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May 8, 2006

Under The Knife

Charity

by Will Carroll

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Baseball does a good job of balancing altruism with the knowledge that too much is annoying. The most recent charitable campaign, the Strikeout Challenge, is a nice pairing with the CapCure fundraising. Add in Barry Zito's new foundation and hundreds of other worthy causes--some close to people here at BP--and there's plenty of places to do good if you have the means and the motive. I know how lucky I am to be in a position to type up these links or even just to be here, so thanks for indulging me. Baseball is why I'm here and it's a gift I want to pass on.

Powered by the month of May out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (where a big announcement is coming on Carb Day), on to the injuries:

  • The Mets should overcome the injury, though the image of Victor Zambrano running off the field, past the trainers and coaches, and into the clubhouse is one that should be burned into memory. Zambrano tore his flexor tendon on Saturday, an injury many had seen coming as far back as two years ago. Zambrano heads to surgery soon and becomes the poster boy for why hiding an injury is a bad, bad idea. This one is too important to completely let the Mets off the hook, but they shouldn't take the full demerits either.

    In other Mets news, the NY Post says that Billy Wagner is denying reports from oh wait, that's my report! Wagner's denying he's hurt? Now where have I heard that before... I'll let the results speak for themselves and note that Wagner's velocity has been consistent, if down.

  • The Cubs got some good news tonight. Lost in the doom and gloom of missing their best pitchers for the better part of the first two months is that Kerry Wood has been throwing well during his rehab. The minor knee injury has disguised just how well, but the Lansing Lugnuts got to find out firsthand. Kevin Goldstein sent along Wood's outing, which I've paired with my mole Erik's observations:

    1st inning: K, K, K (and no fouls. Wow.)
    2nd inning: BB, K, 1B, K, K looking

    Then he broke out the breaking ball:

    3rd inning: K, K looking, K looking
    4th inning: K looking, F9, HBP, 43
    5th inning: Foul2, K, K (worked on the change here. Seems to work.)

    Final Line: a ridiculous 12 Ks in 5 innings with one walk and one hit, all done on 66 pitches with a top speed of 94. In Kevin's words, it's just the Midwest League, but that's impressive if it was against any level. Wood's stuff has always been filthy; it's his health that has kept him from being the next Nolan Ryan. Figuring out the best way to get the most out of his sick stuff--short- or long-term--is now the job of the Cubs. Scott Nelson, the Cubs Director of Baseball Operations, was at the game watching closely along with Chiefs manager Jody Davis (Jo-DEEEEE!). One more start, likely at Triple-A, and we can see how good his stuff is against major leaguers.

  • Down in Arizona, a lot has been made of Mark Prior having yet another setback. The trust level is exceptionally low right now; any utterance by the Cubs is coming under scrutiny and treated with sarcasm. Prior got sick--either food poisoning or the flu--and missed some time. It's unclear just how much this episode has set him back. Most think a week, maybe two, but there always seems to be a caveat at the end of every report on Prior these days. Here's hoping Wood can distract the Bleacher Bums and the boys in the pressbox long enough to let Prior get back.

  • The worst-case scenario for the Cardinals was to have an injury to one of their "MV3"--Scott Rolen, Albert Pujols, and Jim Edmonds. No, I take that back: the worst-case scenario is having an injury to all three. That's what's happening right now, and that the team is still winning is a testament to Tony La Russa's skill. Rolen's illness and Pujols' back problem have both been well documented and shouldn't be long term problems. Edmonds' shoulder problems are also well known, but are more serious. Edmonds has had treatment, including cortisone injections, over the past two seasons, but now even those aren't enough. At some point, Edmonds will need to shut it down for a while. It's not at a Larry Walker or Jeff Bagwell state yet, though it will impact almost every part of Edmonds' game the rest of the season.

  • Gary Sheffield is battling his balky wrist, vacillating between wanting to stay in the lineup and sitting on the bench. The Yankees are deciding now whether Sheffield will move to the DL, with some inside the organization openly wondering why the possibility of a retro move wasn't preserved while the decision was made. Sheffield's contract status plays into this a bit, though the injury itself is a frustrating one to try and get a handle on. Once Sheffield is allowed to rest, the wrist should come back to normal fairly quickly with minimal impact on the rest of his season.

  • The initial reports of the injury to Moises Alou sounded similar to Torii Hunter's injury. In the end, it was neither like Hunter's injury nor like Alou's own devastating ankle dislocation over a decade ago. Alou has a moderate sprain of his ankle and, combined with the rest of his bumps and bruises as well as his age and status, it was decided that taking a couple weeks to heal was the best move. The Giants are hurt without him, though "stats" like "highest batting average in the league after an IBB" don't give enough information with which to do anything besides fill a bullet point on an on-screen graphic. Expect Alou back in the lineup at the minimum and expect Barry Bonds to continue hitting homers and getting walked no matter who's behind him in the lineup.

