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March 14, 2011
Team Injury Projection
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: Bobby Cox finally stepped away from the game after 50 years, putting an end to an era. His swan song didn't always go smoothly, since a number of his players succumbed to serious injuries: the Braves racked up 22 DL stints and 53 total injuries on the year. In many ways, this was a better season in terms of health than the two that preceded it—notice the lack of green in the years prior to 2010. However, considering the lengthy absences of Chipper Jones (left ACL), Kris Medlen (Tommy John), and Jair Jurrjens (left hamstring, right meniscus), it was difficult to escape the feeling that there was always someone missing. Atlanta managed to make the playoffs despite its problems with health, but it was a depleted Braves team that limped into October.
Trading Omar Infante and Mike Dunn for Dan Uggla over the winter was a move meant to provide stability at second base. Uggla’s risk level isn’t too far past moderate, but his main risk factors are age and the position he plays. Another player whose age plays a role in his risk level is Jason Heyward (though eight different injury entries in our database last year also help). Heyward has a lot of tools, but one tool that often gets overlooked is the ability to stay healthy; he'll have to display that ability consistently throughout the season to lower his risk. Similarly, Nate McLouth has to prove that he won’t show up in the CHIPPER database as he has nine times over the last two years. Muscle strains and a concussion have limited him, but he hopes to turn over a new leaf. Considering we named our injury system after Chipper Jones, it’s no surprise that the third baseman qualifies as a high risk. He’s coming off ACL surgery on his left knee, but we all know that he’s good for at least 8-10 entries each year.
The pitching staff returns most of its starters from 2010. Kris Medlen is rated a low risk because we haven’t figured out a good way to factor in Tommy John surgeries from later on in-season (but we’re working on a solution). He will be out for most of 2011. Tim Hudson seemed to be over his Tommy John from 2008; however, he is turning 36 in July, and the odds are stacked against his staying out of the database. After nine straight seasons of 180-plus innings pitched, Derek Lowe is a candidate to break down at some point. He’s not quite in the high-risk category, but he is closer to high than low. On the other end of the spectrum, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens get clean bills of health from CHIPPER, and both are exiting the injury nexus for young pitchers.
The bullpen boasts the usual injury highs and lows. It seems like Scott Proctor has been around forever, and his risk profile is not getting lower with time. On top of that, George Sherrill, Peter Moylan, and Scott Linebrink are all moderate risks to miss a moderate amount of time. The sky isn’t falling, though, as closer Craig Kimbrel is considered a low risk for the 2011 season. That doesn’t mean that he’ll stay unscathed indefinitely, but for right now he appears to be safe.
The Big Risk: Hanson has been mostly healthy, but on a staff made up of a mix of older pitchers who are considered risky and younger pitchers who may not be able to carry a full load, his loss would be the most devastating. The ensuing domino effect would overwork the bullpen or cause Lowe and Hudson to stay in their own starts longer, leading to an even higher risk of injury.
Comeback: Jones has a history of smaller injuries—he has 74 entries in our database since 2004, but just two of them have kept him out longer than 20 games. Coming back from any major surgery is difficult, since the body has to relearn all sorts of things, including regaining its balance. Jones’ surgically repaired ACL is unlikely to tear again, but something else may: he could have trouble staying healthy, even the kind of healthy we’re used to for Chipper. The odds are stacked against him, but if he sticks on the diamond he just might help the Braves make another playoff appearance.
Best Health: Luckily for the Braves, their “Big Risk” Hanson is also their healthiest player.
Worst Health: Like we said, our injury projection system is called “CHIPPER”. Jones has a 99.95 percent chance of missing more than 15 days in 2011. Are you taking the under? Didn’t think so.