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April 29, 2003

Under The Knife

Applying the Lessons

by Will Carroll

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Thanks to everyone who emailed their congratulations on the one-year anniversary. As I told many of you, what makes this fun for me is meeting readers--both in and outside of baseball--and getting to know them. There are great people in baseball: People who love the game like Peter Gammons and Rob Neyer (who has a kicking new Modesty Panel website); people like Alex Belth, Lee Sinins, and Jamey Newberg; people like the guys at BP that I've read for years, not to mention new friends like Nate Silver and Ryan Wilkins. People like...well, I can't name the various players, trainers, and doctors I've gotten to know, but you know who you are and I know you're reading. So thanks to you...each one of you.

  • I said yesterday that people were reading this column, but I said nothing about everyone being able to learn the lessons. Jack McDowell certainly doesn't get it, and we've known for a while that Jeff Torborg and Brad Arnsberg don't get it either. I'll say it again: There are certain factors that make a pitcher more likely to get injured, and when a pitcher exhibits signs of injury or overuse, it is the responsibility of the manager and pitching coach to use that pitcher in a manner which will keep him healthy while retaining the maximum amount of value.

    That said, it seems quite apparent from this article that both Torborg and Arnsberg knew that one of their players was injured, but rode him hard nonetheless. This is absolutely inexcusable, and both men are--flat out--to blame for the loss of A.J. Burnett. Scalies fans, your manager and pitching coach just cost you at least two wins in 2003 (per his PECOTA projection) and a staff ace for the better portion of two years. For a team with serious financial issues this is simply untenable, and if anyone in that front office has the remotest of clues, that person needs to fire both men. Do it now, before Josh Beckett or Brad Penny gets badly hurt.

    Burnett looks like he's headed for Tommy John surgery, though the final determination won't be made until Jim Andrews has his elbow open. Count A.J. out for the year.

  • The Diamondbacks had to do some juggling, but really, not much had anything to do with Curt Schilling. Diamondbacks sources say that Schilling was prepared to start, but felt uncomfortable with his mechanics. The D'backs were prepared, and dropped him on the DL with a retro, allowing him to come back next Saturday--his next scheduled start--and bring back Rod Barajas. Current thought is that Andrew Good will get the start later this week since Brandon Webb cannot be recalled for 10 days despite his strong start over the weekend.

  • Mariano Rivera is back and ready to help the team that really needs the help in the late innings. No, not the Yankees team, but my Scoresheet team--the one running neck-and-neck with Nate Silver's. I guess the Yanks will be happy to have him back, and potentially making them even better...like they need it. Rivera has looked great in his Tampa appearances, is moving well, and even better, has had no problems with his shoulder during his extended spring. The Yanks should also get Derek Jeter back soon. He's hitting off a tee and more sources are confirming that Jeter's cited May 13th date is the target.

  • The Red Sox lose Chad Fox, but they'll just use one of their other interchangeable bullpen parts to replace him. Do they use waiver claim Brandon Lyon? Retread Robert Person? Non-tender Ryan Rupe? Knuckling Tim Wakefield? The idea is that they can use any of those guys at any time, and it's working. Yes, it's working. The strategy is dependent on Grady Little figuring out who the hot hand is and riding him at the right moments. Sure, there will be failures--even a couple failures in a row from time to time--but the bullpen will be effective as Little learns his pitchers better. It goes almost without saying that this strategy allowed the Sox to use the millions they would have spent on Uggy Urbina for something more valuable, like Kevin Millar.

  • First I talk about stats like MLVr (which is really, really cool, and easy enough for me to understand) and now, I have charts (courtesy of Gary Huckabay). Yeah, I'm full-on BP now. This is probably the coolest chart I've gotten yet from the Velocity Project yet--Mike Morley sent in the chart from Kevin Millwood's no-hitter yesterday. Very interesting stuff, and proof that it clearly doesn't take a dominating fastball or even an effective third pitch to blank a team.

  • I mentioned last week that Adam Eaton lost velocity in his mano-a-mano with Mark Prior. Oops. One of the holes in the Velocity Project is that some sources aren't always accurate. Since writing that about Eaton, I've heard over and over that he was throwing harder at the end of the game than at the beginning. Anyway, I finally got a look at a scouting chart myself--not just for that game but also for others pitched by Eaton--and he's one of the first pitchers I've seen who consistently picks up velocity as he gets later into a game. Nevertheless, the point still stands that pitchers tend to fatigue, and the theory isn't counteracted by an odd data point like Eaton. Keep sending in those great reports--you never know when you'll see a great performance.

  • Quick ones: Brian Anderson had a strange test of his strained hamstring recently. He and teammate Carl Sadler chased down a purse-snatcher! Anderson ran after the thief and felt no pain in his hamstring. Good deed and good sign, all in one. Mark Kotsay has a back strain and shouldn't miss more time after a couple days off.

  • Several emails have asked for details about what I saw during Ken Griffey's rehab. I mentioned this the other day, but while I will have more about this in the upcoming article about Dr. Tim Kremchek, I won't give many details. One of the things I have is "respect for the room"--what happens in the training room is not just protected by privacy regulations, it's one of the few 'unwritten rules' that I believe in. Suffice it to say that Griffey is working hard, making progress, and you'll see the results sooner than you expect.

  • If you don't read Peter Gammons' column every week or watch him on Baseball Tonight, or if you do, and you nitpick the best source in baseball, you're just missing the point. Great stories like the one I'd forgotten about Dale Mohorcic using a number of different lineups as a proxy for team health make Gammons' column a great read. Someone asked me a couple weeks ago why I thought Peter was the best writer in the game and my answer was simple: He loves the game so much.

I'm back tomorrow. Someone else will surely be trying to ruin another young arm by then.

Related Content:  The Who,  Peter Gammons

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