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Chat: Will Carroll

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday October 20, 2003 12:00 PM ET chat session with Will Carroll.

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Will Carroll is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Will Carroll: Let's start this thing. I've got a full cup of coffee ... but someone stole my thunder with question one so let's let him ask.

Greg Pizzo (China, Maine): Hey Will - what are you powered by today?

Will Carroll: I'm powered by Kauai Estate coffee. It's a strong, full bodied coffee without the bite of Kona. I'm a Jamaican Blue Mountain guy, but this is perhaps a close second if you include the Cameroon offshoots as a Blue Mountain.

I'm also powered by one heck of an off-season. Being at NLCS Games 6 and 7 was one of the highlights of my baseball fandom - and heartbreaking to a die-hard Cubs fan. Still, this whole offseason has been amazing and better, good for baseball.

Larry Mahnken (Fairport, NY): Hey Will, I love your columns and blog. How's Steve Karsay looking for the Yankees next season?

Will Carroll: Karsay's shoulder should be ready for spring training, but he's obviously had problems with fragility and this certainly won't help. There are studies out there that suggest injury prone players tend to stay injury prone. It's defining injury prone that's tough to do. Add in the traumatic nature of a good portion of injuries and just tagging someone doesn't teach us much.

Brad Harris (Springfield, MO): John Smoltz recently made public that he wanted to be returned to duty in the rotation. From a health perspective, would he be more or less likely to re-injure his arm again if he were to return to starting? He also said he'd retire rather than face another arm surgery; is this realistic? Or was it just something said out of frustration?

Will Carroll: I think he wants to get back on a regular golf schedule. John Rocker was on BPR this weekend - we'll have the show up in the archive by Wednesday - and he said that one inning of closing is like three of starting, but that mentally it's even harder. He says starters know every pitch doesn't count and even plan on 'waste' pitches. There's something to the idea of leverage, but it's going to take someone much smarter than me to be able to quantify it.

I don't think the physical strain of starting is much different than relieving, but there's obviously a different pattern of stress, fatigue, and recovery. It's possible some people deal with one better than another, even if what we're dealing with - fatigue - is the same.

Chris (Raleigh): I'm a big Pirate fan and I was wondering about the prospects of Oliver Perez. Is he a TJ surgery waiting to happen?

Will Carroll: I was very high on Perez when the season began, but like many of the Pads young pitchers not named Peavy, he didn't quite pull it all together.

Perez's mechanics are a bit loose and it seems that the slightest adjustments are a challenge for him. I'm more worried about his shoulder than his elbow, especially considering his slight build. If he's right, he'll be part of a really interesting rotation with Kip Wells, Josh Fogg, and several young guys coming.

If anyone's looking for a bandwagon team in 2005, it might be the Bucs.

Steve Bartman (undisclosed): Been watching the Marlins a lot lately and they remind me of the 2002 Angels - a bunch of pesky singles hitters who play good defence. Is this a trend in baseball or just another fluke? Are the 2004 Marlins going to be a sub 500 team? I have an opportunity to relocate to South Florida and I'd hate to have to wait another six years for my team to get into the World Series.

Will Carroll: *sigh*

I don't blame you, but I would consider the plusses of Floridian living. Nice weather, no state income tax, and those lovely hurricanes.

There's something to the idea of putting the ball in play against a defense with the holes that the Yankees have. I'd bet there's more to the small sample size nature of the playoffs where the advantage goes to forcing mistakes - like Alex Gonzalez booting a sure double play.

2004 for the Fish depends on who they bring back. Ivan Rodriguez is the key signing, but they'll likely lose two of Lowell, Castillo, and Lee. I'd keep Castillo, let Lowell go and giving third to Cabrera. I'd also seriously consider dealing Pierre when his value is higher than it will ever be again.

Brad Harris (Springfield, MO): Trevor Hoffman missed most of 2003 due to injury. He'll be 36 next season. Is he likely to be fully recovered by next April and how much of a drop-off in his performance could be expected given his age and time off?

Will Carroll: He looked good in his return for September, so that's a major positive. At 36, we'd expect some dropoff, but then again, a changeup isn't exactly something that's a physical gift. I think he can be effective and healthy in 2004, but I'm not sure about elite.

danielj (Davis): For the record, I'm being powered today by Peet's Major Dickason blend. Rich and smooth. Mmmm... Anyway, have you figured out what was bothering Nomar?

Will Carroll: Nice stuff. Had some in Chicago. No Peet's in Indy.

