MASH Report (1/27/14) – Looking at Tanaka’s Injury Chances

• With Masahiro Tanaka signing with the Yankees, some writers have been comparing his injury chances to Daisuke Matsuzaka and other Japanese-born pitchers. I decided to give a look at the numbers instead of making a guess.

Since 2001, any starting pitcher (min 120 IP) has a 39.2% chance of ending up on the DL the next season, missing 68 days on average. For Japanese born pitchers, 47% end up on the DL, missing 75 days on average.

It may seem like Japanese pitchers are a higher injury risk, but a couple of issues exist with this data. First, only 19 Japanese pitchers are in the sample. Second, the average age was 32.4 years-old for the Japanese pitchers going on the DL. For all other pitchers, the age was 29.7 years-old. If I change the overall sample to just players who would be 32 or 33, the DL chance jumps to 42% and the number of days goes to 74.3. The only reason Japanese pitcher may seem to be more injury prone is their advanced age. Otherwise there is little difference in their injury risk.

• When Justin Verlander will be ready for the 2013 still is up in the air after some reports from this past weekend.

“It’s what I have been saying all along,” Dombrowski said. “We anticipate that he will be ready for the start of the season — and he should be ready. I can’t say 100 percent that he will be ready, but I’d be very surprised if he’s not.

“But Justin read that headline and called our trainer Kevin Rand on Friday, wondering, ‘Does Dave know where I am in my rehab?’ He ran 8½ (miles) on the treadmill yesterday. He’s doing all his agilities and is throwing Monday.”

How far ahead of schedule is that?

“He’s ahead,” said Dombrowski, “I’ll just say that.

Verlander owners should plan on him to miss a couple of weeks to start the season. If he is ready in time, bonus. If not, an owner didn’t over pay.

• In a report out of Boston, Dustin Pedroia looks to be ready for the season’s start, but Shane Victorino may miss some time.

As for Victorino, who had nerve surgery on his right thumb?

“He’s a little bit further behind Dustin in terms of the time frame of baseball activities,” said Farrell. “He’s about two weeks away from putting a ball in his hand and starting to throw. We’ll take every available day in Spring Training. He’ll be on the field when he’s fully ready.”

If I am reading between the line correctly, it looks like Victorino will be ready for the season’s start as long as he doesn’t face any setbacks.

•  Mat Latos reports he can finally straighten out his arm for the first time in years after having some bone spurs removed.

For the first time in four years, Latos said he’s been able to get a 0-degree angle in his right elbow thanks to an October surgery to remove four bone spurs from the elbow.

“If I hadn’t had the surgery, I’d be in a [lot] of pain right now,” Latos said with a laugh on Thursday.

As it is, he’s not only not in pain, but he’s feeling as good as he has in a long time — especially when he extends his elbow

Here are his average fastball velocities and strikeout rates over the past four seasons.

2010: 94.2 mph, 9.2 K/9
2011: 93.7, 8.6
2012: 92.6, 8.0
2013: 92.6, 8.0

With the surgery, I like Latos as going into 2013. I could see a bump in his speed and a few more strikeouts.

• Stephen Strasburg had the same bone spur removal operation as Latos.

Three months after having arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow, Strasburg told the local media that he is 100 percent healthy and will not be in rehab mode when Spring Training starts next month.

Despite having elbow problems last season, Strasburg put up respectable numbers, making 30 starts, pitching 183 innings and compiling a 3.00 ERA. His arm was healthy enough for game action, but Strasburg had a tough time straightening out the arm after games and in bullpen sessions.
“At the time, I really didn’t know what it was, it kind of slowly crept up. I couldn’t straighten my arm out as much,” Strasburg said. “It’s kind of something that happened, and I’m not going to change the way I go out there and approach the game. … If I win or lose, that’s all I can really do.”

Hopefully his elbow issues are behind him.

• Bryce Harper is not dealing with pain in the first time in over a year.

For the first time, Harper suggested his bursitis may have started before previously known. He insisted he has played through for pain for more than a year, and he felt a marked difference when he first sprinted after surgery.

“I sprinted for the first time three weeks ago,” Harper said. “That was awesome – no pain. To run with no pain was a lot of fun. I haven’t hit with no pain for about, I mean, a year. That’s not very fun to go through a year, a year and a half with something. I know you’re going to have your ups and downs and you’re going to play through pain, but that was something that I didn’t like doing. It didn’t feel very good. Being able to hit, being able to run, being able to track baseballs, it has been a great offseason. It’s a lot of fun to be able to do it.”

I would give his power projections a nice bump up. A few years ago I found:

This [players who play through the injuries] do see a nice jump in power numbers though. Looking just at the HR/PA, the value works out to be three home runs over the course of 650 PA. While the numbers don’t show a huge discrepancy between the actual and projected stats, the players, on average, show a measurable increase in power over their projections.

For an owner just using projections may undervalue Harper in 2014.

• There is a slim chance of Tommy John surgery is in Miguel Sano‘s future.

“My elbow feels pretty good right now,” Sano said. “I’m throwing again. I threw a little bit in Florida, three or four days.”

Sano said his sessions have progressed to the point where he is playing catch from 90 feet. He is making three sets of 20 throws at a time.

The Twins haven’t completely ruled out Tommy John surgery if his throwing elbow doesn’t keep improving, but Sano was emphatic when asked if he was sure he wouldn’t require surgery on his elbow.
“For me, no surgery,” he said. “I’m sure.”

More information will be coming as we get closer to spring training.

• Carlos Gonzalez has been medically cleared after having a appendectomy and unknown small hernia repaired.

• Matt Kemp will not be ready for the Dodgers opening series in Australia. I just don’t see any way I will be rostering him 2014. He is  coming off the board at #47 on average according with NFBC which is way too early for me. I would have to take a late flier on him.

• Mark Teixeira is still dealing with some wrist pain and may not be ready for the first Grapefruit League games.

• Vinnie Pestano‘s injury related struggles began in the World Baseball Classic.

• Danny Espinosa admits he shouldn’t have played through a broken wrist last year. No #@$*^ %@&# Sherlock.

• Matt Harvey wants to pitch in 2014. Whatever. Even the Mets won’t risk a re-injury in September.

• Gordon Beckham dealt with injuries late in the 2013 season. He may be an end game play in AL-only or deep leagues. He is worth a $1 flier to possibly produce $10.

• Mike Reinold states five myths surrounding Tommy John surgery.

  1. Everyone Returns From Tommy John Surgery
  2. There are No Complications with Tommy John Surgery
  3. Recovery From Tommy John Surgery is Quick and Easy
  4. Velocity Improves After Tommy John Surgery
  5. All Tommy John Rehabilitation is the Same

I don’t really have any major complaints with the list. My only quibble is with velocities not improving. In the 2013 The Hardball Times Baseball Annual, I found pitchers see a slight velocity improvement after the surgery compared to the season in which the injury occurred. The reason for the jump was most pitchers saw a velocity loss in the injury season.

Possible Players on the DL to Start the 2014 Season

(*) 15 Day Disabled List
(**) 60 Day Disabled List
(***) 7 Day Concussion List
(****) Free Agent
Red colored entries are updates since last report.

Major League Report

Minor League Report




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.


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