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Chat: Will Carroll

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday September 20, 2004 2:00 PM ET chat session with Will Carroll.

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Will Carroll is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Will Carroll: Forgive me if I'm slightly distracted, but the Cubs-Marlins doubleheader is as big as any game this year for the Cubbies. They're already getting to Pavano, Prior's on the mound, and when Neifi Perez is driving in runs, the stars just *might* be lined up for you. So, with that, and powered by my wireless iBook, let's get to the chat. All topics are in bounds, but you know my specialties.

Bill Johnson (New Mexico): You said in UTK that one theory on Alfonso Soriano is a "minor avulsion." I've had the dubious privilege of an "avulsion fracture" and would never call it minor (still hurts 10 years later and hasn't worked right since); did you mean that this one does *not* involve a fracture, and if so, what is it?

Will Carroll: The avulsion "theory" - I mean, it is or isn't - doesn't seem to hold. An avulsion means that the bone was pulled away at the origin or insertion of the muscle. The avulsion was one of the several explanations sources gave me. Lew Yocum gave Soriano a positive review today and while I'm not privy to the diagnosis - yet - there's no way he'd be back out there with an avulsion. The tendon may yet be torn and this is a "can't hurt it more" injury. Soriano will be out this week and come back if the Snake is still hissing.

Dave83 (Upland): In your book you discussed Clasp Knife stretching. How well known is the method in physical training circles in the U.S.?

Will Carroll: No, it really isn't. Pavel Tsatsouline is one of the top physical trainers in the world and his work is not only effective, but entertaining. If you haven't been exposed to his work, it's worth a trip to the library. He doesn't have me doing the splits yet, but it's helped. I gave a lecture earlier this year at a medical school and showed off some simple Clasp Knife techniques. The reactions were pretty amazing.

Matt E. (New Bloomfield, PA): If I'm a Pittsburgh Pirate, should I have ANY confidence in my sports medicine dept? I mean, how bad is it that they had Burnett throwing with even a partial UCL tear?

Will Carroll: Look, no medical staff is perfect. For every MRI, there's a question. Still, it seems like something went wrong here. Burnett has had injury problems, the team needs pitching, and it's not like they're fighting for playoff position, so why risk him? The Pirates have had a number of situations over the past couple years - Burnett, Lyon last season - and have a slow rehab clock, so maybe firing Kent Biggerstaff after the 2002 season wasn't such a good idea.

Josh (San Diego): In your monday UTK you said "We'll see if that holds when Ankiel starts Monday" WTF?

Will Carroll: Speaking of not being perfect ...

I made a mistake here. Short explanation - you know where they show the pictures of tomorrow's starters at the top right of every MLB team page? They also show the CURRENT pitchers there. I saw Ankiel, thought he was in for the next start, and ran with it. I should have double-checked, but I'm such an Ankiel fan that I geeked out a bit. I did correct it and apologize for the error.

Ankiel COULD start and I think they've really failed to find out what they have with him. The Cards are 900 games up, so why not give it a chance?

Cubs up 4-1 after 3. Prior's still struggling to find his release point, but when you're winning and the left side of the infield is Perez/Macias, you can't help but worry.

Anders (Stockholm (Sweden)): hi Will! can you explain what has happened to JT Snow this year? ps. any chance of a Stockholm pizzafeed? (c:

Will Carroll: Sorry for the delay. There are a lot of benefits to working from home. Dog poop is not one of them.

Snow ... wow. Seems like every year there's one guy that has flukish success. We always jokingly call them the alien invasion. Snow's always had his positives and negatives, but I don't see even a PECOTA on meth predicting this. The Giants have to hope it sticks.

Stockholm? Maybe I can get my pal Ken Arneson to handle that one. I will go on record as saying I'll do a Pizza Feed anywhere you send me a plane ticket to, except Baghdad.

Dave83 (Upland): If you were in Dusty Baker's shoes, would you be planning on including Mark Prior in a prospective playoff rotation?

Will Carroll: I would, kind of.

