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September 16, 2008

Under The Knife

Angels Edition

by Will Carroll

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Vladimir Guerrero (5 DXL)
Torii Hunter (7 DXL)
Erick Aybar (20 DXL)
Howie Kendrick (30 DXL)

Welcome to what might be considered "Under the Knife, Angels Edition." You'd think that with all of these injuries that the team would be struggling, but they're not. Even with a number of name players out and the division long since clinched, the Angels just keep winning. They're 7-3 through the last ten, though two of those losses came against the White Sox, the one winning team they've faced in September. Good teams beat whoever you put in front of them, and despite the injuries, the Angels' depth is doing enough to win. When the calendar flips, the team needs to not only have its best players healthy, they need to know who their best players are. Right now, it would seem that as many as four spots on the playoff roster are in doubt. With Guerrero's chronically sore knees, Hunter's ongoing problems with his quads and hamstrings, Kendrick's current hamstring issues, and Aybar's hamstring strain... oh yeah, you noticed the pattern too? None of these should hold any of the players out into the playoffs, but with Guerrero and Kendrick, their fragility has to be considered when filling out the roster. The biggest question mark in the bunch is Kendrick, who will head over to Arizona to get in some instructional league at-bats.

Chris Carpenter (20 DXL)
Carpenter is done for the season, one that barely ever got started, but there hasn't been a whole lot of information on the why. Carpenter is reportedly out with "nerve issues," though the team has made it clear that this is not a recurrence of the ulnar neuritis that caused quite a scare last spring. There are some rumors, which I could not confirm, that the problem is in his shoulder, and given the symptoms that we do know-weakness and an inability to recover-it suggests that it may be a problem in the brachial plexus, a group of nerves in the shoulder. Called "plexitis," this is a very uncommon condition, and is often mistaken for a cervical problem due to similar symptomology. The most worrisome aspect of plexitis is that it can cause weakness in the deltoid that can lead to subluxations of the humerus. A humeral subluxation can lead to labral tears, something you don't want happening to your ace. While I admit that I'm speculating here, it's based on a conversation with two physical therapists that I regularly consult with. One suggested the condition based on the symptoms, and the other concurred. The upside here is that it's usually treatable without extraordinary measures.

Mike Lowell (0 DXL)
While newspapers seem to be curling up and yellowing like last week's news, creative outlets like WEEI.com are doing more and getting results. (I can't wait to see what justification the BBWAA uses on this one.) Rob Bradford got the scoop on Lowell, who's been battling a torn acetabular labrum. The hip injury is bothersome and irritating, but doesn't reach the point of pain that often. It is something that will necessitate an eventual surgical fix, but he's playing through it pretty well, popping a home run in a big win against the Rays. It's another involved management situation for the Red Sox medical staff, but one they've been dealing with all season long. Somehow, they've managed to hold things together enough to help keep the team in the race.

B.J. Upton (7 DXL)
While Lowell is hitting homers on a bad wheel, Upton is still out with his strained quad. The Rays have been very conservative when rehabbing players, taking very slow paths in terms of their returns, while at the same time getting them quickly back to level. That worked for Evan Longoria and Scott Kazmir, and bodes well for Carl Crawford, but it is frustrating at times when there's such an important series being played. Sources insist that Upton is simply not fully healed or ready to return, that the medical staff is still worried about exacerbating the injury, and that they're factoring in some extra rest for his shoulder as well. The Rays haven't panicked yet this season, so don't look for Monday's loss to force Upton back into the lineup until they're comfortable with his progress.

Joe Crede (30 DXL)
It's one thing when a team is telling people that you're done for the season. It's quite another when they clean out your locker. That's what happened with Crede, a free agent at the end of the season, but a not-insignificant part of this season's team with about a win and a half to his credit. You might notice that that's about the margin the Sox have over the Twins right now, and well above what his replacements have been able to put up. It's a bit surprising in that the Sox are very likely to be in the playoffs, and with Herm Schneider working, giving up on a return would indicate that there's truly no hope. The Sox, like every other playoff team, have injury troubles that need to be addressed by October.

