RotoAuthority Unscripted: Ow! Ow! Ow!

It's been a painful year so far. Not for me, and (hopefully) not for you either. But it sure has for baseball players. Maybe every year starts like this and we all just forget, but there do seem to be more injuries going around lately than in times of yore more or less recent memory. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so, since I've heard theories on the matter blaming everything from youth baseball leagues to the reduced use of PED's. Aside from the question of, "If the major effect of PED's is to reduce injuries, what is the rationale for banning them and punishing their users?" I'm inclined to think there isn't anything truly special going on: if injuries happen at random intervals, we should expect to eventually see years when more of them happen. It's the baseball season counterpart to Samuel L. Jackson in Unbreakable.

Regardless of the underlying reasons (or lackthereof) for all these injuries, they're a fact we've got to deal with and if you haven't got an injured guy on one of your fantasy teams, you don't have enough teams. (Or you get tomorrow's newspaper today....) It started before the draft, with something like half of the top pitchers getting little red crosses next to their names on my cheat sheet: Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Mike Minor, Hisashi Iwakuma, Mat Latos, Doug Fister...Darvish is the only one who's even back yet. The flood spread to super-utility post-hype sleeper Jurickson Profar, hit closers Aroldis Chapman, Casey Janssen, and Bobby Parnell (helpfully after you drafted him), prospect Taijuan Walker, and lights-out Walker replacement James Paxton. The injury wave hit Jose Reyes' always-hurt hamstring, Ryan Braun's thumb, Bryce Harper's face (and Omar Infante's too), Josh Hamilton's brain thumb and seemingly half of the quality third basemen: Adrian Beltre and Ryan Zimmerman. Matt Moore may be headed for Tommy John, and Avisail Garcia will miss the rest of the season.

And this isn't everybody! It's just a few names I cherry-picked while skimming CBS's "Injury Report." There are plenty more.

What is the point of brining up all these names and injuries? Is it to show off how many baseball players I can name? C'mon, I posted the player rankings--I think we both know I can list a lot of ballplayers.

No, my point is to show you just how widespread the injury phenomenon is. Your team is not the only one in your league splattered in red injury news marks. You're not the only owner in your league trying to decide whether to keep Carlos Quentin or Josh Johnson stashed on the DL to accommodate the injury to David Robertson and let you pick up Shawn Kelley. Almost everyone's team is playing through some sort of injury--just be glad you aren't A.J. Burnett and trying to play through something called an inguinal hernia. Yeah. Ow. See: managing your DL isn't so rough.

If this were a self-help site designed to help you cope with the psychological stresses of the fantasy season, this is where I'd offer you some friendly reassurance and perhaps a shoulder to cry on. I'd help you feel better by telling you how many teams I own Beltre on, or remind you that Alex Cobb should still be a good pitcher in six to eight weeks. But that is not our purpose here; our reason for writing is nobler, more ambitious: it is to help you win. (Unless you're my competitor in the RotoAuthority Silver League. If you are, quit reading and checking your team so I can cash in.)

There's an old saying in English that goes something like this: "The Japanese word for problem is the same as the word for opportunity." I have no idea if that's true in Japanese, but it's a cliché in English now--and for once it holds true. I mean, it helps that you may be working with someone else's problem right now, but still.

Take what's happened to me in one league: someone decided to release Ryan Zimmerman instead of DL stashing him. Maybe that's the right call for their team (I don't remember their DL/bench situation--maybe they're just too crowded) and maybe it's not. On my own team, I have three third basemen and room on my bench for an injured upgrade. Ideally, I'd trade Jedd Gyorko or Kyle Seager and snag Zim off the waiver wire. We'll see. But it's an opportunity.

What about when my own players are injured and I'm reduced to picking up Conor Gillaspie or Juan Uribe? For one thing, I can let that be a lesson in the strategic choice not to back up a position because my starter is too good to afford losing anyway--not a good call. (Hopefully I remember that one next year.) Also, I can trade the hurt guy.

This, too, is an opportunity. For one thing, you've got the chance to deal a player you can no longer use. It's tough, because most of your league doesn't want to be trading for an injured player...but it's doable because some dope (me, in the previous example) thinks they can get value later by trading for an injured guy now. Ideally, the player you trade is someone like Zimmerman or Josh Hamilton--someone who was playing well before he got hurt. It doesn't work so well if they looked really bad before going on the DL. Say you trade one of those guys for another player you can actually use for the next couple months--but one who's worth only about half to two-thirds their value--essentially a fair trade. Not only do you get the near-term production, you also mitigate your risk. Injured players don't always come back the same, and often have setbacks that delay their return to play. It is good to get rid of injured players. If you can get more than a fair trade (say, a player worth five months of Hamilton or Zimmerman's production) even better.

