Will Carroll writes "Under the Knife" for Baseball Prospectus, the industry's leading player-health column.
Will Carroll: Hi all -- I'm going to start slightly later due to a BPR interview I have scheduled, so I'll start answering in about 15 minutes. Until then, my article on Glaus for Rolen is up at BP and with all the questions on that in the hopper, I know several of you want more information on their relative health. I'll also have some more info on the return of the Team Health Reports, some big changes to UTK, and lots of answers once I get back. (BTW, the interview is with pitching guru Ron Wolforth, if you're interested in looking up some info on him.)
Alister (neverontimeville): I wish I had your job where it's ok to never be on time...
Will Carroll: I'm on time, just multi-tasking ... I do apologize and will be back in just a couple minutes.
Justin Fox (New Jersey): Will, as I ponder curveballs, I ask you : is there such a thing as really "clean" mechanics on a curve that won't build to injury? And if there are, is it possible to throw, say a Doc Gooden yakker or a Bobby Jenks curve with them?
Will Carroll: Yes, there are solid mechanical principles behind safely pitching a baseball, whether that's a curve or any other pitch. The difference is that in putting all of the pieces together, there's similar but different results. Think about it -- there's almost no two curve balls or sliders that are exactly alike. There's so much character in them, so much individuality, that it's a fun game to talk about. I recently watched a video of Gooden and was stunned that his curve looked more like a Zito "loop" than I remember early in his career; I'd remembered it as more of a Lincecum power curve that stayed low and "dropped off the table."
As for mechanics, yes, there are good, clean mechanics, but there's not "one true mechanic."
Kevin (Oak Lawn, IL): Care to hazard a guess or prediction on Mark Prior's contributions to the Padres in 2008? I had read that several teams were scared off by his medical reports this season, all except one apparently.
Will Carroll: I think he'll have almost no impact this season. I'd expect him to spend much of the season strengthening his arm and making a couple starts towards August. How he does in those will go a long way in determining if he can ever get back to that previous level. The upside is that he's still young and still has talent somewhere in that arm. How he gels with the Padres staff is also going to be a big key in his comeback.
temple (Madison, Wisconsin): We have had a lot of catching prospects that look very promising when they first come up and then fall flat the next year. With that in mind,what's your take on JR Towles?
Will Carroll: Good question. I'm not that high on Towles and this is more of KG's realm, but I do think that catchers "put it together" later. They have to not only hit, but throw and handle pitchers. Of course, that latter one has to be tempered by the manager. I recently had someone say "X handles pitchers well" and I responded "What do you mean? The manager calls the pitches!" I don't grasp how someone can "handle pitchers" if all he's doing is relaying signals.
Eric (MD): Where is Bonds going to end up?
Will Carroll: I still think it's the A's or bust. Then again, let's assume that Barry's staying in shape. He doesn't really need spring training and he showed in 2006 that he could come back and hit quickly. Wouldn't he be the ideal pickup for a team that suffers an injury in the OF or realizes they don't have enough offense?
Kevin (Fairfax VA): As great as it was to have Dmitri Young last year, it really stunk not to have Nick Johnson. Nick is really snakebit, but can you tell me 1) if it makes sense that a player would miss an entire season for that kind of broken leg, 2)if he is likely to be the old Nick Johnson again if he plays come spring training, and 3) should he or Dmitri play first base for the Nats if Nick is healthy?
Will Carroll: 1) Yes, this wasn't a run of the mill fracture. It was BAD, requiring plates. Johnson also had several complications requiring other procedures.
2) It's tough to come back from a full year out, but it's possible. If Johnson can stand, he can hit. "Old Nick?" He's got to show me that.
3) I think it's a tough situation and makes me wonder why they signed Young. I'd guess Young shifts to the OF only bc there's no way that Johnson could with the leg. Then again, you have four good OFs out there now, so adding in Young is tough, unless you're starting Milledge or Dukes at AAA.
poludamas (snow): What's your current take on where LaDainian Tomlinson and Phillip Rivers will be with their knee issues come Sunday? More or less healthy, playing hurt, or benched?
