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: 20th best of 30 teams in DL days and dollars lost
Biggest Injury: Joakim Soria, $7.7 million lost value
Head Athletic Trainer: Nick Kenney
"But they won the award last year!"
That's how the conversation about the Kansas City Royals started with a front office type, also in the American League. I'd run down the injury rankings, and at 20, he jumped in. He wanted to know where most winning teams go the year following. A big drop, he thought, would be indicative that the award went to a team with one good year, perhaps a fluke. Less of a drop would indicate some sort of general excellence.
The results were exactly what you'd expect—he was right to some extent, but I also think there's two additional factors.
First, as he pointed out, is injury carryover. Some injuries aren't discrete events; if a pitcher injures his elbow in June 2011 and doesn't come back in 2012, the days carryover and a team starts with demerits against it based on something it cannot change. Teams that rank highly don't have much carryover, for obvious reasons. Tommy John surgery and serious shoulder surgery are the two biggest issues here, due to the sheer length of the recovery. Get one of those and it's tough to stay at the top of the rankings. Get two, and you're headed well down the list.
The second factor is the one that I think applies more directly to the Royals, and that is that a team's situation changes how it deals with injuries. Teams have to respond to injuries in context. Getting a star player back quickly is always the priority, but at the end of the season as the division leader slips further into the distance, teams often shut players down.
Would the Royals have taken the longer-term view with someone like Salvador Perez, repairing his knee instead of removing the meniscus, if they were genuine contenders? Remember, Perez's knee injury happened early in camp, so the Royals would have had to be self-aware while not admitting it to the fanbase. Doing the right thing for Perez as a person happens to be the right thing for the team as their interests line up now, but in a situation like an expiring contract, would it be as easy?
This sort of context can't be found inside the injury stats and might not even be found in the medical files locked in every training room. However, I believe that sometimes these decisions begin to show up if you dig in deep enough, and in the larger context, it's more proof that a day lost is not always just a day lost. There's more at work here than a simple counting stat can capture, but it's what we have now.
Click ahead for the Tigers. Here are links to 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.