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''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.

For the Cubs 2009:

The Facts
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. 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.


C Muskat tweets:

Angel Guzman threw 25-30 pitches from 45 feet to test his right shoulder and said he felt good. He'll throw again Monday

Blinking red light?

Nice article, Doc. Thanks!

"That's really what we need, a big left-handed hitter," one Sox person said. "They're saying Kenny would give anything to get him(Gonzalez), maybe even [Gordon] Beckham."

I'm sure Williams is thrilled that Peavy is throwing names out there.

AGonz would probably hit 30 HRs in 81 games a year at the Cell, but how could they trade Beckham for a guy who's about to break the bank?

Did Chad Fox have a red light?

and why hasn't he been signed yet?

it's like the cubs aren't even trying anymore.

You would come here in the late 80’s and people would be talking about Andy McGaffigan’s change-up and sh–. Some dude actually wondered aloud if ERA was a poor gauge of a pitcher’s value. Who gives a f*&@, dude. I’m trying to mack on some chick, and you’re talkin’ math? This isn’t school, bro. Shut up.

That one produced an honest-to-God chuckle.

Vegas for work tomorrow, then to Az for spring training on Thursday.

I'll hopefully have something to report next Sunday.

See ya!

It's March, bitches!

Speaking of spring in AZ, I've got a couple extra tickets to Sunday's home game (the 7th) that I'll sell at cost (face+handling) to a TCR reader if anyone needs some. Send a message to my TCR email.

If DLee walks, would you trade Vitters and others for one year of Ryan Howard after the 2010 season?


Just give Hoffpauir a chance, play Colvin or Soriano at 1B, or pick up someone lower profile.

Right, because Hoffpauir and Colvin are almost as good as Howard. Let's just say I respectfully disagree.

Anyways, to answer JBeasley, if all it took was Vitters and some other minor league scrub to rake Howard, hell yea. He's not my first choice but I certainly wouldn't mind 35+ homers every year.

They could re-sign Ramirez and move him to first to keep him healthy and let Vitters get a shot at 3rd.

Let me clarify then--I didn't mean to imply that any of them could approximate the on-field value of Howard:

IF the Cubs have a particularly competitive pitching rotation going into 2011.

IF the Cubs can still pass Soriano off as an outfielder.

IF Aramis is still with the team and is still playing 3B

IF Soto returns to form.

Then, yes, I trade Vitters and some other prospects for Howard. He might be a difference maker in that situation.

However, if those things are not true, I don't see him as a big enough positive impact to save a struggling club that already needs to jettison/suffer through some bad contracts (Soriano, Silva, Fukudome, Byrd). If the Cubs don't think that Howard would push them over the top for 2011, they should take on a bargain player and keep their prospects.

You all may still disagree with that, but it's not the same as saying any of those guys are just as good.

Playing Colvin at 1B would probably be a worst-case scenario if the Cubs look really awful in 2011. It would just be a way to save money and get a young guy playing time.

Colvin at 1B is one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. There are legitimate questions as to whether he can hit enough to play CF.

Not for Ryan Howard, but I would make Vitters available for a potential trade. I disagree with Charlie that the Cubs should just give Hoffpauir a chance. High payroll, consistent playoff teams don't do that. They don't fill starting spots and give at-bats to mediocre players (my apologies if I missed the sarcasm).

With a $140 million payroll, the Cubs should have several perennial all-stars in their line-up. How many do they have now? The Cubs need to change the way they build their roster if they want to be a true year-in and year-out contender.

Well....that's a good point Lou. But...I've been a Cub fan for 30 years....and I've been saying that for the last 17...since I was old enough to know any better. Why start now?

It has become an established tradition with the Cubs, but I think it's time to break that tradition.

Agreed. At least it looks like they've stopped drafting by picking the guy who looks best in a uniform.

Luckily we should be able to be perennial contenders with better management. 140 million dollar payrolls should always keep us right in the thick of it.

More player development and less NY Mets Jr. going forward.

140 million dollar payrolls should always keep us right in the thick of it.

What makes you think the Rickett's are going to maintain those payroll levels??? They went on record in the last few days saying they're not going to spend money on free agents anymore.

Face it, the Ricketts= the Wrigleys

Ricketts said he wanted to spend less on free agents. Since when is payroll solely about free agency?

It could also be pointed out that we've signed free agents since they took over.

A productive farm system is the key to being competitivie without having a $250 million payroll, and they've said that they're going to invest into that.

Explain to everyone how the Cubs payroll will maintain at $140 mil if they stop signing free agents and rely on the farm system instead.

