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Chat: Will Carroll

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday March 08, 2010 1:00 PM ET chat session with Will Carroll.

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If you're wondering about your team's health, report to chat with Will Carroll to ask him your questions about the bruised and battered, or the 'scoped and scraped.

Will Carroll: Hi all - ready for the chat and thanks for all the questions. Bit of multitasking on this end as I have an interview for BP Radio that's running late. You'll really enjoy this one and I'll go a bit longer than I normally do to make up for it. We do have several injuries to talk about and I'll give you some news somewhere along the way.

Paul (Boston): To what extent will the AL East be decided by how many of the Yanks' veterans get injured this year?

Will Carroll: I think most races might be close enough that injuries could decide all of them. I dont think its the Yanks or Sox in specific.

Hal Dunn (SC): In your opinion which teams are the most progressive about using new biometric technologies to understand more about their players?

Will Carroll: The Brewers are head and shoulders above everyone else on this. There's a couple teams that do some, but none like the Brewers. It's stunning that fewer teams havent taken advantage of this, or even using places like ASMI. Glenn Fleisig has kind of been like the prophet in the wilderness for a while and I know it's been frustrating to him to see the acceleration of pitching injuries when we have the technology to help understand the underlying causes.

Gary C. (Trenton NJ): Russell Martin - is his career on the ropes? Was his poor 2009 tied to an injury?

Will Carroll: It's a groin strain not .... I dont know, something bad. Im sure he'd rather not have it, but I dont think we can make any extrapolations, past or future, from an injury that just happens.

Southcoast (Texas): What’s the prognosis for Rickie Weeks? Is there sufficient history of recoveries from torn tendon sheaths to opine on lingering effects and the completeness of recovery from this type of surgery? The THR was vague on this. It seems that Week’s first half last year indicates he recovered nicely from his prior wrist and knee surgeries.

Will Carroll: Weeks is an interesting case in that he's been good when healthy but seldom healthy. Maybe he just can't hold up. It's also interesting in that he's one of the many brother pairs in baseball. The genetic component is one that just fascinates me. Is it in Weeks' DNA that he can crush a ball but not hold up?

Richie (Washington): If you can visually monitor injuries, I'd think you can do so for physical condition in general. So how come at this time last year no one heard any 'gee, Geovany Soto sure looks fat!' stories?

Will Carroll: Good question. I think it's the fact that the beat writers have to be with these guys for the next six months. It's easier for me to be snarky when I'm only in a clubhouse randomly. Imagine if someone put "Hey, Richie's gaining weight" in your company newsletter.

Nick (nyc): Will, I've assumed that major league trainers are American or at least trained in the states. Is that accurate? I was surprised to read that the Venezuelan baseball federation affiliated itself with the Yuma Scorpions, in part, to showcase Venezuela’s on field staff and trainers.

Will Carroll: By and large, yes, but it doesn't mean that there aren't other avenues. All Trainers have to be certified by the NATA and licensed in states where that's necessary, so there's a basic level. I've had the chance to work with "physios" in England over the past three years and their perspective is pretty interesting. Different to be sure, but I think we can always learn. I think sports medicine is something that can readily be translated out and needs to be seen as more a necessary part of sports than a luxury. Remember, most high schools do not have an Athletic Trainer on staff.

buddaley (Clearwater): Hello Will, Project Prospect is dubious about Hellickson's ability to manage the workload of a starter in the majors. They base that not just on his size, but on some instances of an injury history and his relatively low innings total each year as well as some questions about his mechanics. Have you any opinion on that matter?

Will Carroll: I havent seen what's written, so I'll keep this general. His size is concerning and he looks ... well, he looks like he's 12. He makes David Eckstein look like a Mike Gundy-style Man. Still, we don't know whether he's the next Tim Lincecum or the next ... some short guy that didn't make it. There's that inherent bias.

As to his mechanics, I'm going to rant a bit. Look, I used to think I could look at a guy and tell. I was wrong. NO ONE can. In generalities, you can see some things, but until we get them in a mo-cap, there's no way to know the forces on their joints. There's some AMAZING technology coming that I'm going to introduce you to soon that will change how we look at these guys, but until then, remember that no one - the teams included - have any idea what good or bad mechanics are.

Stephanie (DC): Why are teams willing to let players take provably dumb risks? Thinking of Adrian Beltre and the story that he still won't wear a cup. Can they not write clauses into the contracts?

Will Carroll: Nope. You can't make a guy wear a cup. You can't make a guy wear anything unless you mandate it. I don't know why it's not. Granted, I'm a guy fascinated and a bit obsessed with safety.

