March 24, 2010
Team Health Reports
Boston Red Sox
The Summary: It's no secret that the Red Sox are at the cutting edge when it comes to sports medicine in baseball. What's surprising is that after several years, no one is trying similar things. Even Boston isn't getting great results, but much of the numbers they put up are skewed by accepted risk. Curt Schilling, John Smoltz, Brad Penny, and J.D. Drew are understood for what they could be, not what they aren't. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't, though the organization's depth usually hides the mistakes. The biggest task is getting Daisuke Matsuzaka back into the rotation and healthy for a full season. He worked out at API all winter with Dustin Pedroia, who you just know is watching Patton on DVD before working out. There's no World Baseball Classic, so there's hope we'll see the ace-level Matsuzaka again. With Mike Reinold now in charge, expect there to be a faster pace of change.
The Big Risk: While the Yankees have taken their share of heat over the "Joba Rules," no one's really paid attention to how the Sox have handled Clay Buchholz. Mostly, they've done it by forcing him and other pitching prospects to fight their way into the rotation. That's not a bad thing, especially in today's game where you need a cast of thousands to get through a season. Buchholz has had the talent to be a major-league starting pitcher for several years now, without question. He threw a no-hitter, which should make him at least a fifth starter, no matter what fairy tales you believe. Since that no-no, Buchholz has thrown less than 170 innings at the big-league level while throwing a bit less at the minor-league level. During the same period, bounced between starting and relief, Joba Chamberlain has tossed 260 innings. Service time arguments aside, there's a real question about the best way to get value from a pitcher pre-arb while keeping him healthy. If tested beyond 175 innings this year (right where PECOTA has him), we're going to find out whether or not Boston was right in how it handled Buchholz.
The Comeback: So if it was steroids, this is an easy story. David Ortiz has that shadow over him like many players, but his gregarious image helps shoo away some of the nastier blowback. If it was steroids, then unlike his friend Manny Ramirez, he's been able to pass the tests without any issue. If it was steroids, he won't be any better than last year. If it was steroids, he beat a test that netted almost a hundred of his fellow Dominicans over the past couple seasons. If it was steroids and not the wrist, his power shouldn't have come back after that terrible start at about precisely the time wrists tend to come back from injuries. Look at Rickie Weeks or Mark DeRosa, who had very similar injuries and very little steroid suspicion. If it was steroids, his age-34 season should trend more like Barry Bonds, rather than sliding downward, though we might expect a bit of a Willie Stargell-style resurgence if we didn't know he already swung for the fences every time up. Ortiz is in a contract year, he's healthy and happy, but you know what—when he comes back, people are going to say it was steroids.
The Trend: The Sox take on too many reclamation projects to be "good" with these numbers, so realize that when reading that they're midpack. The work that Reinold and the medical staff has done over the past couple seasons isn't the kind of thing that could really be measured in one year anyway. It's likely to be a 10-year period where his work on managing fatigue really becomes noticeable. Aside from his sheer lack of experience, it's hard to say that Reinold lacks in any area, hasn't done what the Sox brought him in to do, and I'm very curious how things might change now that he's holding the reins. This isn't a knock on Paul Lessard by the way. He got Pipped, a bit, and gets a chance to try and make Dusty Baker look good. I don't envy him that challenge.
RF J.D. Drew: Drew is a pretty known quantity at this stage, so know it and use it. He's undervalued as a player as he's been for most of his career. He's productive in 100-120 games a year and above that it's all gravy.