Wrong with Nomar? I'd like to have someone as wrong as an 870 OPS. Nomar will always have problems with his wrist - he puts so much torque in his swing - but he looked pretty good to me. I think the wedding was something of a distraction and I'm not sure he bought into the new "Cowboy Up" culture of the team.

danielj (Davis): WIth subpoenas being delivered today there there's bound to be a lot more talk about steroids in baseball. How widely used do you think illegal performance enhancing drugs are in baseball, and how much impact does it have on the game?

Will Carroll: Yeah, the BALCO story is getting bigger by the day. There are five players from MLB that have been subpoenaed and two are among the bigger names in the game. That's not good, even if they did nothing wrong.

(Man, Janet Jackson's "Pleasure Principle" video is on VH1 ... messing with my concentration.)

Bonds and Giambi will both be victimized by the same rumor and innuendo they have been for years, especially Bonds, due to his standoffish nature and his HR record. It will be interesting to see how they deal with this in the media.

As to usage of PEDs, it depends on how you define it. Is a PED a vitamin? Creatine? Protein shakes? If so, it's near 100%. If you mean steroids only, then it's much smaller, perhaps 1-2%, which is probably what you would find in your local gym. Add in things like hGH and some other drugs, and you'll near 5%. These are just guesses - I knowof no players that have used illegal substances.

Daniel Rea (Sherborn, MA): Could you briefly explain the "pre-hab" system used by Rick Peterson of the A's, as well as his studies on bio-mechanics? Considering the A's unbelievable ability to keep their pitchers' arms healthy, why aren't more teams buying into this system? And why aren't more GM's chomping at the bit to hire Peterson away from the A's?

Will Carroll: The open question is how much is Peterson and how much is Glenn Fleisig from ASMI. Peterson should get a lot of credit for the application, but there are other teams using Fleisig's work, including the Red Sox and Devil Rays.

There's some secret sauce helping the A's, but mostly its an organizational commitment to using sound principles in keeping their pitchers healthy. The prehab, the proactive usage patterns, erring on the side of caution in most decisions, and drafting the type of players that stay healthy certainly helps.

Peterson could leave, likely to the Mets. It will be interesting to see what was Peterson, what was the organization, and how much the combination just worked.

Chris Hartjes (@TheBallPark): Will, as someone who enjoys your column I also spend time defending you to my fellow simball league members. What do you say to people you think all you're really doing is summarizing a bunch of information you can find on other web sites, and not really doing anything innovative in your analysis? They site Jeter's and Nevin's recovery from their shoulder injuries as evidence that you are doing what everyone else does: guessing.

Will Carroll: Hi Chris - love your site.

What I do is a lot of guesswork, but it's educated guesswork. Most of my work is done by contact with doctors, trainers, and players, with some talking with team officials - finding out as best I can what is happening and diagnosing from afar. My best work is in taking available information from disparate sources and coalescing it into UTK. I wouldn't call UTK ground-breaking by any means. It's just another way of looking at baseball and trying to emphasize just how much health affects the game. I see more and more people talking about it, about velocity, about medical staffs, and in the end, putting health into the vocabulary of the game might be my biggest contribution -- but I'm far from alone on that. I stand on the shoulders of giants.

I won't deny I'm often wrong, but in explaining why, we're all learning. That's good for baseball.

Max (Hoboken): The Red Book remains a mystery to me. Can you explain (again) what it is, and why it can't be made public?

Will Carroll: The Redbook (one word) is a statistical breakdown of MLB injuries. It's put together by MLB's insurance broker and is confidential info, now covered not only by contract but by HIPAA. Privacy is one of the major problems I have in my work. MLB has never allowed this data to be published and really, I'm not sure what they'd gain from it. The raw data is amazing.

Yoko (Osaka): Why has double-spiral mechanics gotten no attention in America?

Will Carroll: Wow, lots of Japanese questions today.

Double spiral mechanics is new and hasn't really been translated yet that I'm aware of. There's some consciousness building of the results, but if Mike Marshall's work isn't picked up on in America, is it any wonder that Japanese biomechanics might not zoom across the Pacific?

I can't explain double spiral in this space but it's worth searching for -- and if anyone reads Japanese, man, do I have some translations I'd kill to have.

Paul Mocker (seattle): Which teams do the best job of preventing injuries or educating players about on-field risks? I'm thinking of advising players not to slide headfirst, not to run into walls, requiring players to wear the batting shin guards.

Will Carroll: Good question. I think the Giants do a great job with that -- and let me take this chance to once again point out that one of the game's great trainers and men, Barney Nugent, retired this week due to illness. That's going to be tough to overcome for them, but I'm sure they'll get someone good.

I think the Cubs and White Sox do well. Atlanta's made strides. The Yankees have an odd system, but it works and someone should pay the price and bring Mark Littlefield to the majors.

Derek Martin (Montreal): Don't you think this whole pitch count thing is BS? Wood and Prior pitched better later in the season but somehow the last two games "dictate" they were over used. Great starting pitchers have to pitch late into the game to be great. No?

