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May 6, 2011

Collateral Damage

The Usual Suspects

by Corey Dawkins and Marc Normandin

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Brandon Lyon, HOU (Partially torn right rotator cuff)
As an overpaid closer signed by reliever fetishist Ed Wade, Lyon has been the butt of many jokes, but this year's 7.15 ERA and five strikeouts in 11-plus innings are legitimately bad. He has been almost unbearable to watch throughout the early season, but at least now there is some sort of excuse for his ineffectiveness. After being evaluated by Dr. David Litner, Lyon's balky right shoulder turned out to be due to a partially torn rotator cuff. Unsurprisingly, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

Initial impressions are hard to shake, and the same goes with Lyon and his recent shoulder problems. Even though Lyon's difficulties appear to have come out of the blue, there were signs back in spring training of 2010 that something was going on. Last spring a cyst was drained from his shoulder. Cysts around the labrum, rotator cuff, or acromioclavicular joint usually arise from chronic friction in the form of instability or rotator cuff insufficiency. Even though an issue was already present a year ago, he ended up making it through 2010 without any further injuries, but the underlying problem (or problems) waited in the weeds until rearing its ugly head, forcing Lyon to the disabled list this week.

Lyon isn't facing immediate surgery, but if physical therapy fails, he could end up in the operating room after all. Either way, he is unlikely to be back on the mound for the Astros anytime soon, and may not pitch again in 2011. If you were relying on Lyon for saves in fantasy, you may want to look at his replacement, Mark MelanconMike Petriello wrote about him yesterday.

Eric Chavez, NYA (Fractured left foot)
Chavez missed 136 days to injury in 2010, 170 days in 2009, 166 days in 2008, and 79 days in 2007. CHIPPER didn't rate him heading in to 2011, but it's safe to say he would have been a high risk to miss 30-plus days. Given his past, the real surprise in all of this is that it took more than a month for Chavez to go down.

Chavez, who first came up at age 20 with Oakland back in 1998, has accrued 35.2 career WARP. He didn't play his first full season until 2000, when he put up a 3.2 WARP campaign. From 2000 through 2006, Chavez collected 33.2 WARP—he was talented and productive enough that it was easy to see why Oakland chose to give him the rich extension that they avoided with so many of their other young stars. Things went downhill in 2007, though, as mentioned above, and since then he has not only missed time but played poorly while on the field: from 2007 through 2011, Chavez was worth all of 0.9 WARP, with a whole win's worth coming in 2007 alone.

Consequently, it came as no surprise yesterday when Chavez headed for a triple but started to limp after rounding second. The third baseman was removed from the game and sent for X-rays, and he was diagnosed with a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot. This particular bone generally involves three types of fractures–avulsion, mid-shaft, and Jones fractures.

Avulsion fractures occur when one of the tendons that protect the ankle from rolling too far in actually pulls off a small piece of the metatarsal. The mid-shaft fractures are what you typically think of when you think of a fracture: a fracture line that forms from a violent twist of the metatarsal bone itself, or from a direct blow like dropping a weight onto it. Lastly, the Jones fracture is much more common in basketball and football. It starts off as a stress fracture and progresses to the point that it becomes a true fracture.

Going by the description of Chavez's injury, it sounds like an avulsion fracture, meaning he has a fairly good chance of healing without surgery. Chavez certainly wasn't going to permanently kick Alex Rodriguez off of third base, but he was useful coming off of the bench. Again, though, this is Chavez—if he isn't toast due to injury because of this, something else will likely get him after he returns.

Nyjer Morgan, MIL (Left middle finger fracture)
We don't think the Brewers meant for this level of sacrifice when Morgan strode to the plate in the eighth inning of Thursday's game. Morgan was able to get a bunt down, but he broke the middle finger on his left hand in doing so, and he will miss the next two to four weeks.

Fans have to be getting a little frustrated. Morgan already missed a large part of April with a deep thigh bruise and was active for only two days before breaking his finger Wednesday night. Morgan's injury means that once again Carlos Gomez and his replacement-level bat will see the majority of time in center. See why you shouldn't bunt, Nyjer? Not only do you throw away outs, but you put Gomez in a position to waste even more.

Jonathan Broxton, LAN (Right elbow bone spur)
Dodger fans may think they can rest a little easier knowing that Broxton's elbow discomfort is coming from a bone spur, but we don't think the erstwhile closer is completely out of the woods. Bone spurs are protrusions of bone resulting from either excessive traction of the bone from tendons or from the banging of the bones together—neither is good for the long-term health of the pitcher, and the bone spur itself is not the true problem.

If the muscles are causing the tendons to pull harder and produce a spur, there is likely some level of instability in the elbow. If the bones are banging together, there is most likely both instability and weakness. In the short term, Broxton may return to his normal form over the rest of this year or beyond. At some point, though, he will have other difficulties with the elbow, and he may need a surgery. We can't pinpoint just when that will be, though.

Manny Parra, MIL (Torn UCL and strained flexor tendon in left elbow)
The torn UCL was bad enough, but in addition to Tommy John surgery, Parra faces a possible repair of the flexor tendon in his left elbow. Parra stays healthy about as often as he finds the strike zone, and this time around he was injured while on a rehabilitation assignment at Nashville—this may have been a cascading injury from the back inflammation that sidelined him earlier.

As is usual for TJ patients, Parra will miss a year, if not more, while recovering from the procedure(s).

Joel Zumaya, DET (Elbow surgery)
At his latest consultation with Dr. Andrews, the Tigers and Zumaya asked what was causing his continued difficulties. Dr. Andrews responded with the magical words that only the top medical experts and surgeons can give: “I don't know.”

On Tuesday, Dr. Andrews will be going into Zumaya's elbow arthroscopically to take a look around and fix what needs fixing. Only at that time will we have a better understanding of what was going on.

Flesh Wounds: Orlando Hudson was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain... Peter Moylan's back still isn't showing significant improvement, and he may be facing surgery for a bulging disc... The Red Sox bullpen became a little thinner after Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler were placed on the disabled list with a right biceps strain and right calf strain, respectively... Homer Bailey returned from his disabled list stint for a right shoulder impingement and threw six innings with seven strikeouts (and just one walk) against Houston. His velocity dipped as the game went on, but it was a solid first return effort.

By the way, the graph in that link comes courtesy of Brooks Baseball, hosted by Dan Brooks, who will be one of many speakers at the Saber Seminar in Cambridge, MA on May 21 and 22. The money raised at the event will go toward the Jimmy Fund, so if you're in the area and are interested in helping or attending, go here for more details.

Corey Dawkins is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Corey's other articles. You can contact Corey by clicking here

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