Chicago White Sox Team Health Report: 2013 Injury Risk for Every Starter
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: 4th best of 30 teams in DL days and dollars lost
Biggest Injury: John Danks, $8.2 million
Head Athletic Trainer: Herm Schneider
And so begins my annual paean to Herm Schneider. Schneider has been around long enough to be the last grandfathered trainer to not have the NATA certification, which is not to say he's not qualified. He's certainly experienced, joining the Chicago White Sox in 1979 after winning a couple of World Series rings working with Gene Monahan and the New York Yankees.
The White Sox finished the 2012 season with yet another top-10 ranking and more to add to the pot of money that they have saved for Jerry Reinsdorf. In a 2010 article, I calculated that the White Sox medical staff had saved nearly an entire season's budget over the previous decade. Buy nine, get the 10th free isn't a bad motto for a good medical staff.
The tough part here is that no one man or even one department deserves all the credit. Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn brought in mostly healthy players, only occasionally challenging Schneider with a Jermaine Dye or Carlos Quentin. Don Cooper seems to have a lot to do with things, giving some consistency across managers, which allows for some isolation.
We'll get more of an indication on Cooper with this year's other Sox. It's not a perfect measure, but Juan Nieves takes on the pitching coach job in Boston after studying under Cooper for several years. It's a reasonable assumption to think he'll bring some of that to Boston's risky rotation.
This Sox team is a bit riskier than normal, especially with pitchers, but we'll see what magic Schneider and his staff can pull off this year. If they're not back in the top 10 at the end of the season, that would be one of the biggest surprises in baseball.
Click ahead for the White Sox. 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|
|NL East||Atlanta||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.
C Tyler Flowers (RED)
Will it be stranger to see A.J. Pierzynski in Texas Rangers colors or to not see him behind the plate for the Sox? Probably equal, but the question is how much Tyler Flowers can handle back there and if he can make Sox fans forget their enfant terrible.
Flowers hasn't had a full catching load since 2008, stuck behind Pierzynski. Add to that the normal dings that a catcher takes, including a fractured hand at the end of last season, and you get why he's red. Robin Ventura adds a bit of a wild card here, because even in his second year, we have no real indication of what his strengths and weaknesses are. We have to hope he knows to rest Flowers more this season, even without a solid backup there.
1B Paul Konerko (YELLOW)
The White Sox know that Paul Konerko would be better served as DH. It's a huge credit to the Sox medical staff that they kept him productive through careful management and rest. Moving back to more time at first base is risky, yes, but it helps the team by putting Adam Dunn at DH. At least it did in 2012, when Dunn hit.
Konerko's back is a long-term problem, but he played through a nasty wrist injury, perhaps worse than anyone realized. He had a number of structures inside the wrist fixed in surgery just after the season. If everything is better, he should put up numbers more in line with the first half of the season rather than the second.
The age and injuries are risky but also serve to keep him undervalued by many. Konerko is in the last year of his current contract, and if he can put up decent numbers for a couple of more seasons, he'll have a very interesting case for Cooperstown.
2B Gordon Beckham (GREEN)
Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated recently said in his newsletter that Gordon Beckham is one of the great disappointments of this generation of baseball players. It's tough to argue with that assessment, but it serves as a reminder that staying healthy gives a player more chances to come back from being a disappointment. Beckham has been healthy, not productive, which does have a value.
His defense and that hazy memory of what Beckham looked like in his first season will get him even more chances, and he should be healthy enough to take them. What he does with it could determine whether he's around for another year or goes the Jeff Keppinger route.
SS Alexei Ramirez (GREEN)
Alexei Ramirez could get by on his durability and fielding, but his numbers were disappointing otherwise last year. The health is almost a given for the athletic Cuban, with his grace in the field always worth the price of admission. For those who say health isn't a skill that can be taught, Ramirez offers a data point. It's clearly something innate in him.
3B Jeff Keppinger (YELLOW)
The White Sox tried a lot of things at third last season, which had to really chap Robin Ventura, one of the best third basemen the franchise has had. The Sox will try Jeff Keppinger at third this season, trying to shift a platoon split utility man into a decent enough regular. We'll see how that goes, but the downside is usually fatigue and injury.
Keppinger has been generally healthy, but he's shown signs of fatigue in previous stops when exposed too much. This usually happens when he's forced to play more, filling in for injury, but that's what the Sox are hoping he can do. With a triceps injury in-season and a broken leg suffered in the offseason, he's not off to a great start coming in 2013.
LF Dayan Viciedo (YELLOW)
Viciedo's a bit better with kids than baseballs. He's a big guy who lives up to his nickname, and at 23 years old, guys with that build make people wonder about how they'll develop if they don't keep close tabs on conditioning. Having Alexei Ramirez and his balletic build around may help, but at least it provides contrast.
The Sox think Viciedo will shift to first base when Paul Konerko steps away, but that won't be this season. Since he came up as a third baseman, you have to wonder just how bad his defense there was to not at least try that again.
CF Alejandro De Aza (YELLOW)
Alejandro De Aza was a very solid prototype leadoff guy, seeing a lot of pitches, hitting well and stealing bases. He was able to do it because he was healthy. Prior to coming to the White Sox organization, that was the thing he couldn't do. Even when he won jobs and impressed people, he'd end up broken and forgotten soon enough.
As a cheap risk, he's not even the kind of challenge that Herm Schneider normally gets, rehabbing a guy back to health and then maintaining him through something that most teams give up on. De Aza is a nice scrapheap find, and if he stays at this level, both in production and health, Schneider deserves a lot of the credit.
