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Assessing the Impact of Baseball Injuries

   by Ben Burns - 06/13/2008

Injuries in baseball need to be examined with a careful eye. Playing every day over the course of 162 games, injuries are inevitable. The question is: How much impact do they have?

Some teams are capable of replacing a player with a decent guy off the bench, maybe not as good, but someone who can step in and perform reasonably well. Other times, a player’s talents are unique and they aren’t easily replaced. And if it’s a key spot in the lineup, in can have consequences.

The Dodgers have told shortstop Rafael Furcal to cease all baseball activities, raising the possibility his recovery from a back injury could extend well into July. He has a bulging disk in his back. He’s a unique contributor to the offense, a rare offensive catalyst atop the lineup, someone who gets on base and steal. Sometimes just the threat of a steal can even affect the opposing pitcher, throwing him off balance as he pays too much attention to the speedy leadoff hitter on first.

The Dodgers have missed Furcal’s presence atop the lineup, on a 6-14 run. Furcal, 30, is eligible for free agency this fall. He is batting .366, and has scored 34 runs in 32 games. The Dodgers first tried to replace Furcal with rookie Chin-lung Hu, who hit .159 before they sent him to triple-A Las Vegas. The latest replacement, Angel Berroa, is hitting .167, with four strikeouts in 12 at-bats. Sports bettor need to note that the Dodgers have also been an under machine, on a 15-7 run under the total.

The Dodgers have targeted June 25 for Nomar Garciaparra to take over at shortstop. Garciaparra is on a minor league rehabilitation assignment, recovering from a calf injury, and cannot be activated from the disabled list before June 25.

A team devastated by injuries is the Atlanta Braves. John Smoltz is done, while Tom Glavine is getting an MRI of his sore pitching elbow. He said the elbow hurt for about a month and worsened his past two starts. Veteran lefty Mike Hampton has been on the DL all season and hasn't pitched in a major league game in 34 months.

Rafael Soriano has lingering elbow soreness that has hampered the Braves bullpen for too long now. Soriano was sidelined most of spring training with elbow soreness and has missed 45 games while on the disabled list for most of April and May with what was diagnosed as elbow tendinitis.

The Braves hope to have left-hander Mike Gonzalez back soon from the DL, where he's finishing his recovery from Tommy John surgery. With Smoltz out for the season after shoulder surgery, the Braves have no other experienced closers in their organization.

And that’s just the pitching staff! Chipper Jones is ailing with a strained groin, even though he is leading majors with a .420 batting average. The Braves are 0-5 this season without Jones in the lineup. The Braves have been good at home, but a disaster away, with a miserable 7-21 road record, the worst in baseball.

Injuries have been a problem for the stumbling Mets. Moises Alou sounds like somebody who is headed back to the disabled list, after an MRI exam revealed an aggravation to Alou's left calf muscle. With Ryan Church (post-concussion syndrome) already on the DL, manager Willie Randolph was asked if he had the feeling the Mets wouldn't get all their pieces together this season. 'I've had that feeling since I've been here,' Randolph said. 'It's been very rare that we've had our whole lineup.' Bettors beware: They’ve lost 7 of 10 games, despite being favored in EVERY one!

The Red Sox have some potential power problems on offense. David Ortiz has been out since June 1st and Manny Ramirez has a sore right hamstring. Ramirez hasn’t started in left field since belting his 500th career home run in Baltimore on May 31 and made nine consecutive starts at designated hitter. Boston is on a 9-5-1 run under the total, winning more with pitching and defense. Interleague play is going now, with no DH in the National League park, a situation worth watching for Ramirez and Boston.

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