With the right construction of rosters, this is actually the sort of trade that can benefit both owners. Star players can be worth much, much more than the next best guys. That's why Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout cost over $60 in Yahoo! auctions and nobody else usually topped $50. If you've got a backup worth more than your league's replacement level, offering something decent but below-market for an injured star can pay big dividends later in the season. Of course, it adds to your team's floor, but it probably adds even more to its ceiling. In head-to-head formats with playoffs, this is strategy is exponentially more useful.

What about when your team sustains a major injury? There's nothing good to be had from losing Matt Moore for much or all of the season. True enough (apart from losing his contribution to your WHIP), but even bad injuries have one bit of opportunity: the replacement player. Now, in Moore's case, that player is Erik Bedard. He's been good before, so it's worth watching to see what he does. That's sort of a middle-of-the-road case. With Beltre, you want no part of what Josh Wilson does in the interim. But with Zimmerman, the upshot is that Danny Espinosa comes up to play second, while Anthony Rendon moves to third. Is that a slam-dunk pickup? Of course not. But is it a potential opportunity now available that wasn't there before? Yup. And you don't even have to lose Zimmerman to cash in on Espinosa.

Don't despair of your team's injuries--everyone else has them too, to one degree or another. Use the injuries and the opportunities they present as best as they can by being active in trade talks and on the waiver wire. Andrew Gephardt wrote yesterday that the best thing you can do in April is nothing at all, and he's right...until you develop a need or sense an opportunity.

2013 Position Rankings: Value Changers

Each year things seem to happen in Spring Training. Good things, like injured players coming back quicker than expected, or sleepers clubbing their way into jobs. Bad things, like setbacks and new injuries. Other things, like trades, job changes, and the end of position battles. 

I hate all of these things, because they upset my neatly crafted rankings. Speaking of which, check out Starting Pitchers 1-4041-80RelieversShortstopsThird BasemenSecond BasemenFirst BasemenCatchers, and  Outfielders.

Below is a selection of players that we ranked that should now be shooting up, plummeting, or doing something rather less drastic.


Down: Mike Napoli (Rounds 5-6, ranked 7th)
Poor Napoli seems to be feeling good and playing well, so why is he downgraded? It's just a strategic move, as he's going a lot later in many drafts. If you can pay less, you should. I'd wait till the 7th or 8th, but his position relative to others stays the same.

First Basemen

Down: David Ortiz (Rounds 7-8, ranked 11.5)
Ortiz isn't eligible at first in every league, but he will be starting the year on the DL in every league. The Red Sox don't have a timetable for his return, and I hate drafting anyone in that situation. I'd wait until the 15th round, at the earliest, making him number 26 or 27 among first basemen.

Up: Corey Hart (Round 21 and Beyond, ranked 33rd)
Hart we knew was injured, but the news out of the Brewers' camp has been more positive than not, with an early or mid-May return possible. Like any other injury-stash, he's more valuable in H2H leagues, and less in any league without DL slots. I wouldn't go as high as the 15th Round with him, but I'd snag him in the 17th or 18th, slotting him in right behind Ortiz.

Second Basemen

Up: Emilio Bonifacio (20th-22nd Rounds, 21.5)
If your league's eligibility requirement is 15 games or lower, Bonifacio's value could be going up, thanks to a bad spring from Maicer Izturis. If he's stealing bases in the Toronto lineup, he could be a great value. Consider bumping him up to the 18th-19th Rounds, and perhaps the 16th or 17th player at second base. I'm not so excited if he's just an outfielder.


Down: Hanley Ramirez (3rd Round, 2nd)
I was excited for Hanley to start the year, but a jammed thumb and torn ligament have him sidelined for eight weeks. He doesn't seem to be falling all that far, but really, he's going to be out until late May, with the ever-present possibility of setbacks for more. I'm staying away completely, but if you want to draft him, wait until the 7th round at the earliest, after Ian Desmond is gone. That would make him the 7th shortstop taken.

