I’m working on something I call “The Question Project” for now because you know I can come up with catchy names in my sleep. The project is an interesting idea, getting people who wouldn’t normally be thought of as BP types to ask a question about baseball that can be answered using BP-style inquiry and research.
I’m seeing two amazing things with this. First, most questions that baseball people ask are easily addressed with sabermetrics. “It’s all baseball,” I say in my best beer-and-tacos voice. What is harder is translating the answer back to the person without overwhelming him with jargon.
More surprising is how threatened some people are by the concept. When I asked one manager if he had an unanswered question about the game, I was surprised to find he didn’t really want an answer to his. He wanted to use his gut, to look a guy in the eye, to know if the batter had heart. I always hesitate to use gambling analogies, but for me, I want to know the odds. Then, once those are known, I want to take the rest of the things that I can find into account, things like heart and guts and fear and hunches. There’s a place for that in baseball and there always will be. There’s also a place for knowledge.
Powered by Live 8–there’s still time to sign–on to the injuries:
- Getting Mark Prior and Kerry Wood back was supposed to catapult the Cubs. Instead, the duo has come back only to be part of a five-game losing streak. Neither pitcher can really take much blame for the dive, as both pitched at or above expectations.
The three-channel (WGN, TBS, ESPN) coverage of the Cubs/Braves gave me a great look at Wood’s new mechanics, leaving me underwhelmed. The slower leg kick amounts to stopping at the bottom, essentially adding a second balance point. The first balance point is unnecessary and counterproductive, so the second is worse. He’s essentially throwing from a slide-step, raising the leg and pausing, then lowering the leg and pausing before driving forward. I won’t go all Saving The Pitcher on you, but even Mike Marshall will agree that the changes don’t amount to much. Worse, the adjustment seems to have had no effect on Wood’s motion from the stretch. Each pitch ended with him going violently towards first base due to late hip motion. I’m not sure if this new mechanical set-up is more sustainable than the previous one. I do know it probably doesn’t matter. At this point, Wood is going to need to spend the entire off-season retooling. I’ll recommend Camp Nolan Ryan.
- The Dodgers took another hit in a season simply ruined by injuries. Perhaps those in Dodger Blue can take heart in knowing that teams with unusually high numbers of injuries tend to have a “bounceback” the following season when their luck tends to even out. That probably doesn’t make Dodger fans feel much better, and the news on J.D. Drew won’t, either. It looks as if Drew is a coin flip for surgery to set and align the fractured wrist, which would end his season. A simple fracture would take the better part of two months to return from, and by that point, it would be stunning to see the Dodgers in a pennant race. Drew’s injury shouldn’t be viewed as connected to anything in his past unless he goes beyond the normal timeframe for healing. There’s long been speculation that Drew has a “tissue issue”–a genetic predisposition for slow healing seen in many athletes. Our lack of understanding about the processes puts too many rehabs in a black box, leaving everyone hoping for a predicted result.
- The Nationals finally had to succumb to the inevitability of a slow healing Nick Johnson, placing him on the DL with a bruised heel. Like Drew, Johnson is simply a slow healer. It’s genetic on some level and has very little to do with Johnson’s attitude or work ethic. Much like he’s blessed with hitting ability, he’s cursed with a body that takes a bit longer to rebuild itself. Yes, it’s a weakness, but as he’s shown this year, it’s hardly a fatal one. What will be interesting is when we have data–or tests–that show who is who before they set foot, bruised or not, on a baseball diamond.
- While Barry Bloom is handling the Occasional Barry Bonds Updates, I’ll stick to trying to translate the medical information into something that doesn’t spin quite so much. Bonds is going very slowly in his rehab due to recurrent swelling in the knee during weight bearing. He’s headed to Los Angeles to work with Clive Brewster, the longtime lead physical therapist at Kerlan-Jobe and a master with braces. It’s this last part that interests me. Bonds hasn’t had any problems with stability, just weight bearing, so bracing doesn’t seem a solution unless there’s a secondary need. I’m still convinced that once it starts happening, it will happen fast. I’ll likely live or die by the day Bonds returns this year; very few other injuries matter this much to so many.
- Curt Schilling had another rehab start that could best be described as inconsistent. According to Marc Normandin, UTK’s man in Rhode Island for the game, Schilling was both dominant and wild, showing some signs of the ankle instability that was apparent in his April rehab outing. I’ll have more on this tomorrow once I talk to some other sources, but Schilling leaves this start one step closer to Boston. Expect one more start and a nice return just after the All-Star break, though there is an outside chance of him being activated off this start, assuming the Sox saw what they needed to see.
