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6/08/2007 11:15:00 AM

Wild Card: A lesson in numbers

By Cliff Corcoran

One of the emerging concerns of the Wild Card portion of this blog has been teams and players that have either exceeded or fallen short of expectations thus far. Today, however, I thought I'd try to provide a clue as to why some of those teams have been underperforming or overperforming by taking a look at the impact of injuries on the 30 major league teams.

The simplest way to do this is to tally all of the days that a team's players have spent on the disabled list. Counting the regular season only (some Opening Day DL assignments were retroactive to March), we are 68 days into the 2007 season. If a team has had one player out all season and another player miss only the minimum on the 15-day DL, they would have lost 83 days to the DL. By this method, the Kansas City Royals lead the majors with 527 days lost to the DL, while the San Francisco Giants have been least affected, losing just 62 days.

This method can be misleading, however. Take the Tigers, for example. They have lost 448 days to the DL, but 134 of them have been days missed by infielder Tony Giarratano, who appeared in just 15 major league games last year, and reliever Edward Campusano, who has never pitched above Double-A. Certainly the 15 days lost by Jeremy Bonderman were far more detrimental to the Tigers than the 134 lost by Giarratano and Campusano.

In order to compensate for this, we can look not at days lost to the DL, but dollars lost (a method popularized by Baseball Prospectus). Giarratano and Campusano, befitting their significance to the team, are earning the major league minimum this year ($380,000), while Bonderman is making $4.5 million.

If we divide those salaries by the 182 calendar days over which the season takes place (because DL minimums also count calendar days, not just game days), and multiply the result by the number of days the player has spent on the DL, we get a more representative $279,790.22 lost for Giarratano and Campusano combined versus $370,879.12 for Bonderman alone.

The formula, so far: { (Salary ÷ 182) x Days on DL }

Applying this method to all 30 teams, we find out that the Mets have lost the most dollars to the DL (more than $9.1 million, more than half of that going to Pedro Martinez), while the Pirates have lost the fewest ($365,453.30, less than the Tigers have lost on Bonderman alone).

Of course, there's some context missing here as well. A million dollars lost to injuries is a lot more harmful to the Marlins, whose total Opening Day payroll was just $30.5 million, than it is to the Mets, whose Opening Day payroll was more than $115 million.

I've thus taken one final step. After pro-rating each team's Opening Day payroll over the first 67 days of the season (68 for the Cards and Mets, who opened a day earlier than the other 28 teams), I divided each team's total dollars lost to the DL by that pro-rated payroll figure to arrive at the approximate percentage of payroll each team has lost to the disabled list thus far in 2007 (I say approximate because team payrolls fluctuate throughout the season).

Disabled List Players' Salaries
Team Dollars Days Players Most Costly Pct $ Lost
Nationals $4,192,870.88 506 12 Nick Johnson 30.5
A's $8,229,793.96 425 12 Loaiza/Kotsay 28.2
Braves $7,806,840.66 382 11 Mike Hampton 24.3
Mets $9,123,829.67 372 9 Pedro Martinez 21.2
Royals $5,055,700.55 527 12 Dotel/Sanders 20.4
Orioles $6,918,021.98 342 8 Kris Benson 20.1
Blue Jays $6,030,973.63 460 11 B.J. Ryan 20.0
Rangers $4,185,027.47 346 10 Millwood/Gagne 16.6
Angels $5,935,590.66 337 10 Anderson/Colon 14.8
Rockies $2,951,631.87 288 9 Rodrigo Lopez 14.7
Tigers $4,919,258.24 448 9 Kenny Rogers 14.0
Dodgers $4,894,527.47 283 8 Jason Schmidt 12.3
Cardinals $3,960,994.51 236 6 Chris Carpenter 11.7
Twins $2,915,109.89 379 11 White/Mauer 11.1
Reds $2,703,901.10 420 11 Eric Milton 10.7
Brewers $2,630,912.09 197 5 Corey Koskie 10.1
Indians $2,295,959.89 157 6 Jake Westbrook 10.1
Phillies $3,190,384.62 212 9 Tom Gordon 9.7
Marlins $1,074,582.42 500 13 Josh Johnson 9.6
Yankees $6,518,247.07 369 11 Carl Pavano 9.3
Devil Rays $817,786.26 183 6 Akinori Iwamura 9.2
Red Sox $4,810,043.96 193 4 Matt Clement 9.1
White Sox $3,001,813.19 137 6 Jim Thome 7.5
Diamondbacks $1,332,975.27 183 7 Jeff DaVanon 7.0
Padres $1,210,934.07 121 4 Brian Giles 5.7
Mariners $2,205,714.29 256 8 Jeff Weaver 5.6
Astros $1,682,280.22 198 4 Jason Jennings 5.2
Cubs $1,504,543.96 271 7 Kerry Wood 4.1
Giants $900,054.95 62 3 Dave Roberts 2.7
Pirates $365,453.30 88 4 John Wasdin 2.6

Using this system we find that the team that's been hit hardest by injuries thus far has been the Washington Nationals, who have lost nearly $4.2 million of their pro-rated $13.7 million salary to the DL. That's 30.5 percent, nearly half of which has gone to Nick Johnson, though the starting rotation has also been hard hit. Given the size of their total payroll, the Mets slip down to fourth overall, with the Royals, who had slipped to eighth in total dollars lost, move back up to fifth. The A's and Braves finish second and third, respectively.

A couple of notes on the resulting list: The Marlins have had the most players hit the DL and are third in the majors in days lost to the DL, but rank 19th by this system. That's less an indication of the system's failures than it is the Marlins' bizarre payroll structure. Some $13.85 million of the Marlins' Opening Day payroll of $30,507,000 was tied up in two players: Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, leaving just $16.675 million to be divided among the other 23 men on the roster. Without an injury to either Cabrera or Willis, the Marlins will be hard pressed to break into the top half of this chart.

That the Nationals top the chart should be sufficient indication that the system is not skewed against low-payroll teams, but the Marlins should certainly rank higher. Among the players who have spent time on Florida's DL are the Marlins' intended starting first baseman, right fielder, center fielder, closer, and three of their top six starting pitchers.

The Red Sox DL losses, meanwhile, are related almost entirely to Matt Clement, who is Boston's answer to Carl Pavano. Unlike the Yankees with Pavano, however, the Red Sox proceeded over the off-season on the assumption that they wouldn't get any contribution from Clement in 2007 following his September 2006 shoulder surgery. With that in mind, it almost seems fair to run the Sox's numbers without Clement, which would leave them with just 2.5 percent of their pro-rated payroll lost the DL thus far, just edging out the Pirates as the healthiest team in baseball.

It's not a surprise, then, that Boston has also been the best team in baseball.


posted by SI.com | View comments |  


However, this system does run into a slight issue with the Yankees. Much of the damage that has been done to the organization involved players who are paid much less than the stars. Wang, Hughes, and some of the other rookie pitchers who were doing as well as or better than most of the other starters, were lost to injury for long periods of time. Although, I expect to see their ranking increase as Doug Mientkiewicz, and especially Jason Giambi, remain out.
Posted: June 10, 2007 7:48 PM   by Anonymous
Good read.
Posted: June 12, 2007 2:28 PM   by Anonymous
You might also look into "costly" injuries helping teams - for example Bartolo Colon's 5.00 or so ERA being replaced with Joe Saunders' 2.30 or so ERA.
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