Ryan Theriot's $40MM extension, of course. : )

But seriously, let's not freak out until they actually, I don't know, lower payroll.

Navigator, Jeter has never been a free agent and makes like $20 million per year.

Navigator, you are right about the Ricketts. It's a shame Cuban got sunk. I expect a whole lotta mediocrity from here on out. dang

I'm not so sure, guys. Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I still hold out hope that Ricketts can change the entire culture of the Cubs. So far, it doesn't look really good, but it's still very early. Once he replaces Hendry, then I think we can better judge what Ricketts has in mind.

As tWittenmyer reported this weekend,

"Our commitment -- and what Tom Ricketts I think is extremely comfortable with -- is: 'Let's spend more money on scouting and player development and get out of the free-agent business for the most part," (asst. GM) Bush said.

Spend more money on scouting and player development....what a joke. It's like he hasn't heard that Wilken and Fleita have been working together with a fat wallet (see Samardzija) for four years already.

Ricketts has only two years left of prime time from the core of this team as assembled. He should be spending the bank to fill in the remaining holes in an effort to win now.

But that's just one long-suffering, humble, and probably pathetic Cubs fan's opinion.

thanks for the quote...

"Ricketts has only two years left of prime time from the core of this team as assembled."

What core?

Everybody in the starting lineup is easily replaceable except Lee and Ramirez. Lee can play first base, an easy position, four or five more years. Ramirez is thirty-one and a half. If his days at third are numbered, I'm sure he could play left as well as Carlos Lee, Ryan Braun and the current Cub LF.

Ryan Dempster is 32 (nearing 33). Lilly is getting up into his mid-thirties. Like Lee and Soriano, he will be league-age 35 in 2011.

Lee and Lilly--that's not much of a core. A bad contract is not the same problem as a core player getting old, so I assume you're not talking about Soriano and Fukudome.

I think what was meant, is that if you look at the Cubs team at the end of this season:
1B- DLee 35 yrs old
2B- Fontenot 30 yrs old
SS- Theriot 31 yrs old(december, but still)
3B-ARam 32 yrs old
LF-Soriano 34 years old
CF-Byrd 33 yrs old
RF-Fukudome 33 years old
C- Soto 27 yrs old

This is not a team with a bunch of players entering thir prime. Replacing a player or 2 is one thing, but Lee, Soriano, Fukudome, Byrd, ARam, are all entering the late stages of their careers. Dempster will be 33, Lilly is's not like these are guys hitting their stride.

As for Lee playing 4 or 5 more years? Without HGH or steroids, really? How many 1B are playing well at age 36-39? Not too many..

Not too many, Dusty, but here are a few that I came up with.

Lee is league-age 34 this year, so four years takes him through league-age 38.

Delgado had a big year at 37. Since then, two hip surgeries.

Chipper Jones still going strong at 37 last year. Mark Grace had his last solid year at 37.

McGriff had a big year for the Cubs at 38. Thome had decent numbers last year at 38.

Galarraga had 28 HR, 100 RBI for Atlanta at 39.

Thome is a DH.
Jones was hurt last season, hit 18 HR and 71 RBI.

It can happen, but it doesn't mean I'd bank on it.

Lee's Pecota forecast has him at:

2010 21 HR 80 RBI
'11 17 & 68
'12 19 & 65
'13 12 & 41
'14 6 & 24

Top comps are Jack Fournier, George Scott and Carlos Delgado.

what was the quote about not spending on free agents exactly?

they also said they wanted to model the Red Sox, so I'm sure they'll spend if necessary.

if they run the company as a family rather than a corporation, they should be able to take any savings from one year and pump it into another season, which is fine by me. It's not hard to tell when you a good FA class is coming up or when a hole in the team or system is going to be approaching. The Trib saves anything on payroll one season and it had to go to their stockholders.


I have serious doubts that the Ricketts would come in here and undermine their investment by going "Cheap".

The lack of movement this offseason were likely more of Sailor Hendry's past corner painting spending, and less an effort to pinch penny's.

Even if payroll drops to 120ish, as long as we spend an extra 10 on Minor league development/draft/latin signings. Then I will consider them an upgrade from Tribco.

Hell, Tribco was notoriously cheap until all the empty seats in August/September of 2006.

Hell, Tribco was notoriously cheap until all the empty seats in August/September of 2006.

one of the beat writers recently claimed that Hendry was under a mandate to spend after 2006 fwiw. Can't remember the link or author though. I want to say Levine, but could be wrong.

if DLee walks, you can find a decent 1b on the FA market if needed or just move Ramirez or Soriano...