Will Carroll: Not that I'm bitter about yesterday's game ...
Tomlinson should play. He got lucky that his foot didn't catch harder in the turf and he came away with just a bruise. They had Michael Turner, a nice backup, and could be judicious with LDT.
Rivers is questionable, more because he decided that he didn't want to come back. When he walked back on the field with both braces off, he was done and you could see the frustration from some teammates. He's been playing hurt (and actually playing better while hurt), but Volek looked pretty good, so Turner has a decent option whichever way he goes.
That said, I don't think the Pats will have any problem whatsoever this weekend on their way to the Coronation.
rodg12 (IA): What are these changes to the UTK you mentioned briefly?
Will Carroll: Aha, thanks for reminding me ...
First, they're going to have a bit of a different format that will allow for easier indexing and finding players. We're also adding in some "quick look" numbers, such as days expected out and a lost value stat, that should help give some context. Finally, I'm getting rid of the opening monologue. You're here for the injury information, not my opinions. There's going to be a much bigger focus on research as well.
Omar (Shea Stadium): How healthy is Pedro Martinez, and how productive will he be this year?
Will Carroll: C'mon ... use your name, people.
Pedro is doing well. I recently heard that he's starting his normal throwing program at home and feels much like he did at the end of last year. I'd expect similar results, which were far better than I actually expected.
Brandon Isleib (Tuscaloosa): When Scott Rolen was a Phillie, he was very vocal about having to play on the Vet turf regularly at all; part of the trade to the Cardinals was because it was clear that Rolen would never re-sign with the Phils as long as they had turf. Do you suspect that Rolen will have a gripe with the Toronto turf similar to what he had in Philly?
Will Carroll: I don't think he'll be a fan, but as long as he looks in the dugout and doesn't see Tony La Russa, I don't think he'll mind the tradeoff. For now.
mattseward (Cardiff, UK): Hi Will, just wondered if you had any news on Rocco Baldelli? I know he was getting tests done over the winter but I haven't heard much since. Thanks
Will Carroll: No news. He's working out, but if you keep up with the Rays, you get the sense that there's a lot of hope but not a lot of knowledge right now. Baldelli is key to the lineup right now since he'd be a far better fit in RF if he can play out there and stay healthy, which would have Gomes at DH. The "Crazy Bitch" (seriously, that's Gomes' theme song) is not much defensively.
Also, having Baldelli in the field at least part time would add some flexibility to the roster.
Dave (NY, NY): Any update on BJ Ryan's progress?
Will Carroll: Normal progress. I haven't checked on him since the Winter Meetings, but there's not much change I'd imagine and I'd have heard about a setback. When it comes to comebacks, no news is good news. I'd expect to see Ryan throwing when the Jays open up in Dunedin and I hope to get a good look at him when I'm down there.
havybeaks (Michigan): Physiologically speaking, why is it so hard to find speed and power in the same package? Sprint speed is due to force applied by the legs (not leg "turnover" speed as sometimes thought) thanks to fast-twitch muscles, the same muscles that result in quick bat speed. Speed is attributed in large part to geneitcs - some folks are born with a higher % of fast-twitch muscles. Shouldn't a naturally fast runner have naturally quick hands as well?
Will Carroll: Good question and not one I have a good answer to. I'd think you're right on the most basic level, but I'm not sure that unless it's trained and that the eye-hand coordination is there that it works. There's not a lot of track-baseball crossover, but there is a huge genetic component to talent that we're just starting to truly understand.
RobP (Chicago): Do you see the Cubs making a move for Brian Roberts or going in with what they have?
Will Carroll: I'm surprised this deal isn't done yet. I thought they had it done in Nashville and then they kind of had to back off during the Mitchell uproar. Now as teams are prepping to head to FL and AZ, I think this one gets done, though I don't have insight as to what the teams are dealing. I think Roberts is a big upgrade and lets Mark DeRosa be a super-utility guy.
Dave (South Bend): What did you think of Jim Callis's criticism of Beane's drafts. Legitimate or not? It seems like Oakland has lost a lot of top picks due to injuries (seriously, Brad Sullivan was like never healthy!), but is that something they haven't investigated enough before selecting? Or is Callis just venting because some fans still view Beane has a god-like figure, whose word is law and is infallible?
