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November 14, 2011
The Season in Injuries: NL East
Division: National League East
WARP lost Divisional Ranking (Overall Ranks—Best to worst):
As you can see from the divisional rankings, the NL East was seriously hurting last year. The healthiest team in the NL East was the Nationals at 16th overall, and the Nats were not even that good at keeping important players in uniform. We knew that Stephen Strasburg was going to miss all or most of 2011, but other injuries surprised us. Ryan Zimmerman, arguably the most important player on the Nationals roster, ended up missing over 60 games, largely because of his abdominal surgery. This cost the Nationals 1.46 TAWL alone, close to the team totals of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Astros.
That’s not all. Some believed that Adam LaRoche would not have an impact for the Nationals if he remained healthy, but his shoulder injury and subsequent surgery cost them 1.07 TAWL, more than people might have assumed. The player who lost the most WARP per game missed was Jayson Werth. His 0.027 WARP/game lost was slightly higher than Ryan Zimmerman’s 0.023. Strasburg’s absence almost certainly cost the Nationals more than the 0.725 TAWL that was projected.
Braves fans would have a legitimate gripe about how injuries cost them a shot at the playoffs if the Cardinals hadn’t been so beat up themselves. Atlanta was different than everyone else we have covered so far in that there wasn’t one particular injury that took up the majority of the team’s TAWL. No single injury cost the Braves more than 18 percent of their TAWL, impressive when you consider the injuries this team endured. They lost the highly talented Tommy Hanson for over a third of the season between his multiple bouts of shoulder issues. He cost the Braves the most, accounting for 17.1 percent of the team TAWL. Jair Jurrjens was not too far behind. His knee troubles cost him 57 games and 0.68 WARP, good for 13.3 percent. Two other key pitching injuries, Kris Medlen (Tommy John recovery) and Peter Moylan (back surgery and shoulder surgery) cost the team 0.65 (12.6 percent) and 0.27 (5.3 percent) TAWL, respectively.
Pitchers were not the only ones injured on the team, of course. Nate McLouth had the highest WARP lost among the Braves’ hitters at 0.55. Martin Prado’s leg infection cost him 0.44 WARP. Brian McCann, the most important player on a WARP/game basis, was injured for 16 games with a strained oblique and lost 0.41 WARP. Chipper Jones’ knee surgery (0.36) and Jason Heyward’s shoulder problems (0.26) also contributed to Atlanta’s 19th-ranked TAWL. Considering the roster that the Braves have, their ranking is unlikely to change significantly for 2012.
Not many teams start off the season knowing that arguably their best position player could be on the shelf for some time. Chase Utley ended up missing most of his time at the beginning of the year, when he was trying to get through chronic patellar tendon issues. This cost him 61 days early in the season, as well as the majority of his 1.5 WARP lost. No one else came close to losing as much as Utley, but Shane Victorino (thumb sprain, hamstring) did surrender 0.62 WARP over the course of 28 games lost. Placido Polanco dealt with a lumbar spine bulging disc as well as a sports hernia throughout the year. He eventually underwent off-season surgery for the hernias, but that didn’t recover the 0.47 WARP he lost throughout the year.
The real strength of the team was the starting pitching staff. The top pitchers remained healthy, but Roy Oswalt, Joe Blanton, and Cole Hamels did miss time. Oswalt was on the disabled list a few times because of complications from a bulging disc in his low back and ended up losing 0.93 WARP on the year. Hamels’ issue was shoulder inflammation, but he underwent surgery in the offseason for loose bodies in the elbow. The elbow didn’t cause him to miss any time throughout the year, but the shoulder cost him 0.26 WARP. Joe Blanton missed the majority of the year with elbow problems and lost 0.44 WARP.
As with many teams, there were more than a few relievers who got hurt. The headliners for injured relievers were Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras. These two injured the two areas of the body that no pitcher wants to injure: the shoulder and the elbow. Lidge’s shoulder issues didn’t affect the team as much as one might think; he only lost 0.09 WARP. Contreras’ injury, however, cost 0.89 WARP.
The Marlins’ injury situation this year exemplified how one or two key injuries can really hamstring a team. Overall, the Marlins ranked 6th in terms of number of moves to the disabled list in 2011, yet they ranked 27th in TAWL. Key injuries to Josh Johnson (2.85) and Hanley Ramirez (1.60) cost the Marlins more than 65 percent of their team TAWL. Ramirez’s shoulder dislocation was an acute episode and therefore could not have affected his play before his injury, but Johnson’s shoulder issues certainly could have.
The remainder of the injuries contributed the other 35 percent of the TAWL and included Chris Coghlan’s knee issues, John Baker’s recovery from Tommy John surgery, Logan Morrison’s foot sprain, Donnie Murphy’s wrist strain, Clay Hensley’s shoulder fracture and sprain, and Ryan Webb’s shoulder inflammation. All of these injuries put together did not equal the effect of Johnson’s injury, which is also an indictment of the talent surrounding Johnson and Ramirez. Unless the Marlins land a prized free agent, this is unlikely to change in 2012.
New York Mets
Where do we begin? The Mets ranked 29th in TAWL, 21st in both number of DL trips and number of DL+DTD trips, and finally, dead last in the number of days missed for both. Summing up, they were bad all around from a medical perspective (shocking, we know). Johan Santana missed the entire year as he recovered from surgery on the anterior capsule in his shoulder. He lost about 2.48 WARP, which was only 30 percent of the team total. Chris Young had the same surgery that Santana did and ended up missing almost the entire year and almost 0.5 WARP. The rest of the pitching injuries did not affect the final TAWL total significantly.
The hitters’ health was worse. David Wright’s two-month absence due to a lower back stress fracture cost him 1.22 WARP, while Ike Davis’ tortured rehabilitation cost him almost as much. Jose Reyes’ hamstring troubles resurfaced, costing him 0.57 WARP in the process. His 0.020 WARP lost/game was second only to Wright’s .021. Jason Bay started off the season on the disabled list with a strained oblique and then had several nuisance injuries throughout the rest of the season. Those ailments cost him 0.49 WARP. Angel Pagan’s rib stress fracture caused him to forfeit 0.65 WARP.
All told, the Mets had a higher TAWL than all but one team, and at times it showed on the field. In the next few weeks, we’ll discuss the American League and the surprising team that was affected most by injuries in 2011.
Corey Dawkins is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @CoreyDawkinsBP