Down: Derek Jeter (12th-13th Rounds, 9th)
Jeter is another guy that I'd been more exited than most about, only to run into his injury issues. He's only "questionable" for Opening Day, but those questions seem worth letting him drop a couple rounds for, to the 14th or 15th. Upon further review, I'd probably want to take him after Alcides Escobar and Elvis Andrus, who are probably worth taking a little higher in light of Jeter's and Ramirez's injuries. That would make Jeter the 12th SS taken.

Third Basemen

Down: Chase Headley (5th Round, 7th)
Headley is expected to miss 4-6 weeks, which could easily push his return into early May. I really don't like having a stud player miss that much time, because it forces me to draft a bum for the position and play him for a month. Again, this isn't so bad in H2H, since September playoffs determine the whole season, but it really hurts in standard Roto. I honestly wouldn't take Headley until the 11th or 12th rounds, until Will Middlebrooks and Todd Frazier are off the board.

Down: Pablo Sandoval (7th-8th Rounds, 9th)
Sandoval's situation has more optimism than Headley's, as his manager hopes he'll be able to play on Opening Day. However, the Panda's sketchy health history has me a little skeptical. I'd let him drop into the 10th or 11th Round, but he actually becomes the  8th player at the position, thanks to Headley's lost value.

Down: Mike Olt (20th-22nd Rounds, 23rd)
I had expected Olt to start in the bigs, and see time at first, third, and DH, kind of like Michael Young did last year. Not so much, as he was sent down to the minors. I'd save him for waiver bait in most leagues.


Down: Curtis Granderson (3rd Round, 13th)
Granderson isn't scheduled to return until late May, and a wrist injury stands the chance of reducing his power going forward. In a H2H league, I'd be willing to snag him in the 10th round, making him the 33rd OF. In standard Roto or any other format without playoffs, I'd wait until the 12th or 13th, slotting him in after Andre Ethier at 43 or so.

Down: Adam Eaton (14th-16th Round, 52nd)
Eaton will be missing two months or so, by which time the Diamondbacks might just be happy with the production they get from Jason Kubel, Cody Ross, and Gerardo Parra. I'd leave Eaton for the waiver wire in most leagues, but I'd be willing to draft Kubel and Ross several slots higher.

Up: Carl Crawford (14th-16th Rounds, 55th)
A month ago, things weren't so optimistic for Crawford, with the talk being that he'd probably have to start on the DL. Between that prospect and his complete awfulness for the last two years, that had him buried on all my lists. Well, he was just as terrible in the past, but at least he looks like he might be starting the year healthy. With that to limit his downside, his upside becomes intriguing again. I'd grab him in the 12th-13th Rounds, around number 45 or so.

Up: Domonic Brown (unranked)
Brown had been a big disappointment for fantasy owners the last couple years, but he's been tearing up Spring Training. Like Steve Adams, I don't really care about most Spring stats, but his are so good that the Phillies don't have much choice but to give him another chance. If they're giving Brown a chance, I could too, among the guys in the 15th-16th Rounds, maybe around number 52. In fact, you could just trade him with Eaton in your rankings if you're feeling lazy.

Starting Pitchers

Down: Roy Halladay (Rounds 7-8, 23rd)
Another guy I was bullish on! Halladay's Spring hasn't had much of anything good happen to it, and I'm a lot more nervous to take him than I was. I'm not really comfortable with him as more than my number three starter now, which means I'd want to take him in the 8th or 9th Round, in most cases. I'll take the risk as the 30th or so pitcher taken. 

Up: Zack Greinke (Rounds 5-6, 17th)
Greinke was looking pretty rough a little while ago, but the most recent reports have been a lot better. For that reason, I still want him in the same timeframe, but perhaps as high as pitcher number 11. 

Up: Chad Billingsley (unranked)
Billingsley now appears to be healthy enough to start the season, so he makes a pretty good back of the rotation option for late rounds, perhaps around 19th-20, putting him 77th or so among starters. So, not super exciting.

Down: Chris Capuano (Rounds 17th-18th, 74th), Hyun-Jin Ryu (unranked)
With Billingsley and Greinke looking healthy, expect these guys to be edged out of the rotation. Unless something changes, don't draft them.

Up: Julio Teheran (unranked)
 Teheran has pitched well, and has always had good upside. It appears that he'll be getting starts for the Braves, so I'd be happy to snag him in the 18th-19th Rounds, maybe as the 70th pitcher taken

Down: Trevor Bauer (Rounds 17th-18th, 71st)
He was sent down, so leave him for the waiver wire. 