I could get behind this too.

I am perhaps being overly pessimistic about the hypothetical 2011 Cubs. A good season from Samardzija and more progress from Jay Jackson could easily have me being unreasonably optimistic again.

This link is in the linked articled above. Pretty funny, even if you're not a Phillies fan. I'm a Werth fan, as he was on my fantasy team last year

that beard still don't hide the hardcore asshole. keep growing it, dude...

Why is he an asshole? I really don't know anything about him as a person, just a stat-producing monkey for my 3rd place team (or was it 2nd place?)

he's got a reputation as being a bit of a pompous dick...

the article is kind of dumb, but comments 33 and 38 are pretty dickish moves by Werth and I've seen other things on the web

maybe crunch has his own actual story or encounter to relate to us...

what rob said...and he's got one of those stereotypical 80s movie jerk-jock reputations that goes beyond sportswriters.

he's not hurting anyone unless words hurt you, though. no one's getting pushed into a mud puddle that i know of.

Take the five worst things you've ever done, and write them down. Don't dress it up or explain anything, just write them down.

Who's the asshole now?

jason werth.

So I guess Pinella is now calling Fukudome "The Fook"?

As in, what The Fook is wrong with him?


as expected, unless he does "exceedingly" well in camp

Wells, Marshall, Mathes, Parisi and Caridad to pitch Thursday

Marshall vs. Gorzelanny for one rotation spot

Samardzija, Silva and Parisi for the other rotation spot...

at least for now, Lou says it's an open competition in spring with maybe a slight favor to Fontenot for being left-handed.

That's very, very dumb. But I don't think he'll stick to that for more than a week if either of them struggles against opposite-handed pitching.

Finally, this is a big point – Jacoby Ellsbury played 1,302 innings in center field last year, basically one full season’s worth. As has been noted many times, one season’s worth of any defensive metric is not a very large sample size. Due to the amount of marginal plays that a player is judged on over the course of a single season, a few bad breaks here or there can make a pretty significant impact on a player’s overall rating. We have always suggested that you want more than one year of data before you start making judgments about a player’s true worth defensively. No one should look at Ellsbury’s 2009 UZR and state definitively that he is a poor defensive center fielder.


There is a school of thought that these swings suggest an underlying flaw with UZR, but I’d suggest that it may be evidence that the perception of perfectly consistent defensive value is a myth. We know that hitters and pitchers often see wild swings in their performance, but no one thinks its proof that home runs are bunk when David Wright gets out-homered by Ichiro Suzuki. Wright obviously has more power, but over one season, he didn’t show it. It is certainly reasonable to believe that a player that Epstein believes to be “a good defensive center fielder” could simply have a bad year.

pretty good article w/ a lot more passages worth highlighting imo

I think the level variation is what is in dispute, not the chance that players have good or bad seasons.

If UZR is perfect, or as close to perfect as they like to imply, then why do teams hire people to make their own defensive stats?

If UZR is perfect, or as close to perfect as they like to imply, then why do teams hire people to make their own defensive stats?

well I certainly don't think it's perfect or close to it, let's make that clear before we go any further.

Cardinals did hire Lichtman for awhile and I think they did well defensively during those times (probably a coincidence) and defensive stats are new enough that I'm sure teams think they can do better or improve upon it.

but put UZR, maybe +/-, and BP's stats together with a some scouting reports and I think you have a good idea of a player...and you should definitely look at least at 3 years worth though if trying to assess their talent.

if somebody tries to tell me Bobby Abreu or Dye can play right field passably, I'll laugh at them, but a guy with one bad year of UZR scores (or whatever your preferred defensive metric), I'll hold off final judgement.

No doubt that UZR has been accepted a little too freely for what it can actually do.

I'm pretty much in agreement with you there. UZR definetly gets a pass because the math and logic are so convoluted you'd think it 'must be right'.

I like the +/- in that it can't really be "gamed" like UZR can, but as we've talked about before, it seems to have a lot of objectivity in it, for whatever reason.

I've been thinking about trying to quantify how Lee's throw catching ability improves his teams overall defense, but when I look at FRAA rates, I didn't really see much correlation between, say 2005 and 2007 versus 2006.
I think we can all see that Theriot makes a lot of throws that he shouldn't, because he knows Lee will catch them, but teasing that out of readily available fielding data is going to be a bit hard.

allegedly he put on a bunch of muscle this offseason

The real story is that Theriot and Solo appeared on this TV show during the off-season.

