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September 2, 2008

Under The Knife

Tweaks

by Will Carroll

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We've got comments now at Baseball Prospectus, and I'll admit to some trepidation. For one thing, I'm an e-mail guy. It's quaintly old-fashioned to do e-mails today in a Twitter society, but it's also a bit more personal somehow-I can't tell you how many people I've come to know that initially e-mailed about something in one of my columns. Still, it was one of the most requested features here, and I'll do my best to participate. I also want to remind people that with roster expansion, the DL becomes a seldom-used tool. We'll see lots of injured players simply shuffled to the end of the bench rather than put on the DL, since any replacement will already be there and active, and there are some accounting reasons for teams that factor in as well. It does complicate things for me, as it's easier to 'hide' an injury and it skews the injury stats a bit. While it allows me some insight into the likely Dick Martin Award winner, it also reminds me that simple counting stats like days and dollars lost aren't the ideal statistics. The development of Injury Cost is a good first step, and hopefully not the last. Powered by La Quinta Inn, whose Tampa location went above and beyond for me on Sunday, on to the injuries:

Ben Sheets (7 DXL)
The Brewers are in an odd situation, knowing that Sheets missed the last two weeks of the '07 season with a similar groin strain, although it was more serious last year. They also know that they missed the playoffs last season, and that it could have made a difference had Sheets been able to pitch (though I'm far from blaming him here). They also know that this time around they have a pretty solid hold on the wild-card slot, and they can afford to be a bit conservative if necessary. Knowing what we know about what they know, does this information truly inform us? Yes it does, because we know that the Brewers are one of the most integrated teams, and their medical decisions are not made in a vacuum. They'll make an holistic decision based on how Sheets responds to treatment, how the team responds in the intervening games, and who they have available in Sheets' slot. My best guess is that they'll be careful and push him back if needed rather than skipping him, instead using one of their several pitching options.

Jeff Kent (20 DXL)
It's about as much of a surprise that Gustav made landfall (really, I understand that it's big news, but it's hardly "breaking news" when the eye is already in Baton Rouge) as it is that Kent elected to have knee surgery. It's only going to be a minor 'scope, and he's not necessarily done for the season. In talking about Kent, Joe Torre said that he could come back as a pinch-hitter even before he's able to play defense. The Dodgers have a proud tradition of gimpy playoff hitters, but without Kent they have an uphill battle to just get there in the first place. Given a normal recovery from the clean-up, Kent could return in time for the final week of the regular season. He was placed on the DL as a procedural move, opening up the Frankie Rodriguez loophole for the Dodgers' playoff roster.

Chris Carpenter (20 DXL)
After a good bullpen session, the Cardinals decided it was time to go ahead and activate Carpenter. His shoulder is apparently strong enough that the team feels comfortable pitching him from the bullpen, although there are no indications of how they intend to use him or what restrictions (if any) they've placed on him. It's probable that he'll be used with limits, but on some kind of a rehab plan with increasing pitch goals for each outing. That would mean that they'd keep him out of high-leverage situations, so he's not much of a fantasy asset. The Cards do expect Carpenter to be ready to rejoin the rotation next year, and that's certainly reasonable, though there will be risk involved.

Justin Upton (60 DXL)
After nearly two months out, Upton returned to the D'backs lineup only to take an errant pickoff throw off of his head. He was clearly dazed by the impact, but was able to walk off on his own. The team will very cautious with him, but they don't expect him to miss much time; with their glut in the outfield, they can afford to be conservative. He does still appear to be affected by the oblique at the plate, but that could be rust, hesitancy, or a bit of a "catch" in the muscle as he rotates. My guess is that it's much more of the first two than the last.

B.J. Upton (0 DXL)
You can imagine the confusion in my notes when there are injuries to both of the Upton brothers. B.J. is dealing with a few issues; the chronic shoulder laxity is causing problems, and is significant enough that he's been excused from batting practice, but he's still expected to play regularly down the stretch. The Rays would like to get him some rest, but they're competing for home-field advantage, something that Andrew Friedman made clear to us on Friday was very important to the team, both due to their attendance issues and to their enormous apparent advantage there (52-19 at home, but just a .500 team on the road.) Upton was also hit on the ankle by a pitch on Sunday and removed from the game, but he's expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday.