Down: Johan Santana (Rounds 17th-18th, 76th)
Santana isn't looking healthy, so I'm not so excited to take the risk on him anymore. It appears that he'll be unavailable to start the season. With better DL stash options out there, I'll be leaving him and my memories of 2004 on the waiver wire.

Down: Phil Hughes (Rounds 13th-14th, 50th)
Hughes might not be ready for Opening Day either, so I'd drop him down to the 17th-18th Rounds, around number 67-68. Of course, he may end up being healthy, so don't let him slip too far.

Relief Pitchers

Up: Aroldis Chapman (Rounds 7th-8th, 26th SP)
With his move to closer official, Chapman loses upside, but he also loses a huge portion of his risk. I'd make him the second closer taken, probably in the 6th or 7th Round. 

Down: Jonathan Broxton (15th-16th Round, 18th)
Broxton moves holds leagues. So much for his value in standard formats, as many other non-closers will post better strikeout numbers.

Down: Jason Motte (8th-9th Round, 5th)
News just came in that Motte has injured his elbow, and will almost certainly start the season on the DL. How much more he might miss is up in the air. I like to avoid pitchers in this situation, so, to be safe, let him drop a long ways in your draft. Hopefully he won't be out too long, and hopefully there will be a more solid timetable before you draft. For now, Mitchell Boggs will be getting first crack at saves in St. Louis. 

Chances are, things will change again in the last week of the season, but the good news is that your draft will happen and you won't have to worry about overpaying for an injured has-been, or missing out on a star prospect who hasn't quite won a job. No, instead, you'll have a whole team full of commitments to players whose value could still change on a bad hop or a tough slide. 

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Offseason Injuries: To Stash Or Not To Stash?

There is no bigger wildcard throughout a season than injuries. A bad hamstring or a sore elbow can sink an entire fantasy season almost instantly, so there's always a lot of finger-crossing going on. At the same time, fantasy owners always try to take advantage of their DL spots early in the season by drafting an injured player and stashing him until he's healthy. Carlos Quentin, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Mike Morse, Salvador Perez, Brett Anderson, and Drew Storen were among the most popular "draft-and-stashes" a year ago. Some worked better than others, obviously.

Spring Training will surely bring a wave of injuries that carry over into the season, but there are already plenty of players who we know will miss the start of 2013. Some are worth grabbing late in the draft and hiding on the DL for a few weeks while others are just a waste of time. It's the same story every year. Here are a few players who will miss the start of next season and could prove useful in the second half.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Daniel Hudson
Hudson, 25, battled elbow trouble last April and May and it eventually blew out in late-June. He had Tommy John surgery and is expected to return sometime after the All-Star break. Hudson became incredibly homer prone last summer (1.79 HR/9), which can be atrributed both to the injury and simple regression -- only 6.4% of his fly balls left the yard in 2011, which is very low for a fly ball pitcher (career 39.1% grounders) who makes half his starts in Chase Field. In 2012 that jumped up to 16.7%, which is a bit high but more in line with expectations. His strikeout (7.35 K/9) and walk (2.38 BB/9) rates barely changed, however. When he returns with a healthy elbow, Hudson is someone worth carrying because he'll keep his ERA down and chip in some strikeouts. I'd go ahead and stash him if he's sitting there in a late round.

Atlanta Braves: Brandon Beachy
Like Hudson, the 26-year-old Beachy blew out his elbow in June and required Tommy John surgery. Unlike Hudson, Beachy was absolutely dominant before getting hurt: 2.00 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 81 innings. The Braves have plenty of starting pitching depth but they'll surely clear a spot when their young right-hander is healthy and ready to rejoin the rotation. Beachy is definitely someone worth stashing on the DL in the first half, no doubt about it.

Kansas City Royals: Danny Duffy
Duffy, 24, had Tommy John surgery in late-May and is expected to return a few weeks before Hudson and Beachy. He showed big strikeout ability (9.1 K/9) in six starts before getting hurt, which is on par with his minor league performance. Assuming the uncharacteristic walk problems (5.9 BB/9) stemmed from the elbow injury, Duffy is an intriguing young starter with whiff potential for next season. I don't believe there's enough track record here to warrant a DL stash in typical 12-team mixed leagues, however.