- If I get creative tomorrow, I may get a chance to talk with Craig Wilson, another of the rehab cases who has made his way through Indy this season. Wilson, coming back from surgery on his knuckle, figures to have a short stay in Triple-A. Once back, he’ll resume mashing and having no discernible role. His mini-me, Ryan Doumit, is likely to head back to Indy to resume thumping the International League rather than having Wilson’s no-role slot in Pittsburgh. The Pirates have told local media that they think it’s good to give guys like Doumit and Nate McLouth (who seriously is what happened when Tanner Boyle grew up) “a taste” of the major leagues. I’d love to see some rationale behind that for position players. Austin Kearns is in town, too.
- The Yankees are encouraged by recent signs of life from Jason Giambi and Jaret Wright, though they are very concerned about the upcoming MRI on Carl Pavano. The new Yank has been more or less performing up to expectations, their only off-season acquisition to do so. The major concern is that there’s some labrum involvement, with reports of popping and locking not seen in the New York area since Ozone and Turbo showed Special K how it was done back in the day. A severe shoulder injury to Pavano could put the Yankees into as close to a full-panic mode as they can be in. Wright will throw from a mound for the first time this week, keeping him on schedule for a late July return.
The Yankees also dodged a bullet yesterday. Gary Sheffield took a pitch off his hand, near the top of the right thumb, but did no serious damage.
- There’s only so much that cortisone can do. For short periods of time, it’s a miracle worker, but at some point, it starts being the dingo that eats the baby. There are tales of surgeons going in and seeing tendons eaten away by cortisone, and even seeing the injected substance held in suspension, not being absorbed at all into the affected area. There’s certainly an effect, placebo or not, in most cases. Troy Glaus is making it through the season with a series of injections into his damaged left knee and doing well enough to challenge career highs in many categories. The D’backs–who led the league last season with more than 1,800 DL days–are managing this injury well in the short term, but I question how it might affect Glaus in the next three years of his big-money deal.
- No one seems to believe Phil Garner when he says there’s nothing wrong with Brad Lidge. His closer has a history of elbow problems and hasn’t pitched in over a week despite the team having save opportunities. The original injury was called a mild lower biceps strain; taken at face value, it is something that could be injured in someone with the normal alterations made during unsupervised long toss. Lidge has been as dominant as he was in 2004, but his stuff is reliant on him being fully healthy, much as Francisco Rodriguez seems to be in Anah … wherever. Watch to see if Lidge is used Tuesday, as the team indicated. Further delays should raise red flags.
- The Orioles need all the help they can get. With Melvin Mora back after a 10-day, non-DL absence, the O’s are likely to send Javy Lopez out on a rehab assignment later this week. He’s had no problems with his broken hand, but expect him to cut back on catching duties in his first few weeks back at a minimum. The Orioles’ front office is already considering a shift to DH for him over the remainder of his contract, though he’ll likely function as a backup catcher for the foreseeable future.
The O’s are finally starting to see something from Erik Bedard. A side session on Monday gave the team enough to try to figure out where to send him for a rehab start or two.
- The Phillies have the making of a deep, solid bullpen with the trade for Ugueth Urbina and the return of Tim Worrell. Unfortunately, my mantra of “performance counts” rears its head here. While it’s early yet and Worrell hasn’t really slotted into a role, the Phillies pen is the cause of much acid in Philly, both in the press and in Charlie Manuel’s stomach. Billy Wagner has been healthy and meeting expectations, with only his mouth a problem for the team. If Worrell is alright both physically and mentally, expect him to be a difference maker in the second half for a team that really isn’t lacking much.
- Quick Cuts: I got out my best radio line of the year Friday on WGN. Dave Kaplan jokingly asked if the Reds were one player away. “Sure,” I said, “if that player is Babe Ruth.” … Tim Hudson could throw a sim game later this week, as will Mike Hampton … Russell Branyan returns for the Brewers after nearly two months out. Prince Fielder was optioned out to make room, though he figures to be back to stay soon … Zach Duke‘s phenomenal debut is making many teams dial up Pittsburgh in hopes that one of their starters is now available … Likewise, a few teams are waiting for Ismael Valdez to return in hopes that Larry Beinfest might move A.J. Burnett once he has a bit more depth … This space reserved, now that Chris Snelling has been called up. (Sorry, DZ) … Vicente Padilla has one start before he’s DFA’d. Ryan Madson would likely be the man pushed into the rotation, though there’s talk of Gavin Floyd and, surprisingly, Cole Hamels … Mark Loretta is making good progress and should be back in late July. The biggest holdup may be his play in the field, where catching is still causing him some pain.
Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes and comments on my “card” intro last week. Many of you made my day with your e-mails, while Zach and Kerry made my week with a pound of Jamaican Blue Mountain. Be sure to check out BP Radio from this weekend. BP’s Jonah Keri will be taking the mic next week as I head to Dallas for the Pizza Feed (we’ll announce a special guest tomorrow) and Newberg Report Day.