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Chat: Will Carroll

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday April 19, 2005 1:00 PM ET chat session with Will Carroll.

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Will Carroll is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Will Carroll: Thanks for coming by. Lots of questions already in the queue and with my new book "The Juice" ready to come out, let's get right to it. De gloria olivae.

VandyNine (Nashville): When do you think Berkman and Gagne will be back? Mid-May? Late-May?

Will Carroll: Berkman has had his rehab "conservatized" - meaning that he'll likely be back a few weeks later than initially thought. He's taking BP, he's running well, and if there's no further setbacks, we'll see him in a couple weeks.

Gagne's more questionable. They need to get both his knee and his elbow back to full health. Since he's not throwing, we really have no indication of how things are going besides the word of people on the inside. Best guess right now is late May. We'll know more once he starts throwing.

bobskinner (Indianapolis): After your Sir Sidney Ponson comments, do you recall Tony LaRussa experimenting in Spring Training several years ago with I believe 3 designated pitchers per game, each going through the lineup no more than twice, to maximize the different looks a batter would see per game...thiught he abandoned the idea when his pitchers wouldn't buy into it...how do you view such pitcher usage and how does it differ from your idea of a "reliever day"?

Will Carroll: I'd love to see more innovative uses, especially in the minor leagues. Tandem starters, reliever days, reliever start patterns, four man rotations - all this is ripe for experimentation if someone has the guts or desperation to try it.

Jay (Madison): Any updates on Baldelli's activities? When's he expected back and what are the near term and long term implications?

Will Carroll: Baldelli is coming along normally in his rehab and is still on track to be back around the ASB. I'd expect him to shift to a corner OF slot for 2005. His game shouldn't be significantly affected once he returns.

Mike Fast (Santa Clara, CA): Will, I love your column and your viewpoint. You're the biggest reason I look forward to reading BP every morning. Is there any chance of publishing the data from the Velocity Project that you ran or of using that data for anything else? Depending on what data you collected, I thought it might be interesting to evaluate DIPS in terms of velocity/type of pitch to see if those have any effect on the outcome of balls in play. A couple years worth of pitch data would be a valuable starting point to such a project.

Will Carroll: Thanks Mike.

The Velocity Project was fun, but it had two problems. First, we figured out that for all the work we were doing collecting this data, it was easier and more accurate to have the pitching coach or athletic trainer visually assess fatigue. Secondly, we couldn't afford the complete pitch by pitch TVL (type, velocity, location) data from STATS or BIS that would make for a good study on the types of things you would like to see. The data is out there for someone who's better suited. If we could take up a collection for Jay Jaffe ...

Craig Kornacki (Buffalo, NY): When is Luke Hudson slated to come back? Has there been any studies done regarding pitchers and how their body weight relates to performance? Thanks

Will Carroll: Hudson is throwing, but the Reds haven't set a solid timetable for his return to competition. Shoulder injuries are difficult to judge and as Curt Schilling showed this spring, trying to set artificial goals is often counterproductive. They need an effective pitcher, not one that's back tomorrow.

Brian (Atlanta): In the papers this morning, Dusty said that "3 or 4" of his relievers were unavailable last night, and that is why a rusty Jon Leicester pitched the 8th inning. So he has burned out "3 or 4" relievers 2 weeks into the season, despite the fact he has a 7 man bullpen and two guys (Leicester and Bartosh; you can probably count recently demoted Todd Wellemeyer too) who have gone as much as a week between appearances. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being slightly below average, 10 being awful), how bad is Dusty at bullpen management?

Will Carroll: "This one goes to 11".

collins (greenville nc): Will, Thanks for doing the chat. Do you think there's reason to believe that Carlos Silva is at particularly high risk (with what I guess is a _slightly_ torn meniscus)?