Jonathan Niese (0 DXL)
While I will remind everyone that major league and minor league innings don't "cost" the same and that no one has done a "Verducci Effect" study on the minor leagues, I will note that Niese was well on his way to a new innings high even before you add in his innings with the big club. The Mets are already taking Mike Pelfrey into uncharted territory with his workload, so I have to assume they're just as conscious that Niese is going there as well. While you certainly have to like the progress he's shown shooting from Double-A to the middle of a pennant race, the Mets are smart enough (or should be) to realize that they're risking a very young arm. While flags fly forever, scars do not fade quickly.

Quick Cuts: John Maine contines to work towards a return to the Mets bullpen, while Jerry Manuel continues to treat him the way girls treat these guys. ... Does 138 pitches in nine innings really bother you more than 115 in five? That's what Johnny Cueto did Sunday, to much less outcry than Tim Lincecum's shutout. ... Jeff Kent is taking batting practice, but the Dodgers don't expect him back for more than a cameo appearance during the season. The real question is how they'll use him in the playoffs. ... Kenny Rogers has been shut down, but there's been no discussion of an injury. ... I realize that Cliff Lee has the AL Cy Young locked up, but is Daisuke Matsuzaka really not going to get any votes? ... Brandon McCarthy left his start last night with what was described as "an Adam Wainwright finger." Somewhere, Max Newberg is asking why Daddy's so mad.

Related Content:  Jonathan Niese

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

BP Comment Quick Links

relliott22

I mentioned this in a Marc Normandin chat a little while ago, but it bears reitterating. Daisuke Matsuzaka does not deserve Cy consideration. He has been perplexing, frustrating, even maddening, but effective nonetheless. What he has not been is dominating. Not like Jon Lester, or Roy Halladay, or Cliff Lee. He should not be stealing votes from better candidates who have been taking opposing lineups and wrapping them in duct tape before taking them apart piece by piece (at least, thats what I think the Doc in Doc Halladay stands for).

Sep 16, 2008 10:13 AM
rating: 0
 
Amos

Or you could just say Matsuzaka has walked too many guys to be on a level with the league's absolute elite this year.

Sep 16, 2008 11:29 AM
rating: 0
 
relliott22

Well put, Amos, well put. Though you do miss some of the gut-wrenching that Dice-K has put me through this year.

Sep 16, 2008 11:34 AM
rating: 0
 
Rick Baumhauer

The issue with Dice-K this year seems to be that he has good enough stuff to keep batters from squaring anything up, but not good enough to miss enough bats to justify how he pitches. Nobody is hitting him hard, but everybody is fouling off pitch after pitch, so he's lucky to get through 5-6 innings.

It looks like he needs to change his approach and start pitching more to contact, if possible, in order to get deeper into games and stop walking so many batters. Whether he can do this and still be as hard-to-hit as he currently is, that's the big question.

Sep 16, 2008 12:22 PM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

Dice-K is about 6-8th in the AL in most pitching stats, VORP, ERA, etc. Thus, he should end up around there in CY votes, yes?

Sep 16, 2008 14:35 PM
rating: 0
 
Rick Baumhauer

Going solely by the numbers (and yes, I realize what site I'm on), it might seem that way, but most of his games are downright painful to watch. It's a constant highwire act of him throwing pitch after pitch, batters fouling pitches off forever, too many walks (though this has gotten better) - you spend the whole time dreading the hit that will break the game open, but he manages to avoid it most of time.

Given his record, it's hard not to give him some thought in the CY voting, but based on how he goes about his game, I'd put Lester ahead of Dice-K, way ahead. While Dice-K's numbers look good (mostly), I just can't say I see him as an "elite" pitcher this year.

Sep 16, 2008 16:23 PM
rating: 0
 
Evan
(47)

Cliff Lee should be the top vote on every Cy Young ballot.

Halladay should be the second vote on every ballot.

Those two guys are clearly atop the AL, and there's no reason for anyone else to be in the discussion.

Sep 16, 2008 10:18 AM
rating: 0
 
sdfdranger

Will,
Thanks for not repeating information on players from previous articles. I enjoy reading you colum and rarely miss it. BUT, it is very annoying to get half way through a paragraph about a player and realize you already read this in your last column.

Sep 16, 2008 11:11 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

I don't understand. Are you complaining about the UTK Wrap?

