Tracking all the injuries for an MLB team over a 162-game season (plus playoffs where applicable) can consume a good amount of time and lead to quite a pile of data at the end of the year. Throw in all the injuries from the AAA affiliate, and injuries of note from players in the lower levels of the minors and you have what is, well, perhaps too much information, which is why I am going to limit this review to injuries for the MLB club only. I love playing with data, seeing what patterns can be discerned, what conclusions can be drawn, what background info can be combined with the numbers to make sense of it all. And since I've compiled all this information, I feel like I have to do something with it, so here we go.
By my count, the Reds lost 613 total player-games to injury in the 2012 season. My gut reaction is that this is actually a pretty good number, corroborated by article at Fangraphs detailing injuries for each MLB club by player-days lost to the DL. As the first graph nicely illustrates, the Reds are comfortably in the bottom third of MLB teams in player-days lost to the DL in 2012. It also nicely illustrates my next general observation about the Reds - of the 613 player-games lost, 444 came from pitchers, and 169 came from position players, which is something I want to delve into further.
As mentioned in an Organizational Injury Report article towards the end of the season, I remarked upon the amazing fact that none of the members of the 5-man rotation had spent a single day on the DL, and that carried through the entire regular season. Cueto had one start moved back after the All-Star Break due to a blister, but that was the only effect of injuries on the starting rotation for the entire regular season. Unfortunately, that luck (if it was truly luck) ran out as soon as regular season play did, as Cueto was pulled from his first postseason start in the first inning and would not pitch in the postseason again. Still, having five starters make it through an entire season unscathed is remarkable, both from an injury and an effectiveness standpoint.
So much has been written, studied, repeated, analyzed, and put into practice about preventing pitcher injuries that it would be impossible to condense appropriately here, but the bottom line is that pitchers are highly likely to be injured at some point. But it seems that a few teams (namely the White Sox and presently the Reds, and formerly the Braves of the '90s) have perhaps discovered methods for keeping pitchers healthy. I think we owe this "rash of good health" on the Reds' staff at least in part to the work of Bryan Price.
And looking into the numbers further, it seems that Price might actually be one of those coaches who has discovered the magic formula of pitcher health. Yes, the pitching staff lost over 2.5 times as many games to injury as the position players, but setting aside the theory that pitchers are injured more often innately, let's look at the breakdown for the pitcher injuries the Reds had this year.
The Bryan Price Effect?
As stated, the Reds lost 444 player-games to pitcher injuries in 2012. But I imagine most Reds fans are one step ahead of my analysis here, accounting for the fact that Ryan Madson was lost for the season basically as soon as the start of spring training. That's 162 games lost to injury before Price or the Reds even got to see him pitch in live-game action, and (in my opinion at least) cannot be held against anyone - it was just plain bad luck.
Then there was Nick Masset, who also single-handedly lost the Reds 162 games to injury. Masset began experiencing discomfort during spring training, and it never subsided. Again in my opinion, if a player reports to spring training and immediately is feeling discomfort or injury, there is not much reason to lay this at the feet of the organization or coaching, as I don't think there is much (anything?) they could have done to prevent it. More bad luck.
So we come to Bill Bray who, like Masset, had barely begun throwing in spring training when he started experiencing discomfort and sitting out to rest injuries. Bray missed 111 games while on the DL in 2012. Perhaps some of the blame here could be laid with Price and the organization for having Bray come back too early from his various injuries, thus causing frequent re-injury, but I am inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.
So, among pitchers who made the Reds roster healthy out of spring training, how many games were lost to injury? If you haven't been counting along, the grand total is...six. Six games from pitchers who started the year healthy on the entire pitching staff! Sam Lecure had one stretch late in the season where he was out (but not DL'ed) for six games with shoulder soreness, and that was it. Tracking the progress of Masset and Bray over the course of the season kept me from realizing how healthy the entire rest of the pitching staff had been, and despite covering it all season, I was (am) absolutely astounded by this situation. I still almost can't believe it. I doubt it has ever happened before, and I doubt I'll ever see anything like it again. Unless of course, Bryan Price really is magic.
Position Player Miscellany:
Among position players, Joey Votto and Scott Rolen combined for 86 of the 169 player games lost to injury - just over half. Joey Votto missed 48 straight games, and Rolen accumulated his total over four separate occasions involving one DL stint.
Brandon Phillips was the only other Reds position player besides Rolen to miss a stretch of games on multiple occasions during the season, but he was never placed on the DL and only missed a combined total of 10 games as a result of the injuries.
By responsible body part, games missed stack up thusly, listed by games missed (number of incidences):
- groin: 13 (2)
- leg: 78 (4)
- shoulder: 22 (1)
- core (oblique): 27 (2)
- back: 16 (3)
- neck: 6 (1)
- concussion: 7 (1)
Position players missed 25 total days more than what was given for their expected return dates, among the five times when a timetable was given for return. Players being out on average 5 days more than expected doesn't seem too too bad, especially considering Votto's return was unexpectedly delayed by re-injury and repeat surgery, accounting for 12 of those extra days. Not counting Joey, the average was about 3 extra days per position player. A little of that is also Dusty Baker's personal "one-extra-day" rule.
Not all of the magic belongs to Bryan Price, since days lost to the DL for the Reds position players was also comfortably in the bottom third of MLB teams. Unless you want to attribute that to Price as well, somehow. I won't argue.