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August 27, 2009

Under The Knife

History or Hyperbole?

by Will Carroll

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I hate to keep blowing up story lines about the Mets, but the facts don't match the hyperbole. The Mets' luck this season has been terrible, no question, with the value lost exceeding that of any other team. Still, this is hardly historic. We'd have to go all the way back to... well, 2008 to find numbers so bad. The Dodgers and Cardinals from last season both lost more in terms of salary and value, both on a raw total and a percentage basis, so while the Mets' situation is bad, it's just not the kind of _____ bad that every story seems to want to make it out to be. Fill in that blank with whatever adjective you like-historically, biblically, whatever-and you get a good story, but one that doesn't help us to understand that this run of injuries is inexplicable, but hardly unprecedented. That said...

Johan Santana (10/4)
... there still are what seems to be a plague of injuries every day. The news on Santana was exactly what I'd expected and had talked about as a possibility since he came over from Minnesota. Put simply, bone chips tend to recur, and his occasional struggles with pain in the elbow indicated that this was coming. He'll have the elbow cleaned out and be ready to go by spring training. Since he's had this before, Santana will know exactly what to expect, and should have an easy rehab experience. The questions about allowing him to pitch through this ring a bit hollow to me. Santana was effective this season, whether you look at a 13-9 record that's very good considering the team and its defense, or some of the more advanced numbers where he rates higher than Josh Beckett and CC Sabathia in some measures. On a simpler basis, he had two great starts in August and two lesser ones, but hardly any disastrous outings. It's hard to say that the Mets did anything wrong here from a medical basis.

Oliver Perez (10/4)
Jeff Francoeur (10/4)

Of course, there are two more surgeries to discuss for the Mets, both of the season-ending variety. Oliver Perez will have his knee opened up in hopes that his chronic patellar tendinitis can be dealt with. This season has been a washout for Perez after signing his big contract, but the more I look back at the starts that he made this season, the more I'm left wondering if the knee isn't the biggest reason for this. A lot of people, including me, wondered about the convenient timing of his first DL stint, but I've gone back and watched several of his early-season starts; while it's difficult to learn much from game video, especially watching someone as inconsistent as Perez, the knee does look to be an issue, buckling at times and forcing him to adjust to try and take pressure off of it. If surgery can correct it, Perez has a chance to come back next year and surprise. The Mets have also lost Francoeur for the season, as his torn thumb ligament will require surgery to reconnect, a relatively simple procedure that will have him ready for the start of 2010.

Jorge Posada (8/28)
The Yankees got a big win over the Rangers, but Posada took another foul tip off of his hand. Posada's 29 percent stolen-base kill rate ranks with Joe Mauer's and is slightly better than Jose Molina's, especially impressive given all of his shoulder issues. He's taking a beating on his hand, however, which makes me wonder if there's not some way to protect it. Sure, it's one thing to say "put it behind your leg," Johnny Bench-style, but why cant there be a padded pocket on the uniform leg? A catcher could quickly get his hand out, but have it protected just the same. Posada shouldn't miss much time, though watch to see if the swelling and pain affects his grip and therefore his batting. Joe Girardi understands the problems a catcher has to play with, so watch for Posada to get some extra days off in September.

Andruw Jones (9/15)
The hamstring injury to Jones is more significant than originally thought. He played through a sore hamstring for the last few weeks, but appears to have torn it significantly on Sunday. The team still hopes that he can come back sometime in September, but the roster for the contending Rangers has been in constant motion this season. Jones has certainly outperformed low expectations this year, as his '09 line looks like it would fit right in with his Atlanta years (adjusted for playing time and age), and showing that, yes, there was something left in him. Injuries like this one will hurt his marketability, but as a part-time player with a reasonable contract, a bit of missed time isn't as significant a factor. I won't pretend I know what Jones will do a few years from now, but I can see him playing a Moises Alou role for a couple of seasons. More immediately, he should be back in mid-September to help the Rangers.

