Catch It!

Although the marketing slogan might be a few years old, it might be time to revive it. Ten days remain in the season and across baseball, across the injury spectrum, the catchphrase is “catch it!” Watching these games, I found myself seeing great defensive plays, caring not a whit for zone ratings while screaming out “catch it!” Moises Alou‘s diving play against the Nationals, Derek Jeter‘s brilliant yet costly double play, even Greg Maddux trying to glove his way to 15 wins again…there was more leather on display yesterday than at Bondage Night at Sturgis. Defense might be the sabermetric weak link, but who cares? Catch it!

Powered by Vitamin B-12, on to the injuries…

  • I don’t mean to pick on Jeter. His defense this year has been better than at any other time in his career, according to BP’s defensive numbers. Anyone might have made the wide throw that he did on a double play. Still, it’s been his erratic arm that’s exacerbating Jason Giambi and his troublesome back. Giambi tightened up after some serious stretches for Jeter’s throws, leaving him struggling to stay in the lineup when his team needs him most. The AL Comeback Player favorite hopes to be able to play effectively down the stretch, so watch for Joe Torre to try and find an off-day or two for him in the next couple days.
  • You’re supposed to change your car’s oil every 3,000 miles, and athletes have something similar, especially once they get some mileage on them. They require not only the standard maintenance, but the touch of a well-trained mechanic. In this case, that mechanic is called a surgeon. Ken Griffey Jr. has his own personal surgeons, it seems, and they’ll get his knee back into shape and clean out some scar tissue from the damaged hamstring he wheeled himself around all season on. Add these to the foot problem that ended Griffey’s year, and it should be a tough offseason for the odds-on favorite for NL Comeback Player.
  • Keith Foulke called it a season for all intents and purposes when he went to have his surgically repaired left knee examined. It was something of a surprise in that rumors had been flying about his right knee which is supposed to have off-season scoping. Foulke hadn’t been used since Sunday, and had been pitching primarily in low-leverage situations. The Sox aren’t making it official that he’s done, but Foulke’s roster slot could be used to slide in Craig Hansen or another of the young pitchers that the Sox haven’t been afraid to use.
  • Mike Mussina returned for the Yankees and appeared to adjust to his situation. Mussina got to a three-ball count only once, seemingly focused on pitch efficiency over everything else. We’ll see if the strategy that was so effective Thursday will work during his next two starts, including what might be the final game of the season at Fenway Park. Mussina had no problems during his start, though it may be more telling to see if his elbow tightens up after the outing. Watch for Mussina to have a normal side session on Saturday or Sunday.
  • Jason Schmidt pushed it a bit too much in his last start, forcing himself to throw with his groin out of whack. Schmidt admitted after the game that it was a poor decision; his inability to tell the medical staff how he was doing may cost him a couple starts. The Giants, likely out of the playoff hunt, are considering shutting their ace down for the season. The team holds an option on Schmidt for next season and his health will have a lot to do with whether they exercise that option.
  • Larry Walker is beat up. The plan was to keep the Cards outfielder fresh for the playoffs, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Walker had another cortisone injection in his neck, which was evidently expected, yet that doesn’t make the needle any less painful or help Walker be any more available this weekend. He’ll sit out the entire weekend series as the injection takes effect, then play again to tune up for the playoffs. Walker has one more cortisone injection at his disposal, so he and the team are trying to keep it in the bank.
  • The Phillies are keeping the injuries to Bobby Abreu very close to the vest as they fight for a playoff slot. Ken Mandel of does a nice job tracing the genesis of the injuries to his leg and shoulder, giving solid insight into both Abreu’s condition and mindset. Lots of players are using Abreu’s mantra of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” right now, something I’m unsure about. I think fatigue and rest patterns are blind spots of both sabermetrics and faith-based baseball.

  • Quick Cuts: Correction: Brian Roberts did NOT have Tommy John surgery, as reported. Since it was his non-throwing arm, the ligament was not necessary … Power-shagging pitcher Carlos Zambrano will be fine after bouncing off the ivy. His words, not mine … Guillermo Mota is done for the season and likely as a Marlin … Here’s an interesting concept–the next time we see several players who are rehabbing from injuries will be the World Baseball Classic … Mike Sweeney was scratched with a back problem. In other news, rain is wet … Carlos Silva had successful knee surgery. He’ll be gold for next season … The Mets look to be shutting down Pedro Martinez. Smart move … Look, it’s all well and good to keep your pitchers under 120 pitches. It’s better to keep them under 110 or 100, though usage has to be individualized and tailored to the team’s various needs. Just because someone hasn’t taken someone deep by average standards doesn’t mean that he hasn’t overworked his pitchers. It shows in their mechanics, velocity and results, things we don’t quite have built into the system. Yet. Not that I’m naming names.

The Rafael Palmeiro Watch is ongoing, but don’t say I didn’t tell you so. Back in early August, I reported that Palmeiro was naming names. Congress is going to release the documentation they received from Palmeiro in two weeks, just as the playoffs are getting in full gear. The documents are going to leak well before then, the names are going to come out (amd it looks like they already did), and again, I’ll look at the situation and say that names won’t solve the problems. What will? Education, creative solutions and transparency. Play ball.