Prince Fielder's injury may have ended the Rangers' hopes of contending. Could it have been avoided?
As Daniel Rathmannoted in today’s edition of What You Need to Know, Thursday was a rough one for the Rangers, despite their 9-2 victory over Detroit. Heading into the day, Texas had already established a sizeable lead on the next-closest team in terms of games missed due to injury, which had limited a club that the Baseball Prospectus staff (though not PECOTA) had picked to win the AL West to a fourth-place, sub-.500 start.
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Does PITCHf/x suggest that the Marlins' injured ace should have been pulled from his final starts sooner?
In a statement released last Friday, the attorney for injured ace Jose Fernandez—who underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his torn ulnar collateral ligament the same day—accused the Marlins coaching staff of not picking up on an “unanticipated change” in his delivery caused by discomfort in his second-to-last start preceding the surgery.
Are recent Tommy John surgery victims about to become a new kind of contract extension candidate?
About a year ago, Sam Millerspeculated about the future of contract extensions, which had by then been embraced by big-market teams after years of mostly being the province of small-market clubs. “When that happens,” Sam wrote, “the market inefficiency might as well be gone.” To regain an edge, teams would have to get more creative with the kind of extensions they offered.
One of Sam’s suggestions was that we might start to see much longer extensions—contracts that would pay a player for 15 years or more. That hasn’t happened yet. However, Sam made two more predictions that have come to pass. First, he suggested that a team might offer a player an extension before his big-league debut, which has since occurred in the cases of George Springer and the Astros and Gregory Polanco and the Pirates. And second, he proposed that teams that lock up more marginal players than had previously been considered extendable. “Of the 20 players who have signed extensions longer than four years since the start of last season, all are, if not stars, something close to it,” Sam wrote. Since then, non-stars Jedd Gyorko, Yan Gomes (debatable), and Jose Quintana have signed five-year deals, not to mention Michael Brantley and Sean Doolittle, who’ve inked four-year pacts.
Let’s go back to 2012, when the Washington Nationals made one of the most controversial decisions in recent memory by shutting down pitcher Stephen Strasburg late in the season, even though it meant that Strasburg, though not injured at the time, would not pitch for the Nationals in their Division Series. The Nationals lost that series to the St. Louis Cardinals three games to two, and Lana del Rey wrote “Summertime Sadness” as a result (no, not really). The Nationals justified that decision by saying that they wanted to keep Strasburg below 160 innings pitched for the season to prevent him from further injury. In 2011, Strasburg only pitched in five games, spending most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was healthy through most of 2013 and has been so far through 2014.
Could PITCHf/x have held the key to preventing season-ending surgeries for two of this season's Tommy John victims?
We’ve gotten much better at designing buildings that refuse to fall down, but science still hasn’t made much headway in the field of earthquake prediction. Although we can estimate how many quakes of a certain magnitude we’ll experience over a span of time, we can’t pinpoint exactly when, where, or why they’ll occur. A big quake is often preceded by a smaller foreshock, but not always. And the only way to know whether any given disturbance is the main event or merely a precursor is to wait and see if something worse happens, which doesn’t lend itself to life-saving.
Athletic trainers can commiserate with seismologists. As the recent rash of season-ending injuries indicates, we’re a long way from figuring out when a pitcher is about to break. Not every injury is preceded by a warning sign, and not every red flag reveals a real problem. Many pitcher injuries are the result of cumulative wear and tear, but the process often culminates in one pitch, followed by a pop or a sharp pain and an arm clutched tightly on the trip back to the dugout. From there, it’s just a matter of time until the Twitpic from the operating table.