March 28, 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: You can’t blame injuries alone for Seattle’s 2010 troubles. Sure, the Mariners had some health issues, but they were in the middle of the pack in DMPI. They did lose 500 days more to injury than they had in 2009, but the roster has had more significant issues than the quality of its health.
Neither Milton Bradley nor Jack Wilson will be confused for Cal Ripken anytime soon—both of these players have extensive injury histories, and Wilson was recently announced as the second baseman, so he has to worry about a position switch, too. Ichiro Suzuki has remained healthy so far, but 37-year-old outfielders who rely on their speed are inherently risky, even when they are Ichiro. Chone Figgins’ 2008 looks to be an outlier—he had a problematic right hamstring (among other dings) that caused him to miss a total of 50 games that year.
The Mariners thought they had a handle on Franklin Gutierrez’s slow digestive track, but he continues to have problems and appears to be a higher risk than the his initial rating indicated. Miguel Olivo has already missed time this spring with a strained groin, and the hazards of being a 32-year-old catcher make him a moderate risk. Michael Saunders’ injury history is worse than his low-risk rating would suggest. He underwent labrum surgery in his right shoulder in August of 2008 and missed the first month of the 2009 season as a result. In 2010, he made it into the database four times, and he's already undergone surgery on his appendix in 2011. He’s supposed to start in left, but his health may keep him from holding down a full-time gig.
Dustin Ackley is a 2008 Tommy John survivor who recently sprained his ring finger in winter ball. He has responded very well this spring and looks to be a safe bet heading into this season. On the other hand, Brendan Ryan does not appear likely to stay healthy. He lost a month to a hamstring strain in his rookie season and has suffered major injuries to both of his wrists (the left in 2006 and surgery on the right in early 2010), with a bunch of minor bumps, bruises, and strains sprinkled in as well. An injury-free 2011 is possible but unlikely.
The Mariners’ pitching staff looks to be healthy, but it hasn’t gotten off to a strong start. Nate Robertson is out for elbow surgery to remove loose bodies. Erik Bedard is, well, Erik Bedard. Felix Hernandez has mechanics similar to those of Francisco Rodriguez, but he's managed to remain free of injuries to his upper extremities over the last three years, losing only a chunk of time to an ankle sprain in 2008. Despite having surgery on his elbow in 2007 and hip surgery in 2008, Jason Vargas appears to be a safe bet coming into 2011, since he has remained healthy for the last two years.
Even though Doug Fister missed only 24 days in 2010, one never likes to see a general diagnosis of fatigue or inflammation used for this length of time, since general “fatigue” doesn’t last long without an underlying cause of some sort. If it’s a way to skirt the innings pitched issue, that’s one thing. But in light of the vague presentation in this case, Fister's low-risk rating should be regarded with a raised eyebrow. Brandon League will take over for David Aardsma as Aardsma continues his rehabilitation from labrum surgery on his left hip. League has been healthy the last three years, but he did suffer a rather serious right shoulder injury in 2007 (a strained latissimus dorsi).
The Big Risk: Felix Hernandez is by far the most important component of the 2011 Mariners team; should he go down for any considerable amount of time, the Mariners, who already have almost no chance at competing in 2011, could enter (or perhaps more accurately, fail to exit) embarrassment territory. In addition to the quality of this Cy Young Award winner’s work, remember how much of it there is—replacing a potential 220-plus-inning season is no easy task.
Comeback: Adam Moore came back in midseason from a subluxating fibular head, an injury that is not in the database as of yet. The fibular head is held close to the top of the tibia's bottom aspect on the outside part of the knee, and can sublux or partially dislocate in a quick twisting motion in an extremely flexed joint. Think about how many times a catcher has to twist his legs suddenly while already in the squat position in order to block a pitch in the dirt. Moore seems to have recovered well from the injury, and will back up Olivo behind the plate.
Best Health: The CHIPPER system considers the last three years the most important in predicting future injuries. As a result, Brandon League owns the team's best rating. As mentioned above, he did have injury problems prior to 2008, but he has remained remarkably healthy over the last three seasons. League will be taking over for Aardsma until the incumbent closer can return, and he should be capable of taking the ball whenever he is called upon.
Worst Health: Milton Bradley’s injury history is just a wee bit worse than Jack Wilson’s, giving him this slot to himself.