Will Carroll: I'm not sure how you define particularly high, so I'll use my methodology. If we could go back to the THR spreadsheet and put a light on him given the new information, Silva would be a low red. A lot is going to depend on his pain tolerance and how well the new trainer, Rick McWane, and his staff can manage the expected inflammation and pain.

As for how torn it is, three top orthopods can't agree, so I won't even venture a guess.

shall14 (Salem, MA): Do you agree with Bill James' thesis that pitchers of the past threw harder and longer because their windups were longer than the pitchers of today?

Will Carroll: Pass.

No, seriously, I don't think that has anything to do with it. Pitchers do certain things the same way and how they get there is really up to them. I don't particularly care about the wind up or the arm slot if they're doing the rest of it right. Tom House preaches posture and consistency, something I believe he's exactly right on.

I think pitcher fatigue is one of the things we don't know nealy enough about. There's some ongoing studies on this, including one that's trying to assess the breakdown of mechanics with in-game fatigue. Some of the biggest advances for medheads in the next ten years will be figuring out fatigue, both in game and seasonal, and recovery.

Ameer (NYC): Did you notice any alteration of mechanics in Mulder's latest start?

Will Carroll: I only saw the MLB.tv highlights but no, he looks consistent and mechanically, I don't see what's changed at all. The ball just isn't moving and it's ending up in hittable locations.

AtsamRif (Lancaster, PA): It's my birthday today! A youngun at 22. When is Daisuke Matsuzaka and/or the gyroball going to make its appearance over on this hemisphere? and is there any more video showing the pitch?

Will Carroll: Happy happy. I remember 22. It was a good year, I think. No, actually it was pretty crappy. It was 23 that was the good year. Doesn't matter.

I wish I had more video. My gyroballer, Joey Niezer, is doing well - I'll have more reports soon - and we can only hope that Matsuzaka comes over soon. With or without the gyro, he's a great young talent that could help a lot of teams.

Allan (Seattle): How can you explain Roger Clemens' performance into his 40s?

Will Carroll: He's a freak.

Seriously. Good genetics, great work ethic, learned a new pitch (splitter) that extended his career, a deadly focus on his craft, a competitive streak that goes from Katy to Alvin, and ... well, don't forget that he's a freak.

Enjoy it. He's one of the all-time greats.

tphoskin (atlanta): thanks for coming to the book signing down here. i'm sorry that i missed it though.

Will Carroll: Next time. There's a lot of places we haven't had book signings or pizza feeds that we'd love to get to. The only way we'll know is if you tell us. St. Louis is my next mission. Remember that we're not everywhere and most of us do these out of our own pockets, but they are great fun.

Andy (Raleigh): When I watch Keith Foulke, it looks to me like he "short arms" the ball in a way I've not seen in any other pitchers. Maybe he doesn't bring the ball back as much as other pitchers? Have you noticed any of this, and do you have any comments about it?

Will Carroll: I've heard scouts say he "throws darts." It's an odd motion but not a bad one. He gets a lot out of his hip turn and a massive pronation, meaning he leaves his arm - a 55 arm at that - out of the equation as much as he can. I wish we could find more pitchers that worked on things so diligently.

Chewbacca (Planet Earth): Yo, Will. You're the man. Who's your favorite current pitcher and why?

Will Carroll: Chewie! Long time no see. I hear you'll be in Indy soon. Seriously, there's a big Star Wars convention in Indy this week. When they had it here a couple years ago, I was driving in to do BPR on an early Saturday morning. I hadn't had coffee yet and I saw Yoda and one of those little fuzzy things walking down the street. I really thought I was losing it.

My favorite current pitcher ... can't name just one. Love Mark Prior for what he is and what he might be. (He had me at hello.) Love Ben Sheets. Love Keith Foulke. Love Pedro, midget or no midget. Love watching Maddux, Clemens, and Johnson because those will be the ones we can tell the grandchildren about.

Bill (Buffalo): Will, we'd love for you to come to Buffalo, New York or possibly Toronto. There are some rabid fans in this area of the country.