RF Alex Rios (GREEN)
The gamble of claiming Alex Rios off waivers has worked out well for Kenny Williams. He still has a couple of years (plus an option) on the big deal that the Blue Jays bailed on, but he's been very productive for the Sox.
Rios has been durable, playing in over 140 games for seven straight years. The inconsistency of his play leaves the question of whether rest would help him more on the table and certainly helps explain why this very low yellow is somewhat higher than his resume would suggest.
DH Adam Dunn (GREEN)
Adam Dunn was once Mr. Consistency as much as he was Big Donkey. (The latter is a much better nickname, granted.) The last two seasons in Chicago have shown that you can't just write Dunn down for 40 homers and 100 RBI any... Wait, yes you can.
Dunn's flukish 2011 remains an absolute mystery. I stood behind the cage when Dunn was taking batting practice in Cleveland, and I looked for any sign of change. The only difference was that the ball didn't go as far and Dunn looked perplexed rather than prankish.
His health is as consistent. He's outgrown the outfield but remains more athletic than most think given his size. At DH, he's as green as it gets, but any shift to the outfield would make him a significant risk.
SP Chris Sale (RED)
If you ignore that Chris Sale needs a sandwich or 10 and all the funk in his delivery, there's still a lot of risk there. He put up 190-plus innings in spite of being shut down not once but twice due to shoulder inflammation and weakness. The Sox did well to keep him going through that, but don't forget that the original plan was to shift him to the pen.
Sale is not the type to go to 190 or more season after season, and the apparent fatigue signs certainly raise huge questions about both what Sale is and is not. He's good enough that he should be a starter, but he likely needs some sort of creative management in order to get there. The Sox have not even hinted that they're thinking in such ways, and Don Cooper has been vocally against things like tandem starters and four-man rotations.
How the Sox manage Sale and his health will go a long way in determining how good this team is. Lots of teams lose their best young starter to injury, but lots of teams are home watching in October too.
SP Jake Peavy (YELLOW)
Jake Peavy is just shy of being another red-rated pitcher, but he was handled deftly in coming back from an unusual injury and subsequent surgery. He held together enough to put up 219 innings, but the control issues certainly suggest that he was still dealing with some comfort and biomechanical issues.
Peavy signed a two-year deal to stay with the Sox. It's smart on his part, since they've been able to hold him together. On the Sox side, the question is whether they'll continue to push Peavy now that they have a bit more downside risk. Peavy is younger than most think, but given his injury history and trends, the Sox need to push him hard if they're pushing toward a playoff spot.
SP John Danks (RED)
It surprises most, including me, to learn that John Danks is the highest-paid player on the White Sox. Some of this is the White Sox frugality and Kenny Williams' reluctance to give out long-term contracts. Danks might be the exception, but he proves the risk.
The return rate from cuff strains like this isn't encouraging, but again, we have to give the Sox a bit more credit than most other teams given their past results. Look to see where Danks' velocity is early in spring and if he sees any gains. Any drop or even just a fluxuation would be a big negative.
SP Gavin Floyd (YELLOW)
Gavin Floyd lost a bit of command, gained a bit of velocity and missed some starts with elbow discomfort. If we could actually predict UCL ruptures, this would likely be the pattern that would most often lead to that issue and the subsequent Tommy John surgery.
If only there were a way to check the ligament to be sure!
But there is. Floyd and every other pitcher around the league could be checked safely and accurately by an ultrasound device. Almost every European soccer club has a Sonosite-type unit on the sidelines or just inside the technical area.
In baseball, I know of four, though it's possible there are more. Simple things like this drive me insane; they're available and yet baseball resists. Next time a pitcher snaps his elbow and the team says they didn't see it coming, point.
SP Jose Quintana (YELLOW)
Unless you count Chris Sale, who came to the Sox pretty much fully formed from Florida Gulf Coast University, the last pitcher that the Sox developed was...umm...well, it's been a while, hasn't it? That's why Jose Quintana is here at the back of the rotation. The Sox grabbed him from the Yankees, and he plugs a hole that their development staff left. It's smart, if not much on the upside.
Quintana was good for a short burst and then ran into serious fatigue issues. He doesn't have the stuff to be much beyond back-rotation filler, but the Sox do pretty well with that. There's no one coming quickly enough to push Quintana out but by late summer, they'll likely have to find someone.
RP Matt Thornton (YELLOW)
Matt Thornton had Tommy John surgery the first year I did "Under The Knife." He did a couple "diary entries" for me back then, so I'll admit that I have a soft spot for the guy. That he's held together this long is a huge plus, and that he has this kind of stuff after the journey is even more astounding.
Then again, should it be? Tommy John surgery is as close to automatic as there is. Guys get hurt, guys get surgery and rehab then they come back. It's predictable at this point. We'll see more and more second TJs because of the earlier point they start. Jim Andrews and Tim Kremchek have been seeing younger and younger pitchers, down to 12-year-olds. That's scary.
The surgery isn't, and Matt Thornton's stuff is scary in part because of it. At 36, Thornton's seeing some velocity declines but as a lefty, he might go on forever if the elbow holds up.
CL Addison Reed (GREEN)
Addison Reed sounds more like a Shonda Rhimes character than a closer, though Kenley Jansen sounds like a swimsuit model. Seriously, what happened to names like Lee Smith and Jose Cruz? And shouldn't a guy named Addison be playing for the Cubs anyway?
Reed should be the closer this season, as he ended last season, but he's a one-pitch guy that is starting to get that he might need another pitch for major league hitters. Steve Stone was clued to this early—the guy knows pitching folks—while Hawk Harrelson would just talk about his ERA in Kannapolis. If Reed can find one more pitch, even an average one, he should hold the job for a while.