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September 1, 2008

Under The Knife

Band-Aids

by Will Carroll

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"If I could do one of these every week, I'd do it," I said, as I was leaving the Tampa Ballpark Event. Sure, I might have been a little lighter in the wallet due to an extra fine from Andrew Friedman-and I'll put my money into the charity pot for all the times I've said "Devil" in front of "Rays" this season-but getting pinged for wearing my retro Devil Rays '07 jersey is a bit much. For the packed room, Friedman was the highlight during a great night of talking baseball. From the big swings in the team's performance since last year's event, the attendance issues, building a team and a ballpark together, to discussions of what to do about "too much talent," the attendees got their money's worth... and a hat! Heading down to our front-row seats right behind the bullpen, we received a lot of attention from the players there. Chad Bradford and Troy Percival seemed to be looking over at us quite often, surprised that Baseball Prospectus was there. (What? They were looking at Jenn Sterger?) I have pictures up and believe me, if you've never seen Ben Zobrist hit a grand slam in person, you haven't lived. I do want to thank everyone with the Rays-especially Andrew Friedman, David Baggs, and Stephen Thomas-for helping us to do this. Powered by one heck of an event, on to the injuries:

Matt Garza (0 DXL)
On Saturday, I had a chance to speak with Garza on the field at Tropicana. I recently read an article by a writer who I know believes in what he wrote, saying that Garza was doing damage to his elbow "with each pitch" due to a minor mechanical flaw. Only time will tell, but I explained to Matt what had been written about him and asked him what he thought. Of the flaw-a pronation of his wrist during his takeaway-Garza said he "didn't realize he was doing it." He did a quick motion while watching his wrist, and yes, he pronated. I asked if he felt any tension in his arm, and he said "no, this is what feels good. It's what I've always done." Explaining that the writer thought that he was destroying his elbow by doing that, Garza laughed. "I guess we'll see," he said, "but I had an operation when I was in high school, and they said I have some scarring at the ends and that the structure of it makes it tougher, stronger." I asked if his innings increase (noted on Friday) had him worried, and he said that he wasn't, and that he felt "as good as ever and we're winning and I'm pitching well. That's what counts to me." While he agreed that major league innings are more stressful than minor league innings, he said that he's had no problems at all since his nerve trouble last spring, and he again insisted that he felt great. I've often said that players are the worst sources of info about their own health, but in this case, I think that Garza is right and that the writer is dead wrong.

Carlos Zambrano (1 DXL)
Rich Harden (0 DXL)

The concern here is that the "dead arm" that Zambrano is experiencing isn't simply the normal fatigue that can occur with a pitcher. With his altered mechanics and the known strain from earlier this season, the worry is that there are new muscles being taxed, and that like Pedro Martinez or John Smoltz, he's headed for a bigger and more serious problems. The Cubs think that all he needs is rest, and claim that he's not experiencing any pain. I'll just note that the change in arm position seems to be consistent with ones made in order to try to find relief from discomfort. An extra couple of days could be all the tonic that he needs, and the velocity will tell us very quickly. The Cubs are also making an interesting move, resting Harden by having him skip a start. He isn't scheduled to pitch again until September 9, which will frustrate fantasy owners, and also risks taking him out of the great rhythm he's been in since coming to the North Side. Because this isn't an injury, there's no DXL, but I think this is still a risky move. It's one of those that could go either way, although at least it seems the Cubs are now thinking about things like pitcher usage.

Josh Beckett (15 DXL)
Seeing an article like this one reminds me of a topic that came up on Friday night. People mentioned to me that in the years that they'd been reading Baseball Prospectus and UTK, they had learned more and were noticing more articles that intelligently discussed sports medicine. I agree, that's the case, and on this score I also tip my cap to Rick Wilton, the dean of injuries. The thing is that articles like Bradford's can make it more difficult for me to find an angle for analysis. Bradford-a long time friend of UTK-nails everything, adds in some video, and leaves me nothing more to do here than nod in agreement. It looks as if Beckett is on track for recovery, and that his trip to see Dr. Andrews provided the confidence boost that he needed so that he could get back out there. I found it interesting that John Farrell had Tommy John surgery, something I did not know, and that might make him the first TJ survivor to become a pitching coach in the bigs. (Am I missing anyone?) I'm not worried about Beckett going forward, and in fact the results of the exam may reduce the risk that Beckett carries going forward.