Will Carroll: I honestly didn't see it, nor do I follow drafts as more than just a fan, but I do know and respect Jim. He's one of the best at what he does and that's right in his wheelhouse. If Jim says it, there's probably a lot to it.
Then again, asking Jim about Moneyball is one of the quickest ways to wind him up. There was a CLASSIC BPR take he had that I wish we had a copy of.
Amos (New York): Hi Will. Today's UTK made me wonder: When a player with a real injury history changes teams, is it common for the new team's trainer to discuss the player with the previous trainer? Is that even allowed?
Will Carroll: Good question and the answer is yes, they normally do. It's almost a "professional courtesy" thing. The problem is that no matter how hard you try, you can't just mind-meld the info and there's something lost. Add in differing philosophies, background, and personality and there's always going to be a difference. The biggest is just a matter of trust. Trainers LIVE with these players. I can remember Barney Nugent, the former trainer of the Giants, telling me about spending more time with Ray Durham than he did with his kids. When Durham healed up, Nugent told him "We've got to break up."
Yes, I'm a big fan of Athletic Trainers, especially great guys like Nugent.
Bill (Houston): Last year, you published a color-coded health chart for each team. When can we expect to see similar information (even if it's presented in a different manner) this year?
Will Carroll: Yeah, we'll definitely have that. I'm actually trying to find a way to integrate it into something that already exists, but there have been a number of requests for the spreadsheet as well. I'll be honest, I didn't like having it out there so quickly bc a red isn't always a red.
Dr. Jim Bronwin (Acton, MA): For the record, athletes can be genetically predisposed to more developed fast-twitch muscles in the legs. Likewise, they could also have more highly developed fast-twitch muscles in their upper body. The two don't necessarily go hand in hand.
Will Carroll: Good to know.
ButkusSayers (Chicago): Adam Loewen: Will the screw in his arm effect his longevity? Will it put him at risk for a by-product injury? Can he still have the power arm? Other than Cal Eldred, who else has pithced with a screw in his arm? How is he doing? Thanks.
Will Carroll: I could be wrong, but I think the screw was removed. There have been a couple pitchers who have had similar injuries -- Derrick Turnbow and Bobby Jenks come to mind -- and I think Loewen should come back pretty effectively. He's "on schedule" and should be throwing at the same pace with the other pitchers when the Orioles open camp.
Shawne Merriman (San Diego, CA): Why am I not being subpoenaed to testify to Congress about steroids?
Will Carroll: Darn good question. Mr. Waxman?
jadams84 (San Diego): What is the health situation of Vernon Wells? Is he on track to start the season and what kinds of numbers do you project for him? Thanks
Will Carroll: Wells is a tough one to judge. Shoulder injuries tend to sap power in the short term, but the reports I'm getting is that Wells' problem was one of constriction rather than of weakness. If the surgery freed him up, that could change the 'normal' recovery period. He's one of those binary ones -- he is or he isn't and we won't know until he does. I'm positive on his chances for a rebound.
Matt (Allisterisaprickville): I continually hear that Lincecum should be considered for the super reliever role, 130-150IP. Is this a function of his size or that his stuff is better suited for such a role. Seems to me like he should be slotted as the #1 starter and left alone.
Will Carroll: I agree with you. I always think an ace is the best role for a special talent, but if we can do though experiments (or even test this with a product like Diamond Mind), I'd like to see the relative value of both. That said, I don't see Bruce Bochy being the guy who'd both use someone in that role or effectively use a super-reliever.
I'd be much more interested in seeing Lincecum (and others) relieving on their throw day. That's a technique that's actually gaining some traction around baseball.
Arnold Layne (Cambridge): Will...do you see any progress from GMs on recognizing that "staying healthy" is a skill and should be evaluated as such. What about from agents?
Will Carroll: Some, yes. I think it's a generational thing and while we saw a ton of GM turnover this year, it's still going to take a while to see this really take hold. Even the really progressive organizations don't really have that great a handle on just how big an advantage it can be. When someone like a Mike Reinold shifts from being "just a trainer" to being a front office guy, we'll know it's clicked in.