Bill (Omaha): Other than the obligatory "who, we are all glad to see, seems to have dealt with his Social Anxiety Disorder" clause after mentioning Khalin Greene or Zack Greinke, mental health issues are rarely mentioned in baseball writing. Have any teams or analysts (or the players union, now that I think of it) ever taken a look at mental health issues in baseball, and, if not, why?

Will Carroll: Yes. I think it's handled at the team level and handled behind the scenes, as it should be. Each team has an EAP (employee assistance program) director who handles these kinds of issues. Its probably more prevalent than we know, which is good. I struggle with how much to talk about it. I mean, I'm perfectly happy to talk about my history of panic attacks, but that doesn't mean Zack Greinke wants to.

wilykat (San Francisco): There are a handful of players who've discovered vision problems this offseason or spring and are getting glasses (Nate McLouth, Corey Hart, Randy Wells, probably others). How do medical staffs miss this for so long, and how much effect is getting their vision corrected likely to have on their performance this year?

Will Carroll: This one is fascinating to me. There's usually more to it than you see, but there's also changes. We're all aging, even McLouth, and our bodies change. I've certainly paid a lot more attention to my eyes lately! Suffice it to say that this is almost always on the player, not the med staff.

John (Las Vegas): Last year the predictatron stadings contest went away, is it coming back this year, and why is it gone if not?

Will Carroll: Good question. I'll ask. Not sure why it went away, though I know we've been focusing on other areas. Obviously, it's been all hands on deck for PECOTA and I know we'll have more to say on that topic soon.

SprungOnSports (Long Island): Do you expect Josh Hamilton and Rich Harden to stay healthy for the Rangers? Along with Vlad Guerrero this seems like a risky club Jon Daniels has put together.

Will Carroll: The Rangers THR is already up, where there's a lot more discussion of those players. I think the Rangers did accept some risk with those players, but I think they understand that and have "Plan B" in place for each of them. They're not lacking for depth.

Stephanie (DC): How much does the type of workouts players do during the off season matter? For example, Evan Longoria concentrated on his hamstrings/glutes during the winter. Is this more of an overreaction to the previous year or something likely to prevent recurrences in the future? (or, more likely, depends on the individual and workouts in question?)

Will Carroll: Great question. Bypassing the easy joke about Longoria, it's an interesting point that we know so little about the off-season workouts. They're actually a new innovation. Players used to WORK during the offseason. Yogi Berra was a maitre d' early in his career. Mickey Mantle I think sold cars. Since so many are done ad hoc and followed only "light touch" by the teams, there's very little data. Mostly we get people following on someone's success. Lots of Red Sox go to API in Arizona because Dustin Pedroia was an advocate and won an MVP.

Scottish cuisine (Based on a dare): What pitch are you gripping in your mean, intimidating headshot?

Will Carroll: Gyroball. That was done for an ESPN story on the pitch.

Dave (Chicago): How do you think the A's should round out their rotation between Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Vin Mazzaro, and Clay Mortensen (long shot, I know)?

Will Carroll: I don't pretend to know more than the A's about their own pitchers. Obviously Sheets will mix in there. I think the interesting thing will be how they apportion the innings. Do they put some of those starters in the pen? Do they set up a Sacramento shuttle? There's a certain number of innings that you want from your starters - let's say its 972 (6 innings per for 162 games). How do you get the BEST outcomes in the most number of those innings?

Peter (Mankato): If I recall, Joe Nathan had some chips removed from his elbow in the fall. That's generally not a big deal, right?

Will Carroll: Usually no. All indications are that this is just adhesions (scar tissue), which is uncomfortable, but nothing to be overly concerned about. Nathan's chips were embedded in the UCL, I'm told, so it was a bit more involved than someone like Santana.

Randy (Ann Arbor, MI): Do you have any additional information on the use or efficacy of SARMs since the last time you wrote about them (which was also the first time I had heard of them)?

Will Carroll: The only thing new is that they were added to the banned list. They're still not widely used, mostly because they're fairly difficult and expensive to acquire. If they're approved onto the market -- and I haven't checked on the FDA status -- then that problem goes away. I'm *not aware* of a test for them, but Catlin/WADA wouldn't be advertising it if they did.

Richie (Washington): So is Sheets likely to be effective till he breaks down? Or is the quality itself of his pitching likely to be compromised?

Will Carroll: My worry with Sheets is how he'll recover between starts. It's an elbow issue, not shoulder, but having been off and unable to play for a year, no one really knows if that's a positive or negative. I'm going to have to see a lot more of him before he becomes anything more than a late round flyer.

