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Taking great pains to chart the history of baseball players' injuries

The Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado reacts after grounding

The Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado reacts after grounding out in the third inning of a game against the Yankees, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in Baltimore. Credit: AP / Patrick Semansky

Corey Dawkins wanted to gain an edge in fantasy baseball. That's the only reason why the licensed athletic trainer started documenting baseball player injuries in 2008. And six years later, he hasn't stopped.

That innocent germ of an idea soon turned into an obsession of sorts, as Dawkins estimated that he has spent thousands of hours putting together what is generally regarded in the baseball stat community as the most exhaustive database for player injuries.

He's not done yet, either.

Dawkins says for every pitcher since the 1940s, he has logged their documented injury history, with the number of games missed and whether surgery was required for each occurrence. As for position players, he says he is about 40 percent done with a goal of getting them all inputted by the start of next season.

Then, he says, the real fun begins.

"When I saw how much this data was lacking, that's when I really got a sense that maybe I could change this and look at this more as a research project," said Dawkins, 37, an athletic trainer at Children's Hospital of Boston. "I'd like to think that after I'm done, when we're looking at a player's injury history, there will be something in their performance metrics that could give us an idea as to how much of a risk future players with the same injuries occurring will be."

His work is available online at Baseball Prospectus, which licenses the data from him annually.

What makes Dawkins' data so comprehensive compared with other such databases is that he doesn't list only the players' disabled-list stints. He also searched through newspapers and media guides for the more minor injuries that might cause someone to miss a few days but not land on the DL.

David Cone's Baseball Prospectus profile, for example, includes bouts of shoulder stiffness, neck stiffness and a knee sprain that caused him to miss time but not be placed on the DL.

Bartolo Colon's profile lists a blister that caused him to miss time in spring training 2006 and an abdomen strain suffered while he was in the minors in 2008 that led to a month off.

Despite the significant time and effort it takes to research some of these hard-to-find injury minutiae from years ago, Dawkins did so because he says it's often the insignificant injuries that lead to the significant ones. So he wanted to be as complete as possible.

"That's where we're really going to be able to find the needle in the haystack to figure out what's going on with a specific injury," he said.

When the Colorado Rockies announced recently that lefthander Brett Anderson had decided to have season-ending surgery to repair a disc in his lower back, Dawkins said he wasn't surprised. He remembered logging several instances of lower-back stiffness for Anderson over the years, and he's found those often lead to back surgery somewhere down the road.

He hasn't yet had the time to run some studies to determine how often an injury such as "lower-back stiffness" leads to back surgery, but he's sure logged enough of them to eyeball a trend. On average, he said he spends three hours every weeknight and eight hours every Sunday updating his database.

"It felt absolutely phenomenal when I was able to complete the pitchers through the '40s," Dawkins said, noting that he hasn't seen any other database go earlier than 2000.

He said he's had some interest from a few major-league organizations, as well as some fantasy baseball websites in purchasing the data outright, but thus far his only deal has been with Baseball Prospectus. He thinks that might change once his database is up-to-date at the start of next season, as is his goal.

In the meantime, he's content to be the go-to person among his friends when a player on their fantasy teams gets injured and they want some insight into how much time he'll miss.

"I can give them a rough idea," Dawkins said, "based on what I've seen in the database."

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