Whether the matter's under the knife or live off the wire, you'll want to talk about it with BP's Will Carroll.
Will Carroll: Greetings all ... first chat for me in 2010 and there's already excitement here. BPR news up today on Unfiltered, THR's in process and beginning next week, and look ma! no glasses! My second article in the LASIK series is up now, I see. So I have my coffee, my eyedrops, and the next 90 minutes or so to chat. Couple notes -- standard rules apply, I can't answer PECOTA questions because frankly, I can't do math, and I'm sick of talking about Dwight Freeney.
Greg27 (St. Louis): A lot of rumors that Felipe Lopez is heading to the Cards, what are you hearing? Is he a guy you'd target as number 1 or two hole guy to hit ahead of Albert and Matt? thanks.
Will Carroll: Haven't been following that one, but makes some sense. I shouldn't start a chat with something that BP can't do, but one of those (few) things is understand the dynamics of a clubhouse. I've had several people in baseball go out of their way to say bad things about Lopez, so no matter what he can do on the field, he's seen as a negative by many. Is Tony La Russa the guy to change that or at least manage it? I don't know, seems like he has enough distractions already, but the relationship of manager to players is fascinating and one of the things I love seeing yet don't see enough from with my beat writer friends.
medeaschild (LA): Do you have any comments on the below:
Pitching mechanics analysis has changed since Prior came along. And I wonder if
the people who endorsed him as having perfect mechanics knew what they were
talking about. I'm not a mechanics expert, but I've interacted with quite a few. They aren't witches. And there have been internet pitching mechanics analysts who disappear from the internet because MLB teams hire them.
Lincoln Hamilton has spent a ton of time analyzing pitching mechanics. He's made some gutsy calls that ended up being spot-on, too. Here's what he had to say about Strasburg's mechanics in a scouting report he wrote for us earlier this off-season:
"Strasburg "picks the ball up" with his elbow, instead of having the ball above
the elbow early in the windup, this creates some potentially serious timing
problems. At foot plant, Strasburg's pitching forearm is nearly horizontal with the ball and his elbow both at shoulder height. (Ideally the ball should be in the drive line at this point and the body applying force on the ball towards home plate. Not applying force towards home plate at this point means that extra forces are
applied inside the arm, as the rest of the arm is forced to play "catch up" in
order for the ball to be projected towards home. In pitching, extra forces and extra stresses mean injuries.) At this point Strasburg also brings both elbows well behind his back in a rather extreme example of scapular loading. This places a lot of stress on smaller, weaker muscles in the upper back and
shoulder. The other thing with Strasburg is the harder a guy throws, the more stress he tends to put on his muscles and joints. That same 113 MPH fastball that causes journalists to drool may be the one that keeps Strasburg from having an extended
I don't see Strasburg pitching more than two full, healthy seasons in the bigs before he gets hurt.
Will Carroll: I don't know Hamilton or what he's basing it on, or "113 mph" ish, so I'll refrain from comment. I will say that those loads and stress he's talking about are flat out unknowns. Unknown. I don't know them, he doesn't know them, the Nats probably don't know them, and it would surprise me if data junkie Scott Boras knew them. Has Strasburg been tested? Not that I'm aware and my guess is he'd have been at Children's in San Diego for that. There's some new technology out there that might help us get this kind of data without having to go to Birmingham and I'm *insanely* excited about what we'll get from that.
All that said, I was one who bought into the "perfect mechanics" of Prior (and still do, to an extent.) I'm never going to fall in love again ... err, make that same mistake again. Strasburg, like many young pitchers, is very risky. His power makes him even more risky. How the Nats handle him will be a very tricky tightrope between ticket sales and pitching best practices that don't have results.
Counting down the days (Columbia, CT): I've read that the Red Sox asked Jason Bay to have knee surgery as a condition in their contract proposal before he had any symptoms. Is this true? If so, what did they see and how common is this in MLB?
Will Carroll: Peter Gammons reported this, though I have no first-hand knowledge of this. It's not uncommon that a team will advise surgery for conditions. That's what a team doctor is there for, to advise.
ericmilburn (San Francisco): Will, which young hurlers are you most concerned about, with regards to the Verducci effect and/or their general injury risk?