New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez & Michael Pineda
It has been five years since A-Rod made it through a full season without visiting the DL, and that streak will reach six years following his left hip surgery later this week. He's expected to be out until the All-Star break, though Dr. Bryan Kelly recently acknowledged it could be even longer. They won't know the extent of the cartilage damage until they actually cut him open. A-Rod, 37, is no longer the best fantasy producer in the game, but he's not useless either. He hit 18 homers in 122 games last season and has consistently produced a batting average in the .270s over the last three seasons, plus the lineup around him ensures plenty of RBI opportunities. I'm on the fence about this one, I can see the argument to both stash and not stash New York's third baseman.

Pineda, 23, has yet to throw a pitch for the Yankees after being acquired from the Mariners one year and one day ago. He had shoulder surgery in May and is expected back in June, but the club has admitted they will play things very carefully. Pineda wasn't far off from a fantasy ace in 2011 -- 3.74 ERA with a 9.1 K/9 and 1.09 WHIP -- but labrums are not UCLs. If he had Tommy John surgery instead of shoulder surgery, he'd be a slam-dunk draft-and-stash. Because his trademark velocity may never return, the uncertainty is much greater. Factor in the tough division and hitter friendly park, and Pineda is someone who is more worth a midseason waiver pickup than a draft slot. I'm watching this one play out from afar.

San Diego Padres: Cory Luebke
The 27-year-old Luebke starred after moving into San Diego's rotation in late-June 2011, pitching to a 3.31 ERA with 9.9 K/9 in 17 starts to close out the season. Expectations were fairly high coming into last year, but he instead lasted just five starts (2.61 ERA) before undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery. He's due to return in late-May/early-June and will be expected to get back on the path he appeared to be carving 12 months ago. Luebke misses bats, has a history of limiting walks, and pitches half his games in a super-friendly ballpark (even with the walls coming in at Petco Park). He's definitely someone I'm looking to stash for a few weeks, no doubt about it. He and Beachy are the gold standard.

Texas Rangers: Joakim Soria, Colby Lewis & Neftali Feliz
The Rangers have three pitchers due to return from elbow surgery at midseason, with the 28-year-old Soria likely to join the bullpen before Lewis and Feliz rejoin the rotation. The presence of Joe Nathan means Soria is unlikely to see save chances, but he would be a prime holds candidate as Mike Adams' replacement. It's worth noting that he's coming off his second Tommy John surgery, which is much more risky and unpredictable than the first. I wouldn't expect the Royals version of Soria, at least not right away.

Lewis, 33, is more of a solid fantasy option than a standout, but he is guaranteed a spot in the Texas rotation when healthy. Feliz, 24, could wind up back in the bullpen depending on how Soria and Lewis recover. GM Jon Daniels has already hinted that a return to relieving could be in the cards, if not likely at this point. With Nathan entrenched in the ninth inning, Feliz's fantasy value would take a hit with a move back into the bullpen. I don't think I would stash any of these three Rangers, but I'd prefer Lewis over the other two given his role and playing time certainty.

Top Injured Players

Charles T. asks:

As the season starts, could you do the readers a solid and give us a snapshot of all the top fantasy players that are starting the season injured, dinged up or otherwise hurting in some way? And also, maybe some thought on when to expect they'll be back and/or how their season may turn out. I think it would help a lot.

Agreed.  It may be useful now, but it will also be interesting to look back after the season and see whether any of these injuries mattered.

1.  Hanley Ramirez - Tendinitis in right rotator cuff.  Hanley has had shoulder issues for years now, but they never affected his performance.

7.  Ryan Braun - Bruised thumb, strained oblique.  The oblique thing worries me, given how Braun played while dealing with a similar injury at the end of the '08 season.  A down year from Braun would be a big blow to his owners.

14.  Lance Berkman - Biceps tendinitis.  I'm concerned, after paying $35 for Berkman in my keeper auction league.

15.  Chase Utley - November hip surgery.  At one point we thought Utley would miss a month or more, but he's expected to be ready for Opening Day.  I think he will be fine and was probably a bargain in early drafts.

16.  Alex Rodriguez - If you got A-Rod as a third round pick, it might really pay off.  He had hip surgery this month and reports are optimistic.  He could be back before May.

17.  B.J. Upton - He's expected to return April 13th.  Upton had shoulder surgery in November.  He's being drafted as if he'll return to 20 HR power.