Ryan Spilborghs (60 DXL)
Like Justin Upton, Spilborghs lost almost two months of his season to an oblique strain, and he also may have lost the chance to lock up the center-field job. Instead, he now has Dexter Fowler nearly ready to join the team after Fowler logged some Olympic experience as well as a nice minor league season. Spilborghs will still get some playing time in center and in right field, spotting in the latter instance for Brad Hawpe when there's a lefty on the mound. The oblique shouldn't be a short- or long-term problem, and while it's hardly a Wally Pipp moment, the injury could be one of those things that Spilborghs may look back on one day and say "I could have been the starter if it hadn't been for that pesky oblique!"

Andruw Jones (20 DXL)
Let me get this straight-Jones cut his rehab assignment short to have his knee re-examined, and after doing so, he ends up being activated? Yeah, the sequence doesn't play out right, unless the Dodgers are trying to cut down on Days Lost or making some workman's comp experience move. It could be that the Dodgers are acknowledging that the knee isn't getting any better, and that playing in Vegas isn't going to help (or hurt). Early word is that Jones won't be more than an overpaid pinch-hitter, and there are rumors that he'll need surgery in the offseason. He's gone from an elite player to an afterthought in record time.

Adam Jones (0 DXL)
It's bad enough to have two Uptons confusing my notes, but I also have two players named Jones, first initial 'A' in the mix as well. Jones was activated off of the DL, and he should be a full-time player despite the fact that his foot injury has not completely healed yet. The O's will be looking at a number of young players, and they'll make room for Jones in order to give him full confidence, and to end the season on as positive a note as a losing season can have. The O's have to be happy with their return on Erik Bedard, even with Jones just back and Sherrill still a week away. I wouldn't expect Jones' foot to be much of an issue going forward.

Quick Cuts: The Playoff Odds Report says that the Twins only have a one-something percent chance at the wild card. My gut disagrees, but I know which one is wrong more often. ... Mike Lowell took batting practice, but there's still no exact timetable for his return. ... Here's the story of the Cardinals season-Joe Mather checked his swing, sprained his wrist, and is likely done for the year. ... Kevin Gregg has been shut down; the Marlins will go to a committee to replace him in the ninth. ... Mark Grudzielanek is done for '08 after images showed his ankle is still an issue. ... Mike Aviles did not break his finger when it was hit by a pitch this weekend, so he's expected back in the lineup this week. ... Jarrod Saltalamacchia is headed for imaging on his elbow. That should open the door to more playing time for Taylor Teagarden. ... Congrats to Phil Coke, who made his Yankees debut; he looked healthy to me.

Related Content:  Year Of The Injury

17 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

ScottyB

Re: The Playoff Odds Report says that the Twins only have a one-something percent chance at the wild card

It seems that almost everyone underestimates the Twins. They are 3 back of Boston with 25 games to go. Unlikely to catch them, but better than a 1 in 100 shot.

Sep 02, 2008 11:11 AM
rating: 1
 
Russ

(Not sure that this exchange belongs in the comments section to Will Carroll's column, but here it goes...) The one-something percent is just the chance that they'll catch the Red Sox (or Tampa Bay) AND not win the division. They have a 40-percent chance to win the division, and I'm sure a number of those scenarios have them finishing with a better record than Boston.

Sep 02, 2008 11:27 AM
rating: 1
 
Evan
(47)

Well, look at the third order records of the two teams. The Playoff Odds Report knows that the Red Sox are the stronger team.

Sep 02, 2008 11:28 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

I could have said it more clearly, but I'm obviously not the stats guy around here. It just surprises me, even knowing the reasons why, that the chance of the WC team coming from the Central is so small.

And I could have said THAT more clearly too.

Sep 02, 2008 11:39 AM
 
cbirkemeier

Let's do like Joe Sheehan did for the Yankees' playoff chances and say that the Red Sox go nearly .500 the rest of the way. That puts them at 93-69.

