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April 11, 2006

Under The Knife

Danger is Will's Middle Name

by Will Carroll

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It's an exciting time to be in baseball. I had the chance to have lunch with Sig Mejdal last week, just before taping this week's BP Radio. Not only is Sig a nice guy, but he's done some of the most interesting work in injury analysis with his pieces on injury probability for the Bill James Handbook. It was fun to compare methodology, see where we could learn from each other, and try to make what we do better. Of course, Sig's now a consultant for the Cardinals, so he's got access and resources I simply don't. It was just exciting to share ideas, to talk about the things that we think could help the game of baseball get better. Guys like Sig are getting heard and the game will be better for it. More lunches with Sig will make injury analysis a better, more robust field. I just hope we need more chairs.

Powered by The Famous Grouse, on to the injuries:

  • Despite a best case scenario for both his ankle and knee, the Braves decided to put Chipper Jones on the disabled list. Both sprains were mild (Grade I) with minimal swelling, but the Braves were worried about playing with a short bench, along with the possibility that Jones would not adjust well to his injuries, cascading them into something worse early in the season. It has been difficult to get Jones to admit to injuries in the past, and even when the injury is well known, he's reluctant to leave the lineup. This is both an admirable trait and an annoying one. The DL move is a smart, conservative choice that shows the Braves understand this is about the long haul. Jones is expected to miss near the minimum.

  • The Red Sox placed Coco Crisp on the DL after imaging showed that his left index finger was indeed fractured. No surgery is necessary and it's possible that Crisp will miss the minimum, but the team is playing it conservative for the time being. The fracture is at the proximal end (near the palm), so Crisp will have the finger in an immobilizing splint for the next ten days, then the doctors will re-evaluate his healing. The injury, once healed, shouldn't be a significant hindrance to Crisp's play, aside from making him rethink his headfirst slides.

  • Brian Roberts will take a little bit of post-surgical stiffness. Those of us who have had surgery, on whatever part of the body, know that a cold wet day is often something that we'll feel literally in our bones. After Roberts' horrific injury last season, that stiffness on a cold night is probably a relief, a reminder that he's got his career and perhaps his arm because of world-class medical care. Roberts is still not fully recovered, so small things like the weather might push him out of the lineup here and there. It's not worth worrying over, unless you're in daily transaction leagues.

  • To say that Jon Papelbon left an impression on Miguel Tejada would be correct, both figuratively and literally. Tejada showed off a bruise on his arm that looked like a baseball, stitches and all, after being hit by a Papelbon fastball. Tejada is one out of the Ripken camp with a five-season streak of playing in every game, so expect him to stay in the lineup. A bruise like that might affect his swing a bit, I'd imagine.

  • There are both positives and negatives to bringing in a new coach. Jim Colborn has had great results at nearly every stop and was expected to do the same in Pittsburgh. So why are almost all his pitchers off to a rough start? In this case, it might be right to give credit and blame to Colborn. Almost to a man, the Pirates pitchers left spring training still working on mechanical changes. In the longer term, smoothing out Oliver Perez and helping Zach Duke get a little more consistent are good things, but both are struggling a bit in the short term. At times, Duke looked confused and lost during his last start, something I can't remember seeing at all last season. This isn't injury, even with velocity significantly down for both. It's a plan. We just don't know how it will turn out yet.

  • I'm still working out the details that don't quite fit with Eric Gagne. This isn't so much the Dodgers hiding things (though they are) as getting information in drips and drops. Teams are breaking down into three categories: ones that try to hide info and fail, ones that are organized enough to keep the information close, and those that realize there's very little advantage to secrecy in most cases. Most of the things that don't mesh here are minor, but are still cause for concern, like the formation and discovery of the neuroma. I'm still watching.

  • At least they don't travel by train. Mark Kotsay is likely to miss some time after the A's left their west coast home and winged it to Minnesota. In the past, Kotsay's back hasn't taken well to the extended travel, sometimes taking a couple days to loosen up. It's a bit surprising, given the known quantity that his back is and given some of the easy adjustments that could be made on the flight. It's a long-term neutral, to borrow a Wall Street term, but if you're counting on Kotsay, it might be time to check the schedule and see when you'll need a backup.

  • Maybe that complete game thing is going to need a second look. For a guy who admits to reading Malcolm Gladwell, Joe Maddon is going to need to take a second, long look at his plan to get more complete games if it has this kind of result. Mark Hendrickson is surprisingly headed to the DL with shoulder stiffness after his complete game gem. It's a retro move and he'll likely only miss two starts, but it is a shock given his results. I'm not disagreeing with Maddon's contention that it's possible to get more from pitchers, but I am going to argue that there are better ways to do it than just watching closely and hoping the right call is made. No word yet on who will replace Hendrickson in the rotation.

  • Quick Cuts: Let's just say that Danger (maker of the Sidekick) has the best customer service ever Kelvim Escobar will make his start on Wednesday, though he is concerned about his broken nail Todd Jones had a successful bullpen session and will come off the DL early next week Paul Wilson continues his rehab with an XST start. He'll throw around fifty pitches and remains about a month away Astros pitching prospect Carlos Hernandez had an MRI on Monday and it was a worst case scenario. He has both a labrum and cuff tear and is headed for surgery. He'll miss the season Zack Greinke may be close to returning to the team, but a friend reminded me that Greinke was placed on the 60-day DL, meaning his return to the field is late May, at best.

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