Will Carroll is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Will Carroll: *Yawn* It's about time to wake up from hibernation and get back into the swing of things. Of course, I really didn't nap, I've been working on about ten different projects, but I'm really excited about BP2004 coming out ... well, very very soon! Like everyone here, I'm a longtime fan of BPBook and can't wait to read the great stuff it has every year. (No, I haven't seen it!) So, with that, I'm powered by the anticipation of Spring Training and on to the chat ...
Christine (Palos Hills, IL): Will,
2 part question. Robb Nen's effectiveness this season and does that little tap step thing he does disrupt his mechanics?
Will Carroll: Nen's shoulder has been an ongoing soap opera. I had the chance to speak with Stan Conte last week at the ASMI Injuries in Baseball Conference and he was being very cautious, but not pessimistic, about Nen. Anyone with three surgeries in the short time Nen has had them in has to worry someone who's job is to keep players healthy. There's a lot to be said for wanting to see a player on the mound. A lot of people think I'm overly negative on Mark Mulder, but in the absence of good information, I'll always fall back to "I want to see him on the mound."
The tap step isn't a problem. It's a timing mechanism, which come in many shapes and sizes. It's consistent, which is all you can ask for from a pitching motion. Remember Nen gets to work with two of the best pitching coaches in the game and that counts for a LOT.
Greg (Boca Raton, FL): Hey Will,
What can we expect from AJ Burnett this year? Thanks
Will Carroll: Burnett's slightly ahead of schedule from the Marlins expectations, but their biggest challenge is going to be keeping him from pushing it too much too soon. Ideally, he'd pitch in the minors to begin the season, return to relief once he shows good mechanics, then work himself back to the rotation. It worked well for Matt Morris, but the rehabilitation has improved markedly since then.
Burnett could be back in the rotation by June or July. It's tough for any team to keep a pitcher that good off the mound.
John (Birmingham): What happened to the Birmingham Pizza Feed? Also, is Prior the most mechanically sound pitcher in baseball? Is there even a debate?
Will Carroll: Sadly, lack of interest killed that one for now, but expect me to try and get back to one of my favorite towns quickly, especially if we can get some of the "special guests" I think we can.
Prior's one of the top pitchers in the game to be sure, but he's not absolutely perfect. No one is. I'd say Maddux is about as close as it comes. I'd like to see Prior have a bit more flex in his elbow, but I'll defer to Tom House on that and almost any pitching question.
Yes, it's true that Prior has added velocity in the off-season.
R.C. Cook (Dallas TX): How well are Chan Ho Park and Jeff Zimmerman progressing from their respective injuries? Should we expect to see either pitching this spring?
Will Carroll: Both Park and Zimmerman are making great progress. I've taken some heat for saying Park is a "breakout" candidate, but from where he's been, what does it take to be a "breakout?" Ten wins? With a healthy back and an improved defense, that seems well within reach.
Zimmerman's recently progressed to throwing breaking balls off the mound with no ill effects. He was never as good as he seemed to be and his mechanics were never going to hold up, but with that team, he can be a big part of the bullpen.
dangor (new york): You hinted at conflicting info about Jason Bay. Can you explain? Also, anything to worry about on Jason Schmidt? Thanks.
Will Carroll: Conflicting info = some sources telling me one thing and other sources telling me another. Lots of people have questions about the Pirates medical staff - remember the Brandon Lyon incident - but I try to remain even handed against rumor and innuendo. I'm as susceptible as anyone to bad information. Unlike the statistical gods we have around here, injury data is at a very nascent stage, so I'm forced to be more subjective than I'd like to be. It's a weakness to be sure, but strong sources help. As we build out the BP Injury Database, we'll get better and better.
woody (NW): How much problem should the Players' Association have with Pudge's injury clause? Since pre-existing medical problems are uninsurable, will teams now mandate similar clauses to protect a major investment in a previously injured player?
