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March 25, 2009

Team Health Reports

Boston Red Sox

by Will Carroll

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Team Health Reports

Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart

Head Trainer: Paul Lessard
Days Lost: 715
Dollars Lost: $24.9 million
Injury Cost: $28.6 million

Trend: Positive. Take out Curt Schilling and the Sox go from mid-pack to near the top of the charts, where you'd expect one of the more advanced medical teams to be. Lessard and Mike Reinold are widely considered to be the most research-oriented trainers, no surprise given Reinold's time spent at Kevin Wilk's and Jim Andrews' facilities. Their work on pitchers' shoulders has kept Jonathon Papelbon and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the mound and effective despite some concerns. Add in their work at transitioning young pitchers into the rotation, and you might wonder why they're not rated higher; if there was an adjustment for accepted risk, they might be. The Sox front office is willing to take on players like Brad Penny, John Smoltz, and J.D. Drew because they know they've got an ace in the hole down in the training room. That kind of accepted risk is more likely to get them a World Series ring than a Dick Martin Award, but I think they're OK with that.

The Shape of the Season:


The Big Question: Peter Gammons of ESPN asks: "The biggest question for the Red Sox may be the health of David Ortiz. Is he the uber-force he was from 2005-2007? He has had knee, wrist, and shoulder problems the last two years, and while he has worked hard on his conditioning, the difference between a 30-homer and 50-homer hitter is significant. As for who hits behind him-in September 2006 and 2007 combined, he had the best OPS in baseball, and Manny Ramirez batted behind him [only a handful] of times. If Big Papi isn't the Big Papi of old, they may have to go acquire another bat."

The danger of asking some of the best writers in the business for a health question is that they often ask it in such a way that I'm left with almost nothing to add as an answer, but Ortiz is definitely a concern for precisely the reasons that Gammons states here. Wrist and hand injuries do sap power as players recover, but let's go back to what was actually wrong with Ortiz. He had a torn tendon sheath, which sounds better than a torn tendon, but remember that the other player to have this last year was Nick Johnson. Ortiz was affected by this in two ways-physically, he had a 'click' whenever he moved his wrist, and mentally, he had to be aware about the types of movements that would make the problem worse. Yogi Berra once said that you can't think and hit at the same time, which is what Ortiz was trying to do. With wrist and hand injuries, we first look for the return of bat control, and then a return of power. Signs are positive so far in spring training, but they bear further watching.

Fantasy Tip: Fantasy owners everywhere wish they were Theo Epstein, so why not just follow his strategy? The Sox media footprint makes almost all Sox players overpriced, especially the valuable ones like Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. It's hard to find fair value, let alone any bargains, and while everyone says they want to be Theo, few are willing to take the kinds of risks that he does. The options at the back end of the rotation-Brad Penny, John Smoltz, and to some extent Clay Buchholz-come with uncertainty, but could easily be parlayed into a cheap winner, especially if you stash them on the DL or reserve. Injuries could push Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew down into profitable spots, but again, few people show the risk acceptance that Epstein's Sox do. It's a lesson worth noting.

SS Jed Lowrie: Red light Lowrie's failings down the stretch don't match Julio Lugo's (red), but there's debate over whether it was caused by the hand, the fatigue of the long season, or both. If it was the hand, look for a quick uptick in his contact rate and in his value.

3B Mike Lowell: Red light No one seems to have as much confidence in Lowell's ability to come back from hip surgery as they do in Chase Utley or Alex Rodriguez. He's a few years older, sure, and has a thicker file in the doctor's office, but neither of those two have come back from the kinds of injuries that Lowell has. I think people are underestimating him. Remember, an older player who can hit but not run often begins hitting more homers.

C Jason Varitek: Red light Even his supporters stopped mentioning "intangibles" after they saw that his bat speed was gone in the playoffs. It's only gotten worse this spring; he's hitting under .100 and looks bad doing it. Barry Larkin might call it a "quality .091," but Varitek just looks done. The interesting thing here is that I'm not really sure this rating is warranted. The attrition that pushes him over to red is likely just the end of his career.