Will Carroll: Did you SEE Wood and Prior at the end of the season? I did and they were gassed. Fatigue is cumulative and while they pitched well, the stress that Baker put on them, both mentally and physically, cost them and by crunch time, they had nothing left. Prior threw over 1000 pitches from Sept 1 to Game Six of the NLCS. Pitch count is just a nice measure of what led to the fatigue. PAP and V-Loss are different measures of the same thing, with PAP having a significant advantage at this point due to its testing.

I published something a while back about Wood's performance after 120 pitch outings. The work was done by a reader - some of the best things I get to publish are from readers - but the results were unquestionable. Unfortunately, Dusty didn't read UTK that day. Hopefully, he'll read my book when it comes out this spring.

Great starting pitchers have to give their teams a chance to win. It's still a team game. Sure, it'd be nice to have a guy who could complete every game, but so far, only Roy Halladay has figured out that pitch efficiency might be the key to that.

Grady Little (North Carolina): Two questions, actually: 1) Do I have a job in Boston next year? and 2) Should I have pulled Pedro after seven?

Will Carroll: I'll let Larry and Theo answer #1.

Should Pedro have been pulled after seven? Probably. I don't have the numbers, but Clay Davenport said that the Sox had some favorable EqA matchups, Pedro was CLEARLY fatigued by any measure, and that he got that far should have been enough. Still, it's tough to say that Pedro can't do it.

I still have no idea why managers ask when they go to the mound. Why go out? They all say the same thing.

David (Atlanta): What in the heck do we have to do to get a Pizza Feed in Atlanta?

Will Carroll: Send me a plane ticket. I'll go anywhere that there's not snow. Heck, I'll even send you to two guys who have made them happen to help you set one up.

Ivan (Chicago): What's the deal with you and the weblog?

Will Carroll: I'm no Joe Sheehan, so no one is going to pay for my analysis. Like Derek, I needed an outlet for things like the Cubs and politics and ... well, whatever the heck I want to write about.

Joe's still my hero, so the more writing I can do, the closer I am to my dream of being the writer he is, but he keeps raising the bar. Kudos to Joe for his amazing work in the post-season. There may not be clutch hitting, but there sure is clutch writing.

doug (CA): What is the status of Troy Glaus' shoulder? Surgery has been ruled out and I'm not sure if that is a good or a bad thing . . .

Will Carroll: Not having scars is usually good. He's on a rehab program this off-season so there's hope. I'd think about moving him to first at some point if I were the Angels, but I'm not.

If I had to guess, Glaus will be a yellow flag next year, assuming other off-field issues don't complicate things.

Casey (Baltimore): How was Bob Gibson able to pitch all those great games on 2-3 days rest in Octobers of the 1960s? Did it catch up to him in later seasons? Was he just a freak? Or were the pitch counts just not that high?

Will Carroll: The pitch counts weren't as high and he was able to take batters 'off'. Look at ESPN CLassic sometime and you can see massive differences in today's players and those of ten and twenty years ago. Today's shortstops hit bombs; in the 60's, besides Banks, you could let those slappies at the bottom put the ball in play.

Again, Roy Halladay is figuring this out. Let your defense help. A one pitch grounder to third is just as good as a strikeout ... unless it's a situation where you NEED the strikeout. Pitchers DO affect things - where and how the ball is hit - by what they do. They may not pitch to the scoreboard, but they can pitch to the situation.

Jeff (Indy): Will, Did Florida lose any advantage in pitching Pavano last night? McCarver pointed out he thought he would hold him so the Yanks didn't get to see him before his start. Is there any evidence that supports this?

Will Carroll: Not sure about evidence, but there is something to the advantage of the unknown going to the pitcher. Batters adjust quickly. I'm not sure Pavano will pitch in Game Four, so the point may be moot.

Dr. C (Mobile): What's the deal with all the use of starters as relievers? Is this something that's fluke or will we see this more in coming seasons?

Will Carroll: Nice to see the big fans coming out.

It's curious, but not unheard of. It's more in the spotlight this post-season, with emptying the bullpen working well for Trader Jack. I'm interested to see if the idea of doing sidework on the pitching mound takes hold. Baseball isn't as copycat as the NFL and pitch count orthodoxy might prevent this in some organizations. Still, I think unless someone proves to me that it's a bad idea, I might try it in certain situations.

Heck, it worked in the 30s ...

Zachary (Van Nuys, CA): If you had to pick one pitcher to pitch a game 7 and you knew that you couldn't go to the bullpen during the game, who would you pick? Your top five?

