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March 22, 2011
Team Injury Projection
Kansas City Royals
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: On the list of things wrong with the Royals, injuries do make an appearance—they just find themselves well down the list. In terms of total injuries, the Royals rated well; unfortunately, the severity of those injuries caused them to sacrifice more days to the DL than all but a handful of teams. These weren’t just bench players, either: everyday players went down for extended periods of time, among them David DeJesus, Robinson Tejeda, Luke Hochevar, Gil Meche, Rick Ankiel, and Josh Fields. Of course, given that Ankiel, Fields, Hochevar, etc. were considered important pieces, it's not like perfect health would have changed the season's outcome much.
The Royals received personnel makeovers this year all over the diamond. Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera signed on for 2011—both players have proven in the past that they can remain healthy during the regular season, though the pair has also proven that being around all the time needn't necessarily be a positive. Durability would be a welcome change from DeJesus, though an injured DeJesus might be preferable to a healthy Francoeur or Cabrera.
At least Lorenzo Cain has a chance to preserve the memory of a useful-but-perpetually-injured outfielder. Cain has suffered multiple injuries to his lower body over the last two years while in the minors, which could constitute a trend. Take a look at Alex Gordon's days missed the last three years. Now look at his injury ratings. It's good to know that CHIPPER is working.
Alcides Escobar came along with Cain in the Zack Greinke trade and should occupy the starting shortstop role all year. He is considered low-risk, and on a performance level, he has much more upside than his predecessor at the position. Mike Aviles had Tommy John surgery in 2009, but it appears as though he has recovered fully from the procedure. Chris Getz has missed at least 30 games in each of the past three years, and CHIPPER sees him tacking on a (un)lucky fourth.
Hochevar's sprained elbow is not a death sentence (we haven't decided what color that rating is yet), but it is a cause for concern. He was placed on a proper strengthening program in an attempt to dynamically stabilize the area, a strategy that does work well in certain cases. However, when fatigue sets in, Hochevar can lose that dynamic stability.
Jeff Francis’s outlook is bleaker. Continued shoulder strains and inflammation in years following surgery does not bode well for his effectiveness. He was supposed to recover in 2010 following major arm surgery in 2009, but instead missed over 70 games and now finds himself trying to resuscitate his career with the pitching-thin Royals. Bruce Chen, who's at the low end of the moderate-risk range, is now two years removed from Tommy John surgery. Kyle Davies and Vin Mazzaro are both low risks despite missing some time from strains and inflammation in 2009. Joakim Soria was injury-free in 2010, which represented a change of pace from 2007 through 2009, when he was nagged by minor shoulder problems.
The Big Risk: Soria defaults to this spot, since the team lacks players of significance on its current roster. Billy Butler has Kila Ka'aihue to step in if things go wrong—Soria would be replaced by Tejeda, who has had his own shoulder problems in the past. The team isn't expected to have many leads to begin with, so the health of their most important pitcher is vital to their holding on to any they do get.
Comeback: As the sole important previously-injured player to return to the club in 2011, Hochevar is the last man standing for this spot. As we have seen with Adam Wainwright and others, mild sprains of the elbow can be managed for some time without surgery, and the results can still be excellent. Hochevar returned before the end of the 2010 season and didn't turn any heads, but he at least stayed healthy. He should benefit from an entire offseason devoted to continuing to strengthen the area and improve his muscular endurance.
Best Health: Alcides Escobar hasn't figured out how to hit yet, but he was healthy in his first full campaign in the bigs.
Worst Health: Incurring shoulder injuries following shoulder surgery is a foolproof plan for qualifying as the least healthy player on a team. Congratulations, Jeff Francis.