March 15, 2010
Team Health Reports
San Francisco Giants
The Summary: Dave Groeschner knows that the best revenge is living well. After an aborted stay in Chicago, he came back to take over the San Francisco staff and has not only continued Stan Conte's excellence, but built on it. The team scouts well and doesn't accept much risk aside from a willingness to ignore birth certificates, which certainly helps, though that's a legacy of the work Conte did. The downside is that there's not a lot of room to get better. Success for the Giants' staff is going to be consistency as Brian Sabean tries to add talent to build around Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval. Lincecum offers an interesting challenge for any staff, especially after he showed a chink in his freakish armor late last season. If I owned the Giants, I'd hire an extra athletic trainer who did nothing but handle Lincecum.
Days Lost: 744
Dollars Lost: $9,467,486.41
Injury Cost: $6,916,250.00
The Cost: As stated above, San Francisco has been one of the best in the business in recent years. In 2009 the Giants lost only $9.5 million due to injuries, following seasons of losses of $8.7 and $2.1 million. Their three-year average was just $6 million more than the whole league average for 2009. The Giants will head into the season without the arm that cost them $4.4 million in 2009: Noah Lowry. Lowry has been a constant on the Giants' DL, missing the last two seasons with wrist and shoulder injuries. Add Lowry's departure to that of Randy Johnson, and the Giants are looking better for next year. San Francisco went into the offseason willing to spend, and they used some of that money that they saved to put toward contracts to bring back Bengie Molina and Juan Uribe and brought in Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff to fill holes at first base and left field. Huff and DeRosa hardly provide the offensive upgrades that many Giants fans would like to see paired with the Kung Fu Panda, but they did offer Adam LaRoche a contract better than what Huff signed. You can't blame San Francisco for lack of trying.
The Big Risk: Breathe, Giants fans. Saying Lincecum is risky isn't the same as the doomsayers that don't like his frame or unique mechanics. Remember, we don't know anything about the forces his body takes. Well, almost nothing. The one fact we do have is that his back had a small problem at the end of last season. It's the one area I've worried about since seeing him. He's small, yes, but I'm more concerned with his core strength and the body's tendency to "thicken up" as it ages. Roger Clemens is the textbook case, but you can look at almost anyone who's been in baseball a while and see it. Even with someone like Roy Oswalt—who I think is the best comp—we've seen not only this thickening, but also some back issues. Lincecum's not bulletproof, but without him, the Giants shrink.
The Comeback: Players like DeRosa—versatile guys who play at multiple positions—offer a challenge that PIPP usually fails at. It's very hard to just "average" risk. While the system works well at determining the risk of a population, it's simply not designed to say "this player" or "that player," especially when it's nearly a group of one. DeRosa has always been below the expected norms (in this case, lower is good) and really doesn't seem to cost himself anything by shifting around. That unique skill doesn't have anything to do with his wrist. The torn tendon sheath is something that can recur and will cost DeRosa power in the short term. Combined with a new home stadium, it may look a bit worse than it is. The rest of his game should be fine, making him a bit of a sleeper if you keep your power expectations low. The green rating is solid, and yes, it's a bit of a surprise.
The Trend: The Giants have a mix of the old and the young. On either extreme, it can be a problem for a medical staff. As the numbers show, there's not much that was a problem for the Giants' staff last season. As stated in The Cost, the Giants got rid of most of the money lost last year, but there's certain to be something that goes wrong. Still, if any team in baseball could put up a record-breaking low dollar number, it's this one.
2B Freddy Sanchez: Sometimes, a trade is about what you get. Others, it's about what you send away. Pirates GM Neal Huntington sent Sanchez out at just the right time, so even if Tim Alderson never turns into a solid pitcher, he definitely won't be an injury-prone and expensive infielder. That's Sabean's problem now, as Sanchez's shoulder continues to be a major issue.
CF Aaron Rowand: It's easier to list the parts that Rowand hasn't hurt over the last couple years. It's never something big, but it's enough to keep him just banged up enough to lose a bit of his game. As he ages, that's only going to get worse. He's one of the biggest tests this medical staff faces. Platooning him might be the best solution, if they had another outfield option.
SP Madison Bumgarner: There's some concern about the innings, even if he starts the season in the pen or Fresno, since the Giants have a bunch of April off-days. More concerning is his velocity. Even as a lefty, he's seen his velo go down and is barely cracking 90 mph, something that didn't come back this offseason. He can be good there, but probably not great.
C Bengie Molina: His size and speed seem to be moving in direct opposition to each other. He's surprisingly durable, which could be accounted for by genetics, since his brothers are also durable. He's also expected to phase out as Buster Posey phases in, which should help both with health.
3B Pablo Sandoval: Sandoval's fat. Sometimes that's less of a factor than we'd like to think, but at some point, Sandoval's going to have some disadvantages. Hector Villanueva once told Harry Caray that "when I hit well, I'm strong. When I hit poorly, I am fat." No one's going to care if there's more Panda to love... until his knees or hips snap like bamboo.
SS Edgar Renteria: If Renteria's issues last season were all in the elbow, that should be cleared up after late-season surgery. At 34, these kinds of things are more likely to keep happening.
RF Nate Schierholtz: Schierholtz has not only not played well when given the chance, he always seems to end up with something minor reminding the manager that there are other options. Bruised ribs, sore knee—maybe we should just call this type of player a Roseannadana: It's always something.
SP Tim Lincecum: See The Big Risk.
SP Matt Cain: Three years of 200-plus innings, no major health problems, and just crossing the nexus? Yes, that's good and he's only one point into the yellow, so don't worry too much about this ranking. If anyone can keep a young pitcher healthy, it's this staff, but remember—we're not sure anyone can.
SP Jonathan Sanchez: Sanchez reminded us with one near-perfect night that he's always had the talent. He's just never done anything near that, night in and night out. His walk rate doesn't make anyone think he can break through the 175-inning barrier he's failed to cross so far in his career.
1B Aubrey Huff
LF Mark DeRosa: See The Comeback.
SP Barry Zito: Say what you will about the results, Zito has always taken the ball, which has kept the young staff and the pen a bit healthier. Yes, there's some value in that. Then again, there's value in pitching well. Even added together, it's still a bad contract for everyone but Zito.
CL Brian Wilson
RP Jeremy Affeldt