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November 11, 2011

Collateral Damage

The Season in Injuries: NL Central

by Corey Dawkins

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Division: National League Central

Divisional Ranking for WARP Lost (MLB Rank, best to worst):

1.       Houston Astros (1)
2.       Chicago Cubs (6)
3.       Pittsburgh Pirates (9)
4.       Cincinnati Reds (14)
5.       Milwaukee Brewers (15)
6.       St. Louis Cardinals (26)

Houston Astros
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 1.58
Number of DL trips (Days): 16 (863)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 46 (929)

Starting off with the Astros, we find the best overall team in terms of TAWL. The difficulty with this is that it is more of an indictment on their roster than it is of their medical staff. It is true that overall TAWL was the best in the majors, but the number of injuries suffered and days lost were middle of the pack. A truly dominant medical staff and front office roster construction would rank well in both areas.

Looking back at the 2011 season for the Astros, we find something different. It didn’t start well with Jason Castro needing surgery on a torn ACL coming out of spring training, but this was not the most costly injury from a TAWL/game missed point of view. Neither was losing Alberto Arias (shoulder surgery) for the season or Jeff Keppinger (recovery from foot surgery) for the first few months of the season. The most costly injury on a TAWL/game basis was Hunter Pence. He missed eight games for a TAWL of 0.1853, compared to Keppinger’s 0.2833 TAWL from 55 games missed. This equates to an 0.0232 TAWL/game ratio for Pence compared to a lowly 0.0052 for Keppinger.

By losing so little WARP, there are significantly fewer injuries to discuss than their neighbors out west. The hitters, for the most part, did well with only Clint Barmes (fractured hand) over 0.1 TAWL. The pitchers also did well, although certainly not as good as the hitters. On top of Arias, injuries to Wandy Rodriguez (swollen elbow) and Brandon Lyon (shoulder strain and surgery) cost the Astros over 0.6 WARP. Now if only they could match roster talent with their TAWL ranking, they may be in real business.

Chicago Cubs
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 2.28
Number of DL trips (Days): 11 (411)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 28 (451)

The loveable Cubbies may not have performed the best on the field, but they did awfully well in the athletic training room. Losing only 2.28 WARP due to injuries, they also did very well in the number of injuries and days lost, ranking first or second in both categories. This proves that they didn’t lose significant production from their injuries, and there weren’t many injuries to start with.

That’s not to say they were completely injury-free.  Marlon Byrd suffered multiple facial fractures after a gruesome beaning in May. Missing 39 games caused him to have a TAWL approaching .5, but he’s lucky it was not more given his injuries.  His lost production accounted for over 20 percent of the team’s total TAWL—the highest on the team. Geovany Soto (groin strain) was the only other hitter to lose more than 0.2 TAWL or account for over 5 percent.

The pitchers did not fare as well.  Led by Randy Wells (forearm strain) and Matt Garza (bruised elbow), the pitchers finished 12th in TAWL—much worse than the 4th the hitters finished. Even Carlos Zambrano (low back) and Ryan Dempster (back) lost 13 percent of the total WARP for the team, and they were not lighting the world on fire with their production in 2011.

With a new manager and front office coming on board, there will likely be changes in the medical staff, but hopefully they won’t change what they’re doing from a medical standpoint too much, because it seems to work.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 2.28
Number of DL trips (Days): 25 (1389)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 48 (1476)

The Pirates are a somewhat surprising third team in the division only because the number of disabled list transactions were among the worst in baseball.  25 DL transactions meant a 28th place finish with a 29th place finish when you look at the days missed. The starting pitchers—as is the case with most teams—took the majority of time lost, but it was the hitters who lost more TAWL: 1.53 to 1.24.

Hitters spread out the loss somewhat with three of them costing at least 10 percent of the team’s TAWL.  Chris Snyder required surgery on herniated disc in his low back, and he ended up missing 113 games, good for a .4536 TAWL. Jose Tabata also was injured for a lengthy period of time—70 games and .367 TAWL in his case—between his fractured hand and strained hamstring. The most costly to the hitters was Ryan Doumit, who missed 60 games on the season and lost .4798 TAWL, the majority being from a fractured ankle.

