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September 7, 2005

Under The Knife

Moving On

by Will Carroll

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Derek Zumsteg has been doing exhaustive and important research in an attempt to ascertain why the Mariners have lost so many arms over the past 10 years. Derek raises as many questions as he answers, and while he doesn't have a definitive solution, it seems like he has more of an idea than anyone in the Mariners' front office does. The Mariners have some smart people up there, hopefully smart enough to hire Derek to follow up on this more deeply or, at the very least, hire the folks at ASMI who have proprietary research showing all of this and more.

The work leaves a rich trail of research possibilities for those of us interested in such things and with better access to data. Elias and STATS have some "holy grail"-type pitching stats; things like type, velocity and location for every pitch, going back years, laying fallow while Zumsteg and others struggle on their own to find answers. I've had 30 e-mails from people asking me to re-do Derek's work, but bigger and better. Honestly, I have no interest in re-doing anyone's work, let alone the work of someone I respect and who I feel did a credible job. The answers are already out there for people willing to look, willing to give credit to the people doing the work, and who are willing to accept that pitching injuries don't "just happen" and aren't "part of the game." There's a lot of work to do here, and it will likely be guys like Mike Groopman, Dave Haller, Jeremy Loftice, or well, there's one smart guy that Tom House introduced me to recently that might be onto something big who will be the ones that find the answers and are around to see them implemented.

Powered by free wi-fi at the local Panera Bread, on to the injuries:

  • All you need to know about Barry Bonds is the story I heard from a source today about his batting practice session in Los Angeles. Watched closely by Giants brass, medical staff and the media, Bonds took 17 swings. On five of them, he deposited balls deep into the Dodger Stadium bleachers. After each swing, Bonds reportedly turned around and asked "Am I ready yet?" Not quite, Barry. The last holdup was clearance from the doctors to let Bonds run the bases. This isn't the rubber-stamp thing that many think it is; Bonds actually needed clearance not only from his doctor and the team doctor, but also Dr. Lewis Yocum, associated with his therapist Clive Brewster, just to make sure that the Giants' big investment was safe. It's unclear how Bonds' appointment at Kerlan-Jobe went, but he could be activated at any time. The question now appears to be how Bonds recovers from activity rather than the activity itself. The Giants may have Bonds play a simulated game to test him on the basepaths. Wednesday may be too soon, but as Mick Jagger says so well on the new album, "it won't be long."

  • With Mike Mussina out, getting Chien-Ming Wang back in the rotation is huge for the Yankees. How huge you ask? Wang's 14.0 VORP, on a per-game basis, is higher than anyone on the team not named Randy Johnson and this year's pod person, Aaron Small. Wang allows the team to use a five-man rotation and allows Mussina more time to heal. With a deeper bullpen due to call-ups from a good Columbus team that just missed the Triple-A playoffs, the rotation becomes more of a concern. If Torre and Stottlemyre can find five or six good innings from a starter each night, it will go a long way towards pushing their way into the playoffs. Brian Cashman is looking smart for hanging onto this pitching prospect despite some solid offers.

  • While the A's are waiting on Rich Harden, Kelvim Escobar returns for the Angels, giving them a playoff boost. Their depth gives them the option of giving Bartolo Colon and Paul Byrd a bit of extra rest or even using Escobar in the bullpen. The team appears to be very cautious about his surgically-repaired elbow, though Escobar has gone through this before and knows his elbow and the recovery process well. His velocity and control have been good in his minor-league work, so the reluctance here seems a bit odd. There may be something we don't know, or maybe it's simple conservatism. Mike Scioscia has gotten very unimaginative this season with his lineups, rotation and in-game management.

  • "I don't want to alarm anybody," Jake Peavy said, promptly alarming everybody. Peavy has been on anti-inflammatories for the past couple weeks, trying to overcome some swelling and stiffness in his pitching shoulder. While Peavy is on pace to come close to his peak innings, he's been much more efficient this year, perhaps in response to his own frailty. With the Padres ahead in the NL West, the plan is to get Peavy a couple extra days' rest or even have him skip some starts. They'll have to hold serve to have this happen. A Pads team without its ace would be...well, it would be worse than it is now, playoffs or not.

  • Cincinnati is fast becoming the second destination of choice. Beacon Orthopaedics is filling up quickly as Tim Kremchek's dance card continues to fill. Milton Bradley will see the inside of the facility when he goes there to have knee surgery. Bradley has a near full-thickness tear of his patellar tendon. It's a different injury, but one with similar consequences as J.D. Drew had with his surgery on the same tendon. Bradley will likely be ready for spring training after his Wednesday surgery, though his game will likely change slightly in the first year, much as it did for Drew. That doesn't mean he'll be a worse player, just a different one. The Dodgers also watched Brad Penny leave Tuesday's game early with back stiffness. More on that tomorrow.

  • I happened to be at the last game that Jon Rauch pitched, a nice summer day when Brad Wochomurka and I went down to Cincinnati for a game. I couldn't tell that Rauch was hurt then, but I was stunned to see that he is back now. Team physician Bruce Thomas said it was a long shot for him to return from the surgery to repair a torn labrum, and that shot paid off. It will be interesting to watch Rauch, always a prospect but never one that proved much in his time with the White Sox, and how he responds to this very aggressive timetable for recovery.

  • Quick Cuts: Runelvys Hernandez was activated from the DL, but don't get excited--he's got a 10-game suspension coming Chris Denorfio was activated by the Reds. I really liked him in "Full Metal Jacket" Florida's Alex Gonzalez will have another MRI on his injured elbow. Expect him to miss significant time This isn't really an injury thing, but Jeff Francoeur has 11 outfield kills in 48 games. For all the noise teams make about their scouts, aren't the advance scouts noting that maybe you shouldn't run on this kid? Some are reporting that Rickie Weeks will miss time with a thumb injury. This is the same thumb injury he's been playing with for months. He'll have off-season surgery, as planned The Phillies activated Cory Lidle from the DL, though he's still a few days off. They're also feeling good about the chance of getting Robinson Tejeda back by mid-month. Adding those two would be a nice boost to their rotation this late in the game.

This is the last UTK from my old desk. Sometimes we move on, but this is the desk where UTK started and while I'm excited about the new place and the new desk, it gives me a moment to look back and appreciate something as simple as a desk that contributed to UTK. It's not the desk, the chair, the computer, the location or even me that make UTK something people want to read. It's you. My readers push me to work harder, to sleep less, to call more, to dig deeper and to give them my best. The desk will move on, helping my brother out with his work and hopefully inspiring him...or at least holding up the computer while he gets inspired. Thanks, desk, and thank you. See you soon.

Related Content:  The Who,  Work,  Elbow Stiffness

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