Sep 16, 2008 12:15 PM
 
Amos

How is Maine being treated like the Roxbury guys?

Sep 16, 2008 11:29 AM
rating: 0
 
rinewman1

Hi Will,
You mentioned that Lowell's hip labrum injury doesn't reach the point of pain often, but Lowell appears to be in pain any time he is running. Does this indicate that it is a severe version of the injury or is pain running part of what is to be expected?

Sep 16, 2008 11:36 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

There's a difference between pain and discomfort. He's clearly not comfortable, but it's not at a stage where it's painful. I know it's a fine line.

Sep 16, 2008 12:16 PM
 
Rob Moore

Any news on Furcal?

Sep 16, 2008 11:48 AM
rating: 0
 
wsgdf83

In the 45 games that Uribe has played since Crede went down, he's batted .297/.338/.486.

Isn't that actually better than what Crede was doing?

Sep 16, 2008 11:48 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Good point if true. I checked full season VORP. Looking at David Pinto's day by day database, I get 278/313/444. Crede, up to the ASB was 253/325/464. It's not as big, but Uribe's playing over his head -- nice, but I think the Sox would still rather have a healthy Crede.

Sep 16, 2008 12:29 PM
 
wsgdf83

This is how I do it... it's a pretty cool feature of B-Ref:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/gl.cgi?share=1&n1=uribeju01&year=2008&t=b#928:973:sum

Sep 17, 2008 15:15 PM
rating: 0
 
Rob Moore

Also, did you catch Saito last night? Velocity was a little bit off but he seemed to have good command and movement.

Sep 16, 2008 11:49 AM
rating: 0
 
ddufourlogger

I agree with Evan, I believe. Dice-K's record is nice, but he's closer to Bartolo Colon from his Cy year than he is to either Lee or Halladay this year. Stop walking 5 or 6 per 9IP and let's talk then.

Sep 16, 2008 12:05 PM
rating: 0
 
durron597

I wonder if the Angels hired the strength coach that the Yankees fired last year when their whole team hit the DL with Hamstring problems. Seriously, I wonder if there's some sort of "training techinque" that not only doesn't work, but actually has a tendency to make them prone to hamstring injuries.

Sep 16, 2008 12:16 PM
rating: 0
 
pro341

This is a great question! Being a Twins fan for quite awhile I can't remember him ever having problems with his hammy's, and that was while playing home games on the fake stuff. It could be just aging players but if that is the case, something in the training is a miss.

I also agree having the original date of the injury included would be a big help. I have often saw the dxl and thought it was a new injury only to read they are already back or close.

Sep 16, 2008 14:23 PM
rating: 0
 
iillllii

Suggestion: next to the DXL number, show the original date of the injury (the beginning date for the DXL). That way readers could get a rough feel for how long the player has been injured and if he might be back soon. This would double the value I get out of this feature, which is already one of BP's best.

Sep 16, 2008 12:28 PM
rating: 1
 
R.A.Wagman

Great suggestion

Sep 16, 2008 12:58 PM
rating: 0
 
leez34

I agree! It's easy to lose track of how long someone has been out.

Sep 16, 2008 14:03 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Thanks ... when DXL was originally set up, we were going to have links set up on the player page the way that TA is linked in. It's proven a bigger technical challenge and as with comments, we'd rather get it right than push it out. Since we're working on something, I'd rather not change mid-stream and add in something like the date. Honestly, I'd rather be able to post up my injury database, but that's just not going to happen. We do understand that DXL isn't the easiest measure, but we are working on ways to make it better. I appreciate the suggestions.

Sep 17, 2008 06:50 AM
 
Yatchisin
(487)

Any word on Gallardo? Yahoo says both: "Yovani Gallardo (knee) threw a simulated game Tuesday, Sept. 16, and could rejoin the team this weekend. If he does return it will be in a bullpen role" AND "The team is unsure if he will be able to return at the end of the regular season or if he will be able to help the team if they make a postseason run."

Very confusing.

Sep 16, 2008 16:02 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Gallardo WILL be back, possibly as soon as this weekend. The interesting thing is that he could be back in a high leverage role, perhaps even closing.

Sep 17, 2008 06:51 AM
 
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