Will Carroll: That's a very interesting question. I can't speak for Fehr or Orza to be sure, but if you heard Don Fehr on BPR, you'll realize that's one very smart cat. No one wants to see baseball fall into the traps of the NFL - voidable deals, cap-related shenanigans, cutting based only on cap, and parity bordering on parody - except the MLB owners. I think the MLBPA will do what's best - or what it thinks is best - for it's members.
I also think Rodriguez and Boras wouldn't have signed the deal as reported unless they were extremely sure that Pudge's back is as sound as I've been telling everyone. Here's a key phrase for the upcoming season: core strengthening program.
Andrew (Boston): When will the 2004 PECOTA cards be available for online subscribers?
Will Carroll: Really, really soon now.
Todd (Grafton, ND): What's the chances of Dontrelle Willis breaking down this year?
How about Juan Gonzalez getting 500 abs in KC?
Will Carroll: Willis was obviously worn down by the end of last season, but if he returns to his good mechanical profile, he'll only be as risky as any 22 yo pitcher who put up 200+ innings last season. Ummm ... ok, here's a key for him - watch where his glove is placed during delivery. When he's on, the glove is over the front knee. In the playoffs, it flew open, nearer his gloveside hip.
Juan for 500 ABs? Not likely, but I'd think 350-400 could be a big boost for the Royals.
John Walsh (Chicago): Will,
I am a big fan. I am waiting for BP Radio to make it to Chicago! Have you heard anything about the recoveries of the Tommy John Class of 04, Foppert, Ankiel, Traber,Tallent, Mc Clung, ect?
Will Carroll: Thanks - we're working on it. As always, keep requesting it (and sending me good leads) at your local sports station!
I'll go through these quickly, but all TJ's are doing better and better as we learn more about the surgery and the rehabilitation programs that work best.
Foppert, Traber, and Tallet are all out for most if not all of '04. Cameos in September are possible. Ankiel is an interesting case since he may DH or play OF in the minors. The Cardinals are committed to giving him every chance, but his options situation could get involved. McClung is making great progress - the D-Rays may suck on the field, but they have a phenomenal medical staff, led by Ken Crenshaw.
paul (calgary): I can't recall seeing any article about the risk of playing surfaces. Does there seem to be any benefit to turf, grass, or field turf when it comes to injury prevention.
Will Carroll: All we have on this is anecdotal, but it's something we'll be able to look at once the Injury Database is built out. There are some odd effects like "new ballpark" that we see, but can't yet explain. One of the things I've taken note of is that as baseball has moved away from turf during the building boom, there has been no reduction in knee injuries.
Brian (Beaverton, OR): Will Jody Gerut be 100% recovered from his torn rotator cuff this season? Will it affect his hitting?
Will Carroll: I was surprised to hear about the cuff tear. Gerut gave no signs of it and Cleveland is one of the most "medhead-friendly" administrations in place. If they allowed him to rehab it healthy, then they've earned our trust. I'd worry about his power more than anything else and no one confused Jody Gerut for Barry Bonds anyway.
Ben Oglivie Fan (JAX, FL): If the WB came out with new comedy about BaseballProspectus, who would play you?
Will Carroll: Jay Mewes.
Grasseaux (New York, NY): Will, really enjoy and appreciate all the hard work you do. What's your prognosis for Matt Morris & Woody Williams? Obviously the Cardinals' future depends on their health to a large degree.
Will Carroll: Morris and Williams have garnered a couple questions, so I'll answer this one and thank Mary and David for their questions. I think Morris will be roughly similar to last season, hopefully without the traumatic interludes. He's well beyond seeing any aftereffects from TJ and one of the top pitchers in the NL.
Williams is a more interesting case. I haven't put the Cards through the THR sausage machine yet, but he'll probably be yellow or even a low red based on age, history and workload. 220 innings is a lot of work and he showed significant velocity loss in the latter part of the season. Older pitchers get more strains and sprains over tears, but there's also a selection effect - to pitch into the late 30's, a pitcher is special.