Tex Premium Lager (NJ): Not baseball related, but was it a good idea for the Jaguars to sign Kampman, and what do you expect from him next season? Isn't he still recovering from knee surgery? Seeing as he's not a young player to begin with, this seems unwise.

Will Carroll: I think this says a lot more about the predictability of ACL surgery. It's a lot like when a couple teams (Cubs, Yanks) were signing guys coming off Tommy John, knowing they wouldn't be back until the second year, but getting them cheaply.

redsoxin2004 (Columbia, CT): Do you agree that improvements in technology over the past 25 years have disproportionately helped hitters over pitchers? For example hitters can prepare by watching hours of video, hitting off machines throwing 130MPH tennis balls, or eye exercises to help pitch recognition. Pitch f/x data is the first real tool I can think of to potentially be able to significantly help pitchers. Do you agree and do you have any other examples of technology helping pitchers. (FYI, I think this can help explain some of the surge in offense over the past 20 years.)

Will Carroll: Interesting idea. I think video helps pitchers as much as hitters, but at all levels, baseball changes at an absolutely glacial pace.

BallparkFan (Colorado): Have you ever studied or seen any studies about injury likelihood for pro/MLB players who sign out of high school versus players who sign after college? Just curious if any difference exists, and if so, why that is.

Will Carroll: Interesting question. No, I haven't. I'd be curious to see, though I don't see why it would make any difference. Problem is we don't just have enough data - enough of a sample, accurate data - to do this very well. I always say the difference between medheads and statheads is that statheads have retrosheet and 100 years of box scores that they have confidence in. Medheads have ... nothing. I have eight years of data I have confidence in.

gilgamesh (NYC): Will, can you settle - or at least address a question for me. A steroid-obsessed yahoo I know is convinced that Carlos Beltran's knee problems are related to/caused by steroid usage. Avoiding my pointing out, for example, Andre Dawson's knee issues as being rather parallel to Beltran's as a type of player having said problems, he insists that steroids are the cause of the injuries. I suppose my question is twofold, one being perhaps unanswerable. 1) Can steroids be reasonably linked to the kinds of health issues Beltran has had the last few years, and 2) Has Beltran ever been linked to persistent steroid usage? Many thanks for your time.

Will Carroll: 1) No, but reason and steroids seldom go together. I'd agree with the Dawson comp.
2) Beltran has never failed a steroid test to my knowledge. Then again, neither had Manny Ramirez until he did.

JT (MKE): Have the brewers always been above the curve with this...or has it been the arrival of Rick Peterson? And can the ASMI also be used to help hitters...Rickie Weeks being the example of why he is putting so much strain on the wrists?

Will Carroll: I don't know about the hitter thing. Good question.

And no, they were doing this before Rick Peterson got there. I think Rick will accelerate things. There's a whole lot more on that I hope to bring to you over the next few weeks.

Aaron (YYZ): Have you seen the movie 'Sugar', and if so what were your thoughts on it? (How was the injury/recovery bit handled in it?)

Will Carroll: I have. Brilliant, true movie. It got the details very right.

raygu1 (Burlington, NJ): Jose Reyes-please discuss.

Will Carroll: I think because it's the Mets, people are overreacting a bit. This is an easily controllable issue, though it will take Reyes some time to get used to medication ... if that's the route they go. I think the Mets are being very conservative, even gunshy. We'll have to see how he looks when he's back on the field before we have any real idea.

HankScorpio (KC): Can you provide any further color to the Alex Gordon injury? Is it the kind of thing that can affect performance past the stated 3-4 week recovery window? Thanks.

Will Carroll: Color? Blue.

Yes, this is at the tip of the thumb, so it shouldn't affect his grip the way something like what Mike Lowell had would. He should be able to come back and hit "normally" though after last year, what normal is is up for debate. I think he's still a nice sleeper pick.

Ethan (NYC): How can we be sure A-Rod's hip is fully healed, when we were assured a year ago that he'd need a second hip surgery this offseason?

Will Carroll: We can't, but I'm going to take the doctor's word for it. If they thought he needed more surgery, I think they would have done more surgery.

Richie (Washington): So are YOU! going to fantasy-draft Reyes? Unless he swipes a bunch of bases come last week of March, I'll be afraid all this (the talk of batting him 3rd, their gunshyness wrt this thyroid thing) is part of their hiding his shaky hammy health.