Will Carroll: You know, I honestly haven't looked at the full list. So many people have picked up on the Verducci effect that I'm sure there's a list out there. Matt Swartz had an idea on how to do a better study to see just how big a deal the Effect is, but with all the projects going on, it was pushed down the list. It's something I really want to get to. For workload issues, I'm worried a lot about the A's youngsters and O's youngsters. They're good and if they start the season in the rotation, they'll be pushing those hurdles. The A's may have the depth to swap guys out, but the O's don't.
MrOrange (CA): Thanks for the chat, Will. Fill in the blank: Justin Morneau will start ___ games this year and put up a line of ___/___/___.
Will Carroll: You have mistaken me for PECOTA. Don't worry, I get that a lot. No idea on the line, but I think 140 games is a pretty solid goal. With Thome there, I worry that DH isn't a possibility, especially with Kubel needing some time there. Gardenhire's going to have to really mix and match to maximize this lineup, especially in April.
dantroy (davis): Are the various issues that afflicted Grady Sizemore in 2009 likely to linger?
Will Carroll: If you are in one of my fantasy leagues, yes. Sizemore is coming off two surgeries, so stay away!
If you are not, then no ... two minor surgeries that shouldn't have any effect on his season. A healthy Sizemore, ready on Day 1 of Spring Training with the energy that Manny Acta is going to bring to that team is something I want on my team.
Colts fan (Indy): Football question, what do we expect from Freeney?
How different is dealing with an NFL team? Are they less or more forthcoming with information?
Will Carroll: He'll play. Mark it down. Dan Dakich is sure of it and he's got good sources. He'll be limited on passing downs, but hey, that's what he's been doing half the season. I'm very curious about what kind of PR game they're playing by having Freeney walk around with the ankle exposed to cameras at media day.
NFL teams flat out lie. The Colts are maybe the worst of the bunch. I much prefer the teams that just don't say anything like the Pats. You have to work a bit to get info and you won't get it all, but you know the rules of the game there.
Todd (DC): Do you have an ETA for when you will be releasing the team health reports matrix?
Will Carroll: Friday. I'm 95% sure it will be Friday. The THR's begin on Monday, so no later than Monday.
thegame92797 (NY, NY): Wil,
What were your initial thoughts when you read JJ Putz's comments regarding not getting a physical upon his trade to the Mets? Is it standard procedure for teams to ensure they aren't getting damaged goods or are the Mets just that boneheaded?
Will Carroll: Two "L's". It didn't surprise me a lot. First, what is Putz calling a physical? Did he not get all the tests or have the doctor make him cough? That's what a lot of people think of as a physical. For a guy like Putz, or really any pitcher, there's a concern about one area. Do you need your doctor's hands on him or do you need the MRI to see what's going on? Opinions differ from team to team and doctor to doctor. Did the Mets do enough? Dunno. Did he pitch in the WBC with that elbow? Yep.
CTLawGrad (CT): How serious are Tanner Scheppers' arm issues? Is he a pitcher that will have an especially short shelf life?
Will Carroll: Serious enough that the Pirates didn't sign him and that a lot of teams for two years running had him "red flagged" in the draft, meaning their medical staff would not sign off on drafting him. Maybe he breaks down tomorrow, maybe in ten years, but I could say that about a lot of pitchers. The Rangers thought he was a reasonable gamble, especially given their situation with Purke. I think a rush through the system as with BJ Ryan gives us the upside potential.
dianagramr (NYC): Have you picked a winner for the renaming of the Team Health Reports?
Will Carroll: Oh yeah -- I really liked a lot of them, but the winner is Braden23 with his "PIPP" - Player Injury Probability Pages. Since the THR's will remain THR's, but the underlying system is now PIPP, we'll have to work on that last P. Braden23 should email me so I can give him access to the spreadsheet early.
Matt (Chicago): Do you buy the Cubs' version of Ted Lilly's shoulder surgery as basically a "cleanup"? If that is indeed the case, I would think he comes back stronger this year after gradually losing a bit of velocity over the past couple of years.
Will Carroll: Buy it? Eh, that's what it was. Clean up some fraying, wash out the bits floating around. There was nothing structural and he's throwing. Pick up velocity? No, maybe a bit, but since he's likely not 100% by Opening Day, I think it won't look like it. He's aging, but lefty, so it all evens out.
Scott (DC): I'm trying to get a handle on the Reds' signing of Cabrera. How much value, if any, does durability add to a player like that? That is, theoretically being able to pencil him in for 150+ games.
