24 January 2013

Can the Orioles Expect to Bounce Back by Being Healthy This Year?

There is a simple phrase going about, "The Orioles were lucky last season."  This in turn has sprouted talk radio segments and internet articles on how the Orioles in fact had bad luck last year, too.  My immediate response is that: (1) The Orioles were lucky in how well they did in games decided by one run by going 29-9 (one run win records are highly variable year to year with no predictability, but typically group around .500--in other words, they performed 10 wins better than expected) and (2) The Orioles' misfortune with injuries was not out of the ordinary.  With that perspective, I find the whole argument insufficient to think the team will bounce back merely due to good health, but that is sort of a lazy way of going about it.  Let us jump into some numbers.

Jeff Sullivan has done a great job with collecting disabled list numbers.  You can find his collected information here on the DL (edit-some of the datai is squirrelly and I used it as is. There needs to be some double checking on it).  How does the AL East look?

Total Consequence
Blue Jays 1431 228
Orioles 1381 109
Rays 987 200
Red Sox 1604 213
Yankees 1753 672
The table above shows the total number of days on the DL spent by players of a specific organization as well as the total number of days spent by players who I deemed as significant losses.  Those lists are certainly arguable:
Blue Jays - Jose Bautista (77), Brett Lawrie (34), J.P. Arencibia (43), Brandon Morrow (74)
Orioles - Nick Markakis (38), Jason Hammel (54), Mark Reynolds (17)
Rays - Evan Longoria (98), B.J. Upton (17), Desmond Jennings (24), Jeff Keppinger (34), Matt Joyce (27)
Red Sox - Jacoby Ellsbury (90), Cody Ross (31), Dustin Pedroia (15), David Ortiz (77)
Yankees - Michael Pineda (183), Brett Gardner (160), Mariano Rivera (153), CC Sabathia (37), Andy Pettite (83), Alex Rodriguez (40), Ivan Nova (17)
I think the only teams where they may be some argument in whether or not I left out a player of consequence would be the Orioles and Red Sox.  I am fairly confidant in those lists those.  For the Orioles, Zach Britton and Nolan Reimold are missing.  Britton's issues with control and Reimold's history (along with McLouth's emergence) cast doubt on how meaningful those absences really were.  I'm not sure Britton's absence is all that much different from the Blue Jays missing Dustin McGowan or the Rays missing Jeff Niemann and Jeremy Hellickson.

For the Red Sox, I decided not to include Carl Crawford, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, and Felix Doubront.  The first four names are big names and the last is a younger player who shows good potential.  However, I think there is a good argument to suggest that these players may not have added much to the team.  I am still a Carl Crawford believer (though not at that money) and the Yankees think Youkilis is a good player to have around (evidenced by the contract he received for the upcoming year).

Back to the table above, I think there are a couple ways to look at it.  One, looking at the overall numbers, the Orioles appear to be not much different from the rest of the division on average (1431 days), so it is difficult to say they suffered extraordinary through DL visits on that point.  When you look at the number of days lost to the absence of players of consequence, the Orioles actually appear quite lucky in comparison to the other teams.  If you add in Reimold and Britton along with the other teams adding in their arguably marginal talent, you get the follow table for DL days:

Blue Jays 411
Orioles 447
Rays 324
Red Sox 594
Yankees 672
The average above is 490 days.  Again, nothing seems incredibly unique about the number of days lost to injury for the Orioles.  Health alone does not seem to be something the Orioles suffered worse for than the other teams in the division.

In the end, I think the hope for next year is that somehow two months of play from Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Nate McLouth, and Manny Machado will somehow be extrapolated over the course of an entire season.  If that happens, it adds about 8 or 9 wins to the team.  So, yes, if you believe those four are real and the performances of the others on the team can be repeated as well as the club not suffering more significant injuries than they suffered last year (as opposed to the Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Red Sox who lost top tier elite players over large swaths of the season)...then, yes, the Orioles could repeat their success seen in 2012 for 2013 without fortune smiling on them in one run games.


Matt P said...

That's incredible that someone would collect the DL numbers. I was looking at this in a different debate and it's an incredible amount of work. That stated, there are errors. The data table only has Kakes's first injury and not his second. He missed 50 some games due to injury and not 38 days (maybe 75 days total?). In addition, Britton wasn't out the whole season despite what's in the table. Guys hurt in September aren't on the list (Teix for example). Just realize that the table isn't exact. That stated, I'm still impressed.

I disagree with your results.

