The Baseball Injury Report

Rick Wilton, the publisher of the Baseball Injury Report, produces a weekly e-mail newsletter that features highlights from the BIR. We’re pleased to include Rick’s weekly highlights at The Hardball Times.

Welcome to This Week in Baseball Injury Report. Keeping up with the injury status of hundreds of players is a time consuming and difficult job. This Week in BIR and the Baseball Injury Report are here to help you keep up with all the injury news before your draft.

From the Injury Speculator …

Mark Buehrle (LHP, CHA)

Statistical:
The last five seasons, Mark Buehrle has recorded over 200 innings a season the past five years. This includes leading the American League the past two seasons in innings pitched. In the past three years, he’s thrown 10,683 pitches. Has he lost arm strength with all those pitches?

The past four years his strikeouts per nine innings have gone from 5.0, 4.7, 6.1 and 5.7 last year. No evidence here. Another way to look at Buehrle is how many batters he faced. Pitchers who surpass the 27.0 batters/game level have a greater tendency to struggle in the near future or get hurt. The past four years, his batters faced per game has ranged from 28.1-29.4. He’s pushing the envelope. This past season, we might have seen a sign of things to come. In the first half of the 2005 season, Buehrle posted a 30.2 batters faced/game ratio. In the second half of the season, his ERA was 3.87, his WHIP was 1.34 and he struck out 5.5 batters per nine innings.

Observational:
Buehrle’s mechanics are clean and scouts believe he doesn’t put additional stress on his shoulder and elbow. Late last year there weren’t any reports that his velocity dropped.

Historical:
He’s never been on the disabled list at the major league level and that works in his favor. Durable.

Medical:
He hasn’t had any medical issues while pitching for the White Sox.

Summary:
The accumulation of 200-plus innings campaigns has to take its toll eventually. A strong and deep bullpen could help take some of the workload off him, but manager Ozzie Guillen looks like an old school manager who likes to leave his starters in the game. The last time Buehrle’s BF/G rate jumped over the 29.0 threshold (29.3 in 2002), his numbers shot upwards the following season. I believe he’ll avoid an injury, as his history says he’s durable, but a duplication of his 2003 season is likely this year.

Andy Pettitte (LHP, HOU)

Statistical:
Pettitte posted a third career best inning total of 222 last season, ending speculation about his elbow. He faced only 26.6 batters per game last year.

Medical:
Pettitte has a long history of elbow problems. Almost every spring (including this year) he’s battled soreness and tightness in his pitching elbow. He has six trips to the disabled list since the beginning of the 2001 season. The current elbow soreness is considered minor and not an issue according to the medical staff.

Observational:
The Yankees felt part of his elbow woes were due to his cut-fastball, which puts stress on his pitching elbow.

Historical:
Since the 2001-2002 seasons, Pettitte has developed a noticeable trend. In odd years he posts over 200 innings, but struggled in even years (2002 and 2004). Does this mean he’ll fail to get to 200 innings this season, an even numbered year? His recent history says yes.

Summary:
Pettitte was dominating last season, and it didn’t hurt to have his best friend Roger Clemens on the staff. Without Clemens this year, more of the burden falls on him. Combine this with his odd-even yearly trend and you have to wonder if he’ll lose time to the DL, or struggle in 2006.

Injury Notes

Sheets Struggling with a Strained Lat Again

Ben Sheets is scheduled for a detailed exam over the weekend to determine the status of his strained lat ailment. He’s complaining of discomfort in the same area that was injured last year, costing him five weeks of the 2005 season. The Brewers seemed to be encouraged that Sheets complained of a slight discomfort?—rather than pain—in the same area as last year’s injury. As troubling as the news regarding this possible relapse of last year’s ailment, is how he pitched.

Sheets was hit around in his second outing. His pitches lacked the zip and movement of last season. We could attribute this to Sheets just trying to get his mechanics and work in, or, more likely, Sheets’ shoulder isn’t as strong as we thought it was entering his latest outing. He’ll have an MRI Friday and will be examined over the weekend. Most likely it’s scar tissue from last year’s injury being torn, which in most cases is normal. If the medical staff shuts him down for anything more than a few days, he’s a solid candidate to start his 2006 season the same way he ended 2005: on the DL.

Bell’s Back Barking Again This Spring

The injection (most likely cortisone) David Bell received for lower back pain late last week helped some, but didn’t eliminate his discomfort. Bell is being treated for lower back pain, standard operating procedure for the Phillies medical staff the past couple of years with Bell. This is the third spring out of the past four where Bell struggled with back soreness and spasms. The other spring he battled a sore right shoulder. Last season, Bell got off to a slow start in April, due in part to his back woes. It sure looks like he’s repeating history. Those drafting early should avoid Bell since we don’t know if he’ll start the year on the disabled list.

Injury Factoid

The Washington Nationals are in jeopardy of placing up to 11 players on the disabled list at the start of the season. The Dodgers are next with nine.

References & Resources
Additional Injury Notes can be found on the Baseball Injury Report web site.

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