Scott Sheridan and Charlie Manuel work well together.
Will Carroll has produced an annual Team Health Report for each MLB team for 12 years. The report gives risk ratings for every player in the expected starting lineup and starting rotation, plus two relievers. A proprietary formula sets a baseline according to a player's age and position. It is adjusted by 12 factors, including injury history, team history and expected workload.
This risk rating is classified into three tiers—red (high risk), yellow (medium risk) and green (lower risk). It should be used as a guideline and is about probability, not prediction. To learn more about how the Team Health Reports are devised, click on this article.
2012 Rank: 26th of 30 teams in DL days and dollars lost
Biggest Injury: Chase Utley, $8.1 million lost value
Head Athletic Trainer: Scott Sheridan
The Phillies got old quick. Injuries will do that to a team as much as the calendar.
Injuries to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay highlighted the problem, but it was more deep-seated than that, and this offseason really didn't help. Instead of getting younger, the team seems to be taking an incremental approach and hoping that Scott Sheridan and his staff can hold them together for one more run with this group.
That's not the worst idea. Sheridan and his staff won a Martin-Monahan Award a couple years back, just as their run at the top of the NL East started. Injury stats are often forward indicators, as they were for the Rays and Brewers, but is it also a forward indicator of a decline? The data sure seems to say yes to that.
What's less clear is whether that decline can be halted or even slowed.
This is a team that is flat-out risky. Aside from those "big three" injuries, all of whom must come back to full production for this team to have a chance at .500, let alone a title, there's risk up and down the lineup and there was more brought in. If everything goes right, they could contend, but the Nationals and Braves have made huge leaps in talent, not incremental changes.
This could be the last year of what Ruben Amaro and ownership see as a success window. Charlie Manuel is close to riding off into the sunset and handing over the reins to Ryne Sandberg. Utley and Howard could be near the end as well, especially if they continue to have physical problems. The rest could be quickly torn down for prospects, though likely not to the core like the Marlins did.
The season, then, hinges on the medical staff. If they can get this team back into the upper third of injury stats, there's a chance that the Phillies play into October. If they stay at the back half, they'll likely be in the same place of the standings.
Click ahead for the Phillies. Here are links for all the teams' reports.
|AL East||Baltimore||Boston||New York||Tampa Bay||Toronto|
|AL Central||Chicago||Cleveland||Detroit||Kansas City||Minnesota|
Miami ||New York||Philadelphia||Washington|
|NL Central||Chicago||Cincinnati||Milwaukee||Pittsburgh||St. Louis|
|NL West||Arizona||Colorado||L.A.||San Diego||S.F.|
Will Carroll is the Lead Writer for Sports Medicine at Bleacher Report. He has written about sports injuries and related topics for 12 years. His column is called "the industry standard" by Hall of Famer Peter Gammons.
Ruiz starts off the season on a stimulant suspension, but it's the plantar fasciitis that is the real worry. While Ruiz was apparently popping a teammate's Adderall, he was also fighting through the painful foot injury. (Adderall on top of painkillers? Not uncommon. Check to see if the aspirin in your medicine cabinet has caffeine as an additive.) For a catcher to have foot problems is not only problematic on the face of it, it can also lead to mechanical changes, biomechanical changes and even arm problems. Catching is complex.
Ruiz won't actually miss much time. He'll participate in spring training, then will be allowed to rehab on April 23. That means about three weeks where he can work out "on his own," probably not far from the Clearwater, Fla., complex. The foot issues and his age earn him the red; the rating isn't juiced.
Yeah, I said that I thought Ryan Howard was going to be back by May 1. Then things changed. Once the infection got so deep into his calf, near where the new tendon was grafted in, the surgeons had to work to save the graft.
They did it by sacrificing muscle—shaving it away.
So yeah, there's a reason it took Howard longer to get back. Someone that doesn't adjust to new information isn't wrong once; they're wrong all the time.
Even once Howard was back, things weren't much better. He couldn't push off the back leg and was constantly fighting to adjust to how the leg felt. Howard kept fighting and trying, but eventually he was shut down early with the worst numbers of his career. The question is whether or not the leg gets better with a full off-season of treatments, workouts and rest.
Maybe he can this year, but there's a lot of risk. The type of issues that Howard had on top of his performance issues—dude can't hit lefties—are an area where we've never been with this kind of player.
