March 17, 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: The Twins' DMPI figure has remained consistent over the past three years, despite a sharp increase in number of injuries and days lost in 2010. Their pursuit of a third straight Central Division crown in 2011 may hinge on their ability to stay healthier than they did during their last campaign.
Much has been written about Justin Morneau's recovery from post-concussion syndrome (some of it by us), and rightfully so, since he's just beginning to play in games after battling the after effects of the injury since last summer. As you can see above, he clearly rates as a high risk—he had a stress factor in his back in 2009 that also contributed to CHIPPER's unfavorable prognosis. Joe Mauer is a moderately high risk, largely because of the type and number of injuries he's sustained, and the position he plays. The fact that he received injections approved by the FDA for osteoarthritis and certain cartilage injuries gives us additional cause to doubt his durability in 2011 and beyond. Alexi Casilla has succumbed to injury several times over the last few years despite seeing only sporadic playing time, so he qualifies as a high risk in the more significant role that the Twins envision for him this year.
The risk in the outfield is nowhere near as lofty. Other than suffering from a case of turf toe this spring training, Delmon Young has been healthy. Turf toe injuries can linger and become real limiters if exacerbated, so the condition will have to be monitored closely. Despite an assortment of mild injuries that have caused him to miss time, Denard Span doesn't rate as anything more than a mild risk. On the other hand, this outfield does include Michael Cuddyer, who qualifies as only a moderate risk but has yet to play in a game this spring after having a plantar wart removed. He has a long injury history covering multiple areas of the body, and while playing on grass rather than turf should work in his favor, that advantage may be negated by having to play outdoors in cooler weather for a longer period of time.
Francisco Liriano has reportedly drawn the ire of the Minnesota coaching staff this spring by showing up to camp out of shape. On the plus side, at least he finally appears to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery dating all the way back to November of 2006. The shoulder inflammation he has dealt with this spring stemmed from insufficient off-season conditioning, but fortunately that's the only worrisome aspect of his health.
Kevin Slowey is understandably more risky than Liriano in light of the 2009 surgery that permanently implanted two screws in his wrist. He also suffered what was described as an elbow strain at the end of last season, but he returned in the 15-day minimum. (The cause was likely more of an inflammatory issue than a strain.) Still, missing parts of two straight years is not the way to decrease your risk. Carl Pavano has an even higher risk rating because of the recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2007 that caused him to miss all of 2008. He has remained relatively healthy over the past couple of years, but now that he's reached age 35, parts could once again begin to break down. Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, and Scott Baker all are low risks and should be safe bets to make it through the season—in Baker's case, that low risk level proceeds from the Twins' careful handling of him when necessary. In the pen, Joe Nathan returns from Tommy John surgery, and while it may take him time to get back to pre-injury form, he at least appears healthy.
The Big Risk: Losing Mauer for any significant length of time would be a major problem. There is simply no one in the system who can come close to replacing his overall contribution on both sides of the ball. Mauer has dealt with several different injuries to various body parts, but the ones we are always especially concerned about in catchers are those related to the knees and lower back. Mauer has sustained injuries to both areas in the last two years, requiring surgery or a lengthy stay on the DL to resolve the issues. He recently underwent viscosupplementation injections, essentially an oil change for the knee. Even if it was preventative, the fact that this would even be considered prophylactically means something is still going on in the knee.
The Comeback: Morneau should earn this recognition as soon as he gets back into regular-season games. The after effects of a concussion are rendered particularly unpleasant by the uncertain timetable associated with recovery. Morneau dealt with those symptoms for quite some time, but he's been playing in spring training games without any ill effects.
Best Health: If turf toe is the worst affliction Young will have to deal with, injuries won't be an issue.
Worst Health: Casilla projects as the least healthy player, given his disproportionate track record of dings relative to his playing time.