Will Carroll: Toronto - been there twice and loved it both times. The crew at Batter's Box always gets out the numbers. Hope to be back this year, maybe at SABR.

Buffalo - only in the summer, but I'll see what I can do.

Kip (Des Moines): Is there a more unpredictable person in baseball than the "pitching prospect"? Several names come to mind... Aaron Heilman, Mike Bynum. Can't miss-prospects that fail. What causes young arms to fail most of the time?

Will Carroll: Say it with me. TINSTAAP.

What causes them to fail? Who knows - its a million things. What I'd rather know is what helps the ones that make it succeed. Let's concentrate on keeping them healthy and giving them every chance to develop along the journey so that we get more, better pitchers in the majors.

aanderson (new york): Would you support a rule in high school leagues that would limit the pitch counts of pitchers before they must be pulled? I can't bear the thought of a player's career being ruined b/c the high school coach has no idea the detrimental effects that excessive abuse can cause down the line. Are there many documented cases of high school pitchers careers ruined due to aubse?

Will Carroll: Pitch counts are overly simplistic, but yes, given the climate where coaches simply can't do this on their own, I would support this type of rule. The rules in place now are jokes and often unenforced. In Indiana, the pathetic rule is ten innings in three days. Are you kidding me?

There are lots of documented cases and I'm sure more undocumented cases. It's a mission for me, as well as lots of others. Tim Kremchek of the Reds recently had a great piece on "Real Sports" (HBO) and I know how passionately he feels. Jim Andrews is the same, as are tons of others I won't name due to my wrist really hurting. (Never had a chance to get the carpal fixed this off-season! I'm a yellow light typer right now.)

Haller You Doing? (Upland, IN): Seen any of Ian Snell yet? How's he look? Smoother than Zach Duke I hope?

Will Carroll: Haven't seen Snell yet, but hope to. Bobby Bradley on the other hand ... ouch. The wonder is not that he's been hurt, but that's he's ever been healthy enough to be a prospect.

Sassy Macker (baltimore): Any comments on Javier Vazquez's rough start? He looks like he could be a victim of bad luck as his K/BB and HR/IP are all real good but his BABIP is close to .500. But three bad starts in a row -- looks like a pattern to me.

Will Carroll: He can't place his breaking stuff and his change hasn't been ... changy enough to get people off an average fastball. Vazquez is really beginning to look like a victim of his usage as a younger player. That's a damn shame.

Mike Myers (Hollywood): Have any major league teams or minor league teams contacted you (ala Ron Shandler) and asked for your advice?

Will Carroll: Yes.

Shock8 (Henderson,TN): What is the difference between a splitter and a fork ball and at what age should a pitcher learn to throw it (some argue that the splitter is what did in Smoltz's arm and yet it has extended Clemens career)?

Will Carroll: Nomenclature. I've had some argue that a fork ball is thrown more as a change or that the fingers are slightly different, but mostly its a matter of description. A breaking ball is a breaking ball, but it's easier to understand the differences by calling their resultant actions sliders, curves, slurves, screwballs, etc.

I haven't seen any data on the kinetics of the splitter. We'll have to get Glenn Fleisig back in here to give us a better answer - when it comes to pitching, he is the MAN.

Jay (Madison): Randy Johnson's reduced velocity. Anything to worry about or just a cold spring thing?

Will Carroll: His velocity wasn't off in spring training, so absent any other facts, I'd tend to think its the weather. Randy can be a bit moody, so who knows?

Aaron (akron): In your book you write about DIPS and it seems to me that you have some doubts about it. Do you believe that pitchers have more influence over balls in play?

