When Travis Sawchick asked you which question was most important on Shohei Ohtani’s questionnaire, you answered overwhelmingly that the team capable of keeping him healthy — or of convincing Ohtani that they’d keep him healthy — would win out. Travis went on to use a metric, Roster Resource’s “Roster Effect” rating, to get a sense of which team that might be. The Brewers, Cubs, Pirates, and Tigers performed best by that measure.
Of course, that’s just one way of answering the question. Health is a tough thing to nail down. To figure out which team is capable of keeping Ohtani the healthiest, it’s worth considering the possible implications of health in baseball. Roster Effect, for example, considers the quality of the player and seems to be asking: which rosters were affected the most by poor health? That’s one way of approaching it. Let’s try a few others and see who comes out on top.
Health is… avoiding injury for a long time.
That seems reasonable. A healthy player doesn’t go on the disabled list, and if he does, he doesn’t go for long. This has the benefit of being easy to test. With Jeff Zimmerman’s help, I ranked each team — over the last five years — for hitter days on the disabled list, hitter trips to the DL, pitcher days on the DL, and pitcher trips to the DL. I then created a composite ranking from those four rankings.
|Team||Pitcher Rank||Hitter Rank||Overall Rank|
Good stuff. The Dodgers and Mets are always hurt, and… scans the list… the Tigers are always healthy? And they’ve been so old! That’s strange.
And then you think about the fact that so many of the Dodgers’ trips to the DL have been of the 10-day variety, and that they’ve used the DL to augment or take advantage of their extreme roster depth. Maybe there’s another definition of health we can use.
Health is… avoiding the big injury.
That’s different than the Big Hurt, of course. It would be weird to define health as the ability to avoid Frank Thomas. In that case, we’d all be the paragons of vigor. Instead, let’s ignore those 10-day nicks and cuts and focus on the length of time players lose once they go on the DL. This would reward a team that was more preventative in their approach, and tried to put players on the DL for shorter periods in order to avoid the big injury.
Here, I took total days on the DL over the last five years and divided by trips.
|Team||Days per DL Trip|
Now the Giants zoom to the top, and the Pirates — a team that, as Sawchick pointed out, has a good reputation in such matters — are right there with them.
It’s interesting to see the Royals drop in these rankings, suggesting that they avoid trips to the DL well, but then lose players for a decent amount of time once they do go on the DL. Mike Moustakas played through a knee injury this past year, as was reported, and also possibly evident in his batted-ball velocity.
That’s one thing, though. He’s a hitter. We seem further along on hitters than pitchers. A few Tommy John surgeries for pitchers, and your overall numbers take a dive. Let’s focus on the hitters then.
Health is… keeping hitters healthy.
Pitching injuries can skew the data, so let’s just look at which teams have avoided losing their hitters to long-term injuries. Let’s put the raw hitter days in the table so you can sort that way if you think just overall days lost is the best metric for this one.
|Team||Hitter Days on DL||Hitter Stints||Hitter Days per DL|
You know what? No matter how you define health, the Twins keep appearing among the top-three clubs here. Maybe it’s time to give them their due. They’ve been a young team for the last five years, but they’ve also kept their players healthy, no matter how you define it.
And oh, hey, look at that: the Twins have $3.25 million to offer in bonus money, only $300,000 off the max, which belongs to the always injured Rangers squad.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.