For nine years, I've been running a series I called the Team Health Reports. They've been described as being "read by fantasy leaguers and major-league GMs alike, the Team Health Reports are the most comprehensive and well-researched look at injury risk you'll find." That tradition continues this year here at SI Fantasy. It's a different venue, one where you'll get the best information around as part of our free package of fantasy tools, but continues the tradition. Many of you have prepped for drafts in the past, using every tool in the arsenal to put together a great list. You've probably had great drafts and then seen the whole thing go up in smoke as injuries took their toll on your team, forcing you to scramble for scrubs to fill out the roster.
I'll help you avoid that nightmare and more accurately value players, whether you're in an auction or a draft. There's two things that win in baseball and fantasy baseball -- talent and availability. The best team in the world can't win if it's players are on the DL. What the Team Health Reports do is assign a risk value to each starting player on the roster. To make it simple, those risks are banded together into three groups -- red, yellow, and green. The stoplight metaphor makes it very easy to grasp at a glance.
The System -- yes, it's capitalized -- has been tweaked this year and is more accurate and complete than ever. I've taken out a portion of the underlying equation that was projected and caused inaccuracies over the past two years, replacing it with playing time projections from Tom Tango's MARCEL system. In backtesting, this improved the accuracy of the 2010 numbers by 3 percent. There's also a new actuarial table underlying the system, which I'll refer to as the baseline. This table shows the actual incidence of injuries for players, broken down by position and age. I make further adjustments using 10 factors that have been shown to affect the risk of individual players and teams. No one else has that baseline and it's the real key to the system.
Red is, of course, the highest risk. Players in this band are coinflips -- they have a 51 percent or greater risk of having an injury, defined as something that will land that player on the DL. Remember, risk is probability, not destiny. A 51 percent risk means a 49 percent chance of health. In some cases, the player's reward will be worth the risk. Knowing that risk is part of having all the information. In other cases, you'll steer clear of players, finding ones of equal value and less risk.
Yellow is the middle risk, showing that a player has between a 30 percent and 50 percent risk of injury. Green is 29 percent and lower. These bands are slightly altered for this year, moving the low end of the yellow band down to better match the overall risk profile of baseball. Again, the baseline is the key here, and the slight reduction seen in MLB during the 2010 season is the reason for the change.
I've learned some lessons along the way that should help you in reading these reports and integrating them into your draft prep. I encourage you to not only look at the colors and ratings, but to read the comments in each team article. Sometimes, the system doesn't know things that my sources do. That's good and bad -- it doesn't get emotional about a favorite player, but it might miss an off-season surgery's effect or not grasp something like Javier Vazquez's innings drop last year. There are five key lessons to keep in mind:
Remember, the ratings you'll find in the Team Health Reports are a tool. Like any projection or prognostication, they're a matter of probability. They're another piece of the puzzle, an information nugget that you can combine with all the other pieces you have collected and have learned to trust. As we start another baseball season, I wish each of you good luck and good health.