The Summary: Even three years later, almost everything in the injury stats for the Marlins can be traced back to Joe Girardi. Girardi’s ring was paid for with the experience the skipper had abusing young pitchers during his Marlins tenure. While Josh Johnson has come all the way back, the same can’t be said for almost everyone else. Luckily, the team not only stays cheap, they focus on quantity, which has saved them many times. A combination of solid scouting, development, and an understanding that avoiding replacement level for the right value has been a key part of the team’s success. The medical staff hasn’t had much of a chance to shine, though they certainly deserve some of the blame for falling down on the prevention watch. The Marlins also serve as a reminder that young players actually get hurt more than old ones. They just heal faster.
Days Lost: 804
Dollars Lost: $3,501,929.35
Injury Cost: $6,957,916.67
The Cost: Injuries only cost the Marlins $3.5 million last year and $11.4 million the last three years. That’s money the Marlins could have used to hold onto Josh Willingham. The money they saved on injuries could even go toward keeping Dan Uggla in South Florida for a little while longer. It may have even helped the Marlins lock in young ace Josh Johnson into a long-term deal. Seeing how the Marlins are never a big free-agent spender, most of the money saved could go toward keeping their own players.
The Big Risk: Anyone remember Alejandro de Aza? How about Chuck Carr? The Marlins have gone most of their franchise’s existence without a real center fielder. When they’ve had one-like a declining Devon White or a rising Juan Pierre-the results have been pretty good. Like World Series ring good. Without them, well, that’s when you get this kind of picture. Cameron Maybin could be the piece missing for the Marlins as they try to build around Hanley Ramirez heading into a new stadium. With pressure to spend, a nice John Hart-style contract could be in the offing for a healthy Maybin. Maybin showed flashes of his potential late last season, but he ended 2009 with surgery on his labrum. This is similar to what Hanley Ramirez has gone through, so there’s experience here for the team, but it’s also similar to what we saw a more similar player have: B.J. Upton. Maybin doesn’t have the power upside, so it shouldn’t affect him the same way, and despite the Rays having a much better health record, I’ll take the Ramirez comp here.
The Comeback: Trading Josh Beckett has already worked out pretty well for the Marlins. (The Red Sox didn’t do so badly, either.) There might be a clear winner if Anibal Sanchez hadn’t had his shoulder shredded. Still, we’re seeing that some players are starting to make it back from labrum surgery, and Sanchez could be one of them. He doesn’t rely solely on velocity, though that came back some in ’09. He’s not likely to be the next Chris Carpenter, but he’s also still cheap and still has some upside. Time, it seems, is the best healer of labrum tears. It takes two years before we know whether or not a pitcher is still a pitcher. Signs are good for Sanchez, though the risk is still massive.
The Trend: The Marlins don’t spend much on players, so they can’t lose much. In relative terms, they always look good on the dollars, so injury cost is a metric almost built for them. There, they’re pretty darn good as well. Days is where they really shine, if by shine you mean “the lower part of mid-pack.” They’re never bad, but they’re never great. Like most of their seasons, they’re good enough to be good enough, but they’re seldom mentioned with the elite teams or contenders. They’re likely to be there again, but how they handle the young, risky pitching staff will determine whether they have a contender when that fancy new ballpark is ready.
C John Baker: The story is cliche-the backup catcher gets a chance to be the top guy, and he does pretty well, but he wears down and shows some injuries. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just… well, typical. Baker’s hand and back injuries aren’t indicative of much besides his chosen career, but it also reminds us that he probably won’t stay healthy as a real starting catcher and needs a solid backup to make sure he doesn’t get much more than 350 PA. The Marlins seem to grasp this.
CF Cameron Maybin: See The Big Risk.
SP Anibal Sanchez: See The Comeback.
SP Sean West: Forced up by injury, West did okay as a rookie. The problem is that he’s facing a major innings increase. To protect him, the Marlins would need to do to someone else what they did to West. They have a lot of guys who could spot start, such as Burke Badenhop or even Chris Volstad, so you’d think this wouldn’t be an issue. Of course, the Marlins could also let the tall lefty start the year in the minors and make this innings increase moot.
SS Hanley Ramirez: Ramirez is kind of like Albert Pujols Lite, playing a premium defensive position. He’s also like Pujols in that he’s really never been healthy, making you wonder what he might do if he could just have that one healthy season. He played last season with a hamstring that always seemed ready to go, forcing the Marlins to put a brake on his running. It also took away some power, turning some homers into doubles. When healthy, he’s as good as they come. When not healthy, he’s still pretty good. Watch to see if the Fish let him loose on the basepaths in spring training for some indication of what he’ll do in ’10.
LF Chris Coghlan: Coghlan’s a bit of an oddball here. There’s some risk-built in to this rating-that he moves back to second base. If so, his risk goes up, but he probably shouldn’t get hit with the position change increase. Then again, he played a new position in the bigs and did it well enough to win the Rookie of the Year Award. I honestly don’t like this ranking.
SP Josh Johnson: People act surprised that Johnson came back and was good. It was Tommy John surgery, people. He’s barely a yellow, with only the big jump in innings getting him there.
SP Ricky Nolasco: Forget Brian Bannister. It’s Nolasco that saberkids love. His K rate actually went up as every other number went down. Well, his ERA went up, but that’s not a good thing. (I know, I know… SIERA likes him too.) PIPP doesn’t like that he bounced off a 200-inning season, but it doesn’t know that the minor-league stint was off effectiveness, not injury. I don’t like that he bounced off it as well and I think that the disconnect on Nolasco will stay disconnected.
SP Rick VandenHurk: Oh look, a young pitcher who’s facing what appears to be a big innings increase. It’s risky to be sure, but Blyleven’s protege isn’t your normal young guy. I’m not sure if a guy with four, maybe five pitches is any more or less risky, but it’s fun to see.
RP Dan Meyer: Could the Athletics not imagine using the lefty as a set-up guy, or could they just not keep him healthy? My guess is a bit of both, which sure helps the Marlins. He’s a very low yellow, mostly on his injury history as a starter.
2B Dan Uggla: Uggla just hasn’t seemed the same since his terrible performance in the All-Star Game a couple years back. A lot of people want to blame an injury or the night before, but there’s no evidence there has been anything physically wrong with him.
RF Cody Ross: Ross ended the season missing time after getting plunked on the wrist. There was no DL at that point and some rumor that Ross had broken the wrist. The Marlins denied this, and Ross was hitting early enough that it would seem to be true. He’s a high green (close to yellow) and a wrist injury that’s more serious would have pushed him very near red.
CL Leo Nunez