18.  Johan Santana - Quickly overcame early March elbow tightness.  We've seen many times with pitchers where a small injury leads to a big one.  Still, Johan's been dominant and healthy for a long time.

20.  Manny Ramirez - He signed late and missed time with a sore hamstring.  With the opt-out carrot dangling, it seems that Manny will manage 500 ABs.

23.  Ichirio Suzuki.  This was way too early to be drafting Ichiro in my opinion.  He's headed to the DL for the first time in his career with a bleeding ulcer.  He doesn't have a timetable yet.

27.  Carlos Lee.  Fractured his pinkie in August.  Seemingly had more than enough time to be back at 100%.

35.  Brian Roberts.  Back spasms and a respiratory infection.  So far, the ailments seem minor.

38. Kevin Youkilis.  Sprained ankle during WBC.  Seems minor.  Still too early to draft him.

41.  Carlos Quentin.  Wrist surgery in September.  If this leads to a slow first half, this pick will look even worse.

43.  Cole Hamels.  Scheduled to make first appearance April 10th after getting an anti-inflammatory injection for a sore elbow.  Hamels threw more pitches than anyone in baseball last year.

49.  Alexei Ramirez.  Deep cut on his knee during spring game; not a big deal.

50.  Chipper Jones.  Withdrew from WBC with a strained right oblique.  As long as he manages 400 elite ABs it'll be worth it.

Other top 100 considerations: Garrett Atkins, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, Chad Billingsley, Joe Mauer

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Alex Rodriguez May Miss Quarter Of Season

12:54pm: I am starting to think that the risk involved makes A-Rod a pretty bad late first/early second round pick.  ESPN's Stephania Bell suggests his recovery time could be longer than ten weeks depending on the details of the injury.  You have to have certainty with your first-round pick.

10:48am: Got a fantasy draft today?  You might want to hold off on that A-Rod pick - Rodriguez's brother told ESPN's Enrique Rojas he'll miss about 10 weeks due to hip surgery.  That'd put his return date around May 15th, so he'd miss a quarter of the season.

Now if we simply multiply A-Rod's projected stats by 3/4, his value goes from $32.04 (fifth overall) to $16.43 (41st among position players).  So if you got the $16.43 and nothing else you'd probably want to draft him around the 4th round.  And even then you'd be taking a risk that he does make it back by May 15th.

However, you would have A-Rod in the DL slot and would conceivably be able to get replacement level production from another third baseman.  For this example we'll use Mike Lowell (ironic, kind of).   Let's combine 139 ABs of Lowell with 417 of A-Rod.

This A-Rod/Lowell hybrid would be projected to hit .287-33-108-104-14 in 556 ABs.  Don't worry about Lowell and his own health issues specifically - use Melvin Mora or some other replacement-level 3B if you want.

Anyway, this hybrid player is worth $25.19, valued at 10th among position players and worthy of late first round consideration.

Problems with this approach: there is a negative value to clogging up a DL spot for a quarter of the year, and we don't know exactly when A-Rod will return or if he'll be 100% when he does.  But in my mind, a late first round/early second round pick of A-Rod is justified if he is indeed to return in mid-May.

How About Chris Carpenter?

I'm liking the idea of taking a late-round flier on Chris Carpenter this year.  Carp's going at 302.35 (26th round).  We all know what he's capable of, but he hardly pitched in 2007 or 2008.

Carpenter's first outing of the year was strong, and he's bounced back from injury before.  This pick is pure upside despite the tricky nerve condition.

Razzball: 20 Risky Pitchers

Head on over to Razzball to see their 20 Risky Pitchers For 2009.  They did the math.  Guys I like who are unfortunately top ten injury risks, by their metrics: Ricky Nolasco, Brett Myers, Andy Sonnanstine, and Johnny Cueto.  These guys are typically being drafted late enough where it's worth the gamble.

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Razzball Predicts Pitching Injuries

Very cool post at Razzball, attempting to find predictors of pitching injuries.  They learned that high pitch volume doesn't do much to predict injuries, but a high percentage of breaking pitches thrown does.