Will Carroll: Actually no, but I would. I'm taking the year off from fantasy baseball to see how, if at all, it changes how I do my job. I got my ass handed to me in Tout last year for a number of factors, but the time and effort I spent could, I think, be better spent focusing on injuries. I hate being pigeonholed - I have a lot of interests aside from injuries - but I have an absolute passion to be the best at what I do. We'll see how the experiment turns out.

More specific answer on Reyes is yes, I wouldn't downgrade him too much on the health. I'd value him pretty much where PFM has him, maybe a couple more bucks.

BLB25 (MA): What kind of Innings limit should we see on Strasburg just coming out of college? Is it a mistake if he throws 150 pro innings? Also any update on JZimmermann? The Nats were pretty cautious with him and ...

Will Carroll: On Zimmerman, some guys are going to break down and we don't know why. We know what teams are doing now is working at a coinflip level and that's simply not good enough. Think about this - we have no idea of the forces on Strasburg's arm. Is he within normative ranges? I don't know and you don't know (and Mike Marshall doesn't know). What's troubling is that THE NATIONALS DONT KNOW EITHER! Twenty million bucks and the future of a franchise and they don't spend a couple grand to send him to ASMI (or somewhere similar?)

Rick (Chicago): Re:BallparkFan's question. Assuming that staying healthy is a skill, we would expect an increased rate of injury for high school prospects compared to college ones. The college prospects have already gone through the wringer for a few years and the injury-prone guys are more likely to have been weeded out before being drafted.

Will Carroll: Yes, but a college player is going to play ... what 50 games? A guy in a short-season league is going to play more than that plus time in the complex. I'd think age for age comps would be the appropriate thing, but the data simply doesn't exist.

Murphy (My Law): So, what is going to go wrong next for Angel Guzman? Rough year. Any chance he gets back to how he pitched last year eventually? Surgery or rehab?

Will Carroll: Sadly, I don't think there will be a next. All indications are that Guzman's done. I hope those are wrong.

mike (OC): Do you have concerns about Ervin Santana?

Will Carroll: Yes. Check the Angels THR.

For those that don't know, you can click on the big THR graphic - either on the front page or each article - and you'll go to a directory of all THRs for this year. We're also working on getting THR comments onto the new PECOTA cards, though I don't have a timeline on that. And tell CK that you want the red/yellow/greens in BP2011.

DrManhattan (NY, NY): In handling Nick Johnson, should the Yankees (a) give him, say, 2 days off per week in an attempt to ward off future injury even if he's healthy enough to play full time that week, or (b) send him out every single day he's not injured, figuring there's no way to keep him healthy so you may as well use every opportunity to get him into the lineup?

Will Carroll: I'd probably lean towards the latter. With Gene Monahan out for a while, I'm very curious how they'll handle things. Get well soon, Gene!

dave (chicago): Derek Lowe claims to have completely revamped his delivery this winter, on his own. Have you seen it, and can this possibly end well?

Will Carroll: I have not but very curious. This is one of those interesting experiments where MLB.tv and PitchFX are going to be awesome.

chewbalka (Toronto): Thanks for the chat Will. One thing that makes vision problems so interesting is that it keeps changing for people as they age, better or worse, and even shifting from one eye to the other....which begs the question of whether lasix surgery is ever a "good thing". On another note are the 'Backs just being cautious with Webb or has he suffered a setback as far as you know?

Will Carroll: Very true. Since we don't have long term studies on Lasik, we don't know for sure, but everything seems to indicate that it does help. It's like resetting. While things will continue to change, they don't descend back to where they were, just the same rate. I might go from 20/20 to 20/30, but that's much better than 20/200 to 20/210. Plus, I got a lifetime guarantee, so I can just do it again!

SprungOnSports (Long Island): Will a groin pull/strain affect a catcher like Martin for an extended period? It seems like a problem area for a catcher.

Will Carroll: It's certainly not good, but it doesn't seem to be terribly significant beyond the short-term need for rest and treatment. I don't think there's any larger scale issue here, even though I immediately wondered about his workload.

Eric Chavez (Spring Training): Can I be an effective player coming off the bench (pinch hit here, DH there, emergency glove at third every once and awhile) or is my career completely over?

Will Carroll: We simply don't know. It's logical that less playing time/stress would mean less injury risk, but it's a coinflip problem. We know that over a large sample, a normal coin will come up heads about 50%. That doesn't mean we can predict any given flip with any accuracy. It only takes one issue to wipe out any gains Chavez or anyone else makes. If this were Diamond Mind, it'd be a lot more predictable.

Will Carroll: Thanks for all the questions. We'll see the first UTK this Friday, so I'm excited to get back to that while finishing up the THRs. I'll also be in Florida for Spring Training and am looking into doing some events down there.


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