Clement appears to be over his late season neck problems, so all five starters seem ready. I'd line it up as Wood, Zambrano, Maddux, Prior/Clement.

What's the slash? I'd have them BOTH ready. Use one for four innings, the other for four, and close it out with the pen. If one of the other starters came out early, the long man could be used there.

Seriously, when Mark Prior might not make your postseason rotation, that has to look pretty good for any team. Dusty Baker and Larry Rothschild don't get many kudos for their results this season.

jgrout (Daly City, CA): Peter Gammons stated baldly on Baseball Tonight that he thinks Mark Mulder is injured. I have heard other folks speculate that he has a tired arm. Do either of these explanations seem more plausible to you?

Will Carroll: I think Moneyball has taught us Peter has a pretty good line on the A's. I've been watching Mulder's starts and I can't detect any injury, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out. The A's pitchers always seem to fade down the stretch for whatever reason and Mulder had his hip injury last year. I'm worried, but can't point to one explanation over the other.

scothughes (NY): Will, you keep going on about the turf in Montreal this year. You're aware that they're playing on a new surface (FieldTurf), aren't you? and if you are, what makes Montreal's Fieldturf any worse than that of the other teams that use it (Tampa Bay for sure, and I think also the Twins)? Scot.

Will Carroll: I am aware they're on new turf and yes, Tampa and Minnesota both use it. I've given the Twins so much grief this season over their new turf that I've actually recieved some calls from the FieldTurf company. According to players that I've spoken to, the new turf still doesn't feel like it has much padding beneath it. I'm told it's "normal" but it's odd - the Twins have a 'spongy' and 'sticky' surface while the Expos have a 'hard' and 'fast' surface.

Maybe someone should start a groundskeeping column. It has more effect on the game than we think.

Dave83 (Upland): Roy Oswalt: you mentioned him today but how do you see him long-term? Do you think he will always have to be the "tough guy" and pitch through/around injuries?

Will Carroll: He's pretty darn good hurt. How good would he be healthy?

Oswalt has always dealt with injuries. Many point to his size, his conditioning, and his high-effort motion. He's never had anything go chronic, the groin seems healthy this season. It's always muscles with him, so I'd like to see him on a more holistic conditioning program, but I'm not holding my breath.

Long term? There aren't many pitchers I'd rather have on my team.

jbaker6241 (Mass): Will, I love your book, "Saving The Pitcher" and have been interested in the four man rotation since reading about it in the book. I then read in another book that JP Riccardi tried the four man rotation last year...Either the book was wrong or it was a bust. Can you tell me One if it happened and Two if it did happen, why did it fail?

Will Carroll: Thanks - the response I've gotten to STP has been overwhelmingly positive. I know teams have read it and hopefully, we've gotten it into the hands of people that can make a difference, not just at the major league level, but all the way down to Little League.

There's lots of four-man questions, something I do feel would be better. Rany Jazayerli did a series last season (or 2002?) giving the reasons why. He really made a compelling case. Both the Reds, Jays, and Rockies made attempts to go to a four-man, but none stayed with it. The team that does it has to start in the lower minors and really make a full organizational commitment. It's hard - doing something new makes you a media target.

My guess is that one of the teams using the tandem starter arrangement in the low minors might be well set up to use a four-man in AA.

mark (Lancaster, PA): Do you think that Pat Burrell's recent success after deciding to forego wrist surgery might perhaps be a bad influence on others facing similar situations? Also, there is some talk (in the Philly papers at least) that he won't even need surgery in the offseason. Is that the right decision?

Will Carroll: Steve Stone just said "we need Grieve or Macias to drive in this run." Yeah, don't hold your breath, Steve-O. (Think Steve is angry he didn't get the Expos?)

Burrell came back after getting medical clearance, so I don't think that's going to be bad influence. The wrist injury seems to have responded to the brace, but I haven't heard from a good source that surgery isn't still planned.

(So Macias gets the hit ... 3 for 3?)

