are absolutely no comps to what Sanchez has been through. Calling him 'risky' is an understatement.

* The Rockies rotation brings up an interesting point, one that could come into play for the Mets. Does a "re-supply" (to borrow a term from The Wire) of pitching help a rotation? Pedro Martinez last season showed that a relatively fresh pitcher could come in and change up a rotation in much the same way that Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales were able to come in and revitalize the pitching staff in the latter portions of the season. With discussions about a six-man staff and the use of such by the Mets last season, it bears researching whether the use of a reasonably effective time-minded platoon-100 to 120 innings of one pitcher in the first half, 100 to 120 innings of a second, perhaps younger or rehabbing pitcher in the second-would be a more effective use of resources.

Related Content:  Year Of The Injury

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