Sean (Raleigh): I was wondering what you think about the chance of success for Pat the Bat? I still have a week before the book gets here, but I wanna know now!
Will Carroll: I'm as excited about the book as anyone. Thanks to everyone that's pushed it into the Amazon Top 100 for the better part of a month. From what everyone's telling me, this may be the biggest and best BP ever.
Burrell doesn't have injuries to blame for a bad 2003, so he can't say health will bring him back in 2004. This one's on him and the coaches there. He killed one of my fantasy teams last season, so I'm hopeful rather than vindictive.
Ciaohound (Green Bay): Hi Will - Talking baseball while there are 20 inches of snow on the ground is doing wonders for my "cabin fever". My question is about catchers. With Piazza's bad back and IRod in Detroit, Posada seems to be the only catcher worth taking in the first four rounds. What draft strategy would you recommend for this (arguably) very weak position in my 12-team league (serpentine draft and only one catcher starts)? Take a "less weak" player early or wait until the end to get stuck with a total dud?
Will Carroll: Fair warning: I suck at Fantasy (despite beating Nate Silver in a Scoresheet League and currently kicking ass in the best sim league ever).
I'd take Posada over both Piazza and Rodriguez, but just slightly. Neither particularly worries me on injuries. I've talked about Pudge's back ad nauseum, but Piazza bounced back from a serious groin injury to hit well and the Mets seem more serious about seeing him at 1B some.
There are some good second tier guys like Kendall, Lopez, and Varitek, plus some comers like Estrada and Victor Martinez.
Lou Doench (Cincinnati. HO): Hi Will! How much of the Red's general crappiness last season was due to injuries (esp. Kearns & Dunn), and can we hope for at least a bounce back to 80 wins if we stay healthy?
Will Carroll: Approach .500? Not with that pitching staff. As much as I want the Reds to be good since they're the closest team to me, I just don't see it. It's sure a boost to any turnaround to have an outfield as potentially good as theirs, but it's just not enough. I picked the Reds to win that division last year - what was I thinking? - but there's a near-zero chance that they'll contend this year or next. Healthy is another open question. Last year could have been fluke, but if it happens again - and they've lost rehab guru Lonnie Soloff to the Indians - then the next turnover could be in the training room.
Alex Ciepley (Brooklyn, NY): So when do I get a date?
Will Carroll: If the Cubs win the World Series, I'll kiss you on the lips.
Jonathan Adelman (Laramie, WY): I didn't get a chance to see any games, but I heard that Mark Prior's mechanics were slightly less than picture-perfect at the end of last year. Do you think his heavy workload is a cause for concern in 2004 and beyond. And - the big question - assuming he stays healthy, at what point do you start worrying less?
Will Carroll: Like any pitcher under that load, he wore down. It's difficult to measure fatigue - it's perhaps the biggest question facing medheads - but his mechanics, for the most part, held up. He's shown no ill effects this off-season and, as the "model" for STP, I feel good about his health heading into '04. Dusty needs to read the book when it comes out. Heck, I may dedicate it to him.
When do I worry less? When he's inducted into Cooperstown, but that's just my nature.
Bill Johnson (Los Alamos, NM): Just what is the problem with Albert Pujols' elbow, and why is it so worrisome? It obviously didn't affect his hitting much ...
Will Carroll: Pujols has a non-complete tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. This is the type of injury that leads to TJ. For a pitcher, we know the drill, but for position players, it's different. Both Pujols and Luis Gonzalez rehabbed to strengthen around the ligament - and remember, those don't heal - while others like Tony Womack have the surgery.
The Cards - and TLR in particular - did a great job protecting his elbow by sending the SS out to cut throws and explaining to everyone why this was the case. While it didn't affect his hitting, if it were to snap, would you want to see a Cards team without Pujols in the middle of the lineup?