Nick (NYC): Assuming they don't trade for Santana, how do you think Girardi and Cashman go about setting up the rotation. Three young pitchers means innings limits. Also, who do you think is going to win the Santana sweepstakes?
Will Carroll: The young pitchers plus Girardi's track record makes for a really interesting dynamic. They're really going to have to be creative or in essence have six, maybe seven starters to make it through. I think the ideal would be to have Chamberlain start in the rotation, go 100 or so innings, then shift to the pen. Then you slot in someone like ... Horne? I'm not sure ... or make a trade for a vet arm.
Santana? Man, that deal is almost done, I tell ya ...
Bill James (MA): In a relatively recent chat, you said you found my work boring. Were you joking, being provocative, or serious? And why am I boring?
Will Carroll: Serious, but let me explain. I think the problem is that I was never exposed to James' work during its initial run. To me, the sudden "oh my god, this is amazing" stuff came from Rob Neyer and Joe Sheehan, who were of course influence by James' work. I read the Abstracts, but instead of being amazing, most of it is pretty standard equipment now.
The recent stuff bores me because ... well, it's just not my cup of tea. Win Shares lost me in the math. His "Fog" piece on clutch seemed like apologetics. I'm not disrespecting his body of work; it's just not what I enjoy reading.
Ed (Chicago): Okay Will, last year you said, on numerous occasions, and in spite of his struggles in '06, that Josh Beckett would be competing for the Cy Young in '07. He very nearly won it. Who's your man in '08?
Will Carroll: Not quite Phil Nevin, but I'll take it. Beckett was an easy one because he had a good-to-dominant team that was going to allow him to put up big win totals. Same with Sabathia. Give me Beckett or Schilling in the AL with a side order of Verlander. The NL is a lot tougher since there's no dominant teams and the easy picks -- Zambrano, Hamels, Sheets - have big questions. I'll take Dan Haren.
havybeaks (Michigan): I heard that the Australian women's crew team canvassed their country for big, tall teenagers and invited them to train as rowers, with good success. Could a high school scout benefit from doing something similar? For example, ask any HS athlete to throw against a radar gun or to take some sort of reaction/visibility test. For all anyone knows, the next Billy Wagner or Gary Sheffield is playing wide receiver or point guard.
Will Carroll: Sounds a little Soviet to me, but yes. Dr. Michael Axe actually has a better system -- have kids throw a ball as far as they can. There's distances that are very good predictions about velocity.
David (Bronx): Should I be very very nervous about Hank Steinbrenner's new role with the Yanks?
Will Carroll: If you own the team, you get to do what you want. I'd be a bit worried about the tenuousness I'm hearing from Brian Cashman, but let's face it -- Cashman's good, but he's replaceable.
And let me be very clear here. Cashman is a good GM, perhaps great, though it's as tough to analyze him as it is Joe Torre due to the money and the great players. If I was Steinbrenner, I'd keep Cashman for as long as I could.
don (michigan): "I'd be much more interested in seeing Lincecum (and others) relieving on their throw day. That's a technique that's actually gaining some traction around baseball."
Care to elaborate about this "traction around baseball"? Where? When? Could become a pretty huge thing for baseball if it catches on, no?
Will Carroll: It was used by the Yankees a couple times (Pettitte) and the Astros, I think. I've actually had a number of questions about it from team officials, so it's at least being discussed. I know two teams that are actively discussing using this type of arrangement in the minors.
ray (atlanta): what your take on the joey devine/kotsay deal? can devine still be a quality setup or clc\oser. apparently street would be traded next, what kind of package, crisp/masterson/lowrie realistic??
Will Carroll: It's a decent enough deal, I guess, though I'm surprised that the A's are eating as much of Kotsay's deal as is being reported. Devine was pretty well thought of when drafted, but hasn't been able to establish himself in what's been a pretty bad Braves pen.
As for Street, yeah, a lot of teams would love him, but no idea why the Red Sox would be one of them. They have a closer. I can't think of a really good fit right now for a closer.