Adam Jones (8/28)
Things seem to be clearing up for the Orioles' Jones and his back, but is this the sign of things to come? Young players with back problems aren't players you want to invest in long-term, so for one with as much talent and upside as Jones, this is a major concern. Jones has a known, chronic hip issue and there's certainly a chance that the two issues are interrelated in some manner. It's the same body, after all. Jones thinks he'll be able to play today, but the O's have every reason to be conservative here, so maybe the weekend would be a better goal. It's better for you to let him play a game or two and make sure he's back before putting him in for your daily fantasy leagues. The longer-term implications are less clear. Jones is never going to be a risk-free player, but it sure seems like he's a darn good one.

Johnny Cueto (8/31)
I've long ceased trying to figure out what Dusty Baker's thinking, and I'm going to give up trying to read tea leaves on the Reds as well. I don't know why they have Cueto out there, getting ready for a weekend start at this stage in the season. I realize they need pitchers, and to create some positives this season, but Cueto has given every sign that he's hit a wall in the second half. Whether it's the hip or the shoulder that's the real problem, the Reds are giving nice lip service to "preserving" their young starter without seemingly understanding what goes into that process. Baker talks about his low pitch counts in the second half, but Cueto hasn't been good enough to stay out there long enough to rack up high counts. If we assume the best and that Cueto is simply fatigued, then the additional stress of pitching while fatigued might push him more towards damaging his arm. With Edinson Volquez gone for next year and this season long since hopeless, the Reds seem to be looking for a positive so hard that they're willing to risk a big negative.

Nick Johnson (9/5)
So the Marlins waited until the last minute to put Johnson on the DL, as the retroactive move went back nine days, meaning that he could come back from the DL as soon as next week. Still, it's difficult for the Marlins or Johnson himself to get a good handle on where he is in the healing process. Johnson says he's seeing "some progress," but that he's not functional yet. Given the self-reporting, it's easy to see that this is the typical slow recovery for Johnson. There's not much that anyone can do about that, including Johnson, so the team is playing it smart. The problem is that by the time he's ready it might be too late for the Marlins, who can use all the offensive help they can get.

Mike Hampton (10/4)
Hampton is trying the latest thing, PRP injections, in trying to avoid a record-tying 95th surgery. OK, it might not be quite that many, but it seems that way, doesn't it? His shoulder has a significant tear, but given his age and history, trying everything isn't a bad idea before submitting to a surgery that would cost him at least a year. If the prolotherapy works, Hampton thinks he can come back this season. I'm not sure it's going to work, and I'm even less sure why Hampton wants to come back, aside from perhaps going out on his own terms. The Astros can't still think they're in this thing, can they? I don't have much faith that Hampton will return, but he's come back from worse in the past. Just not quickly.

Quick Cuts: I'll be down in Ft. Myers this weekend calling a weekend series on the radio with the Miracle's play-by-play man, Zach Spear. You can listen in from their homepage online. ... Alex Rodriguez left Wednesday's game after fouling a ball off of his leg. It was painful, but the Yankees were in command of the game, so this was just precautionary. ... In his last rehab outing, Brett Myers went 24 pitches while showing low-90s velocity with his fastball. He'll be ready to join the pen when rosters expand. ... Sources are all over the place on whether Jake Peavy will pitch this weekend or not. What they do agree on is that the decision will be made regarding his ankle, not his elbow. ... Hiroki Kuroda made it through a pen session just fine, and will face live hitters this weekend. The Dodgers could have him back in the rotation next week. ... Francisco Liriano had a cortisone shot in his elbow, an indication that the Twins think he'll be starting again before long. ... Joe Crede had an epidural into his chronically problematic back. He's likely headed to the DL. ... Felipe Lopez will miss a couple of games with a mid-foot sprain. He should be back by the weekend. ... Eric Hosmer will have LASIK surgery that will end his season. The wrist problem he's been dealing with made the decision easier. ... Chris Snyder can't squat due to a tight glute. I'll skip the jokes and say that's a problem for a catcher, the not-squatting part. He should be out a couple of games, which is OK with Miguel Montero. ... Snow Leopard!

Related Content:  Back,  The Process,  This Time It Counts,  Bad Season

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

BP Comment Quick Links

sbnirish77

from rototimes ...

"Posada only bruised the joint on the ring finger of his CATCHING hand when taking a foul tip off his glove"

Hard to put that one "behind your leg."