Will Carroll: Yeah, I'll admit that I have two problems with it. First, I don't understand the math. I met Voros McCracken at the winter meetings and the guy knows his stuff. I have no doubts that what he came up with is something. The further refinements by Keith Woolner, Clay Davenport recently, and Tom Tippett all help. Second, as a former (bad) pitcher, I would actively try to keep the ball down or force a grounder and I could do it with enough regularity that a better pitcher just HAS to be able to do it, right? No, of course not. It's a case of "my lyin' eyes" decieving me. I owe Voros a beer.

john (boston): You said in a recent UTK column to catch F-Rod while you can b/c he can't hold up his mechanics. What type of injury do you see occurring if he keeps up this way?

Will Carroll: Elbow, probably. He's just throwing that slider so much without pronating properly that I can't imagine him holding up. He might. Maybe he's doing something that can only be seen in high speed. I'm about risk and that kids risky, but just absolutely the closest to unhittable I think I've seen outside of Pedro's peak.

And believe me, I'm wrong sometimes. I just saw where its not the Washington Grays after all.

Vin Smith (Trenton): How long do you think the Marlins pitching staff is going to last with Mckeon's 1950's approach in the use and over-use of a partially fragile rotation?

Will Carroll: Is it over-use? I haven't seen insane pitch counts. Burnett especially has been really efficient. (Sorry, just got a call that Carlos Silva will start Friday.) I want to know if this complete game thing was a plan or a reaction to a weak bullpen, but as long as the starters keep their counts low, I think this could work. McKeon's the type of guy who can take risks.

Bill Johnson (New Mexico): Any comments on Cal Eldred's "viral myopericarditis" diagnosis? How does a fit, young (compared to me, anyway...) guy come down with this one? Prognosis?

Will Carroll: It's a virus and those can happen to anyone. Luckily, it was caught and is being treated. I don't know how it will affect his conditioning but it certainly can't be good. He'll bear watching and could come back slower than expected.

chip (detroit): Do you need any more writers or anyone to do research? This stuff is awesome...

Will Carroll: We're always on the lookout for new, talented writers and we occasionally put out calls for interns. It's a FAQ and one that I can only answer as "do good work and we'll find you."

Ameer (NYC): I've heard it said (in reference to the NBA, I believe) that nutrition will be one of the next big frontiers in player health and performance. Have you done a lot of work in this area? Are players structuring their diets as rigidly as their workout routines, or can we expect that in the future?

Will Carroll: Have I done a lot of work? *looks forlornly at my belly* No, but I have talked to nutritionists regularly. Sari Mellman is at the top of her profession, tho there are surely others that do good work. I do think that players are starting to take it seriously and that its something that we'll be hearing more about. Ivan Rodriguez isn't "pudge" any more because of his new diet.

Sassy Macker (baltimore): why can't we listen to BPR live over the internet? make it happen!

Will Carroll: Umm, you can! Says right on the page that you can listen live - all two hours - at www.espn950.com. We're also getting the archived first hour up same day now of every single week. Ben Murphy and Dave Pease did a lot of behind the scenes work - as they always do - and deserve a lot of the credit. My new co-host, Brad Wochomurka, also deserves a lot of credit for his great work on the technical aspects of the show like production, editing, and booking.

Why don't we get BPR on in Baltimore and you can listen live!

Eric (Boston): Any thoughts on Wade Miller? About a week or so ago, the Boston Globe reported that the Sox were trying to modify his throwing motion to reduce stress on his shoulder.

Will Carroll: I haven't seen him pitch since spring training and didn't know his motion well enough to detect changes then (or now.) The Sox are very high on what they've done with him and think he'll be a great addition to a staff that already looks pretty strong. I'll be interested in seeing how they slot him in - at starter or long relief - as he returns.

anthony (seattle): Has it been determined how much more effective steroids are then your over the counter strength enhancers? As in, I assume steroid users would gain greater muscle mass than a creatine user in 6 weeks, but is it measureable to what exent?

Will Carroll: I don't know of any study that has shown this, due to the difficulties in conducting human trials for anabolic-androgenic steroids. I know there were comparisons with AAS and 'andro', which is why andro is seldom used any more - it simply didn't work very well. If anyone knows of studies on this topic, I'd love to see them.

