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The healthy 2015 Arizona Diamondbacks

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There's no doubt, we fared much better with injury in 2015 than 2014. Can we quantify how much that helped the Diamondbacks improve last year?

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The raw data

Taken from Baseball Heat Maps, whose spreadsheets extract the information from MLB.com's transaction logs. The only tweak I mage was they has Bronson Arroyo listed with the Diamondbacks for the entire 2015 season, so I amended that to reflect the date of his trade to Atlanta.

2014
Name Start End Days Type Location Injury type side Position
Bronson Arroyo 6/16/2014 9/29/2014 105 15-day elbow Tommy John surgery Right RHP
Eric Chavez 6/9/2014 7/30/2014 51 15-day knee Sprained left 3B
Patrick Corbin 3/31/2014 9/29/2014 182 15-day Elbow Tommy John surgery LHP
Paul Goldschmidt 8/2/2014 9/28/2014 57 15-day hand Fractured left 1B
David Hernandez 3/31/2014 9/29/2014 182 15-day elbow ligament Tommy John surgery right RHP
Daniel Hudson 3/31/2014 9/1/2014 154 15-day Elbow Tommy John surgery RHP
Ender Inciarte 6/13/2014 6/20/2014 7 7-day head Concussion CF
Chris Owings 6/26/2014 9/2/2014 68 15-day shoulder strain Left SS
Jordan Pacheco 6/25/2014 7/28/2014 33 15-day shoulder tendinitis Right C
Cliff Pennington 6/2/2014 8/6/2014 65 15-day thumb sprain Left SS
A.J. Pollock 6/1/2014 9/2/2014 93 15-day hand Fractured right CF
J.J. Putz 5/4/2014 6/9/2014 36 15-day forearm tightness Right RHP
Matt Reynolds 3/31/2014 9/29/2014 182 15-day Elbow Tommy John surgery LHP
Cody Ross 7/22/2014 9/1/2014 41 15-day calf strain Left LF
Cody Ross 3/31/2014 4/18/2014 18 15-day hip fracture right LF
Mark Trumbo 4/22/2014 7/11/2014 80 15-day foot stress fracture left LF
2015
Name Start date End Date Days on DL DL type Location Injury Side Position
Archie Bradley 4/29/2015 5/16/2015 17 15-day sinus fracture. Right RHP
Archie Bradley 6/2/2015 8/24/2015 83 15-day shoulder tendinitis Right RHP
Bronson Arroyo 4/5/2015 6/20/2015 77 60-day Elbow Tommy John Surgery RHP
Chase Anderson 7/19/2015 8/7/2015 19 15-day triceps inflammation. Right RHP
David Hernandez 4/5/2015 6/7/2015 63 15-day Elbow Tommy John Surgery RHP
Ender Inciarte 6/16/2015 7/17/2015 31 15-day hamstring strain Right LF
Enrique Burgos 5/26/2015 6/22/2015 27 15-day shoulder tendinitis. Right RHP
Evan Marshall 9/8/2015 10/4/2015 26 60-day Skull fracture RHP
Gerald Laird 4/9/2015 8/20/2015 133 15-day back spasms. Lower C
Jake Lamb 4/19/2015 6/6/2015 48 15-day foot stress reaction Left 3B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 7/12/2015 7/27/2015 15 15-day neck. Strained left C
Jeremy Hellickson 8/19/2015 9/11/2015 23 15-day hamstring Strained left RHP
Oscar Hernandez 4/5/2015 7/4/2015 90 15-day hamate Broken bone left C
Patrick Corbin 4/5/2015 7/4/2015 90 15-day Elbow Tommy John Surgery LHP
Randall Delgado 7/28/2015 8/17/2015 20 15-day ankle Sprained right RHP
Tuffy Gosewisch 5/28/2015 10/4/2015 129 15-day knee ACL injury Left C

Overall time lost

Even if you just look at raw days lost, it's clear the team was very much more healthy last season. The Padres and Rangers were the only teams to have more DL days than the Diamondbacks in 2014, as we racked up a total of 1,354 - that's the equivalent of more than seven players lost for the entire year. This was reflected in a roster where, on the position player side, Arizona in 2014 had only two players, Aaron Hill and Miguel Montero, reach 120 games played. No other team in the majors that year had less than four. If you don't think that matters, the American League champion Royals had ten.