Will Carroll: He's good defensively -- or at least that's his reputation. I still don't have a defensive stat I trust (or understand) that I'll hang something on. Durability is huge for the Reds. I'm beginning to wonder if that section of the GAP is cursed. A whole ton of injuries there over the past couple years. Cabrera's better than Paul Janish and not that expensive, so a nice little signing for Jocketty, I think.
Traffic Cop (THRland): I am going to keep just one of Carpenter, Sheets and Harden which light flashes reddest among them? Or better yet, which one would you keep?
Will Carroll: Carpenter by far. I like Harden, don't have high hopes for Sheets, but cmon, Carpenter was the fourth best pitcher in baseball last season *wink*.
Bill (New Mexico): "Player Injury Probability Predictor" seems easy enough. Braden23 is a genius.
Will Carroll: Player Injury Probability Projections works for me. Sold.
BeplerP (New York, New york): Will: Thanks for the chat. Because so much of the Mets Mess in 2009 was (in my unshakable opinion) due to poor conditioning, a hit or miss training effort, curiously detached medical oversight and advice, really poor player outreach, etc., have the Mets made any effort to correct this?
Will Carroll: I'm not going to argue that anything went well, but don't discount luck here. I know, that sounds like a copout, but not everything is controllable. Bad things happen. I would look at the Mets longer-term injury history and expect a big regression towards their historical levels, which would mean - just on health - about four games.
Jim Vanasek (New York): Will,
Have any baseball teams developed standardized monitoring of physical tests (like measuring jumping height, for example) which can predict when a player might be more susceptable to an injury and thus rested similar to what Arsene Wenger and his staff developed for Arsenal football club? If not, do you think it could be done?
- Jim -
Will Carroll: You're mistaking Arsenal for AC Milan. The Milan Lab has done some amazing work that's been adopted out. Wenger's an economist by training, so he's always been a bit ahead of the curve. The money in soccer is stunning and is one of the most fertile areas for physical advances around. As for baseball, no, they're way, way behind soccer. No team has anything approaching what EVERY SINGLE EPL team has for physical research and I can't imagine a team that would go full-on Milan Lab. For an industry that lost $250 million to just pitching injuries last year, you'd think one team would spend a couple million on research and prevention.
mketchen (Boston): Will,
Have you used pitch f/x data at all to see if you can forecast an injury with it?
Will Carroll: Eric Seidman has. If you're an official with a baseball team, I'd be happy to discuss it more. You know how to find me. I do think you'll be seeing more of this type of data-driven stuff coming to UTK in the next few years.
JimmyJack (Issaquah, WA): Hi Will,
I always call the "THR's" the "WIL's" as in Will's Injury List. I'd call them the "BIL's" if you went by Bill. OK, can't just comment with no question: any books on horizon (BP or solo)?
Thank for the chat!
Will Carroll: I'm going to take this opportunity to shill for the Carroll Guide to Sports Injuries. It's available now in electronic or paperback form at FootballOutsiders.com's store. If you have a child who's getting ready for Little League or scholastic sports, spent a couple bucks and have this around. It really could make a difference. I'd love to see coaches have it handy as well, since most teams don't have an ATC available at all practices, if at all.
mketchen (Boston): Did the Red Sox not spend on a program with Dr.James Andrews to help prevent arm injuries?
Will Carroll: They sent pitchers to ASMI, as several teams did, as well as hiring Mike Reinold, who'd been a lead researcher there. That's about as much commitment as we've seen. Less than ten teams have used ASMI or similar facilities for their pitchers. Only two teams have their own facilities. Heck, Boras has a better facility for his players than most teams.
David (NJ): Any word on Jose Reyes and his rehab? NY Post reports he's working out at the Professional Athletic Performance Center and ran 90 feet on the track in 3.53 seconds. Is there any hope for Mets fans that we will get back the Jose Reyes from the previous 4 seasons?
Will Carroll: All the reports have been positive. That they're letting the press watch is a big indicator that they feel he's doing well. He came back from this once before -- the hamstring strain, not the sprain that required surgery -- so there's definitely hope.
ericmilburn (San Francisco): Thanks for answering my question regarding the Verducci effect. If Matt is doing a study, I'd also be interested to finally have someone quantify the effect of minor league innings. At the moment, it seems like a poorly understood area of workload effect.