OrioleDog (Maryland): There are reports that Trevor Hoffman's velocity is off--have you seen him pitch at all this year, and do you see any reason to re-evaluate the yellow (with compliments on pitch efficiency) he got in the Padres THR?

Will Carroll: Off slightly but the variation in his pitches is still significant. He lives and dies by the changeup so I wouldnt worry so much about him losing a couple mph as I would him losing variation.

dan11995 (Atlanta, GA): Hi Will, What are your thoughts on the fragility of Marcus Giles? Is he just one of those all out Rusty Greer/Lenny Dykstra types who's bound to be hurt a lot or is he just unlucky? Could 2003 have been his career year?

Will Carroll: Good point. I'm not sure that he's quite as injury prone - most of his injuries have been the result of collisions and we can't call anyone collision prone, can we? I'm very high on him and think 2003 is just the beginning.

Frank (Mobile, AL): Will, Give me some advice to pass on to my little brother: He was an average speed, average arm, senior OF at a small college in 2004, and hit .398/.459/.657 but was told by a scout that he was too slow to be drafted. The few scout camps he's attended had him run and throw (much like Moneyball, ch. 1) and then sent home. But, in the words of BP2K5, his bat's the thing. I think his 17/10 BB/K rate indicate ability to hit at a higher level, but he can't get his foot in the door. Any advice? Thanks to you and BP for all the great work.

Will Carroll: Mobile? Email me with more info.

One would think results would matter more, but sometimes, they don't. I'm not down on scouts and think the whole "scouts vs stats" thing is overblown, but when scouts hold to the myths of baseball like short pitchers cant throw, that slow players can't hit, and that fat players can't succeed, they're missing good players and isn't their job to FIND good players?

mitchel (n.y.): when does wily mo pena become a starter

Will Carroll: When Ken Griffey or Austin Kearns gets hurt or when Jim Bowden finally caves in and tosses something more into his last offer.

lonechicken (DC): I have this running bet with some people that Haren will have a better season (wins not withstanding) than Mulder... Even being in the AL. How's he looking as far as being able to hold up for an entire season in a rotation?

Will Carroll: I like your chances. Cut me in on that action, will you?

Just a couple more. My local radio hour is on the road today (espn950.com, 3pm Central) and it's a good 1/2 hour from my home. Be sure to listen in and call in.

victor (queens): mark prior, mark prior, mark prior. short term cy young, medium and long term a bum elbow?

Will Carroll: TINSTAAP but Prior has every chance to be one of the best pitchers in the game. Let's just get Dusty away from him, okay?

Josh (Boulder, CO): Hey Will, Dontrelle Willis is probably the hottest pitcher in baseball right now. Do you think now's a good time to trade him, in order to get the highest possible value? He tends to fatigue down the stretch - is Willis and Coco Crisp for Harden and Crosby fair, considering Crosby's injury?

Will Carroll: I like the Fish pitchers. For Harden? I'd trade him in a heartbeat.

Steve (NJ): Is there a less sabermetrically-inclined team in the majors than the Mets?

Will Carroll: Oh yes. Tons. Two-thirds?

ORIOLE75 (ORIOLE): Hey Will, Your take on the roids/media thing was excellent. Here's the real issue: I'm sure that medical science is curently hard at work at the next generation of undetectable performance enhancers. This will become a game of atheletes staying one step ahead of a very cumbersome testing procedure. Not to mention genetically engineered humans down the road !! The point is, do we want to have our sports played by purely "natural" totally unjuiced ballplayers, or do the leagues just give it up, and let everything go, realizing they will never catch everyone.

Will Carroll: I'll use a line from my book - any substance that gives any player an unfair advantage should be banned from the game. It's up to you - every one of you - to decide where that line between fair and unfair lies.

Ameer (NYC): How did Beckett rid himself of his lingering blister problems?

Will Carroll: He got a pitching coach he liked and quit making excuses.

