March 10, 2011
Team Injury Projection
New York Yankees
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 season saw numerous lengthy injuries to some of New York's key names. Jorge Posada (fractured foot), Nick Johnson (wrist surgery), Andy Pettitte (groin strain) and lesser (but still important) pieces such as Damaso Marte (shoulder inflammation) and Alfredo Aceves (lumbar disc) all missed significant time. With the Rays still a factor in the American League East thanks to a strong core and the Red Sox reloading with stars like Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the Yankees will need to avoid a similar injury situation in 2011 in order to hold out hope for October baseball.
Avoiding injuries is easier said than done, especially after the years have piled up. Birthdays are good fun until you're the same age as some of the Yankees regulars—that's when the aches and pains start multiplying. The Yankees infield includes only one regular under 30; the remaining players are 30, 35, 36, and 39 (though Derek Jeter ranges to his left like a senior citizen). Yankee regulars don't do much frolicking in the green fields of low risk anymore, and they're starting to have trouble remembering what those days were even like.
The shift to DH will help decrease some risk for Jorge Posada, but there is only so much you can do for a 39-year-old former backstop with his history of wear and tear. Alex Rodriguez is a high risk thanks to recent troubles after a relatively injury-free early career. Since 2008 Rodriguez has been on the disabled list twice and last year suffered many injuries that caused him to miss games; even when ostensibly healthy, his recovery from hip labrum surgery kept him from producing at the level he was capable of at a consistent rate throughout the season.
Only Francisco Cervelli ranks as a low risk among the projected regulars, which is a poor joke given that he was the first one to go down this spring. Jeter, Russell Martin, and Andruw Jones all should be considered very risky from a health standpoint, and both Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher dealt with injuries last season.
The only thing that can be said with any near certainty in the rotation is that CC Sabathia will take the mound every fifth day. Sabathia is the key to the rotation, as he is the lone starter with a history of both fine health and production—Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett need not only to stay healthy but also to pitch well. Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre all have extensive injury histories and are moderate health risks in 2011.
The bullpen is likely to be healthier than the lineup and possibly the starting rotation. Mariano Rivera's innings totals have been dropping ever so slightly, showing that he is not superhuman and is starting to break down from a physiological standpoint. CHIPPER thinks he's a risk to hit the disabled list in 2011 and rates only Damaso Marte as a greater liability. Rafael Soriano could fill the closer role temporarily, but he has his own hazardous injury history.
The Big Risk: Thanks to the lack of rotation depth, the biggest risk to the team is losing Sabathia to an injury. He does rate in the low-risk category, but that doesn’t mean that he's invincible; he did undergo his second surgery on his right knee (addressing either the meniscus or the cartilage) at the end of last year. Sabathia is clearly the ace of the staff, and while Bartolo Colon could fill the role of resident, uh, big-boned pitcher, he wouldn't be anywhere near as useful. Losing Sabathia could also put stress on the bullpen—the one area where health isn't a problem from the outset.
Comeback: Russell Martin wasn't on the Yankees last year, but he still qualifies as their most significant candidate for a comeback from injury. Martin fractured his hip in August and then underwent surgery to address a meniscal tear in his right knee in December. A catcher's knees and hips are crucial to his health over the course of a season—these guys average over 10,000 squats behind the plate per campaign. There aren't any useful comps for the hip, but the work on his knee was a relatively simple procedure without complications.
Best Health: Hughes has the least amount of risk among anyone on the Yankees, a good sign given the injury trouble he experienced earlier in his career.
Worst Health: As you probably gathered from above, it's Posada by a landslide: he has averaged only 94 games per year over the past three seasons. If he goes down this year, at least the Yankees can give top prospect Jesus Montero more time at the plate.