  • The Brewers are hanging around the .500 mark and yet somehow it seems disappointing. The expectations were well, there were expectations, and that's something new for the Brewers. They've gotten this far in large part because of their medical staff and approach, so injuries to Prince Fielder and Ben Sheets have to be looked at in context. Both fall far short of serious, but the smart approach in both--Fielder has a mild groin strain, Sheets has some tightness in his shoulder--is caution. I wonder if Cal Ripken or even Lou Gehrig has something to do with the culture that values 162 well above a productive 130 or 140. Fielder will miss a couple games at most while the Brewers will shuffle their rotation to push Sheets back.

  • The Astros are off to a much better start than last year, in large part because Lance Berkman is healthier than he was at the start of 2005 and Morgan Ensberg is healthier than he was at the end of the year. Lost in that are some worrying trends with Brad Lidge. If you can ignore the Albert Pujols theory, you'll see that the homer and his post-season trouble are actually effect and not cause. Lidge's injury history makes me wonder if there are physical problems behind his increased reliance on breaking balls, his slower workrate, and volatile velocity numbers. Phil Garner is riding him hard at the same time, introducing another variable into this puzzle. Lidge has 11 saves, but is his 6+ ERA more indicative of his state? BP readers that you are, you know that the answer is "neither." Using Sortable Stats, let's look at some of his more advanced stats to see if there's anything here:
    YEAR     NAME          BABIP     BB9     SO9     HR9     BR9        ISO
    2006     Brad Lidge     .382    7.31   12.94    1.69   16.3125     .233
    2005     Brad Lidge     .349    2.93   13.12    0.64   10.316      .100
    2004     Brad Lidge     .301    2.85   14.93    0.76    8.27113    .116
    
    BABIP trends up, the walk rate (obviously a prime indicator of control) is way up, as is his ISO against. I'll leave it to the analysts to figure out if these mean anything, but Lidge is lacking velocity, losing control, and leaving the ball up. That's bad whether or not he's hurt. Hurt is just the easiest explanation.

    While we don't know if Lidge is hurt, we do know that Chris Burke is. He's heading to the DL with a dislocated shoulder, adding another win to The Wall's victory total. Surgery is possible and the team figures Burke will be out at least a couple months.

  • Among the things that billionaire Ted Lerner bought last week was an injured ace whose results have always been cursed by the "When he's healthy " Actually, Lerner bought more than one; he has three. There are a lot of pitchers like that, none more tantalizing than John Patterson. A history of arm problems led up to one good year at age 27. Patterson is heading into his arbitration years and will fast become too expensive for his risk/reward potential. The most recent setback makes it unlikely that Patterson will put up the numbers that will impress an arbitrator, so he could be around to tantalize Nats fans while they wait on their shiny new stadium. If you were one of the ones fooled into thinking that Patterson's 2005 meant that all his injuries were behind him, you weren't paying attention.

  • In one of the more creative roster moves, the Braves brought Horacio Ramirez off the DL for one game in which he was not used, then put him right back on the list to continue his rehab. Normally, this is the type of move that would warrant criticism or just get ignored. Ramirez was "up" because he'd been with the team during the rehab and an injury to Chuck James left the team without a lefty in the pen. James' hamstring also pushed him to the DL, making the paper move a smart one. It would have been dangerous to use Ramirez, though his history negates such concerns; the Braves might as well get whatever they can out of him whenever that comes. This type of move is another feather in the cap of John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox.

    The Braves are also watching Andruw Jones closely after an awkward slide led to some back spasms. It's not considered serious but with all the other problems, they can't afford to have him miss time.

  • Quick Cuts: The Royals have enough problems (like the ongoing GM search). Now David DeJesus has injured his right hamstring during rehab Joe Randa hits the DL, his foot finally forcing the hand of the Pirates The Red Sox will know more about Coco Crisp and his return date after a series of x-rays this week. He's "on schedule" Jeff Clement, the top M's catching prospect, had a pair of surgeries. They removed bone chips at the same time that he had minor knee surgery. It's a sports med twofer, getting two things done in the same rehab cycle Eric Milton is expected to take his rehab start in Cooperstown on the 15th. Nice to see a new wrinkle Placido Polanco is heading to a doctor on his off day, never a good sign. He's missed three games with a back strain Expect Darin Erstad to hit the DL. A decision will be made about surgery to remove the bone spurs this week Javy Lopez was pushed to the DL after he wasn't getting better. His manager's getting frustrated quickly Ryan Doumit pulled up on his recently strained hamstring this weekend. It's unsure if he's headed back to the DL. The team's waiting to see if he responds to treatment.

Last chance to join us for the Jacobs Field Ballpark Feed on the 19th. Details on the Events page. We should have more announcements soon, especially if I can find someone in St. Louis or Cincinnati to help do the groundwork.

Related Content:  Back,  Year Of The Injury

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