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June 11, 2007

Under The Knife

Great Expectations

by Will Carroll

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I hate to criticize a guy who once called for Steve Stone and I to run the Cubs, but I can't agree with Jay Mariotti in blaming Kenny Williams for the "collapse" of the White Sox. While Nate Silver backed off of PECOTA's crepe-hanging prediction for the Sox just a bit--but only a bit--I think the health reports are actually a better indication. The Sox had three yellows (Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, and A.J. Pierzynski) and two reds (Joe Crede and Scott Podsednik) on the player side, something that looks pretty darn close to reality. On the pitching side, they were a bit more yellow, slightly offset by Jon Garland's blue. Again, very close to reality. If Williams saw what I saw going into the season, I don't think that he can be blamed, aside from the acquisition of and reliance on Darin Erstad. The Sox got younger on the pitching side through a couple of solid trades with the Rangers and Phillies, two deals that were bold and surprising, but that he's clearly won at this stage.

Instead, Mariotti seems to have had bigger expectations for the Sox than anyone else. I think Williams knew that the Sox would have to have everything go right to compete with the Indians and Tigers, but he's also slowly rebuilt a team that won't need a white flag trade to rebuild. They'll lose some players this offseason, but we'll already have a sneak peek at Josh Fields by that point. Williams has built a team that isn't going away, even if it doesn't look as if they're going back to the playoffs this season.

Powered by Apple, on to the injuries:

  • Problems in Magglio Ordonez's left knee have to concern Tigers fans, but given that he's had almost no problems with the knee since coming to Detroit, this shouldn't be treated as if it's more than simple stiffness. There's some concern, of course, that the surgery he had before coming to Detroit affected the function of the knee. We don't really have any baseball comps for the type of surgery that Ordonez had, so there's no way to get a longer-term handle on its effect, though it's hard to argue with the results through the first couple seasons. Ordonez doesn't look to miss much time, but watch him--actually watch--to see if there's any change in his speed, range, or especially his gait. If there appears to be more of a problem than Ordonez is letting on, he could be a "sell while still high" candidate for fantasy owners.
  • Hunter Pence has been as advertised since coming up, but a hip flexor strain could slow him down and sap some power. The injury isn't severe, but it is one of those troubling, nagging things that can take a while to fully heal. Pence ran on Sunday and didn't appear to have much trouble running in a straight line, according to one source, but it's more difficult to say if the injury will affect his starts out of the box or out in center field. The Astros can't afford to lose one of their most productive hitters.
  • Jason Schmidt was in the low 90's in his first start, but only cracked the mid-80's in his second. The loss of velocity points to a concern about his recovery time between starts, which recalls an earlier point about figuring out a non-standard rotation that could improve the Dodgers. They have an abundance of quality pitchers, including some that could allow Schmidt more rest between starts or limit how much he needs to pitch in any outing. The question now is if this is an anomaly, or if Schmidt needs more than an extra day's rest. The Dodgers will need to try and get Schmidt to contribute, and should be thinking outside the box to figure out how to best use the resources they have.
  • Jered Weaver started the season with shoulder problems, and is now dealing with back problems as we near the halfway point. The Angels admitted that Weaver's back has affected him for a couple of starts, and that a wet mound aggravated it rather than caused it. The Angels will wait to see how he recovers and how he does on the side before deciding whether he'll make his next start.
  • There's not much to learn from Roger Clemens' first start. He went 100+ pitches, which is about the maximum you'll see from him, but there was a minor loss of velocity at both the front and back ends of his start. Aside from that, we saw about what was expected. He had a hard time keeping the ball down early, but didn't change his pitch selection much from that of the past few seasons. The biggest concerns now are whether he recovers with the "tired groin," and if he's able to have the same results against a team that can actually hit.
  • Mark Teixeira has been very healthy over the course of his career, so seeing him head to the DL with a quad strain is tough to read. We don't know how Teixeira deals with this type of injury, or in fact, with any kind of injury. The information we have indicates that it's not terribly serious, but that the Rangers are more concerned about making sure that it doesn't get worse. I don't expect him to be on the DL more than the minimum given the stated results of the MRI, but watch to see how quickly he's back in the batting cage. At worst, we could see more of Teixeira at DH in the short term, something that isn't a negative for him.
  • Jermaine Dye was a green light at the start of the year, and I'm not ready to move off that despite some knee problems that have required both cortisone injections and drainin. He doesn't appear to have much to gain from a DL stint yet. Yes, the knee has affected both his hitting and his range, but finishing a sequence of injections should give him both some physical and mental time off.
  • In a radio interview this weekend, Ryan Freel mentioned that he's had "nine or 10 concussions." Does this make anything worse, or does it tell us that he should be able to recover from it? One of my essays in Pro Football Prospectus 2007 (out next month) talks about recovering from concussions as a "skill" that may be selective for football players--if they can't recover, they don't make it to the next level. Freel has about 25 more concussions before he catches up with Ron Jaworski, but let's hope he doesn't. There's still no firm timetable for his return, but the headaches he's experiencing say that it's not soon.

Quick Cuts: Rich Harden is throwing off a mound. We should have a solid timeframe on his return--to the major league pen--in the next week. ... The Reds realize that Homer Bailey will have to be more efficient to live up to his talent. I wonder if they realize he's never been efficient. ... Eric Karabell caught me off guard Sunday morning with a question about B.J. Upton. His injured quad was minor enough that I completely missed it. Now it appears to be a bit more serious, and could keep him out until mid-week. ... Kenny Rogers had three scoreless innings in his first rehab start. All that he's lacking is stamina, so I'll say that he'll be back late this month, a bit ahead of schedule. ... No one seems worried about the latest knee problem for Jason Kubel. Honestly, he's so risky in that specific area that it's probably best to just ride it out, knowing that he's now, at best, an early-stage Harold Baines. ... You have to check out the latest Sterger-blog for her take on the Indy 500 and new pics. ... Julian Tavarez is using aspirin and Red Bull to deal with a blister, according to the Boston Herald. Don't laugh, it's working so far.

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