Running a Yellow Light
Will Carroll, BP's staff writer focusing on team health had this very interesting recent quote, from his "Cubs Team Health Report":
Age is a poor predictor of injuries. Younger players get hurt more, but they heal more quickly. Older players get hurt less, a variant of the survivor effect, but heal more slowly.
The media that follows baseball does it's best to understand and decipher sports injuries. It's a tough job for them and much gets lost in translation of medical terminology. Injured athletes often don't understand what they are being told about an injury or they are just afraid to fess up that their ache might be a significant problem until it goes on for weeks or longer. Trainers and medical staff are often reluctant to discuss information on the grounds of patient-physician confidentiality and some teams are just less open to giving what information they have to the media. The information is important to us fans, since key players dealing with even minor injuries and not performing to their best ability can drastically affect how a team plays. In 2009, Alphonso Soriano apparently had a knee injury that he tried to work through until it was so obvious that he couldn't run, leading to his arthroscopic knee surgery in September. An injury that flies under the radar screen of the medical staff, as in Soriano's case was costly and not in a way you can put the usual "days lost" analysis to.
It's one thing for a player to communicate his symptoms and another for the teams medical staff to recommend diagnostic workup and treatment. No matter how you "slice" it (c'mon...it's an "Under the Knife" pun), it's still a stretch to predict the impact of injury, past and present, on the future performance of a team.
Baseball Prospectus' staff writer Will Carroll has taken on the mantle of analysis of baseball players health and attemps to put projections to the impact of a player's medical status. His regular "Under the Knife" column discusses weekly injury updates and for the last 8 years he has written spring training evaluations and projections for each club, "Team Health Reports".
The team health reports are broken down into three categories, Red (high injury risk), Yellow (moderate) and Green (low injury risk).
He also figures the injury days lost, which is a variant on what companies use to analyze their employees regarding sick days taken.
Days Lost: 687
Dollars Lost: $19,627,956.52
Injury Cost: $15,614,027.78
Although Carroll's club by club team analysis will contnue through the spring, so far one other club that made the playoffs in 2009 had worse numbers. The Angels had 873 days lost and the injury cost reported was $21.9M. On the low end for NL competitors against the Cubs, the Phillies (who's medical staff was given Carroll's "Best Medical Staff Award" last November) had 546 days lost at $8.9M cost and the Cardinals also did well, having 530 days lost at $12.2M. The Mets were clearly 2009's most injured team with 1451 days lost at a cost of $51.8M.
Carroll also presents his annual "Dick Martin" Award, given to the Best Medical staff. 2009's season award went to the Phillies. This recognition was started by Carroll in 2003 and is named after the long time Twins trainer that "helped set the standards that today's athletic trainers and doctors aspire to."
Carroll has provided a spreadsheet (downloadable link at bottom of his article), that gives in full color his red, yellow and green analysis of each team. He's only looking at the starting 8 position players (9 in the AL), 5 starters, 1 closer and 1 "key reliever".
For the Cubs the red lights are ARam, Soriano, Lilly, Guzman and Marmol. The first four are obvious inclusions on this list. Aramis' shoulder dislocaton, Soriano's knee surgery, Lilly's shoulder surgery and Guzman's perennial shoulder problems plus his Jaunary knee scope clearly warrant Red Light status. Marmol's Red is most likely based on mechanics as he doesn't have an injury history and if he sticks as closer he will probably have fewer two inning outings.
The yellow lights seem to be given because of DL time last season with the expectations that their injury problems have resolved. This group includes: Soto, Zambrano, DLee and Dempster. He mumbles something about pitchers who were converted catchers breaking down regarding Randy Wells, so this might be a part of his giving Marmol a red light too. Marlon Byrd gets a yellow for being old and not handling a starters load well in the past.
...by the way, Kerry Wood is now a Yellow light! Woo. Carlos Silva (not rated), if he was rated would get a red light. I read a comment on TCR that said if Silva ever needed surgery, he would bleed gravy.
The green lights go to Fontenot, Theriot, Fukudome and Gorzellany. Heaven help them.
Carroll's summary on the Cubs future health and a comment on why the Cubs medical staff has been hard to analyze:
The Cubs took on players with known problems or extended players that were already risky. That makes it nearly impossible to tell how good the medical staff might be. If nothing else, they've stabilized things since the problems of the last decade and kept things nearer average than I'd have expected over the last three years. The next three years will be a bigger challenge.
Looking at the NL, the "healthiest" projected teams are the Brewers (1 red- Rickie Weeks) and the Phillies (1 red-Jamie Moyer). Carroll still tags the Mets health as the most in question with 7 Red Lights (Hank White, Luis Castillo, Reyes, Beltran, Maine, Niese and K-Rod). Next in line are the Dodgers and Reds with 6 Red Light players.
On the Green side, the Angels lead the majors with 11 and the Phillies and Brewers lead the NL with 8. The team with the fewest Greens, the Astros with 3.