Aug 27, 2009 09:30 AM
rating: 5
 
TGisriel

First I heard about Adam Jones "known, chronic hip issue". Wasn't last year's missed time from a hamstring?

Please elucidate.

Aug 27, 2009 09:48 AM
rating: 1
 
TGisriel

Correction, Jones' missed time last year was from an injured foot. No mention of a hip issue in the spring's Team Health Report.

Just curious about that hip.

Aug 27, 2009 09:51 AM
rating: 2
 
SamVan

Frenchy might NEED the surgery, but I think he's going to play through it for now and get the surgery in the off-season-- he appears to be in the line-up for this afternoon's game. So at least the Mets have that going for them, which is nice.

Aug 27, 2009 09:51 AM
rating: 6
 
dbimberg

Caddyshack rules!

Aug 27, 2009 10:38 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

STill conflicting reports on this.

Aug 27, 2009 11:53 AM
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Ok ... here's the story I just got and confirmed: Francouer was told to have the surgery now. He declined, said he'll play. Mets discussed whether to let him and decided that if he can perform, he can play. He'll be day-to-day with any day being the possible shutdown.

Aug 27, 2009 11:56 AM
 
alwaxman

Thanks for the clarification. He - or his evil twin - is playing today. Wait - it really is Frenchy, he's swinging at anything remotely close to the strike zone.

Aug 27, 2009 12:45 PM
rating: 1
 
dalbano

Regardless of the hand that Posada injured, there's really no reason to NOT put your right hand either behind your back or knee as a catcher in most situations.

It is a slightly different story in a steal situation. With your hand safe as the pitch comes, you are already prepared for the possibility of a steal. No matter where you start your hand, if the runner is going, that right hand is going to be on the move in order to start the transfer from glove to throwing hand.

Throwing hand injuries to catchers should really be limited to foul balls when the runner goes or when a pitch is in the dirt and needs to be blocked (even then it should be behind the glove).

Aug 27, 2009 10:13 AM
rating: 1
 
dalbano

why the neg?

Aug 27, 2009 11:16 AM
rating: -1
 
deckholm

Will, Can you give an update on Ichiro? He says he's good to go, but Wakamatsu said: "We're going to back off on that a bit and not really put a timetable on it."

Aug 27, 2009 11:04 AM
rating: 0
 
coachadams5

Re: Santana's situation you wrote: "It's hard to say that the Mets did anything wrong here from a medical basis." Unless of course you include not eliminating the thing that is causing the elbow issues in the first place - his arm action. He experiences recurring elbow issues because his motion exacerbates the stress he places on it. Liriano employs essentially the same motion and I suspect he will never shake the elbow issues that trouble him either("Francisco Liriano had a cortisone shot in his elbow..."). The guys that keep getting the same injuries (Carpenter, Harden, Sheets, Prior, Wood, etc.) keep getting them because they don't change anything when they come back!

Aug 27, 2009 11:29 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

I'll take a minor surgery every five years vs changing the best pitcher in baseball's mechanics, thanks.

Aug 27, 2009 11:52 AM
 
coachadams5

Agreed with Santana but what about the guys whose intervals between injury are far less than 5 years? Shouldn't there be thought of trying to keep them healthy AND effective by altering their mechanics? Just a thought from a team investment perspective. Seems that running a guy out there after injury rehab to do exactly what he did before is the definition of insanity: "if you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting". Again, just a thought.

Aug 27, 2009 12:46 PM
rating: 2
 
TC in NJ

"The Dodgers and Cards lost more in terms of salary and value." I believe that. But it seems the Mets' injuries have left them with less. Some days it seems like they're running out near-replacement-level players at almost every position, with Castillo being the notable exception.

Aug 27, 2009 12:01 PM
rating: 2
 
thehotcorner

Exactly. I'd imagine in terms of expected WAR or VORP the Mets have or will exceed what the Dodgers or Cardinals lost last year.

The 2008 Andruw Jones/Juan Pierre combo made more money than the 2009 Reyes/Delgado combo. Though I'm pretty sure there's no question as to which pair being out for a significant amount of time made more of an impact.

Aug 27, 2009 14:27 PM
rating: 1
 
TC in NJ

That may be true, but it's not exactly what I was trying to say.

