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March 7, 2011
Team Injury Projection
Boston Red Sox
The Team Injury Projections are here, driven by our brand new injury forecasting system, the Comprehensive Health Index [of] Pitchers [and] Players [with] Evaluative Results—or, more succinctly, CHIPPER. Thanks to work by Colin Wyers and Dan Turkenkopf and a database loaded with injuries dating back to the 2002 season—that's nearly 4,600 players and well over 400,000 days lost to injury—we now have a system that produces injury-risk assessments to three different degrees. CHIPPER projects ratings for players based on their injury history—these ratings measure the probability of a player missing one or more games, 15 or more games, or 30 or more games. CHIPPER will have additional features added to it throughout the spring and early season that will enhance the accuracy of our injury coverage.
These ratings are also available in the Player Forecast Manager (pfm.baseballprospectus.com), where they'll be sortable by league or position—you won’t have to wait for us to finish writing this series in order to see the health ratings for all of the players.
Hitters in approximate Depth Charts order at time of publication
Pitchers in approximate Depth Charts order at time of publication
Summary: The 2010 Red Sox were designed with post-season play in mind, but following major injuries to Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, a third-place finish was all Boston could muster. The Sox have trended downward in regards to health over the last several years, which is due in part to roster construction. Elder statesmen such as Mike Cameron, Mike Lowell and even Boof Bonser missed significant time and are either no longer with the team or have decreased roles for 2011. Even a few of the younger players got in on the act, including Jacoby Ellsbury, who missed a substantial chunk of time thanks to complications from broken ribs that eventually ended his season.
The lineup is looking healthier for the 2011 season. The injuries to Pedroia, Youkilis, Ellsbury, Cameron, and Adrian Gonzalez have all healed—or are close to being fully healed—as Opening Day nears. Not all is peachy in Red Sox Nation, as five out of the eight lineup positions are rated as a high-risk for missing 15-plus games last year (with the remainder rated as moderate risk). The likelihood of losing all of them is obviously extremely low (then again, we could have said the same thing about the 2010 club) but even losing one or two of them over several weeks could be devastating in this year's competitive AL East.
Theo Epstein and the rest of the front office have tried to mitigate this vulnerability via positional flexibility and an improved bench. Cameron and Darnell McDonald provide reliable depth at all three outfield positions, something the team lacked once Ellsbury and Cameron both went down for extended periods of time. The infield has slightly less depth, with the positional flexibility of Jed Lowrie, Youkilis, and Marco Scutaro mitigating the risk to some extent. Lowrie has been working out at first base on top of his previous service across the diamond, though he figures to see most of his time in the middle infield. Jason Varitek is a serviceable backup to Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
With no significant changes to the rotation, Boston instead hopes to improve the ability of two of its starters to stay healthy and contribute on the mound. Mike Reinold brought his expertise to Boston from the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI—run by Dr. James Andrews) back in 2005, and since then the pitchers, as a group, have been much healthier than those of most other teams. Fifth starter Daisuke Matsuzaka and spot starter Tim Wakefield are likely to miss time, as they have in each of the past few years. Josh Beckett is considered a more moderate risk, while Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and John Lackey project as minimal risks. In the bullpen, Boston focused on improving last year's group during the offseason by bringing in Bobby Jenks, Matt Albers, and Dan Wheeler; only Jenks comes in as a potential risk, and he’s considered a moderate one.
The big risk: The Red Sox can least afford to lose Youkilis again. The obvious immediate loss of production would be a killer, but the loss of his positional flexibility also has to be factored in. If either he or Gonzalez gets injured, Lowrie would take over at at third, in which case Scutaro would be the full-time shortstop and the depth of the middle infield would be compromised.
Comeback: The second loss of Dustin Pedroia helped to finish Boston off in 2010—the first time around, Bill Hall and Lowrie performed admirably filling in for him. It’s no surprise he failed to return last season when he attempted to, due to the nature of his foot injury. The navicular bone is the capstone of the medial arch and is an important insertion point for multiple ligaments and tendons in the foot. Recovery from surgery performed on the navicular bone can be a lengthy and difficult process, as there is concern that other structures could be compromised by overuse or acute injuries such as tendinitis, stress fractures, and ligament and tendon tears. Pedroia has come along well in camp and does not appear to be favoring the leg at all. He seems poised to slide back into the lineup and once again be a major contributing factor on both sides of the ball.
Best: Jon Lester has proven himself to be the ace and the workhorse of the staff. After his cancer battle early on in his career, Lester has been about as steady as they come from a health standpoint.
Worst: On the other end of the spectrum, J.D. Drew has a long and detailed injury history which has only been picking up steam in the last few years. The presence of Cameron softens this potential injury blow.