Billy Wagner (45 DXL)
Wagner isn't getting any time off on Labor Day, which will instead be a Very Important Bullpen Day (for him). It's been a few weeks since he's been on a mound, though he has been throwing and playing long toss without significant issue. According to Tony Bernazard, if this goes well the next step would be a minor league rehab stint, but I can't figure out which of the Mets affiliates might still be playing by the time he's ready. It's possible that the Mets could send Wagner down to the spring training complex. Today's session is a big test, since another setback would make a return during this season nearly impossible.

J.D. Drew (25 DXL)
Drew won't come off of the DL when eligible this week, but he is making progress. Drew has begun taking swings in the batting cage and is expected to progress to batting practice and more 'baseball activities,' assuming he continues to respond to treatment on his back. The concurrent back issues-muscular and disc-related-are complicating things slightly, but the Red Sox staff is getting this under control. That they're doing it despite a growing number of injuries on both their pitching staff and the lineup shows just how much depth the Sox have, and also the importance of the four-man staff that the team has to help keep things under control. If Drew returns under the DXL, that's a big plus that needs to be credited to the team's training staff.

Rick Ankiel (0 DXL)
As we get into the part of the season where the DL ceases to matter, we also get into the area where teams make decisions about shutting guys down. The Cards seem to be on the edge of doing that with Ankiel. His abdominal strain needs rest; he simply can't play through it without it significantly affecting his game, and without risking a further strain. There is an enormous amount of great info in Derrick Goold's notebook, but the most informative piece he has here is that this is comparable to Chris Duncan's injury. I've often wondered if some of Duncan's problems this year went back to the way that the injury altered his swing last year, so this is something to keep in mind if you're thinking about slotting Ankiel in on your keeper list.

Yorvit Torrealba (30 DXL)
It's a torn meniscus that seems to have derailed the stretch for one of last year's post-season heroes. Torrealba is likely headed for surgery, which would end his season, although in the longer term this type of surgery should only have minor consequences. He could even make it back if the Rockies were to go on another run like they did last year, but that's highly unlikely. Torrealba has been playing with the injury for more than a month, but the wear and tear behind the plate has become a literal grind for Torrealba's knee. In his absence, Chris Ianetta will get that much more of the catching duties in September.

Melvin Mora (10 DXL)
Talk about being on the spot! When Mora went down on Friday grabbing his hamstring, the entire Baseball Prospectus section turned to me as if I wasn't sitting there watching with them. My initial reaction when someone asked about his DXL was 15-if they use the DL. As it turns out, the O's won't, and it looks like Mora could be back in about ten days. I think they'll be conservative with this, both due to their record and to the idea that Mora could be used as a trading chip this offseason. It looked pretty bad at the time, and it served as a reminder that, even at a Ballpark Event, injuries can be a big part of the story.

Jeff Kent (10 DXL)
For a sore knee, the Dodgers media are being very melodramatic. Yes, Kent is getting older and experiencing the normal degenerative problems that eventually hit all players, but the thing is that Kent is already older than most, and his skills can still play. Most fade out slowly, and the injuries and the soreness end up sapping what remains. Kent is headed back for an MRI, and while there's likely some degeneration involved, it doesn't seem that there's anything structural. If he's having cushioning or articular problems, those are easily fixed and could even allow him to get back for the playoffs-without him, the Dodgers may not have a shot. If this is Kent's last hurrah, he has an interesting career under his belt, and it will make for a great Hall of Fame debate. (Jay Jaffe, I just tee'd you up!) For now, the Dodgers will try to get by using Blake DeWitt, who is also a long-term possibility if his defense is good enough.

Quick Cuts: CC Sabathia went 117 pitches in a one-hit complete game. Jeff Karstens, who's been very good since the trade, went 110 pitches in 6 1/3. Who do you think we should be more worried about, from a pure workload standpoint? ... Joba Chamberlain should be activated on Tuesday, but there is no official word on how he'll be used. ... Ian Kinsler is targeting a return sometime next week, but even the slightest setback could push the Rangers to shut him down. ... Carl Crawford told me that his wrist is "on schedule." When I asked how his legs felt, he smiled and said "much better." ... Andruw Jones cut his rehab short and is headed back to LA for tests. ... There's still a chance that Eric Byrnes could return this season. He'll have tests to determine if he can start baseball activities soon. ... Jon Rauch is having some swelling in his forearm, but there is no structural damage. No word on how long he'll be unavailable. ... Mike Aviles left Sunday's game after taking a hard pitch off of his hand. No word on how bad it is, but may I suggest these once he returns? ... The Rangers pushed Vicente Padilla to the DL with a hamstring strain. He suffered it while recovering from his neck issue. The DL isn't used much this time of year, but the Rangers needed the roster space. ... Justin Duchscherer is due to come back off of the shelf late this week.