For both the White Sox and Twins to finish better, they'll have to both go 16-9 or better without considering that they play each other for three games. Let's say that their series goes 2-1 one way (as a sweep would make it harder for both to make the playoffs), which means the losing team has to go 15-7 in their other games.

All in all, it seems pretty unlikely for the Red Sox to go 13-12 (or worse) and both the Twins and White Sox to go 16-9 (or better), so a 2.92% chance of the wild card coming out of the Central sounds about right to me.

Sep 02, 2008 15:37 PM
rating: 1
 
Mike Petriello

Will, re: Andruw Jones. While he is having soreness in his knees, it's been kind of an open secret around Dodgerville that he was sent down on a "rehab" less because he was hurt and more to get him off of the active roster. That's why he was recalled as soon as rosters expanded, though I don't expect him to play at all.

Sep 02, 2008 16:32 PM
rating: 1
 
Seth Cohen

Is BJ Upton's shoulder issue a cause for his decline in power from last season, or is it just a combination of the league catching up with him, and his improved plate discipline? What does "chronic shoulder laxity" mean and will it carry over into next season?

Sep 02, 2008 17:23 PM
rating: 0
 
MJ

Will, has BJ Ryan's season gone according to what you'd have expected? He's pitched pretty well given the quick return from Tommy John, though he's walking a lot of guys (common among pitchers who are returning from TJ). My question for you is can we expect him to return to the BJ of 2006 next season, and have you seen anything in his games this year that leads you to believe he's pitching with diminished "stuff"?

Sep 02, 2008 20:55 PM
rating: 0
 
Brian Oakchunas

Why is Justin Upton's DXL at 60? Does it include the time he missed before he came back? Also, in general, just a thought but it would be useful if the DXL was prorated for what they will miss in the future, rather than since the beginning of the injury. In the Upton example, I am more curious how much more time he is going to miss. To figure that out right now I have to go back to the beginning of his injury and count ahead by 60.

Not trying to break the cardinal rule of BP comments. Just a constructive suggestion that would add to my experience as a reader. You are doing a great job as always, Will!

Sep 02, 2008 23:20 PM
rating: 0
 
mpanagos

I agree w/ Brian. The DXL is confusing and I have simply stopped paying attention to it. I'm interested in how much MORE time a guy will miss, not how much he has already missed.

On another note, Will has been concerned about zamby for months, now, and last night he remolved himself from the game. Ominous.

Sep 03, 2008 06:46 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

DXL is slightly confusing, but I don't think it's as difficult as some make it out to be. The reason I didn't put dates or countdowns into it is that in the original plan, we were going to have it feeding to the player page in the same way that some of TA feeds there. It's proven to be a much more difficult technical challenge and I felt to change the way we presented DXL mid-season would be even more confusing. I realize it's not ideal, but as a "quick look", I think it's a solid addition to UTK this year.

Sep 04, 2008 09:24 AM
 
zskuhn

Get rid of comments. God, please. I don't want to be a snob, but already the comments here look more like complaints. Do yourself a favor, Will, and don't even bother responding. Just pretend you read them by saying, "I was reading through the comments, and most of you are upset."

Sep 03, 2008 06:51 AM
rating: 1
 
steaka

Will,

I'm not sure if you caught the AP story on the cubs-astros game last night. The lede of the story was "No one knew Carlos Zambrano was hurting." I guess they weren't paying attention.

Sep 03, 2008 07:27 AM
rating: 1
 
Peter Hood

I realize that he wasn't covered by recent UTK articles but I'm a little curious about Bonderman's status. The last I hard he was expected to be recovered by spring training. Is this still the case.

Thanks and I appreciate the comments section.

Sep 03, 2008 08:40 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

No new info. Really won't know much until he begins throwing next spring.

Sep 04, 2008 09:24 AM
 
bronnerea

Hi Will,

With Saito inching back, can we really expect him to hit the ground at 100%? In other words, do you think it is reasonable that he could be closing out games for the Dodgers down the stretch? Thanks for all the great work!

Sep 03, 2008 10:09 AM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77
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Sep 04, 2008 06:09 AM
 
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