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May 2, 2006

Under The Knife

New Project

by Will Carroll

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In Monday's Yankees-Sox broadcast, Rick Sutcliffe was discussing the change between former Yanks pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre and current coach Ron Guidry. He closed by saying that "Guidry has every tool to be a great pitching coach." I'm not saying that Sutcliffe is wrong--we actually don't have enough information to say whether he is or not. Coaching is one of the great remaining mysteries of the game: dataless, formless, and sitting empty at the bottom of the Hilbert checklist.

It's time to take a stab at this. Over the next few weeks, Peter Quadrino and I will be working on a framework for a Pitching Coach Project, attempting to get as much information as possible on each current pitching coach. I'll be pinging my sources and talking to as many of the actual coaches and organizations as possible, but I want to use my best resource--you, the readers--as a big part of this. Tipping my cap to Tangotiger, I'm asking each of you to send in info on the pitching coaches you know. What do they talk about? What pitches do they teach? What type of background do they have? What style of pitcher do they succeed and fail with? Who taught them? There's a ton of information out there and collecting it is just the first step. I hope you'll help--send any information to pquadrino@baseballprospectus.com with the subject line: PROJECT LASTNAME, where LASTNAME is the name of the pitching coach. Let's see what we can learn.

Powered by the phenomenal new "A Blessing and A Curse" from the best band around today, on to the injuries:

  • I'm apparently as smart as a lugnut. Kerry Wood will not be a Lugnut, as I stated yesterday, since the Cubs now have an affiliation with the Peoria Chiefs. The error is entirely mine, exacerbated by the fact that his May 7th start will come against the Lugnuts. Everything else in my report is accurate and I apologize for the error.

    The Cubs pitchers are coming in waves, with Rich Hill rejoining the rotation and Mark Prior making progress in Arizona. Prior's velocity is up, though reports from Arizona say that "his leg isn't coming up as high. Not sure if that's a change or he's just not dialing it up." Prior will throw BP on Wednesday, then he'll throw again with a higher count in a few days. Assuming no setbacks, Prior would start a rehab assignment that would be structured much like Wood's--two starts and a return. My Google calendar estimates his return at or near May 23rd.

  • So the explanation for Esteban Loaiza is that he's pitched his entire A's career with a strained muscle on his non-throwing side? This can be seen as convenient or conspiratorial, but it still doesn't explain his abysmal control or his disappearing velocity. More interesting--and related to Rany Jazayerli's Monday column--is that Loaiza was placed on the DL retroactively, despite having pitched on Saturday. The rainout apparently works like Lacuna Inc. I have no idea what to expect here, so I won't pretend. To replace Loaiza, the A's called up Bobby Kielty. Some take this as a sign that Milton Bradley's leg problems are more serious than indicated originally; it certainly bears watching.

  • Everyone is asking, "What's wrong with Carlos Zambrano?" but no one seems to have the answer. The smart guys at 1060west at least took a reasoned approach, finding that Zambrano has come back from similarly bad months. Many are pointing to the WBC--or at least the change in preparation--but that's not quite right; if pitchers prepped a month early, shouldn't they be in June form now? Zambrano has had the heaviest workload of the Cubs starters and we know where the other two are now. It'd be interesting to know what Scott Boras thinks about Zambrano's workload, as he's been unafraid to pick up the phone and talk to GMs about his guys. I don't think Zambrano is back on the internet too much, so I'll be watching his next start closely. If he's still inefficient and lacking control, the Cubs will need Kerry Wood back even more.

  • Carlos Beltran is shirtless in the "Most Beautiful People" issue of People this week. You'll note it doesn't show his hamstring, which is an ugly muscle if you're a Mets fan. Beltran is still having problems with the leg, though it isn't affecting his hitting. He's having problems with the explosive first step, which is needed for defense and base-stealing; it'll likely cost him a couple singles if he's slow coming out of the box. Some of this may be mental, as Beltran understands that he's a lesser player without healthy legs and he could be guarding. Don't expect steals from Beltran in the first half. If he gets to the ASB without further problems, that's a win.

  • In addition to the Todd Helton saga, the Scott Rolen illness is also worth watching. Rolen continues to be weakened by fever and the full range of flu-like symptoms, which means he's out indefinitely. A retro DL move is possible if there's no quick improvement. It also bears watching to see whether the illness was contained or if any other Cards start to show symptoms over the next week.

  • Each passing mediocre start is bringing a new excuse from the Mariners and a new panic to M's fans, as King Felix's crown has been looking a bit tarnished lately. Is it Kenji Johjima's pitch selection or is Felix Hernandez tipping pitches? Perhaps Hernandez is just adjusting to the major leagues, a tough place for any pitcher, let alone one with his relative inexperience and throttled stuff. Hernandez still has his velocity, so my bet is that the expectations are weighing him down a bit. Hopefully, he has a long career ahead of him.

  • Ruben Sierra is done for the season after tearing his biceps tendon. There should be a bit of equivocation in there, but I'll stick with the information I have. Sierra's elected not to have surgery, leaving some chance that he could return, though given his early results as a Twin, his most valuable contribution might be his injury. At 40, Sierra might end a long and interesting career with this injury. The steroid speculation will start about now.

  • Quick Cuts: Freddy Garcia reportedly tested positive at the WBC for marijuana. I know that it won't affect him from a legal standpoint, but it will be interesting to see how Reinsdorf and Selig handle the situation Reports from Milwaukee have Tomo Ohka leaving his start with a strained cuff. More on this as it comes Jermaine Dye figures to miss at least one more game with a mild calf strain ... Paul Wilson gets a start at Triple-A Louisville. He'll get at least two more rehab starts there Speaking of Cincy, are they this year's White Sox? Too early for that kind of talk, though Bronson Arroyo's complete game was masterful (and 109 pitches). They're 8-2 against the Pirates, Nats, and Fish David Wells had a good throw day, the first good sign for his knee in a while Barry Bonds is hobbled, never sees pitches and is still ranked better than guys like Bobby Abreu and Jason Bay a month in? Sick.

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