The highest overall, though, was to a pitcher: Paul Maholm. Maholm only missed 40 games at the end of the season with a strained shoulder, but he easily cost the team the most with a .5247 TAWL. This was almost 19 percent of the team’s total TAWL on the season. Evan Meek (shoulder inflammation) and Ross Ohlendorf (strained shoulder) filled out the remainder of the top three most costly at .3477 and .1544, respectively.

Cincinnati Reds

Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 3.67
Number of DL trips (Days): 16 (781)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 58 (913)

Most of the previous teams had at least one component where they were really great or really bad. Cincinnati, however, is fairly middle of the road.  Ranking 14th overall, they also rank 13th in number of DL transactions and 13th with number of days lost.

By far the greatest impact was the loss of Scott Rolen. Rolen, as we know, has been battling his body for a number of years.  Rolen’s shoulder was the issue this year and ended up costing him 1.67 TAWL over 92 games, which ended up being 45 percent of the Reds’ TAWL. This .0182 TAWL/games ratio surprisingly was the exact same as Brandon Phillips, who missed only 9 games but lost .1634 TAWL. The highest TAWL/game ratio, however, belonged to Jay Bruce at a slightly higher level of .0184.

Despite others missing significantly longer amounts of time, only two pitching injuries really affected the Reds from a TAWL point of view in 2011. Between his shoulder and neck problems, Johnny Cueto’s injuries cost the Reds .497 TAWL—equivalent to only 14 percent.  Homer Bailey also cost the Reds dearly because of his strained shoulder and impingement.  That led to a loss of .3942—good for 10 percent. Overall though, the Reds pitcher did better than most and ranked 10th best overall compared to the hitters’ 16th.

Milwaukee Brewers

Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 3.98
Number of DL trips (Days): 15 (950)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 42 (1010)

The Brewers didn’t exactly get out on the right foot with the whole Zach Greinke fiasco. During spring training, we found out that he suffered a broken rib playing basketball.  He was on the disabled list for 43 days and cost the Brewers almost a full WARP (.9526). That was by far the highest level on the Brewers. It’s higher than Manny Parra (back & elbow: .5745), higher than Rickie Weeks (ankle: .7237), higher than Corey Hart (oblique: .3116), and higher than all of Ryan Braun’s troubles (calf: .3663). When you consider the TAWL/games rate, he’s a very close second to Braun: .0366 to .0340.

Would it have made a lick of difference in the divisional standings? Absolutely not. Milwaukee won the division by 6 games, so even though the Brewers were 15th overall in terms of TAWL lost, those four games would not have made a difference.

St. Louis Cardinals

Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL):6.42
Number of DL trips (Days): 17 (905)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 60 (1001)

St. Louis Cardinal fans, you should be even prouder than you already are. St. Louis ranked 26th (4th worst) in terms of TAWL, and this is despite a likely underestimation of Wainwright’s 2.82 TAWL for the 2011 season, which seems low by the sniff test alone. Of greater import, however, is the comparison to other players’ TAWL. Only Josh Johnson would have a higher TAWL by .03, and no hitters had a higher TAWL, so clearly Wainwright’s loss was a significant one.

Looking closer, the Cardinals still had a difficult run. Assume that Wainwright was healthy and had a completely neutral season, and they still would have lost almost as much as the Brewers did as a team. Matt Holiday’s injuries (appendix, finger, thigh: 1.07) and Albert Pujols (broken forearm: .6637) made up over 25 percent of the TAWL for the Cardinals.  The playing time musical chairs with the injuries surely played an even greater role than can be shown here.

Somehow, though, the Cardinals were able to overcome the injuries and still win the World Series. That’s the beautiful thing about baseball; despite everything going wrong from a physical standpoint, you can still end up champions of the world.

See you next week with the NL East!

You can find all individual team and TAWL rankings here.

Corey Dawkins is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Corey's other articles. You can contact Corey by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Shoulder,  Fractured Ankle

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