September 2, 2008
Under The Knife
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.