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July 1, 2004

From The Mailbag

Subluxations, The Pitcher's Mound and J.T. Snow

by Baseball Prospectus

Under the Knife

Hi Will,

I very much enjoy your columns (especially the recent labrum article) and appreciate your work in getting the latest baseball injury info.

I have a question about the shoulder subluxations suffered by Richie Sexson and J.J. Hardy. What exactly is this injury? Perhaps you could dedicate a paragraph in an upcoming article to explain exactly what has happened and what will be involved in their recovery.

Thanks,

--K.A.

This would be an easy one to describe in person--harder in e-mail.

OK, take one hand and make a "C" or cup with it. Take your other hand and make a fist. Put the fist in the C. That's a shoulder. The C is the glenoid fossa; the fist is the head of the humerus. It would take a lot more hands to imitate the muscles, labrum, etc, but that's not necessary here.

The shoulder can rotate in any direction, but when the fist comes OUT of the C, that's a dislocation/separation. If it unseats, but doesn't quite come out, that's a subluxation. You'll also hear it called "partial separation" and "popped in and out" but that's the basics of it.

--Will Carroll

Mound History

Was there a time at the beginning days of baseball when the pitcher's mound was closer to home plate than it is now?

--F.P.

Sort of.

In the really old days, there wasn't even a mound, just a line on flat ground that the pitcher had to stand behind when he pitched, and it was ususally 45' away.

By the 1880s the line turned into a box, and the pitcher had to stay inside of the box the entire time. Prior to that, they had been taking long running starts up to the line, like a cricket bowler still does today. The box cut him down to a two-or-three step delivery. The front of the box was 50' from home.

Starting in 1893, the pitcher was required to pitch from a set position off of a slab of rubber 60'6" from the back of the plate, and that rule remains the same today. Notice that 60'6" now defines the distance to a pitcher's *back* foot, while the old rule limited the placement of his *front* foot, and so the change isn't quite as dramatic as it first appears.

Sometime in the 1880s the pitcher's area began to be built up into a mound, but by whom and when is uncertain. The term "mound" doesn't appear in any rules until 1903.

--Clay Davenport

Trasaction Analysis: May 25-27

In response to your reference that J.T. Snow is 'a useful platoon source of OBP,' I am not sure the stats bear that out, as Snow has a higher OBP against lefties than against righties. If Snow is in the lineup because of his OBP, then there is no reason to platoon him.

-- S.S.

The nice thing about limited sample sizes is that they're limited. Snow's OBP over the last three seasons (from ESPN.com) superficially supports what you're saying, but let's take a more extended look at Snow's platoon data over the last six seasons:

2003 (AVG/OBP/SLG, PA)
vs. RHP .284/.387/.450 ~337
vs. LHP .208/.387/.229 ~58

2002
vs. RHP .250/.336/.347 ~400
vs. LHP .228/.382/.429 ~88

2001
vs. RHP .233/.368/.377 ~285
vs. LHP .306/.386/.388 ~55

2000
vs. RHP .292/.370/.479 ~462
vs. LHP .256/.351/.395 ~140

1999
vs. RHP .292/.394/.501 ~469
vs. LHP .231/.313/.331 ~187

1998
vs. RHP .265/.347/.459 ~410
vs. LHP .164/.259/.247 ~83

Now, reasonable people can disagree. You might want to operate on the assumption that his injury-marred 2001-2003 seasons kept him from piling up at-bats against lefties. However, in previous seasons with more at- bats to give us a more comprehensive picture of Snow's batting against lefties, I see a guy with a significant platoon problem. Even if you accept the limited samples of the last three years, you're talking about a first baseman who doesn't hit.

There's another question about the recent data against lefties, as to whether or not they're representative of Snow's skills. Take 2001, a year where Snow hit "well" against lefties. He actually spent the season being platooned with Andres Galarraga, so he barely played against them. Without digging up the game data, I'd suggest that he probably didn't see a lot of lefties in game-critical situations if the Big Cat was available, but against second lefties, or with a big lead, a manager might prefer to leave well enough alone. So I'd speculate he often wasn't seeing the best left-handers, even when he was allowed to face them. But that's speculation, and this is a quick response to a good question.

--Chris Kahrl

Baseball Prospectus Chat: Grady Fuson

In his chat with you Grady Fuson says that he's never met me. What's odd about this is that I have met him. I interviewed Fuson, at great length, in the summer of 2002, in a Rangers dugout.

--Michael Lewis

Related Content:  Grady Fuson

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