Tim (Long Island): Of the Three pitchers the Yankees have, who would you take Joba Hughes or Ian?
Will Carroll: Hughes
pete (cincinnati): Blanton to reds rumors, is it too much much to give up one of bailey/cueto + 2nd tier prospects (Stubbs/Dorn) for him?
Will Carroll: Bailey for Blanton. I'd do that. Blanton's a major league pitcher who'll put up innings and keep the ball out of the Reds pen. I'm not sure I'd add in Stubbs, who I like as a fourth OF type. If I was the A's, I'd want Cueto instead of Bailey.
brain (long beach, ca): Considering the A's intention to go young and to create openings/opportunities for their prospects to develop, why would they want Bonds? Moreover, doesn't it seem counterproductive for a rebuilding team to bring in that kind of distraction and "me-first" attitude?
Will Carroll: I think that if the A's put all the pieces together and still have a hole at DH, Bonds fits. I think he'd be a distraction, but no one (besides Jeff Kent, who is a moron) has ever called him a bad teammate. Joe Sheehan and I talked last year about Bonds to the Rays on the chance that his plate discipline would rub off on Young or Dukes. The same could hold true for the A's, though I don't see the need quite as strong there.
Moreover, if you have eight no-name kids and Bonds, that still sells some tickets, especially in a rebuilding year.
Rick (Ohio): Here we go again, you hating Homer Bailey again. There is no way Itrade Bailey for Joe Blanton and Homer Bailey has a world of an ability.
Will Carroll: Yes, we do. Bailey has a world of TALENT, not a world of ability. He unquestionably has talent, but he also unquestionably has not funneled that talent into results. For a Reds team that has a weak bullpen, Dusty as manager, and thinks (rightly) that they can contend in their division, Blanton is the better fit.
havybeaks (Michigan): Thanks for taking questions! To expand on the "Soviet" recruiting methods, would it behoove an MLB team to screen all of its draftees for pitching potential? Troy Percival and Rafael Soriano come to mind as successful converts. Maybe the Tigers would find that they could use the strong arm of Brandon Inge for occasional mop-up duty as part of his super-utility role.
Will Carroll: I think it's done, kind of. Not in any sort of systematic way, but organizations know who has a cannon at short and they know who pitched in HS. (Interesting thought ... Latin players tend to be classified one way or the other quickly while American players tend to go both ways through HS and even college. Is there an advantage to either side?)
Zeal (Maine): Your Top 5 Favorite young pitchers 25 and Younger?
Will Carroll: Gallardo
Hernandez (but his arm's going to explode)
Kershaw (probably higher, but only seen film)
Pat Barry (Albany NY): Hi Will:
Who do you see as comeback player of the year in 2008?
Were you serious about Schilling for Cy Young; can he stay healthy enough to rack up those wins. The Sox were pretty cautious with him this year and it paid off well.
Will Carroll: The Sox weren't cautious, they were smart. I think they can be smart all season and given the Sox talent, anyone that makes 34 starts for them could get to 20 wins. Note that the Cy is almost always decided on wins, which makes it relatively easy to predict. I'm not saying they're the BEST pitcher out there (though Sabathia was ... tho Bedard was better aside from the injury, but was on a terrible team.)
I'll admit to not really understanding the comeback player award. I'd guess someone like Ryan or maybe even Jon Lester could get votes.
goraffe (NYC): A Yankee first base question.
I can't believe I am including these two in the same sentence, but is there any chance of Bonds or Wilkerson playing for them there?
Will Carroll: No, I don't think so. I can't imagine Bonds working out there for a lot of reasons. Wilkerson ... I'm really surprised he hasn't gotten any interest, which tells me that teams saw something scouting him.
Cory (FL): Any reason to NOT expect 400 innings from Kazmir and Shields this season?
Will Carroll: Take ANY two pitches and expect 200 innings from each and you're likely to come up short. I'd say they both could, even should, but if that's a prop bet, you're going to have to give me pretty good odds. I actually can't think of any 1-2 where I'd take that.
Peterson (Michigan): No Justin Verlander? I mean Verlander is better than all 5 of those guys.
