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March 16, 2008
Team Health Reports
It probably surprises some people to know that the A's payroll had $23 million dollars to lose. The problem is, they didn't, not really; the A's have to keep their talent on the field to have a chance to win, and when they don't, things go bad in a hurry. While things have changed on the field for the A's over the last three seasons-switching managers, and the seemingly standard significant player turnover-it's not as significant as it was when the team lost its big three in the rotation plus Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, and others. Perhaps more clearly than any other significant factor, injuries have been the best indicator of the A's success-or the lack of it.
The Three-Year Rank is also probably a huge surprise to many, given the high-profile injuries the club has endured, but the days lost trend is strongly negative: 463, 652, 1152. It's a classic 'death spiral,' as injuries lead to injury due to overwork and an inability to keep up with the demands placed on a medical staff by a over-full training room. In a change after last season's setbacks, long-time trainer Larry Davis was nudged aside, replaced by his assistant Steve Sayles. While keeping it "in the family," the changes are expected to have a significant impact. If nothing else, Sayles is more aggressive and has made his case for change. The San Francisco Chronicle noted some of the more esoteric equipment that Sayles had convinced the A's to bring in, but cold lasers and pulley systems are just tools. The real change comes from the use of those tools and a renewed focus on the need to stay healthy. The A's made noise by spending money and even then, they only spent in the "low six figures." If I'm correct that A's wins track A's health, then the team has made a big pickup for about the cost of a decent pre-arbitration player. Both scouts and statheads agree that it might be the best acquisition the A's made this offseason.
C Kurt Suzuki : As a youngish catcher without a significant injury history, Suzuki is only risky in the sense that young catchers are all risky. The biggest worry is that he wears down in the second half, but even that concern is minor. Yellow here is actually a positive.
2B Mark Ellis : In this infield, he's almost Cal Ripken. He's far enough out from the shoulder injury to discount in almost completely.
3B Eric Chavez : One of the reasons I kept the worst-performing teams for the end is to get a longer look at some of their persistent issues in spring training. After multiple off-season surgeries, there's still very little to go on but hope with Chavez. It's just a hunch, but I think he has one, maybe two more great seasons in him. I just don't know if he'll be healthy enough this season for this to be one of them.
SS Bobby Crosby : Crosby's chronic back problems will likely either move him off of short or sap his power, and maybe both. It's harder to have a Moises Alou kind of career in the infield, but I'm not sure why. Pairing him up with a solid defender in a bat/glove platoon isn't the worst idea to get what he can do out of him while avoiding what he can't, which is stay healthy.
LF Travis Buck
CF Chris Denorfia : He's coming back from Tommy John surgery, but it's not as much of a negative as this red would seem to indicate. It's the rest of the small injuries he's had over time combined the idea that he'll get 120-plus games in center that push his grade into the big-risk red zone.
RF Ryan Sweeney
DH Jack Cust
SP Rich Harden : See today's Big Question.
SP Joe Blanton
SP Chad Gaudin : Gaudin is coming back from surgery to repair his labrum-the labrum in his hip, that is. I'd say it was unusual, except for the fact that he's one of two pitchers in this rotation coming back from a hip issue. Gaudin is behind everyone and should end up functioning as a fifth starter, slotting in once he's needed. That gives him enough time to get ready, but don't be surprised if he has some problems along the way.
SP Justin Duchscherer : Beyond the role change and its inherent innings increase, the Duke is also coming off of hip surgery. If the theory that working on a regular schedule will help him holds true, this should work out. If not, there's always room for him back in the pen.
SP Dana Eveland : Eveland has always been a bit bigger than people would like for a pitcher, but as of yet it's never really affected him. He had a finger injury very similar to the one suffered by Joel Zumaya, but hasn't shown any issues since recovering from surgery.
CL Huston Street : You can't ignore that he had an elbow problem last year, even knowing that he came back from the nerve problem and pitched at his normal level. At least it's not a structural issue, or this grade would be well in the red.
RL Alan Embree
Lineups courtesy SportsBlogs Nation.