RF J.D. Drew: Red light If I were the sentimental type, Drew would be inducted into the UTK Hall of Fame. He's actually more durable than most people think, and the pairing of Drew and Rocco Baldelli (red) is inspired health-platooning. He'll miss some time, but he'll also play solid ball for 120-130 games.

DH David Ortiz: Red light See today's Big Question.

SP Josh Beckett: Red light Oblique and back problems left him hittable last season, but he's been anything but hittable this spring. Beckett's looking good, and if I said that he's heading into a stretch where he'll be the Chipper Jones of pitching, is that a compliment?

SP Tim Wakefield: Red light Even cowgirls get the blues, and even knucklers get sore.

SP Clay Buchholz: Red light Buchholz is here because Brad Penny (red) and John Smoltz (red) are known quantities from a health standpoint. Buchholz is the more interesting proposition given his age and upside. Many blame his poor performance on a lack of confidence, while others point to a shift in his arm angle pushed by the Red Sox. This spring he's had good command, but workload expectations make him red. The Sox have plenty of options, so expect to see him get nowhere close to the danger zone.

2B Dustin Pedroia: Yellow light Remember when scouts said that Pedroia wasn't big enough to play the game? That's all in the past now, but everyone agrees that Pedroia isn't the most physically gifted guy out there; he's hardly a David Eckstein-type hustle player, but he's closer than a lot of people realize. One look at his body will remind you that conditioning could become an issue. He's precisely the kind of player who could be made very ordinary, very quickly, by any kind of injury.

LF Jason Bay: Yellow light Bay's knees get him to yellow, though he's been fine since coming back, and better than fine since coming to Boston.

CF Jacoby Ellsbury: Yellow light Front office contacts that I spoke with think that not having Coco Crisp around will increase Ellsbury's confidence. Hardly anyone knew about his tailbone injury last year, and that altered gait might explain his late-season quad strain.

SP Jon Lester: Yellow light Ignore this. Just ignore it. Yes, he had a big innings increase, but the fact that he was coming back from cancer in 2007 changes everything. He looks like a 200-inning monster who could be the Sox ace as soon as this year.

CL Jonathan Papelbon: Yellow light The Sox do a great job of keeping him healthy, but that shoulder issue is still there. The Sox staff stays ahead of it, but it only takes one wrong move.

1B Kevin Youkilis Green light

SP Daisuke Matsuzaka: Green light Anyone thinking that the Sox overpaid now? He's only getting better.

RP Justin Masterson: Green light Masterson as a starter is just over the yellow threshold, but he's shown that he can be flexible without any significant negatives.

Related Content:  Brad Penny,  The Who,  Big Papi

17 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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The winter fas - Penny, Smoltz, Saito - all must be red but Oki - yellow, the remaining Manny - green, and the remaining Ramirez - red? Thank you, Tom

Mar 25, 2009 09:17 AM
rating: -6
Matt Kory

"One look at his body will remind you that conditioning could become an issue."

I'm not sure I understand what this means. I clicked on the link which is a basically home video quality of a dancing shirtless Dustin Pedroia. He could be ripped or flabby, but its impossible to see in the video. I know that Pedroia is renowned for attending the Athlete's Performance Institute in Arizona each winter and for being a hard worker. Can you please clarify, Will? Thanks.

Mar 25, 2009 09:39 AM
rating: 0

The video is not clear, but if it was, you'd probably be just as confused. He's certainly not ripped, but he's not a Placido Polanco body type either. Obviously no one is a bigger believer in his work out regiment than Dustin Pedroia, but all reports point to a very solid work effort, and a track record of out performing expectations since his days in Arizona. My guess is he will be doubted throughout his career due to his size and stature, well at least until he can't play well anymore, then Joe Morgan will rave about his skill and ability.