Last year, things were much more stable, the total lost dropping to 891, a drop of 34% compared to the previous season. We also had six players reach the 120-game mark, with catcher and third-base the only positions without a "regular" occupant. Curiously, it was our masked men who seemed cursed, catchers being responsible for 82% of all position player DL days; Ender Inciarte's hamstring and Jake Lamb's foot were the only other injuries to require time on the disabled list. That's the opposite of 2014 where, outside of the TJ epidemic, it was our pitchers who stayed almost entirely healthy. Yeah, I know: that's a bit "Otherwise, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"

Quantifying the losses

This is a bit of a finger in the air approach, which I'm basically making up as I go along, and which I appreciate is far from perfect, though we're not looking for absolute precision. For players who lost less than half the season, I've taken their value that year, and pro-rated it up to cover the missing time. For players that lost over half the season. I've gone back to the last time they played, pro-rated that up to a full year, and then allocated that appropriately to the time missed. Example: Player X misses two months in 2014 and four in 2015. He was worth 3.0 WAR in 2014. That works out to 4.5 for a full year, so the injury "cost" us 1.5 WAR in 2014 and 3.0 in 2015.

As noted, this is not perfect. This presumes that a player's performance would be exactly what it was pre-injury, discounting any effect of age, etc. It also discounts any impact on a player's production after he returns, e.g. Corbin's value this year was diminished because he was still on a strict pitch-count when he came back. I've also said a team can never get "better" through injury - if a player was below replacement level, that goes in as a zero. I'm calling this the PRAT rule, because it was due to Pacheco, Ross and Trumbo. Though you could make a case that if Cody Ross and Mark Trumbo stayed healthy, we'd never have seen David Peralta and Ender Inciarte...

All that aside, here's what the above tells us about the cost of our DL stints in 2014 compared to 2015. I've used bWAR, and players without major-league experience - Bradley, Burgos and Hernandez - are also set at zero.

2014 2015
Name Days Value Value lost Name Days on DL Value Value lost
Bronson Arroyo 105 2.5 1.4 Archie Bradley 17 0.0 0.0
Eric Chavez 51 0.5 0.2 Archie Bradley 83 0.0 0.0
Patrick Corbin 182 2.8 2.8 Bronson Arroyo 77 2.5 1.1
Paul Goldschmidt 57 4.5 2.1
Chase Anderson 19 0.8 0.1
David Hernandez 182 0.0 0.0 David Hernandez 63 0.0 0.0
Daniel Hudson 154 0.0 0.0 Ender Inciarte 31 5.3 1.1
Ender Inciarte 7 3.7 0.1 Enrique Burgos 27 0.0 0.0
Chris Owings 68 1.9 1.1
Evan Marshall 26 0.0 0.0
Jordan Pacheco 33 0.0 0.0 Gerald Laird 133 0.0 0.0
Cliff Pennington 65 1.6 0.9 Jake Lamb 48 1.7 0.7
A.J. Pollock 93 3.9 4.1
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 15 0.8 0.1
J.J. Putz 36 0.0 0.0 Jeremy Hellickson 23 0.0 0.0
Matt Reynolds 182 1.0 1.0 Oscar Hernandez 90 0.0 0.0
Cody Ross 41 0.0 0.0 Patrick Corbin 90 1.3 1.2
Cody Ross 18 0.0 0.0 Randall Delgado 20 0.9 0.1
Mark Trumbo 80 0.0 0.0 Tuffy Gosewisch 129 0.0 0.0
TOTAL 13.7 TOTAL 4.2

That's a very big difference. By this process, injuries cost the Diamondbacks close to fourteen wins in 2014, only a bit over four last year - our health was 9.5 wins "better" in 2015. Now, it's worth stressing: we certainly cannot say two-thirds of the improvement this year was simply due to the team's relative lack of injuries. As noted, some of the 2014 problems helped open the door for positive contributions from others, and the gap would certainly have been narrower if not for the PRAT rule. But it' is true that the team was probably fortunate in 2015. While the number of DL stints remained the same, the severity and personnel affected were both significantly less impactful.

If we can certainly hope for that to continue in 2015, that's about all we can do. While we can prepare all we want, and I suspect the significantly younger team we had may well have helped, there is always the risk of freak injuries, such as those suffered by Goldschmidt, Bradley, Marshall, Pollock, Ross, etc. This is why depth is an essential part of any team's preparation, across the board. Injuries are unavoidable, and how you handle them is very important. Although when it comes to your star players, pretty much all you can do is keep your fingers crossed the Wheel O' DL lands somewhere else on the roster.