There's certainly something to busting up the false-macho, play-in-pain culture, but there's a much bigger resource utilization issue. We don't yet have two tools that we need to really make this an intelligent discussion - accurate information on how injured a player is (is he 80% or 50%?) and a good calculation of injury cost. A well constructed roster alleviates much of this problem, but what teams have that these days?

Zoidberg (NY): So have you used Skype?

Will Carroll: Love Skype. I'm a gadget geek, so I'm always looking for cool new stuff. Skype works well, though it still hasn't made a compelling case for me to dump my cell phone. (Of course, my cell phone often makes that compelling case ... and yes, I'm still looking for that new one.)

If you're ever on Skype, look for "injuryexpert."

Mark (CT): Will, if you had to pick a distribution most likely to maintain health, would it be 100 pitches every 5 days, or 20 pitches every day?

Will Carroll: It depends completely on the pitcher. Some pitchers recover quickly, some don't. There's a distinct advantage to a pitcher that can come back more quickly. The "fatigue wave" - something you'll hear about more soon - is a poorly understood but important component to pitching.

Pitchers start the season at a theoretical 100%. Through the season, they seldom reach that again, ebbing after starts and then working to get back as high as possible before throwing again. It's different - but just as critical - for relievers and starters. More research is necessary. I'm looking forward to some of the things we'll be capable of this off-season. ASMI is doing great stuff. NPA is doing great stuff. Now, I'll have the chance to do some in association with University of Mobile.

Adam J. Morris (Houston, Texas): Do you have any thoughts on Ricardo Rodriguez's expected return from the broken arm/elbow? Should he be ready to go for the start of spring training, or is he more likely to be behind schedule, and start the season on the D.L.?

Will Carroll: Rodriguez got lucky. The fracture didn't affect the joint's motion, but he sure would have looked good in the Rangers rotation those last couple months. Last I heard, Rodriguez will be pitching in Winter Ball, so things sound good. He's got talent if he can just stay healthy. How many times have we said that?

Will AKA RCS (Fredericton, NB): How worried should I be that Batista is now closing for the Jays in that the more he performs this role, the harder it might be for him to return to starting without an increased injury concern?

Will Carroll: I wouldn't worry. Batista's a starter, but he's also a very smart pitcher who can adjust without much problem. He was used all over the place in Arizona, often without much rhyme or reason. Toronto's too smart to waste starter money on a closer.

Nathan (Bloomington, IL): What do you expect out of Prior next season?

Will Carroll: A Cy Young.

No, seriously, he could win one any season, but we can't all expect him to be what we all want him to be. This season can be traced to a breakdown in mechanics as a result of a minor (but annoyingly slow healing) injury. No one is immune.

There's NO pitcher I'd want on my roster more. That said, Rany Jazayerli nearly killed me for convincing him to take Prior over Pujols. That was really dumb on my part, even if Prior was pitching like Sidd Finch.

Mendoza Nerd (RS Nation): I've got Runelvys Hernandez, Brian Tallet and Seth McClung stashed away on a keeper team in a very deep league. Any other 2005 injury comebacks to watch? And, speaking of comebacks, what's your medium-term take on Jason Giambi and Aaron Boone? Many thanks.

Will Carroll: That is deep. Jessica McClure deep.

I like Runelvys for his name, but not much else. Tallet should be fine next year with the additional recovery time. Cleveland's talked about making him a closer, but they've talked about making everyone in their organization a closer. McClung I've heard a lot about but seen very little. He remains a Devil Ray -- tho I've watched that team more than I like to admit. I still have no idea where that organization is heading, but they're fun to watch.

Wendell Kim should be shot. No, no, that's too easy. Wow, just found out Jim Hendry has some Mobile connections. Who knew?

Frank (New Jersey): What's the long-term prognosis on Jose Reyes? He's prone to hamstring problems (& other injuries). What causes a player to be prone to hamstring injuries? Is there anything the Mets can do or is it something that he'll always have a problem with.