Mar 25, 2009 12:04 PM
rating: 2

"SP Daisuke Matsuzaka: Anyone thinking that the Sox overpaid now? He's only getting better."

I do!

"He's only getting better" is an interesting analysis considering his *90th* percentile PECOTA projection still has his ERA increasing (to 3.26), while his weighted mean puts it at 4.45. His walks shot up last year, his K's were down, and he was extremely lucky. But he did have a good WBC....

Is it just me or is BP flirting a lot more with objective analysis then it used to?

Mar 25, 2009 09:54 AM
rating: 1

D'oh. subjective* is what I meant.

Mar 25, 2009 09:56 AM
rating: 0
Matt Kory

Will might be, at least in this one instance, but I'm not sure he is a proxy for all of BP.

Mar 25, 2009 10:06 AM
rating: 0

Does Pedroia’s max effort type of swing make him more susceptible to ab and oblique stains/pulls? Thanks, Tom

Mar 25, 2009 09:58 AM
rating: 0

I'm not sure why we should ignore the ramp-up in IP for Lester. No matter what the reason was for his jump in innings, his body still had to endure something it hadn't in previous years. So why should we be giving him a special allowance?

Mar 25, 2009 10:10 AM
rating: 0
Matt Kory

I would would be interested to hear Will's reasoning as well.

Mar 25, 2009 10:17 AM
rating: 0

Will answered this in today's chat for those interested, sixth question. http://www.baseballprospectus.com/chat/chat.php?chatId=582

Mar 25, 2009 10:26 AM
rating: 1
Drew Miller

"Remember, an older player who can hit but not run often begins hitting more homers."

I haven't heard this before. It makes some logical sense, but is there analysis to prove it?

Mar 25, 2009 10:46 AM
rating: 1
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Yes. Clay Davenport did some stuff on it back in ... gosh 2004? It was around the Winter Meetings in Anaheim and it made it into an op-ed I did for the NY Times.

Mar 25, 2009 11:45 AM
Drew Miller

Thanks Will. Is there a link to the data?

Mar 25, 2009 12:16 PM
rating: 0

even if true, the only problem with this analysis is that Lowell lost his speed long ago and has been hitting homers for a long time.

PECOTA damns any player on Lowell's side of 30 and to come up with this retort to project some improvement for Lowell is a rose-colored stretch.

Mar 25, 2009 13:11 PM
rating: 1

there have been a lot of comments lately with some sort of outraged tone claiming there's some sort of BP 'consensus' that the writer is issuing and that it's at odds with what the commenter feels should be BP 'consensus'

just chill the f#@#$ out already. the writers don't run everything through some mainframe that judges whether it fits some particular paradigm. They're writers, expressing their own ideas. Sure, they have been assembled by like minded people and write for a like minded audience. They're also human baseball fans, just like us and it's their INDIVIDUAL talents and voices that make this site what it is. No one comment or article reflects some massive shift in BP philosophy or policy and those philosophies aren't written in as hard a stone as many of the commenters seem to think. Stop being so touchy!

Sorry, Lefko - your comment pushed me over the edge to which other far more egregious comments pushed me.

Mar 25, 2009 10:48 AM
rating: 7

I agree - ESPN has Jayson Stark and Rob Neyer - how do you compare those two? Also - Kevin Goldstein here at BP - not a real stats guy - he comes at us from a scouting perspective - inherently subjective. BP offers us a balances perspective with parts objective and parts subjective - all parts well written and highly considered. Understand the factors, form your own opinions and judge accordingly. Which, when you think about it, is what PECOTA is designed to better equip us to do.

Mar 25, 2009 11:50 AM
rating: 3
Glenn B.

I'm all for the idea of the Under The Knife Hall of Fame. Inaugural class: JD Drew, Ken Griffey, Mike Hampton, the 2003 Marlins rotation. Special award: Dusty Baker.

Mar 26, 2009 10:28 AM
rating: 0
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