Will Carroll: See that's part that's always bothered me, but over the last couple years, talking to the guys who try to develop pitchers - minor league coaches, pitching coordinators, scouting heads - I've learned that it's not the quantity of the innings, but the quality. Is he facing a bunch of organizational guys or is he facing real prospects? Was he on a bus all day before his start or did they fly? Is he keeping up with his conditioning program or is he eating Cheetos and chasing chicks? You'd have to almost do it by hand to say "oh he faced two Five Star guys and one Four Star ..." and that's something I just can't do. If someone's really ambitious, there's your blog idea. The guys at Newberg Report (Scott Lewis) do something kind of like this, if you follow along, so there's something to shoot for.
AJ (Athens): You think Tim Hudson bounces back to old form? Braves' hopes could hinge on it.
Will Carroll: Yeah, if you apply the aging curve to him. No reason to think Tommy John is any different on him than anyone else. Remember, this guy had a LOT of mechanical questions coming out of Auburn and he held up ok.
Zooey (LA): When should we expect to see MLB copy the NHL and start calling injuries simply upper body or lower body injury?
Will Carroll: Ha, they could try, I guess. The NHL does it because an injury is targetted by the opposition and even then, it's not hard to get the info. If I had the time to do UTK for Puck Prospectus, it'd look no different than it does here or at Football Outsiders.
Drew (GA): Isn't the Verducci Rule just a lazy way of saying that young pitchers get hurt or regress? Obviously guys who are good enough to get big innings at a young age have a good chance of regressing the next year. And injury is a risk for any young arm, no matter the innings. The more that phase catches on the more it bugs me. It has no meaning. And it seems the results bear that out.
That said... does Josh Johnson hold up in 2010?
Will Carroll: No. It says that there's a very defined level of workload increase that a pitcher can handle when they are young. If I wanted to help you, Drew, bench press 300 pounds so that the bullies will quit kicking sand in your face, I'm not going to start you off with 300 pounds on the bar. We'd start low - you're a manly looking guy, Drew, so why not 150? We'll work our way up and in no time at all, you'll be at 180. Give it enough time and effort and you'll get to 300. That's how progressive restistance works, people, and NO ONE argues it. Why is pitching any different?
Yeah, I think so, if "hold up" means he's only a slightly above average risk. Yeah, he's a yellow. I leaked it.
Southcoast57 (Houston): Hi Will,
Can you give an update on Edinson Volquez and how you think he will do this season and beyond?
Will Carroll: Typical TJ rehab, likely to be pitching around the ASB and back in Cincy by August. I'm not sure of the role, but the back end of the Reds rotation won't hold him back.
(OK, little break here for eyedrops.)
Bill (NYC): Assuming they keep Joba in rotation, is there a way to build Hughes' innings up from the pen? Say 100-130, so next year he could join the rotation?
Will Carroll: Yeah, turn him into a 2-inning guy. Is there ANY reason this can't be done? Heck, turn him into the 2010 Mike Marshall. Tandem him with Joba Chamberlain. What if you could get 150 innings from each? Baseball is more concerned with role than value right now and it's kcufing things up.
kcboomer (KC): Have you heard anything on how Gil Meche is recovering from being ridden like a rented mule?? Have the Royals upgraded their medical staff with the recent changes??
Will Carroll: He's signed for how many more years in KC? 2? I don't know, it's not like the Royals are contending. I'd deal him the second he looked healthy. And yes, the Royals made a massive upgrade with their staff.
robertcfox (Washington DC): re: Progressive Resistance, I'd say there is a pretty significant difference. Your bench press story seems analogous to telling a pitcher "today throw 90 mph, next week throw 91 mph, in no time you'll be breaking 100!", or "this start you go 95 pitches, next time 98 pitches, in no time you'll be throwing 15-inning CGs". Innings PER YEAR seems very different, in my mind. No disrespect intended.
Will Carroll: The latter, more or less. I think velocity is much less changeable and at the major league level is more indicative of health/fatigue than efficiency. Look, not everyone will bench 300 and not everyone will become Livan Hernandez. Maybe some pitchers can only go 80 pitches. Maybe 1 will go 160 and not have an issue. Thing is, we don't know now. We guess. We tell them "here's the ball, good luck, I'll watch out for you when the clicker hits 100." I'm looking for a system that tells us "this is how many they can go and recover to do it again."
