On Depth and Injuries

Will Carroll of Sports Illustrated — the “Injury Expert” — wrote an article on Tuesday that takes a look at which teams in baseball have lost the most value (in terms of dollars) due to injuries over the past 10 years, and which have saved the most value thanks to their medical staffs. Where in the spectrum do the Brewers fall? You might be surprised.

The Brewers have been second only to the White Sox in preventing injuries over the past decade, in part because they’ve decided that random isn’t good enough. They made the unusual move of putting their medical staff under the direction of assistant GM Gord Ash. Ash has focused effort, resources and thought onto his medical staff, leading to a reduction in injuries and a better understanding of the intersections of health, performance and development. The team has used this “one page” approach, aligning the scouting, medical and minor league departments to generate results. From Roger Caplinger’s major league staff down to the Single-A level, the Brewers seem not only to be able to acquire good young pitching, but to keep it healthy. The team has certainly had challenges at every level, but players such as Mark Rodgers [sic], Manny Parra and Rickie Weeks show how well the team can limit injuries, rehab players and get the most out of their available resources.

On the surface, it may be hard to believe. After all, the injuries we remember are the big ones, like Rickie Weeks’ wrist injuries, Yovani Gallardo’s ACL tear, and Ben Sheets’ myriad of shoulder and elbow issues. But when you think about it, the Brewers have actually been able to keep most of their regulars healthy, with minimal trips to the DL. Casey McGehee has played nearly every game since becoming the regular third baseman. Corey Hart has been dependable outside of a couple of freak incidents (his appendectomy and broken wrist). Prince Fielder has played 797 games in five full seasons, something that’s unthinkable for a man his size.

There’s been a lot of concern about the Brewers’ lack of depth heading into the 2011 season. They haven’t been exceptionally deep in past years, either, but they were never expected to contend like they are this year. Perhaps the Brewers are confident that their good fortunes when it comes to injuries will continue, and they think they don’t need to emphasize bench depth as much as some other National League teams. It’s not a theory with which I would entirely agree, but it does make sense after reading Carroll’s piece. At the very least, Carroll’s research makes for an interesting read.

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