Risk Ratings for Every MLB Starter, Fantasy Drafts

Will CarrollSports Injuries Lead WriterMarch 3, 2014

Can Bryce Harper Stay Healthy and Help Nats Win?
Can Bryce Harper Stay Healthy and Help Nats Win?Alex Brandon/Associated Press

This is the 13th year of the Risk Ratings. For most of those years, they were the foundation of my Team Health Reports, a team-by-team breakdown of injury risk for every team. This year, we've cut down the chatter and focused on what you wanted. The ratings themselves were always the most important part and this year, they're better than ever.

Over the past week, I've given you some insight into how you can use Risk Ratings. You can take a simple look at the risky players and get their names in your head. You can make technical adjustments and use risk alongside powerful tools like relative positional value. You could even just look for players on your team and try to figure out if they'll be able to stay healthy enough to win. The Risk Ratings are a tool with many possible functions.

If you want nothing more than the ratings, here they are in a printable format. Each projected starting player, five starting pitchers and two relievers for each team are listed and rated. As always, the players are color-coded. Red is the highest risk, yellow is a medium risk, while green is a standard risk. There is an underlying number and this season, red begins at a 45 percent risk for injury.

That means that while you could draft a red-risk player like Matt Kemp, Joe Mauer or Gio Gonzalez, you could be getting a great value. It could also mean that they could put up poor numbers based on injury. It's a coin flip at best for most of these red-rated players. If you believe you can pick which ones will stay healthy or that you can back them up well enough to take the risk, do it. 

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

The Risk Ratings are based off an actuarial table, the same sort of table that is used to help set insurance premiums. Using actual results for previous injuries and matching them against factors like age, position, injury history and other measures adjusts the underlying table to come up with a standardized risk rating. 

There are two adjustments that are subjective in nature. While I'd love to have objective measures of things like speed and biomechanics, we don't have those in place yet, though they could be coming soon. Until then, a solid survey of scouts, front-office types and players has given me a good average score to use. None of the subjective measures are big adjustments, only counting for a few percentage points, but they do make a significant difference in some cases. 

There are two other things that you'll need to understand to use these properly. First, these measure risk of injury. An injury is not a specific prediction or projection, but merely a probability that a player will be on the DL during the season. For a player who limps through the season, like Albert Pujols through most of his career, those day-to-day injuries don't show up and remain one of the weaknesses of my system.

Second is that while each player is rated, these are banded classes. The system doesn't predict an injury for each player, but an overall risk. In large numbers, these bands will be very accurate. Given 100 red-risk players, they'll get injured at about a 53 percent rate. That does mean that about half of them will not get injured. You could go all Lloyd Christmas on a player and get lucky, but managing risk is key. 

As with anything in baseball, information is power. You now have one of the most powerful tools in the game. Baseball teams have lost over a billion dollars just on pitcher injuries over the past few seasons, but as we get new and better info, the hope is we'll see that reduce or get controlled. As you head into your fantasy draft or just another season of watching your team, injuries may well be the difference between winning and losing. 

I'd say good luck, but you won't need it.