Click here for the Dodgers’ 2006 depth chart.
C Dioner Navarro: Young catchers are risky. They wear down under the workload, usually in August, unless they’re spotted out of the lineup smartly. Navarro is already dealing with hamstring problems.
1B Nomar Garciaparra / Hee Seop Choi: Garciaparra looked healthy after groin/hernia surgery. Moving to first should protect him, though his injuries have always come while at the plate, not in the field. Expect something of a comeback health-wise, though he’s likely to have one or two short stints on the DL. Choi’s a good match with Garciaparra–they do different things well, though they share an injury history. Choi has a habit of running into people (Kerry Wood, Scott Rolen).
2B Jeff Kent: Age has to catch up at some point, right? A possible move to first or third complicates the picture once Izturis returns this summer. For his health, you’d rather see him going to his left.
3B Bill Mueller: This is a very low yellow. Most of Mueller’s problems relate to his broken leg and the attempts to recover from it. There’s a lot of cascade in Mueller’s history.
SS Rafael Furcal: One hammy strain away from making the Dodgers glad that his deal was only for three years. Players of this type don’t age well and the knee seems to be healing slowly.
LF Jose Cruz Jr.: It’s nothing major, but he does always seem to have something happen to him.
CF Kenny Lofton: Old speed players are an odd set. There are so few of them that it’s hard to learn much of anything. Lofton might have been compared to Rickey Henderson at some point and seems to be trying to beat his longevity, if nothing else.
RF J.D. Drew: Meet Mr. Red Light. There’s no truth to the rumor that Drew’s mom’s maiden name is Price. The wrist injury last season was traumatic, so it’s not as bad as it seems, but history does mean something.
SUB Cesar Izturis: When Frank Jobe says your Tommy John surgery was special, you don’t throw a party. Izturis had other issues inside the elbow that had apparently been caused from an injury he suffered as a youth. He’ll be back at the ASB and figures to move to 2B, shuffling the infield as well as protecting his elbow from long throws. There’s no reason to think he won’t succeed.
SP Derek Lowe
SP Odalis Perez: Perez has this odd tendency to get hurt when the people around him get hurt. Peer pressure?
SP Brett Tomko
SP Jae Seo
CL Eric Gagne: Gagne’s elbow is both the hope and the fear of every Dodger fan. After skipping the WBC, Gagne is still an unknown. Will he have the same velocity, which he needs to make that strange changeup work? He’s bringing back a wider variety of pitches this spring, suggesting his raw stuff might need the help. His usage patterns are key. Ask anyone in Boston how they think the new manager will do in this area.
RP Danys Baez
The Dodgers simply have to get better.
Much of what people thought was a failing team was simply the result of an unexpected run of injuries not seen since the Black Death of the 14th century. Tom Gorman’s great essay in BP 2006 starts to give us some math on just how much these injuries cost the team in 2005, but does it tell us anything for 2006?
There are a couple intertwined theories that will come to bear on the Dodgers this season. The first–and most obvious–concerns the rebound effect. If the injuries last season were actually just bad luck, then some significant natural correction might come this season. The data for injuries doesn’t show this, though. Teams that have bad luck might not have as much bad luck the following year, but they don’t often travel to the opposite end of the DL days chart. They go where their medical staff takes them; in this case, the Dodgers are better than average.
The second theory is that unrelated traumatic injuries are no fault of the team and tend to balance out. Again, the numbers we have don’t seem to show this. Some traumatic injuries are simple accidents while others are the result of things we don’t necessarily see, such as preparation, conditioning, and the proper selection of players. The fact that J.D. Drew ended the season on the DL seems to be a negative but even the most injury-prone player can’t have an HBP held against him.
The final theory is that player risk is completely individual, especially given the amount of turnover. 2005 has little to do with 2006 in total, though there are certainly overlaps. Adding players like Nomar Garciaparra, Bill Mueller, and Rafael Furcal doesn’t necessarily reduce injury risk overall, but making them wear Dodger blue is neither an inherent positive or negative.
The Dodgers head into 2006 a different team than the one that DLed itself out of a playoff spot last season. Still, the NL West seems to once again be a division that could be won by the team that logs the fewest DL days, or at least the least costly DL days. Another season like 2005 and longtime trainer Stan Johnston might start thinking about riding off into the sunset.
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