Something to peruse today in your spare time: pitcher injury estimation analysis. The Chicago Cubs have had relatively good pitcher health in recent years, and continuing that good fortune (and maybe it’s not all just “good fortune”) into 2015 could be a huge boon to their hopes of being competitive.
So … wonder how likely various Cubs pitchers are to get injured in 2015?
Well, good luck to you in your wondering. There’s no perfect science yet in predicting (and thus preventing) pitching injuries, but there are some things we know that tend to be true with respect to injuries, age, innings pitched, pitch usage, and previous injuries. Using that knowledge, Jeff Zimmerman calculated at FanGraphs the likelihood of injury for a whole bunch of starting pitchers. You can comb through the full spreadsheet to see who might be at the highest risk of injury. Remember: this is not yet a hard-and-fast science, and simply uses the best information we have available to estimate the best possible answers to the profound mystery that is pitcher injuries.
The median risk of a DL stint in Zimmerman’s study is about 40%, and, on the balance, the Cubs look to be in decent shape, overall.
- Although new ace Jon Lester is 31, he’s had a very healthy track record, and he doesn’t rely too exclusively on pitches that are likely to tax his elbow. Thus, he shows up at a 34.7% chance of a DL stint, which is excellent.
- Also-ace Jake Arrieta, despite the heavy slider reliance and the shoulder issue last year, shows up at right around league average, 41.3%. (Though I wonder if the fact that many of Arrieta’s 2014 sliders were more of a slutter, which was classified by some as a cutter, is impacting things here. The slutter, because of its nasty movement, feels like it would be hard on the elbow, but that’s coming from a guy who knows almost nothing about the mechanics of arm action and pitcher injury. I just know that the data does suggest that heavy slider usage can be tied to future arm injuries.)
- Jason Hammel, however, has had some injury issues in the past, relied heavily on the slider last year (to great effect), and he’s up there at 49.1%, which is just outside the bottom 10.
- Travis Wood, for what it’s worth, is among the 10 least likely starters to get injured (32.1%), according to this system. Health certainly matters, but, for the Cubs, if Wood remains on the Cubs through 2015, what you’d like to see most is a bounce-back in effectiveness. A healthy repeat of the 2014 season doesn’t really do much.
- Edwin Jackson is right there at league average, again, for what it’s worth. The Cubs’ other options for the rotation don’t show up on the list because they didn’t throw enough innings in 2014. You can presume the risk for someone like Kyle Hendricks, who is young, uses a wide mix of pitches, and doesn’t have an extensive injury history, is low. (Though, keep in mind: pitchers get hurt. It’s just something that happens. An extremely “low” risk is still something like a 30% chance at a DL stint in a given season.)
- If you’re wondering: James Shields, though 33, is at just 36.7%. Max Scherzer is way down at 33.6%. Cole Hamels is at 40.2%. David Price is at 38.0%.