Will Carroll: Man, he is still 25. Yeah, I missed that one and probably a couple others. I hate top-of-the-head lists. We need age in the sortable stats, Burke!
Nik (Oakland, CA): Why can't a guy with Rich Harden's stuff and injury history transition into a bullpen role? What makes it so difficult for guys who have been groomed as starters, but would clearly benefit from a move to the pen, make that transition?
Will Carroll: No real reason. The objection is always that they can't recover quickly enough, but even so, you should be able to use him enough to get some more value from him than they have over the past couple seasons. If he can only pitch every other day, that's 81 chances or so.
ericmilburn (San Francisco): "Hernandez (but his arm's going to explode)" So if you're his pitching coach, what do you do? Effectiveness vs. health?
Will Carroll: Nothing.
Ok, that seems counterintuitive, but there's two things here. First, his arm might NOT explode. There are guys we think are going to be healthy (Prior, etc) and they aren't and there's guy who we think will explode and don't (F Rodriguez, Kazmir). I'm not saying I wouldn't make very small adjustments like "get your elbow up", but I wouldn't even try a big thing on him.
Second, if I was pretty sure he was going to blow up, I'd get him in the rotation as much as possible. I'd extract as much value as humanely possible while his arm was working. His PAP would be through the roof.
Eric (DC): Hammels is 24. I would think you take him over a young Kershaw.
Will Carroll: I love Hamels, but his arm problems last year drop him just a bit. I also forget how young he is. I'd say he's just below Kershaw still -- that kid is amazing.
Thom (Denver): Webb and Haren, I'd take that bet.
Will Carroll: That was the safest combo I could come up with, but even so, who's to say that Haren doesn't do something silly or that Webb doesn't finally show some wear after five straight years of 198+ innings?
Joe (Tewksbury, MA): Does being a poor defensive player increase the likelihood of injury when playing the field?
Will Carroll: I looked at this last year and the answer's mostly no. A player has an increased likelihood of injury when he extends himself -- running, diving, hitting walls. Bad defensive players tend not to do those. If there's one "bad type" that does get injured, it's fast guys that get late breaks.
mattseward (Cardiff, UK): Hi Will, is this the year that K Rod's arm finally falls off?
Will Carroll: For the fifth consecutive year, I say yes!
scottbdz (worcester): I don't get it - Blanton over Bailey (results versus talent) yet Gallardo and Lincecum over Kazmir??
Will Carroll: You didn't like Gallardo or Lincecum's results? Kaz goes down slightly on injury risk and his ... choices.
Evan (Vancouver, BC): Do you foresee any big move toward preventative surgery for players? Will aging sluggers who suffer one big hamstring injury just go ahead and the get the Edgar Martinez ligament removal, even if they could rehab it?
Will Carroll: No. Seriously, no.
Cory (SF): The fantasy guy at the world wide leader was talking about it this morning, but how sick is the Jays defense 1-8 now that Rolen is slated for 3rd base? Will they compete for the wildcard?
Will Carroll: It's pretty good across the board in the infield, but no, I don't think they compete for the WC. I think they finish fourth this year with like 76 wins.
Mike (Charlotte, NC): Santana? Man, that deal is almost done, I tell ya..
Care to explain?
Will Carroll: It was a joke ... I got burned on Santana once so I'm not going to even get near that one again.
Or (Dallas): Do Brandon McCarthy's injury problems last year present a lingering concern, or are they a stand-alone issue?
Will Carroll: Lingering ... his lack of adjustments bother me more than the injury itself and I'd like to see him committed to fixing some of the things he doesn't do well before I get back on the McCarthy bandwagon.
mschroeder14 (Saint Paul): Assuming Soriano heads into this year completely healthy, do you expect him to approach 40 SBs for the season? At 31 or 32, are we going to start seeing significant drop off from him soon?
Will Carroll: He had 19 with bad hammies, so I think that 40's reachable. My question is whether its worth the risk and, if they get Roberts, will Roberts lead off or will Soriano?
Will Carroll: And that's it for me. I'm off to count calories some more and work on the Team Health Reports. Thanks for the chat.