Well, almost never.
There's one odd parallel for Howard and that's Mark McGwire. McGwire's late-career surge after nearly retiring due to plantar fasciitis is now well understood, but a healthy Howard could look much the same. I doubt he'll hit 70 or even get back to 58 as he did back in 2006, but there could well be a couple more good years in Howard if he can work around the now-missing chunk of his calf.
The unknown is certainly risky, and Howard has to be taken at the right value, which is far under the level he's usually being drafted at. But if we take this back to the concept of returning from an Achilles strain, there's no reason to think he shouldn't.
Chase Utley showed up at the start of Phillies camp and was taking grounders.
That's something he hasn't done for the last couple seasons. Utley and the Phillies medical staff have taken an unusual approach to his knee problems. For the most part, the Phils have let Utley do whatever he feels he needs to get comfortable and then they take over the maintenance. Given the results, that's been a good plan.
Once Utley gets into the lineup, which has been midseason the last two years, he's stayed in the lineup and had only a slight decline over age and context. Given the state of his knees, that's downright amazing. He remains very risky, but the early signs are promising.
I'm also very curious about how working more closely with Ryne Sandberg will affect his play. Sandberg told me last year that he worked with Utley a lot in the springs and that they kept in contact, but that Utley liked to focus on details. Sandberg never had the physical problems Utley has, but he did age well. (By the way, I fully expect Sandberg to be manager of this team by the end of the season).
Jimmy Rollins is aging gracefully, the way you'd hope a shortstop would. He's still got his legs, enough that he put up not just good stolen base numbers and helped his pitchers, but he also showed some rekindling of his power. That's not unusual for someone with declining speed. Noted sabermetrician Clay Davenport once pointed out the pattern that goes back nearly 100 years in baseball, where older players begin consciously altering their swing, realizing that it's easier to trot around the bases than it is to leg out a double.
That pattern is truth, but Rollins seems to be upping the power while keeping the doubles and steals. His age and position make him risky, as does the history of hamstring issues, but there's a lot of positives in this yellow rating as well.
On this team, risk is relative.
There's a license plate I saw in the parking lot at Arlington. "PADMY." Big Top Chef fan? No, just a frustrated fan who had heard "Past a Diving Michael Young" a few too many times. Young doesn't have to be a shortstop any more, and in Philly, he won't have to be a super-sub either. They brought him in to take over where Placido Polanco couldn't be trusted.
For all the skills attributed to Young, the one that no one contests is his consistency and durability. He's played in 155 games or more 10 of the last 11 years, and the off year was 135 games. The Phillies would love to have that kind of play, even sacrificing a bit of range and power. Young is a good fit for this "one last shot" Phillies team, even with a bit less diving.
Mayberry, who is surprisingly tall in person, held up well in his first extended action of his career. He's 28, so hardly a guy who's going to establish himself as more than an interesting bench bat in most cases, but Mayberry may get a chance to do that this year. He'll have to fend off a list of possibilities, which will likely hold his at-bats to last year's level or below.
Mayberry is very low risk there, but lacks the upside of Darin "Babe" Ruf, who could end up in a platoon with him. Ruf is a bigger risk to Mayberry than injury, especially if he becomes something of a Philly folk hero.
Ben Revere has ridiculous range, something that the Phillies pitchers will come to love. That same speed helps him on the basepaths. He showed that he could stay healthy over nearly a full major league season last year, so the risk here is slightly overstated.
He'll add on a bit of workload and shift to both a new position (he mostly played right field in Minnesota in deference to Denard Span) and a new ballpark. By midseason, Revere could be a category-winner in steals and a steal for what the Phillies gave up to get him as well.
Delmon Young has the defensive range "of a pagoda," one baseball insider told me last season. "A terrible pagoda." The comparison isn't far off. The Phillies hope that the small dimensions of their park and the massive range of Ben Revere will make up for his defensive deficiencies.
Thing is, it could get worse. Young had offseason ankle surgery, and the problem wasn't one he fought through last season, costing him range. No, this was more about trying to stave off degeneration, which does not bode well for his long-term health. The ideal situation would be to have Young platoon, or really, not to have Young at all, even at his low price.
Watch to see how much worse the ankle makes him in early spring training. Knowing Young, it will linger far past the expected time period. Young is a yellow risk, but he's two percentage points from red, and I think that's understated.
