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April 17, 2007

Under The Knife

Excel-Induced Delusions?

by Will Carroll

Contrary to what Joe Sheehan tells me I should do, I start looking at baseball trends around Tax Day. Maybe Joe will be happy that Tax Day came two days later this year--my bank account would be happier if it were far later.

While injuries haven't taken time off or been snowed out--quite the contrary in some cases--there's not much to make of someone like Albert Pujols having a couple bad weeks, several pitchers having a couple good or bad starts, and almost no reflection on the standings that makes any sort of real sense.

I know this, but I continue to stare at them like tea leaves, half expecting some pattern to jump out. This could also be an Excel-induced delusion, the result of some research I'm doing for Pro Football Prospectus 2007. I look at the numbers, knowing I'm staring at nothing, but can't help myself. I watch one performance from Shawn Hill and reach for the "add player" button on my fantasy team. I believe my lyin' eyes... and try to resist. It's months before we know who will be champion, who won the awards, and who bought the Cubs, but every day between now and then, I'll wait for Clay to run his Monte Carlos, Elos, and mumble divinations over the Cray he keeps in a closet so that I can pretend that I can see the future.

Two quick notes before we get into this--first, be sure to get your tickets soon for the Devil Rays Feed on May 3rd. We've added a couple special guests to the program, one you won't want to miss if you're in the area. Details can be found on the Events page. Finally, I'll be on the road this week. Can't say where just yet, but I'll have a last-minute speaking engagement announced on Wednesday for this upcoming Friday; look for it. Powered by Deadspin killing my in-box after Will Leitch's oh-so-Freudian typo, on to the injuries:

  • The Jays got the news they'd expected on Monday. B.J. Ryan isn't as bad as most thought, and Reed Johnson opted for the best-case surgery. Troy Glaus was pushed to the DL because the team decided that even with nothing behind him, they'd rather try to get him healthy than just muddle through. J.P. Ricciardi appears to be buying into some baseball variant of Kepler's stacking theory, that all the injuries now will make the team healthier later. That's just not the case, though there's something to the idea that there is an inherent amount of risk contained in a ballclub. Unfortunately, that risk is ultimately determined by the roster, something a GM should control.

    Reed Johnson's situation is very analogous to that of Mark Kotsay. He'll have the scope to fix his herniated disk, and should be back around the All-Star break. Glaus is more of a wild card, since his interrelated heel spurs/Achilles problem depends more on his response to rest and treatment than anything else, and that's something that can't be predicted. Glaus' injury history is pretty neutral as far as providing any guidance for his anticipated healing times, while his odd combination of size and athleticism confuse most comparables aside from Scott Rolen (one I find especially apt).

    Finally, B.J. Ryan has a mild sprain of an elbow ligament. It's safe to assume it's the UCL, though it was never named. Of course, in the same article, they pointed out that it was "sprained not torn." Once again, a sprain is a tear. They mean to say that it's a mild sprain with minimal tearing, but not a rupture. Ryan's injury was compared to those of A.J. Burnett and Gustavo Chacin, both of which make sense. Let's hope for the Jays' sake that the result is more like that of Burnett. I'd expect Ryan back somewhere around June 1.

  • I think Lou Piniella read yesterday's chat with Nate Silver. He must have had some inspiration, shifting Matt Murton over to right field in an attempt to get him more playing time. That's unfortunately not going to be the way it works out, though Murton is going to be getting more time. Instead of platooning in left, Jacque Jones will shift to center field after Alfonso Soriano strained his left hamstring on a play in center. Don't blame the position switch here; the video shows that Soriano stumbled, then slipped as he threw the ball, and he appeared to strain it on one of those two events. (I've watched the clip ten times, and I still can't tell.) Early reports indicate that Soriano thinks the strain is mild and that he'll miss a week, though Piniella is quoted by the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan as saying that the "strain is 3-4 inches." I'm not sure if Piniella's indicating the size of the strain or the location, so hopefully there's more info to come. Soriano will have an MRI tomorrow, and his status will be determined shortly. Sullivan also notes that Felix Pie is hitting .444 in Iowa. Add .543/.583 to complete the slashes, but it's his 5:9 K:BB rate that caught my eye. [Ed. Note: Will's alerted us from the road that it looks like Soriano is going to be placed on the DL. We'll provide more news on this as we get it.]
  • I don't think for a second that Josh Beckett was trying to hit Vladimir Guerrero. That said, I don't think Guerrero feels any better about it. The hard shot left his wrist swollen and painful, but x-rays came back negative. Guerrero's return will be based on his pain tolerance and response to treatment. It's interesting to compare this kind of shot to those taken by pitchers like C.C. Sabathia and Mark Buehrle. Where they have five days or so to come back, a position player has about a night before they start missing action. The actual return time from HBP and HBH (hit by hit) is very similar when controlled for result. (A broken arm is obviously more serious than a big lump or bruise.) Expect Guerrero to be back later this week, though there's the chance that he'll have some lingering effects, which might take some of the heat out of his scorching-hot start.
  • Potentially lost in the worries about Carl Pavano (did that one start restore Yankee fans' hopes for him?) and Mike Mussina is the imminent return of Chien-Ming Wang. Sure, Chase Wright will make a start fresh from Double-A, but it's Wang who's expected to be an ace for this jumbled Yankee rotation. He has one more rehab start, and then should be reactivated, about the perfect time to slot into the rotation in place of Wright, who'll head back to Trenton assuming that "Old" Yankee Stadium doesn't have one more Wally Pipp ghost story left in between the friezes. There is a chance Wang skips his last rehab start and pitches against Dice-K on Sunday Night Baseball.
  • Ricky Nolasco is something of a forgotten man in the Marlins ... rotation? Pen? See, this is part of the problem. No one seems to know where Nolasco slots in. He was pulled out of the competition for the closer role when Josh Johnson was injured, but then he injured himself. With the rotation more or less set, and with some concerns for Nolasco's stamina once he returns, the bullpen would be the easy answer, except the Marlins have several other options beyond Jorge Julio, like Taylor Tankersley and Henry Owens. Nolasco's in that no man's land with undefined role, something that should be a problem, not a weakness. The Marlins have enough holes that a long man should have exceptional value, avoiding the setup role that they haven't defined and protecting a young rotation that's already shown some holes. Instead of a La Russa-like mish-mash of specialists, the Marlins and their collection of young pitching seems especially suited to a revival of Weaver on Strategy. I think the man's in the area, come to think of it.

Quick Cuts: Randy Johnson will make one more rehab start, putting him on track for a return early next week ... Nick Punto escapes the DL and should be back in time to play this weekend, depending on how well his ankle takes to treatment ... Joe Mauer made 11 straight starts at catcher, then got a day off. Someone please explain to me how this makes any sense at all ... One last note to Deadspin's Will Leitch: I will take you on, John Rocker-style, anywhere, anytime for a charity throwdown. A batting cage will be our arena. One at-bat, HBP's count as balls, I win on a K, you win on a hit.

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