Marissa (New York): The Red Sox and Yankees being World Series contenders every season, good or bad for the overall health of baseball?
Will Carroll: Ask TV execs. Ask merchandise salesmen. Ask teams collecting revenue sharing checks. Not to go back to soccer again, but the dominance there is ridiculous. Most teams don't have a hope in heck of winning the Prem. Even a team willing to lose $100m a year is struggling to crack the "Big Four". Was baseball in the Fifties damaged because the Yankees won every year? Are the Cubs financially worse off without ever winning it all?
ErikJH (Washington DC): What do you make of Liriano's dominating performance in the Dominican Winter Leagues? Is is it plausible for a TJ surgery recoveree to have a significant boost in performance so long after he's returned to pitching?
Will Carroll: Whoa ... you're connecting two things that might not be connected. Once you're back from TJ, you're back. I think Liriano was messed up mechanically and mentally (I mean that in a nice way) and it's taken him a while and a lot of work to get it all back in line. We'll see if he can carry a very promising Winter into Spring Training and beyond ... and what the cost of those innings are.
Swingingbunts (NY): Hi Will, last year you predicted a break-out year for Edwin Jackson and my fantasy team thanks you for that. Is there anyone you want to tell us about this year?
Will Carroll: I did? I rule. (Dumb luck.)
I like Daisuke Matsuzaka, but that won't surprise anyone. I like Jake Westbrook's chances. If I have to go total sleeper, I'll say Manny Parra.
ashitaka (long beach, ca): I know you're sharp with pitching mechanics, what about swing mechanics? Jake Fox's swing looks like a bad golf swing.
Will Carroll: Nope, it's something I'd love to learn more about. If you ever saw my swing, you'd realize there's a lot of learning left to do.
Brandon (Charleston, WV): What are your thoughts on the 2010 Reds? Any chance they contend in 2010?
Will Carroll: No. I think PECOTA is dead wrong on that team. The division isn't great, so it could be like a couple years ago where they "stay in it" but they'll need Stubbs to establish himself, for Jay Bruce to be a real star rather than pretty good, and Joey Votto to take the next step. They're counting on Scott Rolen and a Dusty Baker pitching staff to stay healthy so ...
dantroy (Davis): How's BJ Upton's shoulder? Should we expect some restoration of his power?
Will Carroll: Is this from last year's question batch?
Wendy (Madrid): Any idea on how much longer Mauer will be a catcher? Or where he will be moved? He's athletic enough to play 3rd or Corner outfield, correct? He doesn't have to be moved to 1st (hopefully).
Will Carroll: We had a discussion about this amongst ourselves -- maybe it will be a roundtable. I know Mauer wants to catch and the Twins have always resisted moving him, even a bit. Maybe he follows a Joe Torre pattern, starting to transition to 1B/3B ... but Mauer is much, much more athletic, not to mention 1B is blocked. Some have mention Johnny Bench, who is a better physical comp (not as tall or athletic, but freakishly strong and huuuuuge hands), but he played all over the place - including CF on occasion! I think it will take a significant injury to move him.
One more comp -- athletic, tall (6'3) catcher who stayed behind the plate his entire, long career despite his defense and could hit a little bit? Mike Piazza.
Maggie (DC): Let's talk Posada for a moment. The depth charts don't think he's going to be playing that much this year (60%!). How's his shoulder?
Will Carroll: Yeah ... I think with his age and history, that PECOTA is anticipating an injury. I'm a bit surprised that we don't see 60 catching, 20 at DH or 1B. Part of the rationale of not bringing back Matsui was to open up DH, but then Nick Johnson fell into their lap. Even so, let's assume that Posada who couldn't catch would be at least a half-time DH.
scott (chicago): Though they haven't had much luck with Carlos Quentin, do you think Herm Schneider and his team will be able to keep Peavy healthy for 200+ innings? He looked superb in his last three starts of '09 and I salivate of having him, Floyd, Danks, Buehrle, and Hudson for all of 2010...
Will Carroll: Yeah, it shold be interesting. The ChiSox THR is one everyone's going to want to see ...
Will Carroll: Thanks for all the questions. Lots to do still on the THRs and some other behind the scenes goings on, so I'm done for today, but we'll do this again real soon.