Will Carroll: Reyes is an interesting case. The Mets tried a lot of things, bringing in special people to work with him in addition to their normal medical staff. He has both hamstring and back problems, two very interrelated injuries. Given the right care and treatment, Reyes has all the talent in the world.

Give me Reyes for a month in the off-season and I can get him through 2005.

Jim (San Diego): What is a simulated game? Does he throw 15 pitches, sit down for 8 minutes, and throw 15 more and repeat? Or just throw 90 pitches in a row?

Will Carroll: This is a UTK FAQ. A simulated game is just that - they simulate game action using two pitchers and a group of hitters. They go out, get three outs, then sit while the other pitcher gets his three outs. They'll go for a pre-determined number of innings or pitches. It's just one tool that helps trainers and pitching coaches decide if a guy is ready.

Neifi, E6. In 2003, I watched Perez on the field before a Giants game and he was like the Harlem Globetrotters with a glove. Amazing stuff, but he still sucks. The best glove in the world doesn't make up for that bat.

Here's a question for you - how far up the defensive spectrum could you take someone before their defense overshadows their offense. Jeter's always outhit his shortcomings, but how severe could you make it. Mientkiewicz at 2B is something I would love to see more of.

steve (baltimore): Re: the pizza feed promise and the Reyes statement... a little giddy as the season winds down, huh?

Will Carroll: Pizza Feed promise has always been in place. I ended up in Toronto late last year because a reader took me up on it. Dave Kirsch will never let me live that trip down.

Reyes - that's not giddy, that's confidence. Here's an easier solution for the Mets. Hire Rickey Henderson as your first base coach and glue him to Reyes.

thermos (Boston): Three largely unrelated questions - take your pick: 1. Lots of talk about "overuse" of Rivera, Gordon and Quantill this year as affecting their ability this postseason. Of them, only Quantrill has shown weakness this season, and he's pitched a lot for several years now. Any thoughts? 2. Excluding rookies, can a pitcher like Vasquez go as bad as he did in the 2nd half in effectiveness without an injury of some kind? 3. Any thoughts on the Alan Schwartz column in the NYT yesterday about "lost opportunity cost" when great hitters walk? (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/19/sports/baseball/19score.html?pagewanted=print&position=). It didn't at all account for the fact/theory that selective hitters may hit better when they do swing because they are patient enough to take the walk (perhaps because the NYT didn't want a treatise on the topic).

Will Carroll: That's a long set of questions ...

1. Overuse and abuse aren't exact terms. All three have been used more than anyone, including Torre, would have wished because they've really been the only decent options for most of the season. Quantrill's had the knee problem since game one and I think that's worn on him. Torre's been buying them rest when he can, but the Sox run here late will probably hurt those guys more than anyone.

2. Yes. Mechanics can be lost and Vazquez has looked alternately fine and horrible. Mel Stottlemyre doesn't have a great reputation for tinkering on the fly.

3. Isn't it great seeing that type of column in the mainstream media? It's better that it's a great guy like Schwarz, who's just a great writer, period. As to the content of the column, it seemed counterintuitive to me, but I'll leave that to the sabermetricians in the pack to really address.

Dave83 (Upland): Do you know of anything specific that Johan Santana changed back in late May/early June to pull himself from Irabu- to Koufax-territory?

Will Carroll: Easy. He figured out that his elbow was okay. He had the surgery in the offseason to remove a bone chip(s). I read an article recently that it took until May for his pitching coach to convince him he could fully extend. There's such a mental aspect to pitching, but it's sorely overlooked.

bstrom (Tucson): Will, Will there be a "Saving the Pitcher" vol.2 and if so what would you do differently or add/subtract from the information provided?

Will Carroll: I hope so! We're always learning more about pitching. When I get the chance to talk with coaches, doctors, or pitchers, I'm always learning something new. Eventually, that alters some of the things I think I knew. A lot of people wanted STP to be more than an introduction to the science of pitching. There's no drills in there for a reason; people that want to be good pitcher or have their son/daughter be good pitchers need to seek out good coaches. The NPA (www.nationalpitchers.com) is a good start, but there's plenty of good pitching coaches around. Take a copy of STP in when you talk to them.