First of all, you're missing important players even if you are judging people based on whether they're significant losses. Jim Thome should be included. Reimold being hurt has to be included. Maybe you can argue that you can't expect Reimold to play a full season but just playing 16 games is unexpected. Betemit getting hurt should be included as he was the starting third baseman and was the backup DH. It's fine if you don't want to include Nick Johnson because you didn't think he'd stay healthy but then Betemit has to be put into his slot because someone needed to DH.

But the major problem is the methodology you used.

If you use all starters then you have an equal denominator. Basically, I expect my position players to get about 5000 PAs or perhaps more accurately to play 1458 games. I expect my starting rotation to have 162 starts. Depending on how many plate appearances my starters and top prospects get can give me a rough idea of how injured a team was this past season.

If you use significant players then you don't have an equal denominator because some teams have many bad players while other teams have only all stars. In addition, one becomes biased based on what actually happened rather than expectations. For example, take a guy like Chris Davis. If he had gotten injured in April, he'd be insignificant because he was never decent until this year. Fact is he did well and therefore is now an example of a significant guy staying healthy. Well... that biases things towards teams who have established players.

Just look at what you did with the Orioles.

The DH was supposed to be Johnson/Thome but since you don't think either are very good they're not important especially since they're not expected to remain healthy. Meanwhile, Betemit doesn't count because he's not significant and wasn't expected to be a starter. So, when they all got injured none of them count as a significant injury despite the fact that without them the Orioles had no DH (or 3B).

Let's look at 1B. We discussed Davis already. Now that he had a good year and stayed healthy, he can be considered important. If he got hurt, would he have been considered important. What if he had sucked for two months and then got hurt?

Let's look at 2B. Roberts was hurt but you don't consider that a significant loss because he was bad. Andino certainly isn't considered significant. That's another position where we didn't have a guy who would be considered significant.

Let's look at LF. Reimold is considered insignificant because he has an injury history. Chavez is being considered insignificant because he was terrible. That means the Orioles didn't have a significant player at that position until McLouth came in August.

Let's look at the rotation. If Britton doesn't count then the only significant guys we had in the rotation were Hammel (and if he got hurt in April then you wouldn't consider him significant because he wasn't good until this year) and Chen (if he got hurt in April, you also wouldn't consider him significant). Wada doesn't count because you never saw him pitch. Tillman, Arrieta, Matusz and Britton don't count because they were never good before this year. After all, if you don't consider Britton to be significant then I have no idea why you'd consider any of the other three significant.

Matt P said...


We can skip C, SS, 3B, CF and RF since Wieters, Hardy, Reynolds, Jones and Kakes are being considered significant and were from the start of this year. Still, we're at 8 guys maximum? Given that you're not including the bench or bullpen, it would be 8 out of 14? How many important guys did the Yankees have again? 16? If you count Nova (I have no idea why you'd use him but not Britton), Petitte and Pineda then they have at least six significant starters. And let's be honest, we can add CC, Hughes, Garcia and Kuroda to that total to get seven. Garcia did well last year and if he got hurt in April you'd include him in the list of significant players. If you add Rivera to that then that's 16 guys. Think JJ would have counted as significant if he got hurt in April? If Lindstrom, Bailey, Robertson and Patton didn't count then why would JJ?

The point is that using your method we'd have eight significant players on our roster of which four were hurt for part of the year. The Yankees had sixteen significant players of which eight were hurt. Looks even to me. And while we're talking about the Yankees -- how is Tex not considered significant? Oh right, he was hurt in September so he doesn't count because he wasn't on the DL.

Either you would need to use projected starters as your baseline (and how to deal with Roberts and Johnson is difficult and dealing with a guy like Reimold is even more difficult) or you'd have to determine which guys were important before the year started and simply determine the percentage of days that an important player was hurt. But using projected starters doesn't work well either because the difference between Roberts, Casilla and your average AAAA player is minimal. Except you can't use just significant players because the difference between someone like Reimold and Chavez is huge. A player is significant based on his replacement.

It's very complicated.

Jon Shepherd said...

Yeah, working with the list, I have seen a number of issues, but the data...generally is decent. I figured that using the sloppy data that is equally poor for all was better than no data at all. I wrote this a while back and should have been more explicit about the limitations of the data set.

As mentioned, there is certainly a qualitative aspect to this work, but I think one would be hard pressed to see Thome or Johnson as significant losses. You can get tangled up in the details of the individual cases and take a month or so of work and dedicated application of criteria or, do as I did, and make a simple pass.

A simple pass indicates that not much was lost. A simple pass indicates that sine other clubs had significant issues. I mean, the gray area issues you brought up are there for other clubs as well.

I simply do not see much need to go much further into the data when the first pass looks rather unimpressive. If I was getting crazy numbers in favor or against the Os, then I would dig deeper. I simply do not see there being much of a story for them.