Dan (Japan): Will, how much can an offseason of rest help a pitcher bounce back from abuse? For example, AJ Burnett was worked hard in 2002 and then went down early in 2003. So in that case, it looks like a few months off didn't help much. But I would intuitively guess that a break helps, so managers could make pitchers work longer later in the season. Any thoughts? Can managers ride their starters harder as the season winds down assuming that the offseason will fix everything?
Will Carroll: Great question.
Fatigue is, again, something we really need to get a handle on. ASMI is the top facility for pitching research and some of their work is moving in this direction while things like PAP and V-Loss are working from another angle. If we knew that a pitcher was at 80% and that's the 'breaking point', it wouldn't matter when in the season it occurred. Off-season rest is certainly a factor, but recovery time between starts is a much more important one. There's lots more on this topic in STP and it's one I'll be working on in the pages of UTK as well.
Riding them in the post-season is also a question of the ultimate "win now." It's hard not to fire every bullet in the gun and it certainly makes sense to take more risks in order to get a ring. Just ask Jack McKeon and Josh Beckett.
Aunt Lucy (deepest, darkest Peru): Complete this analogy:
Ben Oglivie: Western Civilization::
_____________: Sports Medicine
Will Carroll: Frank Jobe.
Mary (Decatur, Il.): Roy Halladay pitched 266 innings last year and won the Cy. Now I read that Toronto wants to "allow him more leeway to go deeper into games to try for more wins." I know his pitch counts were low last season, but are the Jays crazy for not leaving well enough alone?
Will Carroll: Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency.
If Halladay completes more games on 90 pitches like he did last year, I don't think anyone will mind. My question is why don't more teams and pitchers understand this as well?
Jorens (Park Slope, Brooklyn): Hey Will. Time for BP to have some BP-quality pizza, and bring a feed to New York.
What kind of effect do you think Rick Peterson can have on Aaron Heilman? He seemed to have a lot of trouble repeating his delivery last year and tipping his pitches at times.
I think if he gains some consistency he can be a valuable starter for the Mets.
Will Carroll: Rick Peterson is a great coach, but he's never faced failure before. This will be a big test for him in New York and I think he'll need to ride Leiter and Glavine more to protect guys like Heilman and, soon, Kazmir. The Mets seem to be doing all the right things, but we'll see what the results are over the upcoming season.
I'm not tremendously high on Heilman, by the way.
Max (Hoboken): Thanks for all the great work. Are you really a cancer survivor?
Will Carroll: Yes and it's one more reason I'm proud to be here at BP. The donations we were able to make to the Jimmy Fund and the American Cancer Society last year - provided by you, the readers and subscribers - do so much. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the amazing research being done in the field.
Scott (Seattle, WA): Speed round injury questions...
Shawn Green's shoulder? Johan Santana's elbow? Mike Sweeney's back? How are they all?
Green - better if he moves to first.
Santana - Twins THR next.
Sweeney - same as always.
Dr. C (Daphne, AL): You've been with BP for a year now. What's been the most surprising thing you've learned? Your proudest moment? The one you'll tell your grandchildren about?
Will Carroll: Last one for today.
Wow, time flies when you're having fun.
Surprising? Just how smart the guys who write here are. I knew from their writing, but it's not just baseball. I'm not used to being the dumbest guy in the room, but I've learned more about baseball in the last year than I did in all my years of playing and watching. I'm just happy to be here and hope I can help the team.
Proudest? Every time someone says "your work changed how I look at baseball." Most of the time, it's BP's work, not mine, but I smile anyway and say thank you.
The one I'll remember most? NLCS Game Six at Wrigley Field, or standing twenty feet from Barry Bonds as he took batting practice.
Will Carroll: Thanks for all the questions. I'm sorry I didn't get to all of them, but we'll do this again real soon. If you haven't ordered yet, BP2004 will be shipping soon ... oh and Saving The Pitcher is available for pre-order as well. Keep reading, keep listening, and keep asking great questions. We all do this because of great readers like you and it's my honor and pleasure.