Will Carroll: If I can't go to the bullpen, why does every team have one? But accepting the rules of your question, I have to find guys who are efficient and have shown the ability to go deep into games ...

1. Roy Halladay - Mr. Efficiency
2. Randy Johnson - shown the ability
3. Curt Schilling - same thing
4. Mark Prior - he's that good
5. Roger Clemens - even at 40.

You might see something of a pattern there.

Joel (Washington, DC): Kris Benson got ripped by his teammates this summer for being a wimp, then it turned out something was indeed wrong with his shoulder. Isn't part of the problem with injuries the macho deal that you are supposed to fight through them like they did in the day? And will Benson ever be the stud major league starter that he was supposed to be?

Will Carroll: The gladiator ethic has to be stopped, but its tough because players have to be confident in their abilities and being a warrior is part of that. The medical staff needs more say in shutting people down, but there also needs to be open communication channels. That's the biggest problem right now - players are scared to say they're hurt because they get tagged or it burns them in negotiations.

The Pirates have a bunch of #3 starters. I'm not sure if this is good or bad.

Blake T. (Wrigleyville): Will, what do you forecast for Prior and Wood next year? Do you see them suffering a Burnett-like setback? Can this be prevented by getting them a better bullpen on which Dusty can rely? Or is the damage done?

Will Carroll: I think one of them will have some minor arm problems next year, but this isn't necessarily a negative. Mike Marshall points out that Prior has a small mechanical flaw - one I hadn't seen until he pointed it out. I'd like to see Dusty get a clue about usage and not have all four of his starters ragged by playoff time, pitching on guts and fear.

A bullpen would help, but he has to use them. The one he had wasn't horrible. Wouldn't Pettitte look good in Wrigley?

John Collins (Greenville NC): Will, Enjoy your work! Do you know what Dick Martin is doing now, post-Twins? Has he retired?

Will Carroll: Lightning round ... I have more radio to do today.

Dick lives in Florida and works in a clinic there. He's doing well, but his talents are being wasted and the Twins are starting to feel the effects.

Bill Johnson (a dinky town in New Mexico): I'll give you a break from the World Series and tetrahydrogestrinone, and revisit something you mentioned in an UTK this summer. When Rick Ankiel went into Tommy John elbow surgery, you or a reader speculated on a connection between TJ surgery and Steve Blass syndrome (inexplicable wildness). Did anything ever come of that? And have you heard any reports on how Ankiel's surgery went?

Will Carroll: No connection made yet, but I sure have some suspicions.

Ankiel's surgery was successful. The Cards are considering using him as a DH/OF while he heals and he should be throwing by mid-season.

Bill Sablan (Oxnard, CA): What do you know about "Stan's Rodeo Ointment"? There was an article in the LA Times a couple of weeks ago about the Dodgers trainer Stan Johnston and his development of a blister cream. Supposedly it's becoming very popular with a lot of teams.

Will Carroll: Good article. It's a patented mix that seems to work for some, but I don't think it's miraculous either. This question's really better for Dr. Rany Jazayerli, dermatologist. When's his chat?

Jeff (Tokyo): I'll say a couple words and let you tell everyone else: Daisuke Matsusaka.

Will Carroll: Gyroball! This kind of goes back to double spin mechanics, but I'd love to see an organization grab Matsusaka or at least send some pitchers over to learn it.

And we need more knucklers. And scroogies.

danielj (Davis): Will Roy Oswalt ever be the same?

Will Carroll: No, but is 90% of Oswalt still an ace?

Greg Pizzo (China, Maine): What's the prognosis for Cliff Lee? Did he have surgery for a hernia or some such thing? And what about Kurt Ainsworth? Will there be any residual problems with the fracture?

Will Carroll: Lee had a hernia and should be ready for spring training. Ainsworth had the same fracture as Jarrod Washburn a couple years ago and he's fine, so I'd expect Ainsworth to be ok.

danielj (Davis): I've heard that Luis Castillo has a hip problem that's slowed him down a notch this season. Is this so, and if so, is it an issue that should trouble him next year, too?

Will Carroll: Rumored, never confirmed. I asked him in Chicago last week and he said "I still fast." Hard to argue with that.

Jon (Burlington, VT): A lot of the Red Sox offensive players were deemed to have had career years, contributing to this Legendary Offensive Season. Who do you see regressing next season? Mueller, Millar, any others? Do you see any players continuing to improve? Nixon, Varitek, Ortiz? What do you expect out of the Sox offense next year, barring injuries? Thanks.

Will Carroll: Like you, I'll wait on PECOTA and watch to see what Theo does in the off-season. He knows more than me.

Will Carroll: 33 questions and still some left that I wont get to. Thanks to everyone. Let's do this again sometime. "Saving The Pitcher" comes out in Spring 04.


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