Vanasek (New York City): Is it just me or after the retirement/firing of Dick Martin, it seems like the Twins have had a number of injuries increase and have a had a number of cases (Silva) either misdiagnosed or rehab stints gone awry (Mauer, Mays)? While some of the low injury rates during the 90's may have been influenced by Tom Kelly's astute handling of the pitching staff, do you have any data that either supports or contradicts my belief?

Will Carroll: It was a firing and yes, that increase showed itself prominently. As I said, the Twins have a new trainer, promoted from within, and he'll need to try and get back to the excellent results that made Dick Martin perhaps the best trainer in all of baseball during his 30 years in the game.

Arathorn (Chicago area): What are the a priori odds a young pitcher (e.g. Greinke) will get hurt?

Will Carroll: 24 or younger lefty? It's ... hey, my consulting rates are very reasonable.

maxexpos (Montreal): Do fans have a statistical impact on the game. Ie decibel level in domed stadiums or good heckling (not vulgar necessarily)

Will Carroll: Good question. I'd guess yes, but I'd love to see some sort of look at that. Paging James Click ..

puncher (new york, ny): Is Todd Walker still at least a month from playing for the big club? What's Hairston gotta do in the meantime to get/keep the 2B job? Do you have a phone number for Dusty?

Will Carroll: About a month. Age a couple years. No.

Jeremy (NC): Chris Snelling resumed playing over the weekend. What's his outlook now?

Will Carroll: *holds breath and crosses fingers*

bbitech (Boston): In your opinion, which MLB teams have cultures that would be most receptive to technological advances in pitcher injury issues? In the Preface to “ Saving the Pitcher, ” you said, “Since beginning my work in the field of injury analysis, I’ve seen my share of controversy, acrimony, and disdain.” Of this, I have no doubt. Resistance in baseball to new approaches is immense for some reason. I have an advanced technology that addresses the problem of baseball-specific training, which you raise in your book. It follows from an insight developed in one of the MIT labs upon which I have based my own subsequent patents but which have not been publicly disclosed in the context of baseball. Do you have any suggestions on how to break through to present the scientific case and demonstrate the efficacy of the technology? Innovation diffusion is a special case in MLB I’m discovering. The head pins in baseball training and therapy as I see them: 1) A significant group of rigid turf-conscious gatekeepers ferociously guarding their perquisites. These guys are generally just dense. I compare the experience of explaining a new approach to one as if staring into the eye of a chicken: there is simply nothing there. 2) A significant thoughtful group: the gurus. Like any intense or passionate individual in any field who has sacrificed much time, thought, and energy in the pursuit of a solution to a problem, each believes he has the answer. Each is believes he has just peeked through the keyhole of the universe. 3) There is, I believe, a very small group of clever aggressive solution-driven innovators (even some front office guys) eager to have a front row seat or even getting up onstage for a transforming technology. I believe if anybody knows who they are, you do. Would you please pass on to me their telephone numbers? I would be happy to demonstrate the technology to you (after providing you with references and bona fides) so you could report back to BP participants that I do not have a hunchback and work out of my basement and indeed the technology is the Rx for “Saving the Pitcher.” Thanks

Will Carroll: I get a lot of these. I'm not saying you don't have the answer, bb in boston, but like everyone else, I'll say "prove it." You have my email and if you're right, I'll show it off as much as I can. The same goes for anyone. What this column is all about is helping the game by keeping our best players on the field as much as possible. I'm just one guy, I'm not a doctor, and I'm clearly not the smartest guy in the room, but I don't sleep and I'll outwork most people. Help me. Help me help the game.

Will Carroll: With that, I have to hit the road. I left a ton of questions unanswered and I apologize for that. I try my best to answer emails and get all the info I can into my columns. Thanks for reading and be sure to pick up copies of "The Juice" and Steven Goldman's "Forging Genius" when they hit bookstores in the next couple weeks.


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