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November 12, 2012

Collateral Damage

2012 Year-End Injury Summary: AL Central

by Corey Dawkins and Stephani Bee

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The American League Central is the healthiest division in baseball. This hasn’t always been the case, but the White Sox are consistently near the top of the health charts. However, Chicago’s rivals are now starting to give it a run for its money.

Division: American League Central

WARP lost Divisional Ranking (Overall Ranks—Best to worst):

  1. Cleveland Indians (4)
  2. Chicago White Sox (8)
  3. Minnesota Twins (9)
  4. Kansas City Royals (14)
  5. Detroit Tigers (22)

Cleveland Indians
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 1.64
Number of DL trips (Days): 13 (880)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 32 (948)

Per its fourth-place TAWL ranking, the Cleveland Indians were the AL Central’s best at keeping key players relatively healthy. The club managed to use only 13 DL trips, which was fifth in the majors. The Indians ranked 14th when factoring in the days lost, though, indicating there were more long-term injuries.

Travis Hafner cost the Indians lineup the most TAWL in 2012. Hafner had surgery for a torn meniscus, and contemplated surgery for a bulging disc. In total, Hafner missed 78 games, which led to a 0.70 TAWL, good for 42.4 percent of the team’s total. Jack Hannahan missed 28 games as a result of low back soreness and a calf strain, worth 0.21 TAWL, or 13.2 percent.

Carlos Santana is clearly one of, if not the most, valuable players on the team, so when he missed 12 team games for a concussion and low back soreness, he racked up a 0.20 TAWL. The same goes for Shin-Soo Choo who only missed six team games because of his tight left hamstring but added another 0.12 TAWL and 7.5 percent to the list. Asdrubal Cabrera also missed fewer than 10 games due to injury, but he managed to accumulate more than six percent of the team TAWL. Lonnie Chisenhall’s forearm surgery caused him to miss 63 games, costing Cleveland 0.12 TAWL.

The pitchers by comparison didn’t have as many injuries, nor were they as impactful. Rafael Perez had the highest TAWL at 0.21 but missed 146 games because of a strained latissimus and sprained ankle. Ubaldo Jimenez (0.15 TAWL) missed 10 team games because of a sprained ankle, although his ineffectiveness when healthy probably contributed to how conservative he was treated. Then the only other pitching injury that had a significant effect on TAWL was Carlos Carrasco and his yearlong recovery from Tommy John Surgery, which cost the Indians 0.14 TAWL.

Chicago White Sox
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 2.49
Number of DL trips (Days): 13 (501)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 39 (571)

The White Sox are consistently recognized for having a medical staff that is excellent at preventing and dealing with injuries. That trend continued in 2012. Chicago ranked eighth overall in TAWL, but that is primarily because of John Danks’ injuries. Chicago ranked fifth overall in DL stints and first overall in days missed due to injuries.

On the hitting side of things, Paul Konerko missed 14 games with a concussion and various other dings, leading to a 0.27 TAWL, or 10.8 percent. Alejandro De Aza’s bruised ribs and other minor injuries cost him 23 games and a 0.21 TAWL.

As we mentioned earlier, John Danks’ injuries were costliest. He missed 121 games with a left shoulder injury and underwent surgery in August to address rotator cuff and capsule tears. Danks’ TAWL was 1.26, representing over 50 percent of the team’s total. Gavin Floyd produced a TAWL of 0.31 because of recurrent elbow problems, and Jesse Crain right shoulder and left oblique strains cost 45 games and a 0.23 TAWL.

Minnesota Twins
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 2.56
Number of DL trips (Days): 12 (666)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 48 (807)

Like the White Sox, the Twins’ ranking was largely due to a single pitching injury. Unlike the White Sox, however, the Twins aren’t well-known for their training staff. In 2011, the team had five players whose TAWL was greater than 1 but just one this year. They also had 27 DL stints in 2011 and just 12 in 2012. Minnesota’s players missed 666 days, which makes me think of Halloween (a couple weeks late).

Denard Span led Twins hitters with 0.31 TAWL due to his sprained sternoclavicular joint. Joe Mauer wasn’t too far behindm with a TAWL of 0.26 in half the number of games missed (26 versus 13). One key difference, which could be a big deal moving forward, is that Span’s injury was not preventable; most of Mauer’s were. Josh Willingham’s shoulder surgery cost Minnesota 0.24 TAWL.

Scott Baker’s Tommy John surgery was the costliest. He missed every game in 2012, worth 1.32 TAWL, or over 50 percent. Carl Pavano’s sprained capsule in his pitching shoulder cost him 116 team games, or 0.32 TAWL.

Kansas City Royals
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 3.08
Number of DL trips (Days): 16 (1195)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 39 (1271)

Kansas City ranked 14th overall in TAWL, but unlike their division rivals, the Royals were not particularly adept at avoiding severe injuries. They ranked third overall in the number of injuries, but they ranked 20th in days missed. Last year, Kansas City ranked in the top three across the board.

Only two Royals hitters, Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez, cost more than three percent of the team TAWL. Cain missed 98 games because of groin and hamstring strains, leading to a 0.45 TAWL. Salvador Perez lost 70 games, mostly to meniscus surgery in spring training, and racked up 0.40 TAWL.

Kansas City appeared to be Tommy John Surgery Central in 2012. Four pitchers underwent the procedure; Felipe Paulino’s was the costliest (0.89 TAWL). Joakim Soria, who missed the entire season, totaled 0.78 TAWL. Danny Duffy cost 0.31 TAWL. Blake Wood, the other Tommy John club member, missed the entire season but only had a projected TAWL of 0.03.

Detroit Tigers
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 4.74
Number of DL trips (Days): 15 (918)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 56 (1059)

In 2012, the Tigers ranked 22nd overall in TAWL and 12th in the number of DL stints with 15. They also ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of days lost.

Victor Martinez had the costliest injury, and it came during offseason conditioning. Expected to be a middle-of-the-order presence in 2012, Martinez instead missed the entire season because of microfracture surgery and another procedure to help his ACL heal. He did not have a full-blown ligament reconstruction, but Martinez cost the Tigers 1.89 TAWL, or almost 40 percent of the team’s total. Austin Jackson’s abdomen strain (0.48 TAWL) and Alex Avila’s strained hamstring (0.34 TAWL) were also costly.

The pitching staff certainly was not immune to injuries. Doug Fister led the way with strains/sprains to the ribcage and a groin strain, racking up a 0.53 TAWL, or about 11 percent. Al Alburquerque missed 123 games recovering from a December 2011 surgery to replace a screw in his elbow. This only cost the team 0.44 TAWL, though. Max Scherzer had to skip a few starts because of hamstring tightness and shoulder fatigue, which led to a TAWL of 0.41 in 24 team games.

Summary
The American League Central ranked the best overall in TAWL, DL counts, and days lost. Every single team in the division ranked in the top half of teams in terms of DL counts, and three of the five ranked in the top half in both DL stints and days lost.

In the next installment, we will look at the NL East, and we will see whose injuries were most costly on a per-game basis: Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Nate Schierholtz, or Ryan Howard.

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

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