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The 3400 Club: 2007 Members

It was interesting to learn that almost the exact same number of pitchers cross the 3400 pitches thrown barrier each year.  In 2008, the group had 19 members.  In 2007, 19 pitchers also passed the benchmark.  Here they are:

  1. C.C. Sabathia - 3892
  2. Daisuke Matsuzaka - 3865
  3. Carlos Zambrano - 3774
  4. Jeff Francis - 3771
  5. Dan Haren - 3635
  6. Brandon Webb - 3623
  7. Jake Peavy - 3610
  8. Scott Kazmir - 3609
  9. Aaron Harang - 3590
  10. Gil Meche - 3578
  11. Doug Davis - 3574
  12. Daniel Cabrera - 3563
  13. John Lackey - 3495
  14. Dontrelle Willis - 3491
  15. Andy Pettitte - 3487
  16. Joe Blanton - 3483
  17. Javier Vazquez - 3463
  18. Bronson Arroyo - 3431
  19. Barry Zito - 3411

Let's take Davis out of the mix since he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer the following year.  That leaves 18 pitchers in this group.  10 of the 18 had serious injuries in 2008.  Specifically I'm referring to Dice-K, Zambrano, Francis, Peavy, Kazmir, Harang, Cabrera, Lackey, Willis, and Pettitte.

The eight who emerged unscathed: Sabathia, Haren, Webb, Meche, Blanton, Vazquez, Arroyo, and Zito.  Arroyo did deal with forearm cramps at one point though.  Also keep in mind that sometimes these 3400 pitch seasons often result in issues or even surgery two years later.

There is reason to believe the 2007 class was an anomaly though.  2005 and 2006 data indicated following-year injury rates of 15-25%.

A dozen pitchers tossed 6800 or more pitches across 2007-08:

  1. C.C. Sabathia - 7804
  2. Gil Meche - 7133
  3. Joe Blanton - 7030
  4. Brandon Webb - 6980
  5. Dan Haren - 6974
  6. Matt Cain - 6957
  7. Johan Santana - 6943
  8. Javier Vazquez - 6925
  9. Carlos Zambrano - 6895
  10. Roy Halladay - 6890
  11. Justin Verlander - 6883
  12. Bronson Arroyo - 6867

I like Sabathia as much as the next guy...but he was three pitches away from being the MLB leader in pitches thrown in each of the last two seasons.  At some point pitching far more than any other human has to take a toll.

So what is the application for fantasy baseball?  So many top pitchers cross the 3400 barrier that you can't downgrade all of them.  And the year-after injury rate can vary wildly.  At the end of the day this info may just be a tipping point in a certain decision - maybe now you take a Ted Lilly over a Gil Meche.

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The 3400 Club

Longtime RotoAuthority reader finite24 brought up an interesting topic recently: injury risk the following season for pitchers who threw 3500+ pitches.  I decided to dig more deeply into this topic, pulling the benchmark down to 3400 pitches thrown in a season.  I included playoff pitches, as well as an estimate of minor league pitches thrown by Brett Myers this year.

First up, your 2008 class (19 pitchers):

  1. Cole Hamels - 3914
  2. C.C. Sabathia - 3912
  3. Brett Myers - 3781
  4. Jon Lester - 3738
  5. Tim Lincecum - 3682
  6. A.J. Burnett - 3650
  7. Matt Cain - 3606
  8. Johan Santana - 3598
  9. Roy Halladay - 3560
  10. Gil Meche - 3555
  11. Joe Blanton - 3547
  12. Chad Billingsley - 3543
  13. James Shields - 3543
  14. Justin Verlander - 3528
  15. Ervin Santana - 3526
  16. Mark Buehrle - 3490
  17. Javier Vazquez - 3462
  18. Ryan Dempster - 3450
  19. Bronson Arroyo - 3436

How great is the injury risk for these guys?  I'll go into detail on past years' results in future posts, but I'm seeing anywhere from 15 to 61% of those in this "club" deal with significant injury the following year.  Best I can estimate is that anywhere from 3 to 12 of these 19 will be significantly injured in 2009.

My top ten pitchers for the risk averse (did not cross 3400 in '08 or '07 or have a major pitching injury in either year):

  1. Roy Oswalt
  2. Yovani Gallardo
  3. Cliff Lee
  4. Derek Lowe
  5. Kevin Slowey
  6. Ted Lilly
  7. Zack Greinke
  8. Scott Baker
  9. Andy Sonnanstine
  10. Joe Saunders

That list gets really tough at the end.  It is a fact of life that you're going to have several injury risks on your staff.

Tomorrow we'll look at those who threw 3400+ pitches in 2007 - a group that responded horribly in 2008.

Full Story |  Comments (50) | Categories: Injuries

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