The Astros bullpen has propelled an otherwise mediocre team to first place. Matt Ford has made an impact for the Brewers. The A’s continue to shop for a bat. These and other news and notes out of Houston, Milwaukee, and Oakland in today’s Prospectus Triple Play.
Hank Blalock makes his home run count. Barry Bonds sounds off on wiping out Babe Ruth and small sample size. Bret Boone calls out an obvious conflict of interest. Bud Selig waxes poetic on baseball and the hotel industry. These and other tasty morsels in The Week In Quotes.
So, did anything happen while I was gone?
In an effort to keep what’s going to be a long edition to a non-Kahrlian length, and from ending up in this report with carpal tunnel agony, I’ll just say that my trip to the Bay Area was amazing. Not only was I in a small, hot conference room with what might be the most baseball mind-power short of the Winter Meetings…(or, then again)…I was able to visit Pac Bell Park, watch Barry Bonds take BP from the side of the batting cage, and spend a half hour talking with Stan Conte about everything sports med. I thank everyone involved for making it a great trip.
Onto the injuries…
Eight of the AL’s 14 teams can entertain October dreams, with the Angels’ hopes on life support just four days into the second half. The Mariners and Royals have far outplayed my expectations, and the Rangers have, for the third straight year, made me look silly for thinking they’d win. Thank god for the amazing predictability of the AL East, or I might have to give back my blue beanie emblazoned with the logo of the Certified Baseball Experts Society.
Going through the data and talking to sources brings up an interesting quirk. There are often differences cited between the AL and NL, but never such a gap in injury statistics. The AL is healthier by a large margin–if I quoted the number, you’d be stunned–and there’s no reason that jumps out. Some have long thought that the DH slot could keep some players off the DL, allowing someone to hit while not completely healthy, say Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols or Edgar Martinez. There’s no great “health gap” in any other year since adoption of the rule, so I’m loathe to assign credit or blame. There’s no changes in player patterns, medical staffs, or park effect to explain it, so in retrospect, finding that answer will be the greatest challenge and potential lesson for medheads in the second half. That said, it could be mere fluke and the NL could get really healthy for a couple months, but I don’t think so.
Remember that I grade the teams based on a couple factors–overall health compared to both league and team averages, ability to get players back ahead of schedule, lost time to DL, and effect of injuries on team results. These are not terribly scientific and should not be used for wagering. In no instance am I assigning blame; instead, I merely hope to allow comparison and quantify effect. They’re not worth arguing over.