1B Phil Nevin: Outside of a knee scope mid-season, Nevin had a relatively healthy year. His shoulders were no problem and his back stayed quiet, allowing his slugging to return. If he can keep his temper under better control, he’ll likely do the same in ’05, staying productive while managing inevitable minor injuries.
2B Mark Loretta: The only real worry here is his tendency to be hit by pitches and then miss games. Loretta isn’t a typical mid-thirties middle infielder and he hasn’t taken the abuse most have.
3B Sean Burroughs: Knee and shoulder problems were blamed for his results in 2004. Don’t believe it. The shoulder problems were minor and the knee problems were simple. He’s just got no power and health has nothing to do with it.
LF Ryan Klesko: Klesko is already into the cycle of pain in his throwing shoulder. He’ll only have the ability to take so much pain and so many cortisone shots before he heads under the knife or calls it a career. Don’t expect the power to return.
CF Dave Roberts: 33-year-old speed guys don’t do well in the system. Roberts has never had serious leg problems, making him an exception to the pattern. No reason to think he’ll have problems now, even under an increased workload.
RF Brian Giles: Fading mesomorphic outfielders don’t age well. They tend to break down, usually knees and backs breaking down first as their power is sapped. He can only hope the breakdown happens after he signs a new contract.
UT Xavier Nady: He’s healthy. If I may suggest an appropriate sacrifice to Jobu, I’d avoid the newfangled spiced rums.
SP Jake Peavy: I hesitate to suggest a four-man rotation for this team because of the other likely three men. Peavy, on the other hand, could become Jim Palmer if given 40 starts. He gave up his slider after his DL stint last season and seems to be getting better and stronger without it. He’s flagged as yellow based on that injury and his age. Of course, his results at that age are why he may be the best pitcher in the NL this season.
SP Brian Lawrence: Overworked a bit last season, it seemed to help his sinker some. He’s a perfect number-three or -four starter. Unfortunately, he’s the number-two here.
SP Woody Williams: There was a bit of a comedown from his amazing 2003. The innings seemed to catch up to him, he seemed very hittable late in the season, and his velocity is off in spring so far. There’s a dropoff ahead.
SP Adam Eaton
SP Darrell May
SP Tim Stauffer: He gets points for honesty, signing for nearly two million bucks less than originally offered after it was discovered he had some shoulder problems. That makes me want to root for him a bit more. The shoulder has been no problem so far, so maybe karma does count. He remains young and he was worked hard in 2004.
CL Trevor Hoffman: Hoffman had a red light last season, coming off shoulder surgery. I didn’t like it and he held up as I had expected. His yellow light this year is similar. I don’t like it and really need to get something about pitch efficiency in the system next year.
The Padres have been mediocre for the better part of a decade, both on the field and in the training room. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We’re still determining many things when it comes to injury statistics, learning to adjust for age, position, and a hundred other factors. Right now, much of it looks random and we call it “luck.” While I don’t doubt luck plays some role, I hate giving it more credit than it’s due. Medical staffs are made up of hard working, well-educated professionals doing all they can. They live and die by the results and saying that it all comes down to luck does them a disservice.
So what can we say about a team like the Padres that floats along, hovering near the middle of most three- and five-year statistics for both DL days and adjusted dollars lost? It’s not that they have good luck or bad luck; that happens for every team. It just doesn’t appear that they can significantly change what we’re left calling luck. That means that their statistics show a lot more variance, that they seem no better or worse at preventing injuries than would be expected by any team, and that, in essence, they have no advantage or disadvantage in any given year.
They are, however, more susceptible to one bad injury messing up their year. In 2003, Phil Nevin and Ryan Klesko stayed on the DL for much of the season, while others took the normal nicks and bruises of a long baseball season. Last year, they didn’t have quite the major injuries, giving them more of a boost. You could say about any team that if they stay healthy, they’ll have a better shot of winning. What you can also say about the Padres is that they’re more reliant on the capricious nature of injuries than most teams.
It should also be noted that, especially in this luck-fueled condition, the team needs to be more careful about the type of players it has and the backups available. Players like Xavier Nady or Eric Young, who can play multiple positions, will have increased value. Having injury-prone players as a major portion of the offense is also a riskier proposition, one that Kevin Towers will need to address shortly.