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

BP Comment Quick Links

Jessica Bader

Re: Wagner

The Mets do have a New York-Penn League team in Brooklyn that doesn't end its season until the weekend.

Sep 01, 2008 10:25 AM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Great catch, Jessica. I was looking for playoffs when I should have just been looking at the regular schedule!

Sep 01, 2008 10:28 AM
 
Brian Oakchunas

You have to wonder if there is something wrong with Harden and they just aren't telling anybody. He didn't look too sharp in his last start.

Sep 01, 2008 10:34 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Wonder, yes, but no evidence of this. I want to see how they fill out the rotation.

Sep 01, 2008 16:19 PM
 
Brock Dahlke

Hey Will, I have one open spot on my 5x5 Head to Head league, Who would be the better option for that spot, Takashi Saito or Phil Hughes, or Neither of them?

Sep 01, 2008 10:52 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

S or W? That's the question.

Sep 01, 2008 16:19 PM
 
Brock Dahlke

So you are pretty sure both will contribute in the near future?

Sep 01, 2008 17:18 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

I think they have roughly equivalent chances of contributing. I'd guess that Hughes would be slightly above, but without context, I can't make much of a guess on which would help you more.

Sep 02, 2008 07:49 AM
 
mswain784

Iannetta should have been playing every day anyway. His triple slash stats are just as good as Geovany Soto's. How Torrealba got 250+ PAs over him I'll never know.

Sep 01, 2008 10:59 AM
rating: 0
 
buddaley

Thanks Will. It was a terrific event as it was last year with you, Joe Sheehan and Friedman. Don't sell yourself short. Friedman was great. Seems to me he is as candid as he can be. But you got us started on a terrific note, and later preempted a question that my son and I planned to ask. Great minds you know.

I know it's not your specialty, but do you know anything about the validity of rumors that Hunsicker might be headed to Texas? I think that would be a big loss for the Rays.

Sep 01, 2008 11:26 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Texas Rangers? Sure haven't heard anything and they have a great setup there with Daniels and Levine. I'm sure a lot of people would like to get Hunsicker, esp with the Rays success. If I was a Lerner or Lincoln, I'd get his number.

Sep 01, 2008 16:26 PM
 
InBoWeTrust

Re: Harden - His last start he was only in the upper 80's with an uncharacteristic 4 walks. I think its smart to let him rest. 10 games up in the wild card, the Cubs have leeway with their moves and can risk starting Sean Marshall to keep these guys fresh.

Sep 01, 2008 12:18 PM
rating: 0
 
battlekow

Ben Sheets just left his start after 5 innings and 54 pitches. No reason given yet.

Sep 01, 2008 12:31 PM
rating: 1
 
battlekow

According to the Brewers broadcast, he has tightness in his left groin.

I hate it when my left groin seizes up.

Sep 01, 2008 12:40 PM
rating: 1
 
Jessica Bader

The Mets broadcast just said that Sheets's early exit was due to left groin tightness.

Sep 01, 2008 12:40 PM
rating: 1
 
battlekow

Jupiter jinx.

Sep 01, 2008 12:43 PM
rating: -3
 
jlefty

...well if I had known Jenn Sterger was going to be there... gotta let us know something like that!

Sep 01, 2008 12:41 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

"Special guests." I didn't tell you the guys from Outs Per Swing would be there either.

Sep 01, 2008 16:24 PM
 
FrankNoto

Any reason why you think 50 AB in August will necessarily alter Ankiel's swing for the worse for 2009? I could see this if the injury was not repaired soon or they allow him to try to play through it, but that does not appear to be the case.

Sep 01, 2008 14:11 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Just telling you what the Cards are thinking.

Sep 01, 2008 16:25 PM
 
STLbuckeye13

I trust the Cards medical staff zero. I feel like they always make goofy decisions.

Sep 01, 2008 18:40 PM
rating: 0
 
ajmorriso

Is it a better idea to skip Harden or keep him on normal rest but throwing only 80-90 pitches?