Steve (Baltimore): Grieve, Macias, Neifi and Bako in the lineup and Cubs leading 5-1 against Pavano? That alone should make Dusty Baker manager of the year... I can't figure out this game

Will Carroll: That's why they play the games. It's funny. Those four you mention aren't "good major league players" by almost any measure, but they're also assuredly four of the top 1000 players in the world. The guys that the fat slob is screaming "you suck!" at? They're really good.

Rick Jones (Toronto): Will, you of course remember that last year BP reported, with a fairly high degree of claimed accuracy, a deal between MLB and Pete Rose to allow Rose back into baseball. The report touched off a brief, but nasty, public spat between MLB and BP. What happened to the deal? Rose is still on the outs. Was BP incorrect, or was the deal cancelled?

Will Carroll: One in every bunch.

Yes, we reported it, it was correct at the time, and things changed. There was one fact we didn't know at the time - that Rose had already confessed - that would have changed how we interpreted the information, but the story not only stands as accurate at the time, it's been backed up since.

Rose admitted on record, in an interview with Kenny Roda (www.sportstalkcleveland.com), that he'd signed a deal with baseball. I'm not sure what more you want, short of Bud coming out and making an announcement.

Josias Manzanillo (Miami): Any chance you will be replicating more injuries? Like the one I suffered?

Will Carroll: Ouch.

No, I don't think so. It wasn't my smartest move. I reacted to something I was being questioned on - my knowledge of how this injury would affect Sheffield - and I got a bit rash. I'll never say never, but I've had most of these injuries. I just never knew they were prepping me for my career.

Doug (Portland): Hi Will, I was hoping you might be able to discuss Mark Prior's problems a bit. Prior says that he's not going to be the player he was last year, at least for the remainder of this season, is that because his mechanics are flawed, he's got some sort of injury or are there other non-physical factors at work here?

Will Carroll: That's pretty much it. Pitching mechanics are very fine - Tom House tells me that a 1/8 inch change in release point causes an 8 inch diffence in pitch location. It's that release point that Mark has struggled with. The injury (ankle, foot) led to changed mechanics which hurt his elbow SLIGHTLY which changed his mechanics again.

Still, in a "failed" season, Mark has a 2.5/1 K ratio and has shown some dominance. There's lots to like outside the inconsistency.

7 Innings, five hits, 1 walk and nine K's today. I'll take that.

dave (boise): It seems that all of the high profile players this year who had surgery for meniscal injuries also had setbacks in rehab. Would you attribute this to bad luck, rehabs accelerated too quickly, or some other factor(s)?

Will Carroll: All of the above. Doctors are getting very advanced with this type of injuries and it looks that we're about to make another leap. They're growing meniscuses (menisci?) in jars for implantation, there's Synvisc ... it's amazing what's happening in sports medicine. I'm just glad i get to watch and share some of it with you.

Ok, last question ...

dave (boise): Which MLB medical training staffs had the most impact on their teams' fortunes (good or bad) this season?

Will Carroll: They've all had impacts. Right now, there's no good tool for measuring this, though I'm working with Tom Gorman (www.fogball.com) on a project that may give us something. There's not a staff that isn't qualified, that didn't work 100 hour weeks, that didn't try as hard as they can. Still, some are better than others and we need to hold them accountable for these results.

Just using DL Days, the Angels have had lots of injuries, but come back quickly. Same with the Red Sox and Giants. The Brewers have really reduced their DL days as have the Rays. I'll pass on the "bad" ones, since I'll probably have to talk to one of them soon while I'm putting together UTK.

Man, now every one I call will ask if I was talking about them. Sigh.

Will Carroll: Sorry I couldn't get to all the questions, but I need more coffee and some wrist rest time. I'll be under the knife once the season ends for carpal tunnel. Thanks for reading, for writing, and for sharing your love for baseball with me.


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