Which Team Can Keep Shohei Ohtani the Healthiest?

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 by Team Composite Health Ranking
Team Pitcher Rank Hitter Rank Overall Rank
Tigers 3 3 1
Astros 7 4 2
Twins 4 7 3
Royals 12 1 4
Orioles 1 14 5
Brewers 10 6 6
White Sox 6 11 7
Indians 2 15 8
Mariners 17 2 9
Cardinals 13 12 10
Phillies 21 5 11
Pirates 11 17 12
Nationals 9 19 13
Diamondbacks 8 22 14
Giants 5 27 15
Reds 24 9 16
Cubs 15 18 17
Rockies 27 8 18
Marlins 19 16 19
Angels 26 10 20
Rays 16 20 21
Braves 28 13 22
Padres 23 21 23
Red Sox 20 24 24
Yankees 14 30 25
Blue Jays 18 28 26
Mets 25 23 27
Athletics 22 26 28
Dodgers 30 25 29
Rangers 29 29 30
SOURCE: Jeff Zimmerman

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
Team Days per DL Trip
Giants 40.9
Pirates 41.8
Twins 42.2
Rockies 45.3
Orioles 45.4
Indians 46.4
Astros 47.9
Nationals 50.8
Yankees 51.3
Red Sox 52.0
Phillies 52.2
Tigers 53.0
Cardinals 53.2
Cubs 53.2
Blue Jays 55.0
Royals 55.2
White Sox 55.4
Reds 56.3
Dodgers 56.7
Brewers 57.6
Angels 57.7
Rays 58.2
Mets 58.9
Marlins 60.2
Athletics 62.0
Braves 62.1
Mariners 63.4
Diamondbacks 63.9
Rangers 66.7
Padres 74.2
SOURCE: Jeff Zimmerman
Last five years. This table was edited after a team pointed out a couple errors in our DL database.

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 per DL Trip
Team Hitter Days on DL Hitter Stints Hitter Days per DL
Twins 1289 42 30.7
Rockies 1389 42 33.1
Pirates 1618 48 33.7
Phillies 1299 38 34.2
Angels 1458 42 34.7
Royals 975 28 34.8
Tigers 1078 30 35.9
Astros 1369 37 37.0
Cardinals 1564 42 37.2
Indians 1643 43 38.2
Giants 2327 59 39.4
Braves 1668 41 40.7
Cubs 1808 43 42.0
Dodgers 2268 53 42.8
Mets 2199 51 43.1
Rays 2133 49 43.5
Mariners 1248 28 44.6
Reds 1784 39 45.7
Nationals 2134 46 46.4
Red Sox 2338 50 46.8
White Sox 1844 38 48.5
Blue Jays 2537 52 48.8
Athletics 2492 50 49.8
Yankees 3058 60 51.0
Padres 2324 44 52.8
Marlins 2146 40 53.7
Orioles 2109 39 54.1
Diamondbacks 2452 45 54.5
Brewers 1627 29 56.1
Rangers 3244 50 64.9
SOURCE: Jeff Zimmerman
This table was edited after a team pointed out a couple errors in our DL database.

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.

newest oldest most voted

If Ohtani wants a real challenge, then he should come on over to the Mets. Playing for a team that keeps their pitchers healthy would be too easy! (At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself while I watch the Yankees sign him…)


I would love to see how the Mets addressed that subject on Otani’s questionnaire.

“Our team doctors have a wealth of experience, they have treated more pitchers than any one in the league!”

“When you do inevitably get hurt, think about how much time you will have to enjoy those cultural attractions from back in question 4!”

“I know we said we would answer this in a day or two, but it is actually going to take us six to eight weeks…”