Sep 01, 2008 14:53 PM
rating: 1
 
mistahlee

Great ballpark event at the Trop, Will. Thanks. Among other things, we appreciated your insight into the development of David Price. Best regards.

Sep 01, 2008 15:22 PM
rating: 0
 
jlarsen

Will, Do you think that Rocco is 1) one of the best medical comeback stories in the last decade of baseball, 2) has bulked up in body-size a little and 3) is actually benefitting from his long time off.

When do you think Price will debut and is he better to be used as a reliever or Starter in aforementioned possible call-up?

Sep 01, 2008 18:59 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Hard to say on 1. It has to be up there, but we REALLY don't understand this. 2. Maybe, but that could be because of the medication, treatment and finally not being injured and slow healing.

Price ... I'd be in no rush and suggested giving him one start to buy the rotation a day's rest, then putting him in the pen in a 5/7 role.

Sep 01, 2008 22:49 PM
 
Joey Matschulat

Jarrod Saltalamacchia will have an MRI tomorrow on his injured elbow.

Sep 01, 2008 21:38 PM
rating: 1
 
Nate Sheetz

"Who do you think we should be more worried about, from a pure workload standpoint?"

I take your point, but in reality I don't think this is an easy question to answer. I'd imagine in a 1-hit complete game there's going to be a tendency to "reach back" to get those last few outs that just wouldn't come up when you get the hook partway through the 7th. And 110 pitches in 6 1/3 doesn't indicate to me that a pitcher was necessarily laboring.

Ignoring individual makeup, I'd be inclined to be more "worried" about the complete game unless you tell me that 1/3 of an inning involved some horrifying number of pitches.

Sep 01, 2008 22:49 PM
rating: 0
 
Russ

Isn't asking Garza about a potential subconscious mechanical flaw in his delivery the baseball equivalent of the psyche-out technique in golf of asking your opponent how he can even hit the ball with that hitch in his backswing? For the Rays' sake, I hope you didn't get inside his head.

Sep 02, 2008 07:05 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

If it were a flaw, yes.

Sep 02, 2008 07:50 AM
 
dianagram

re: "Who do you think we should be more worried about, from a pure workload standpoint?"

All pitches aren't created equal. Pitchers with easier, more fluid motions can more easily take on greater pitch counts.

Also, its the maximum pitches in an inning that would worry me more. Consider 2 pitchers. They both throw 100 pitches over 7 innings. But one of them has inning pitch counts of 10,15,15,15,15,15,15 and the other has 5,25,10,30,5,5,20. I'd be more worried about the pitcher that had the 25 and 30-pitch innings ... its the fatigue during an inning, as WELL as the aggregate number of pitches and innings, that can doom a pitcher.

Sep 02, 2008 07:34 AM
rating: 2
 
DAra

On a similar note, let's say Pitcher A labours and gets through 5 but it takes him 118 pitches. Pitcher B gets through 7 innings on 90 pitches.

At the end of the year, if both make 35 starts, the first guy ends up throwing 175 innings while the second guy ends up throwing 245 innings.

I konw that its very unrealistic to expect 35 straight starts like these, but the point is, going forward if both were free agents, I think 90%+ of us would prefer to give Pitcher B the bigger contract.

I think innings by itself is a bad metric for workload. We need BP to come up with a normalizer that takes into effect the pitches per inning or something similar.

Sep 02, 2008 09:29 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Or, the difference between Scott Kazmir and Roy Halladay.

PPI is too granular. You end up with an average that tells you nothing. PAP uses pitches, but can't "find" the Kazmir-style 100 P/5 IP starts. It's a scouting issue, not a stats issue.

Sep 02, 2008 11:37 AM
 
DAra

If you are telling me that only through scouting can you point out the differences b/w Kazmir and Doc, then I submit that there's more work to be done.

I think it boils that to the fact that not all innings are equal.

There needs to be inning stress index or something to this effect where one can measure the relative stress of each inning that a pitcher goes through.

Sep 02, 2008 21:21 PM
rating: 0
 
SmoltzsBeard

Hey Will, what's the deal with Rafael Soriano? I sent you an email about it, but havn't seen his name mentioned in a while. I apologize if I missed your mention of it.

Sep 02, 2008 10:24 AM
rating: -1
 
SmoltzsBeard

Nevermind, found it.

Sep 02, 2008 10:24 AM
rating: 0
 
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