To say it another way, I'm guessing the Mets have lost a bigger share of their total output this year than the Dodgers or Cardinals did last year, even if the salary or value lost isn't as great.

It's really a comment on how the team is constructed. For the past few years, its seems like there have been precious few average players on the Mets.

Aug 27, 2009 14:31 PM
rating: 2
 
thehotcorner

Yeah, the Mets of recent years have been extremely top heavy. But that 'core' which has been talked about so much got completely decimated and left us with very little. Which also speaks to my point about how we lost so much actual value and not just in terms of dollars/days.

Who would have guessed that Luis Castillo would be the last man standing...

Aug 27, 2009 15:03 PM
rating: 0
 
RBIGuy

One other thing to remember is that those numbers on the Dodgers and Cardinals are skewed somewhat by the high compensation for players that were not expected to contribute much in 2008: Jason Schmidt and Chris Carpenter, respectively. (I guess the Mets had Billy Wagner, so maybe this doesn't skew things that much.)

One fun thing to do is to go back and look at the Met's Team Health Report. All four of the Mets Green players are now on the DL, while some of the players with greater injury risks (Castillo, Pelfrey, Rodriguez) have made it through the season relatively unscathed. That's not to knock Will or to dispute the preface to this column, but merely to point out another irony of this painful season.

Aug 27, 2009 15:37 PM
rating: 1
 
anderson721

The mets are the Redskins of MLB. Same philosphy, same SOP, same results. But hey, they both make a ton of money, so why not keep at it?

Aug 28, 2009 04:13 AM
rating: 1
 
Hoff

Are bone spurs an over use/abuse injury or a simple use/wear and tear injury?

Aug 27, 2009 12:39 PM
rating: 1
 
Mangey

Anyone know where can we find the data used to make the claim about how the '08 Cardinals/Dodgers injury woes stack up to the Mets?

Aug 28, 2009 06:33 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

It's available in the Team Health Reports this year.

Aug 28, 2009 08:00 AM
 
Mangey

Thanks for the reply, though I'm still curious about all of the raw data - who was lost, for how long, etc. I know it's part of the system you use and that is the origin of the "value" numbers used in the linked page. Unfortunately, that's opaque (at least, I'm not sure how to find that data), making the surprising claim (just looking at the Mets roster versus the '08 Dodgers THR) that the health problems were no worse.

Obviously, "surprising" does not imply "false." Rather, it merely means that I'm curious about the details of the argument. To that end, I'm also trying to figure out how "injury cost" is calculated. Is it wins (estimated by PECOTA?) converted to dollars? Perhaps I'm merely having trouble finding something that's already written about - but I couldn't find an explanation in the "Under the Hood" article, or in the THR's themselves. It was a new number used in 2009, and seems the vital one to the claim (as I suppose that is what you mean by "value"), and I'm just not clear what it means.

Aug 28, 2009 09:43 AM
rating: 0
 
thsaladboy

I have to agree with Mangey. What is "injury cost"? Is it based on MORP on the DL?

Additionally, I feel it's a bit misleading of a statement, as (as has been stated above), even if the Dodgers lost a ton of guys and had more days and dollars on DL, no matter the way they're compensated there's a massive difference between Juan Pierre, Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones (for those last two at least at this stage of their careers) and Reyes, Beltran, Wright and Santana all seeing DL time, two of them missing more than half the season. The Dodgers probably, overall, were better last year for their injuries--the injuries prevented some of Ned Coletti's biggest mistakes from being on the field. Obviously this isn't the case for Furcal, but otherwise the Dodgers didn't really see much of value go to the DL last year.

Aug 29, 2009 20:00 PM
rating: 0
 
dianagram

More Mets injury news!
http://tinyurl.com/mkzjo4

With starting pitchers Johan Santana (elbow) and Oliver Perez (knee) already scheduled for season-ending surgery, the New York Daily News reports shortstop Jose Reyes could be the latest Mets star to join them in the operating room.

Reyes, who hasn’t played since May 20, recently was discovered to have a completely torn hamstring behind his right knee. No decision about surgery has been made yet, but the prognosis is that Reyes would be ready for spring training if he had the procedure.

Aug 28, 2009 12:25 PM
rating: 0
 
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