Roy Halladay has a lot of incentive to be better in 2013. Beyond not wanting to deal with more shoulder and back issues, Halladay's got almost no shot of locking in his $20 million option. To vest it, he would need to pitch over 270 innings, which simply isn't possible in this era.
Halladay could be pitching for a contract or he could be pitching to go out on top. It seems more the former after he spent this offseason working on both his conditioning and his mechanics. Watch to see if those changes work; Halladay wants to pitch more upright, which could make his sidearm style—yes, really—more apparent.
Halladay's next win will be his 200th. While Halladay isn't the lock he once was to push 220 wins by the end of the season, it's still in there, even if there's a more noticeable risk.
I once had to argue with my editor to put Cliff Lee into a Team Health Report. All my sources told me that Lee was going into the fifth starter role for the Indians, but it took a lot of convincing to get her to relent. It hasn't taken much convincing since to consider Lee one of the top pitchers in the game.
He's so good, he's been traded several times, becoming the David Cone of this era—without the arm problems. Lee has been essentially healthy since that stomach issue in '07, though he has shown some issues with oblique strains. Those pushed him to the DL in each of the last two years, but he missed almost negligible time, going over the 200-inning mark in both seasons.
If that's the biggest risk—and there's no reason to think it changed—then this green is dead on. Lee is a high-value pitcher with low risk, something that's few and far between, aside from in Philly.
The quaint numbering of roles in baseball is actually meaningless. Maybe it means something the first four games, but beyond that, the No. 1 starter seldom matches up with the opposition's ace until the playoffs, and even then it's not a given.
Cole Hamels could be called anything from the one to the three in Philly and it wouldn't matter a bit.
People forget that when Hamels was drafted, he was considered quite the risk. It was more than just that he was a high school lefty. There were open debates about Hamels' arm injury (a fracture suffered in a sandlot football game) and his Tom House constructed mechanics. Neither seems to have held him back much in retrospect. He's as good on every level as Halladay and Lee, but younger. This No. 3 is healthy enough to be the best pitcher in baseball—on par with Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw.
The Phillies have three aces, but after that, they've had jack. Kyle Kendrick gets another shot to lock into the rotation after functioning as a swingman the past couple seasons. He's shown he can handle the workload and a new changeup has helped his performance. Maybe it will help him outwit and outlast the opponents.
The low yellow here is mostly based off the fatigue he showed in 2010, when he stayed a starter almost all season. He's not the kind of pitcher you want to see really extended, but the irony here is that the pitcher that would most help him is himself.
Kendrick as a long reliever would be a perfect pairing with Kendrick the starter. The Phillies will need to find one of those if they hope to maximize Kendrick's value. If the Phillies were bold, they could continue to aggressively push Adam Morgan and use him as a de facto tandem with Kendrick.
Lannan moves a bit up the East Coast, but the Phillies hope that he can do what he did in Washington. That is, put up league-average innings with prototype crafty lefty stuff. The downside is that Lannan isn't that crafty and has less than average stuff. He's healthy, yes, but that's one of those things that seem less of a compliment and more minimum standard.
Lannan's stuff would be better suited for a swingman role. While the Phillies won't go to a four-man rotation, they'd be smart to try a five-man "skip" rotation, where Lannan was only given a start when necessary. Giving those 10 starts to one of the Big Three could be a difference of six to seven wins over a full season.
No one's ever explained why the Rangers seem to have so many cases of thoracic outlet syndrome. It's been going on over a decade and is just one of those weird quirks. Adams is coming back from surgery that happened just after the season. He fought through the last month of the season, but seems to be coming back well, as opposed to what we've seen from Chris Carpenter.
Adams will slot into the setup role he excels in, and if he shows that he has both his stuff and his normal sharp, over-the-top delivery, there's no reason to expect him to have less success than he's had the past few seasons. The last issue he'll have to address is recovery, so Charlie Manuel might have to juggle the pen a bit, something he doesn't like to do.
Jonathan Papelbon went to Philly, and the toughest part of the change seemed to be picking new entrance music. He's the most consistent closer in the game, if not the best. News that Papelbon was shifted off Toradol due to the Phillies' policy against long-term usage actually indicates that he could have more long-term success.
There's a minor concern that Papelbon lost a tick off his fastball, but he showed the same peaks for much of the season. He may be losing a bit of dominance, but he's slowly become a better pitcher as well.