Hey Rob, now look. Lou did tell him to pull the ball once last year. And we all know that range doesn't matter at SS. And speed doesn't matter if you're hitting at the top of the order.

Plus, his lady likes biceps and Marlon Byrd is moving into the neighborhood.

to add to comment #30

#cubs Cactus League rotation will be Wells Thursday, followed by Big Z on Fri, Silva on Sat, Samardzija/Gorzelanny on Sun, Dempster on Mon

Bruce Miles has a brief rundown of the last four #1 picks in camp.

Colvin went on the Sammy Sosa offseason diet plan...

The guy getting the most double-takes in the Fitch Park clubhouses is Colvin, who added 25 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-3 frame.

I'm all for keeping him now :)

You and Chad both.

he's still pretty young, so I guess guys can fill out, but 25 lbs of muscle (if that's true) isn't an easy or particularly natural thing to do.

Anyone check his cap size?

Colvin is trying his best to be Ryan Harvey. Cubs sure love shot-putters in baseball uniforms.

I'd bet that 25 pounds is an exaggeration. But even 20 is a lot of weight to put on in a few months. 15 would be impressive. I'm not sure how much hitting power really comes from doing tons of weight training, though. Experts?

That's an awful lot of weight to put on. For years and years the conventional wisdom was that putting on weight like that would ruin your hitting stroke, first Lance Parrish and later guys like Canseco, Bonds and Sosa put that theory to rest, but still it's hard to think you won't sacrifice a little athletic ability by throwing that much weight on. Colvin's frame is one that always looked like it could easily support an extra 15 to 20 lbs, I thought.

They're out and it's great news for Starlin Castro fans. His #1 comparable player: Cesar Izturis.

There is some better news, though, with JJ. Hardy being his #2 comp (and trending upwards) along with Elvis Andrus checking in at #5.

The news is less cheerful for other tops cubs hitting prospects.
Brett Jackson: Tracey Ealy
Tyler Colvin: Adam Johnson
HJ Lee: Tito Navarro
Andre Blanco: Casey Candaele
and Sam Fuld: Raul Gonzalez

Just for kicks, Jake Fox: Jeff Liefer with other guys like Bob Hamelin, Brant Brown, J.T. Snow and Andy Tracy in there.

where are you finding them? I still get 2009 forecasts and no Castro when I do a search.

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  • Hopefully Pirates don't call up A. Lincoln.

    jacos 2 sec ago view
  • j.buchanan going friday...should something like it.

    crunch 7 min 29 sec ago view
  • Wow. I didn't know they could do that.

    Nice for Willson, not so much for Addy.

    billybucks 23 min 52 sec ago view
  • Game is officially called...also officially a tie.

    Stats count, no make-up date of course.


    Rob G. 25 min 39 sec ago view
  • Yeah -- seeing the weather -- I hope KB and Rizz are inside, wrapped in blankets and drinking hot chocolate.

    billybucks 1 hour 12 min ago view
  • rain delay...thanks obama.

    crunch 1 hour 50 min ago view
  • Thanks again Phil. We actually were in Mesa and drove around. Hopefully, I am back for some Fall League. If not I have all of spring training (like the smart people who move here!)

    rvimpeny 2 hours 54 min ago view
  • What Rob G said.  I can't speak for Piittsburgh, but the other end of the state has had absolute crap weather for two days. Perfect day to take it easy.

    Transmission 2 hours 57 min ago view
  • tarp came off 10 minutes ago...let's do this.

    crunch 3 hours 11 min ago view
  • He will not pitch another game for Cubs

    /Unless injury in playoffs

    jacos 3 hours 28 min ago view
  • ~fart~

    jacos 3 hours 29 min ago view
  • Today is bullpen day

    jacos 3 hours 29 min ago view
  • 10/450 if they win WS

    jacos 3 hours 30 min ago view
  • Carrie Muskat [email protected]
    Even though Hammel is missing start, don't assume he'll not be on #Cubs postseason roster. Maddon says elbow problem isn't that bad

    Carrie Muskat [email protected]
    Maddon on #Cubs postseason rotation: "I don't want to announce anything. We haven't talked to anybody yet"

    Carrie Muskat [email protected]
    Maddon hopes Soler can take BP in Cincy, play in sim game Tue. "All of that should give us some kind of indication of where he's at"

    crunch 3 hours 47 min ago view
  • tarp on the field 40 minutes before gametime...meh.

    crunch 3 hours 50 min ago view
  • travel day + rain in Pittsburgh. Why risk injury?

    Rob G. 3 hours 53 min ago view