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Dodgers Injuries: Here's Why LA has so Many Hurt Players

The 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers are on a record-setting pace when it comes to injuries. Here's why we believe they have so many players on the disabled list.

The Dodgers already overcrowded medical wing is going to need some more beds. 

For the second straight season, the Dodgers lead the Major Leagues with the most players on the disabled list.

Currently, Los Angeles has placed 25 players on the disabled list this season, with a total of 1,331 days missed between them. To put that in perspective, only three other teams have missed over 1,000 days on the DL and none of them have eclipsed 1,200 days yet.

The 25-man roster of injury riddled players this season ties the Dodgers total from last season when the team's 25 players placed on the DL led the Major Leagues. 

Bud Norris is expected to be placed on the disabled list on Saturday with a lat injury, giving LA 26 total players on the DL this season, one shy of the all-time record of 27 set by the Boston Red Sox. 

So why do so many Dodger players get injured? It's a question that has dumbfounded athletic trainers across the world of baseball and leaves this sports writer scratching his head.

One place people may point the finger of blame is at the team's athletic training staff, a group of medical professionals whose sole purpose is to make sure players stay healthy and recover quickly when injuries occur. 

From 2007 to 2015, that job belonged to head athletic trainer Stan Conte. Conte was to blame by fans for last season's high-injury total, including a propensity for hamstring injuries that hobbled many of LA's brightest stars.

However, Conte resigned after the 2015 season and the front office hired Neil Rampe as the team's new head athletic trainer. Rampe came from the Diamondbacks organization and immediately hired Nathan Lucero from the Astros, two teams who were among the bottom of the league in the amount of players on the DL last season. 

Rampe hired the brightest and best to work under him including Thomas Albert, yet this season, the results have been the same, if not worse, than the previous year. 

While it is the responsibility of the training staff to keep players on the field, you can't blame one person or a team of people for players not stretching properly, running into walls, or pulling muscles in their backs.

Some medical experts point to weather conditions as a reason for injury, or field conditions, but LA plays on some of the best and most expensive natural grass in all the league, not to mention has an average temperature throughout the season of 70 degrees, hardly too hot or too cold to cause more injuries than any other team in the sport. 

Age could be the culprit, but the Dodgers revolving door of DL players this season includes young players like Alex Wood, Yasiel Puig, Kiké Hernandez, Joc Pederson, Trayce Thompson and Adam Liberatore in addition to older veterans like Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Brett Anderson. 

The answer may lie in the new and improved front office orchestrated by President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. Under Friedman—who was hired before the 2015 season—the Dodgers are one of just three teams to implement a new system known as "The Profiler" which uses data to "anticipate injuries or downturns in performances." 

Friedman is notoriously known as an analytics guy and famously worked for Bear Stearns as an analyst from 1999-2002. Since his hiring, the Dodgers have bolstered their depth, both on the Major League roster and in the farm system. 

Friedman has used the new Profiler system to help predict future injuries as well as dips in the performance of his players. His philosophy is simple: if your performance on the field is in decline, than a move to the disabled list should be in the works. 

Utilizing his team's depth not only gives younger players opportunities to shine, but allows Friedman and the front office the convenience to analyze their roster and crop of young talent when it comes to trades and free agent acquisitions in the future. 

For example, earlier in the season Hernandez mysteriously was placed on the 15-day DL with "left ribcage inflammation" when prior to the move, the super-utility player had not mentioned any injury or pain in his side.

Yasiel Puig went down with a hamstring injury in Chicago in May, but was able to run and pinch-hit later in the series. However, when the team returned home he was placed on the DL. 

Their moves to the DL allowed the team to look at players like Chris Taylor--acquired by the Mariners earlier in the year-- and Andrew Toles to see how they would perform at the Major League levels. Toles was recently optioned back to Triple-A, but Taylor has become a mainstay in the Dodgers' bench.

Recently, Adam Liberatore was suddenly placed on the 15-day DL with "left elbow inflammation" after he allowed four runs in his previous two appearances against Arizona and St. Louis. Those runs, coming after a record-breaking string of 27 straight scoreless games.

Liberatore had been battling a sore knee and it's likely the front office believed that some rest and relaxation could be the best medicine for one of the game's best relievers. 

The best example of Friedman's philosophy of injuries and his usage of the disabled list comes under the guise of rookie right-hander Ross Stripling. Stripling was named the Dodgers' fifth starter to start the season, but after back-to-back bad outings in the middle of May, he was sent to the minor league disabled list with "lower body fatigue."

Stripling was asked about his "lower body fatigue," by SportsNetLA reporter Alanna Rizzo on July 24, after his return to the big leagues and his response was telling: 

"Lower Body Fatigue is a fancy way of saying I had an innings limit," Stripling said candidly. "I needed to work on some things."

Stripling's sincerity was refreshing and he once again will find himself at the center of Friedman's creativity when it comes to big league transactions when he is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday in a spot-start. 

Stripling was optioned back to OKC on Aug. 2nd, but will be able to return without the minimum stay of 10 games in the minor leagues because Norris will be sent to the disabled list. The move gives the Dodgers a starting pitcher on Saturday without having to make adjustments to the team's 40-man roster.

Regardless of the rash of injuries under Friedman's regime, his strategy has worked as the team has remained competitive despite tackling injuries that would cripple any other team. Both the San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox, two former World Series champions in the past few years, were derailed by injuries in 2015, yet the Dodgers led the league in injuries and were still able to win their third consecutive National League West Division title.

This year, LA has stood strong in the wake of a solitary injury to the one player that any layman would agree would be the most devastating to the Dodgers: three-time Cy Young Award winner and MVP, Clayton Kershaw.

However, the Dodgers are 19-12 since the loss of their ace and have gained ground on the Giants in the NL West. At one point in July, the team trailed their rivals by a season-high eight games. As of the publication of this story, LA trails by 1.5 games with an opportunity to make it a single game by story's end.

Both the team and the front office hope Kershaw returns this season, but without him they are staying afloat. The Dodgers are on a record-setting pace when it comes to how many players are on the disabled list, but the organization's creavity has allowed them a plethora of player evaulations that should pay dividends for the Dodgers down the road. 

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