March 29, 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 Rangers experienced their worst health of the past four years last season, but that didn't prevent them from reaching the World Series for the first time in franchise history. Texas suffered 15 different injuries that caused a player to miss at least 30 days consecutively—as a result, the team finished near the bottom of the league in both total days lost and days missed per injury.
Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler have all missed significant time in at least one of the last three seasons. Hamilton’s back kept him off the field and off the bases in 2009, and chronic knee inflammation limited him in 2010. His visits to the DL owe something to the way he handles himself on the field—just ask that wall he fractured his rib against in September.
Repeated hamstring problems cost Nelson 59 games in 2010. Hamstring injuries have a tendency to recur, especially if an underlying problem (such as pelvis instability) is not addressed completely. There is no single cause for these repeated hamstring strains; rehabilitation needs to focus on addressing everything at once, lest the body be taught how to behave when it is hurt, not when it is healthy. Kinsler hasn’t really been healthy for some time: in 2010, it was both his high ankle sprain and his groin strain that did him in. That's 30 percent of the starting lineup—and the team's three most important hitters—all down for the count for long periods of time in 2010.
Thanks to solid health in 2010, Adrian Beltre just missed joining the three players above in the all-red club. He has suffered a multitude of lower body injuries over the last couple of years, and he also underwent hand and shoulder surgeries in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Michael Young doesn’t have any severe injuries in the database, but he has been responsible for 18 entries since 2007. Lately, these have been to the lower extremities. The good news is that the rest of the starting lineup is considered a low-to-moderate risk for injury, and much of the bench is also projected to stay healthy.
Things are a little rosier on the pitching side, though the staff does have its own problem players. C.J. Wilson had arm issues in 2006 and 2008 but has remained healthy since then, aside from some blisters. Colby Lewis is even further removed from his shoulder surgeries in 2004 and 2005, and he has not missed any time due to injuries in the last several years. Brandon Webb has missed the last two seasons thanks to surgery on the labrum in his right shoulder, so his rating needs no further explanation. Tommy Hunter’s moderate groin strain last week came on the heels of the news that Neftali Feliz would remain in the bullpen. Hunter pulled his groin during spring training in 2009 as well, which caused him to miss over 20 games. He should return by the beginning of May.
Derek Holland is a little more risky than his low rating implies. He missed 80 games last year due to rotator cuff inflammation, which may be a sign of some underlying issues. Subjectively, we consider him a more moderate risk. Feliz suffered from some general shoulder soreness in 2009 while in the minors, but overall he has remained healthy. If he moves into the rotation at any point his injury risk would increase because of the additional stresses placed upon his arm, but that doesn't seem to be the plan just yet.
The Big Risk: The Rangers have a solid bench capable of plugging holes if any of their star position players go down for a time. The rotation is a different story. Colby Lewis's injury history is in the distant past at this point, but his health is a key factor for the Rangers' success. With Webb unlikely to stay healthy throughout the season and Hunter already out for the first month, the bullpen is going to be strained out of the gate, so the team can't afford to lose its most productive starter for any length of time.
The Comeback: Though there are plenty of options here, Josh Hamilton best fits the bill. His back gave him trouble in 2009, and while he played fantastically when he made it onto the field in 2010, a cracked rib suffered in September knocked him out for over 30 days. Anyone who has suffered rib injuries knows just how painful they can be, so an offseason's worth of healing was an appropriate prescription.
Best Health: You know Julio Borbon for his defense, his speed, and his disappointing on-base percentage, but his health is noteworthy as well.
Worst Health: Given all the red above, this seems like a difficult choice, but the signing of Brandon Webb narrows the search down.