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May 12, 2003

Under The Knife

Changing the Game

by Will Carroll

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If there is any one theme to Baseball Prospectus, it's that we look at the game in a different way. This is the legacy of Branch Rickey that we all aspire to and hope will change baseball for the better. The stathead outlook is well established, if regularly assailed. The medheads are developing as an offshoot of performance analysis, looking at one new way to analyze things. There is no performance unless a player walks on the field and even then, so many things are colored by health that it is next to impossible to understand performance without understanding health. Kerry Wood throws 141 pitches and we all rail, but he throws zero pitches without the invention of Dr. Frank Jobe and the intervention of Dr. Jim Andrews.

That said, I received an email this week that upset me at first, but after thinking long and hard about it, is not nearly as infuriating a day later. The email called me a fraud and ranted that because I hadn't informed this person about an injury, he was losing his fantasy league. While the 'fraud' statement got me at first, I stepped back and realized that this person was obviously hanging on the words I write. He was relying on my information, and by proxy, taking injury information seriously, and perhaps putting his money where his well...whatever body part would be an appropriate 'here,' is. We're making progress in the medhead revolution.

  • Even on teams where I have good sources, things slip by. When I heard Sammy Sosa was out of the lineup with a bad toe, I called one of my sources and asked why I hadn't heard anything about it. He said simply, "you didn't ask about his toe." It's true. I never did. I always asked about his shoulder, his head after the beaning, and about everything else. My sources almost never call up and say: "Hey, guess what's wrong with so-and-so today?" For Sosa to be on the DL, it's serious. Superstars tend to get extra time since if they're ready to go even a day under the DL minimum, it's of some value. Losing a toenail is always painful. I remember trying to wrestle shortly after having an ingrown toenail removed, and it simply was excruciating.

  • As a human, I'm sorry that Jeff Torborg lost his job and appears to be out of baseball. As an injury analyst, I'm overjoyed that the topic of pitcher workload is watched closely enough to perhaps force a manager on the edge over and gone. If just one manager--at any level--thinks that it might affect his job if he runs his starter out there for just one more inning, it was all worth it to the craft of baseball. The behavior of Brad Arnsberg--also fired, also culpable--seems interesting. Brad, if you're listening, I've got a segment on BPR with your name all over it.

    However, could someone explain the McKeon signing for me, please? According to BPers, he did well with young pitchers with the Reds, so let's hope.

  • Stop the clock on Tuesday: Derek Jeter's back in the Bronx. His return is much quicker than expected, and if Ken Griffey Jr. remains on schedule, we may have to re-adjust our timetable for dislocated shoulders. A lot of credit has to go to Jeter for working so hard, but a lot needs to be given to the Yanks medical staff that came up with the program that helped him. Jeter should be able to do everything he did before the injury, but keep the risk of recurrence in your mind. Yes, I'm surprised more people aren't questioning the Pads' decision to have Phil Nevin go under the knife.

  • The Rangers seem to have all the hitting any team would ever need and none of the pitching. I wonder if they're one of the most extreme examples of all-hit, no-pitch in baseball history...and I'm sure someone will tell me. Even league-average pitching would make them quite good, but not only are they not even close to league average, they're injured and giving away guys like Doug Davis. Now, Ismael Valdes appears to have had a setback in his rehab and he'll be pushed back at least a week.

  • Dodging a bullet. That's the only phrase I can think of for the non-fracture of Eric Chavez's wrist. Twice this weekend (see below), I thought I saw sure fractures, but I was wrong (thankfully) both times. Depending on how the wrist responds to treatment, Chavez could miss as little as one game, but the DL remains a possibility.

  • In a game that didn't happen, Eli Marrero had a gruesome ankle injury. My first instinct was that it was broken, no question. In a display of relative luck, Marrero did not break his ankle, but instead has a severe sprain. My sources are conflicted on how serious the sprain is--one has it with a completely torn ligament requiring surgery, the other as a six-to-eight week Grade II/III--but either one is pretty serious. The Cards have placed Marrero on the DL and called up a backup catcher, Chris Widger.

  • It may not be quite as bad as Marrero, but Ray Durham's ankle sprain is an object lesson in why baseball needs to adopt breakaway bases. Durham really cranked his ankle over, torquing it with his body weight and virtually throwing him off the bag. It's completely preventable and I always hate to see those. He's on the DL and will likely miss three-to-four weeks.

  • The D'backs need some help and while Randy Johnson is still weeks away (but ahead of schedule), BH Kim should be back this week. He'll take a quick sidetrip to Tuscon for one start, then make it back to the BOB, likely for a Friday start.

  • What is it about the guys with "Free Joe Blow" campaigns who hurt themselves just as they escape? It happened with Erubiel Durazo (twice!) and now Bobby Kielty gets it a second time. It's a rib cage (intracostal) strain which is supposed to only hurt when you breathe, but is unrelated to his opposite-side oblique strain.

  • It seems like he's been on his way a long time, but the results once Danny Wright made it to Comiskey (U.S. Cellular, I know...) left something to be desired. He completely lacked command and looked more like a shorter post-surgical version of Jon Rauch. It's a bit inexplicable since he showed quite good command in his rehab starts. Command often comes and goes with elbow injuries, so his next start is key.

  • Scott Strickland might have been traded this week, but instead, he's on the DL. That doesn't mean he can't be traded, just that it might take a while longer. His groin strain has affected his pitching lately, though he's been effective. He should only be on the DL for the minimum.

  • While the Indians really don't need a middle reliever at this stage, they're paying for one, so they should get something from him. By June 1, they should have Mark Wohlers back from his elbow surgery.

  • David Cone and John Franco are back together again, down in the Florida State League. Old enough to be the fathers of some of the players they face, but still battling to come back to the Bigs. On some level, you have to admire that. On another, you have to wish they'd hang it up with dignity, but if it were me, you'd have to drag me kicking and screaming out of the game.

  • Anyone notice that the Reds are on a run? Anyone notice that the moves the Reds made at rock bottom all worked?

If anyone's looking for a good outfielder you can market like the devil and will help your ballclub, one's coming available. Inquire within.

Back tomorrow with big news about this week's BPR.

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