David Wright's back cracks under stress, the Red Sox are down two starters, and two high-profile setup men hit the DL with somewhat mysterious ailments.
David Wright, NYN (Low Back stress fracture)
Low back stress fractures are a type of overuse injury more common in adolescents than adults, but given the team's recent medical track record, it hardly surprises when even the most unlikely ailment befalls a Met. A stress fracture takes place when the body's ability to build new tissue is overcome by forces that try to break it down. Most classic stress fractures don't involve a clear precipitating event such as a dive for a ball, instead gradually progressing over weeks or months.
Often one particular repeated action is a contributing factor–in the lumbar spine, it is usually hyperextension or bending backwards–but as the condition worsens other actions also become symptomatic. One factor that always plays a role, however, is the muscular and connective tissues' inability to absorb the forces from these actions that break down tissue.
It's accepted wisdom that the beatings of backstoppery impact player performance, but by how much?
"What's to get tired from? This isn't like football or basketball. Even if you play 100 games in the outfield, you handle only six or eight balls a game. What can wear you out? It's hard to get physically tired in baseball, unless you pitch or catch."
"Get up. Get down. Get up again. Get down. Come up throwing. Take the chest protector off. Take the shin guards off. Hit. Put them back on. Go back behind the plate and repeat the process. Catching just breaks a man down, inning by inning, game by game, year by year."
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Ease up there, Hemingway, we're talking about pitchers, and whether we're missing a few from the last couple of decades.
When we see the level of offense go up or down in baseball-and it has been down dramatically this season-we tend to attribute it to everything other than the players themselves. In any given downturn, it's the bats, or the baseballs, or the ballparks, or the drugs that the players are injecting themselves with. Or all of those things. But what if it isn't all about context? What if, when offense is up, it literally does mean that there aren't very many good pitchers?
BP's founder makes his comeback bearing an unsettling message.
Itís been an unfortunate part of writing for BP that Iíve written a number of words about the passing of friends. Today, Iíve got another obituary to write, but this one is not in the least bit painful.
The American Sports Medicine Institute kicks off its 22nd annual "Injuries in Baseball" course Jan. 29 in Orlando. Today we continue from Part I of our discussion with ASMI's Smith and Nephew Chair of Research, Dr. Glenn Fleisig.
Baseball Prospectus: Do teams tend to send more major league pitchers or minor leaguers? What are some of the differences between the two groups?
Judging from my Inbox, I'm supposed to be upset because Fox dictated to MLB that the two LCS games last night would be played simultaneously, with one shown on the cable channel FX. I might have ranted about it a couple of years ago, but to be honest, this is a minor, understandable move. Afternoon baseball games during the week don't draw very good ratings and are difficult for fans in broad swaths of the nation to see. Even motivated fans on the west coast who might be able to shake free from work to catch a 5 p.m. start are pretty much screwed by a game at 1 p.m.
A lot of the frustration over various scheduling decisions is justifiable, because the decisions are driven primarily by television and often run counter to logic. However, neither Fox nor MLB can do anything about the fact that the continental United States spans four time zones. None of the solutions will placate everyone, so the one that allows the widest possible audience to watch the games is acceptable. Rest assured that if a similar conflict occurs next Wednesday, Game Six of the Red Sox/Yankees series will be played at 4 p.m. Eastern, clearing the night for the Cubs/Marlins Game Seven.
As it turns out, the Cubs solved yesterday's problem by about 6:15 Pacific time, pushing ahead of the Marlins 5-0 after two innings. Brad Penny didn't have much command and Sammy Sosa punished him for it with a three-run bomb to an el station somewhere in the Loop. Everything after that, including two Alex Gonzalez home runs (see? I told you he'd be a great player some day!), was gravy.
On Tuesday, Florida Marlins' starter A.J. Burnett underwent Tommy John surgery, after exploration of the elbow revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament. The surgery went well, and Burnett's expected to return fully healthy down the road. Previously, pitchers who have had this surgery take about a year, maybe a year and a half, to get back on the mound and eventually return to form. The procedure and rehab have become something of a commonplace miracle, despite the fact that the rehabilitation regimen's about as appealing as a porta-potty at the Stockton Asparagus Festival.
The real issue here isn't Burnett, however unfortunate his injury is. We wish him the best, and I have no doubts that he'll push the rehab envelope and get back as soon as he can. The real issue here is painfully obvious--was this avoidable? You've already seen a number of perspectives about pitcher abuse, injury likelihood, and the very nature of pitching itself, so I won't go into too much detail here. I think the real interesting issue here is a long-underlying one that's been talked about, but never really addressed. That issue is the balance between performance, overwork, responsibility, and accountability when it comes to handling pitchers. So let's put aside the specific case of Burnett, and examine the issue.
On April 28th, Evan Wasserman passed away after a long illness. Evan was a longtime BP supporter, and rabid baseball fan. He joined us at several pizza feeds, where I had the pleasure of making his acquaintance, and I eventually got to know him as a friend. Evan had a great sense of humor, loved the game of baseball, and was a man of generous spirit who brought a smile to people's faces when he walked in the room. He will be greatly missed, and our condolences go out to his wife, Jackie, and his family.
Last year, I was given the privilege of writing a story that hadn't been written. It's a story about a hidden treasure and one that opened my eyes to yet another hidden game in baseball. While "original" UTK subscribers will remember this story, I think it's important enough to bring to a BP audience. I'm also going to be speaking with American Specialty in the near future, bringing you more insight from the true masters of injury analysis. I hope you enjoy. --Will
Outside of baseball, the Redbook is unknown. Even inside baseball, many front office personnel I spoke to were unaware of its existence. Even I had no knowledge of the Redbook until a recent conversation with a former baseball athletic trainer. He mentioned the book in passing and I had to bring him back to it. 'There's a book with all the info?' I asked. After telling me about it, I went on a quest to find the book. A bit of searching later, I found that the publisher was in fact MLB's insurance consultant, a company called American Specialty Companies Inc.
Mark Verstegen founded Athletes' Performance in Tempe, Az. in 1999. Previously a coach at Washington State University, Verstegen also worked as Assistant Director of Player Development at Georgia Tech, where he built and implemented performance programs for football, men's basketball and golf. He started the International Performance Institute in Bradenton, Fla. before moving to Arizona. Athletes' Performance's clients include numerous NFL players, professional golf, tennis, and basketball players, multiple amateur athletes, and an array of Major League Baseball players, including Nomar Garciaparra, Pat Burrell, and Adam Dunn. Verstegen recently chatted with BP about training methods for baseball players, the importance of injury prevention for athletes, and the challenges facing young athletes.
Baseball Prospectus: For those readers who aren't familiar with your work, explain a little about what differentiates your facility from, say, the facilities normally available to professional athletes.
Baseball as a whole grossly underestimates the kind of serious threat that unhinged nutbags like this represent. Something needs to be done to prevent this sort of horrible incident from happening in the future. It isn't possible to stop any and all potential acts of the truly determined and unbalanced. The occasional deranged crank is always going to be able to slip through any mechanism or process designed to keep them out. Still, all possible and feasible efforts should be made to ensure the safety of the innocent and unsuspecting.
I speak, of course, of the extension of Jeff Torborg's managerial contract.
I tend to get disappointed in people. My faith in humanity as a whole has been waning for a very long time. So when I hear about an incident such as the one that occurred yesterday, I tend to sort of mournfully shrug my shoulders, write the incident off as yet another example of the pointless, mindless, aimless, counterproductive nature of people. There's simply no excuse for these sorts of activities, and those that perpetrate these acts deserve to be dealt with in the harshest possible terms.