Will Carroll
Friday May 20th, 2011

Aroldis Chapman is creating a whole cottage industry of analysis. He seems such an outlier that even with other 100 mph pitchers, he's another level above that. I asked researcher/writer extraordinaire Dan Wade to dig into the numbers a bit and tell us just how much of an outlier he is. I think we have to understand just how far right on the bell curve that Chapman is before we even begin to understand the impact of biomechanics on his pitching and his career. here's what Dan found:

Since Joel Zumaya last threw a pitch on June 28, 2010, fans in search of prodigious velocity have turned their eyes east of Detroit to the Cuban in the Queen's City. Chapman, he of the tattoo commemorating his 105.1 mph pitch, is sure to unleash a ferocious heater at some point during an outing, or he was until he landed on the disabled list on May 16 with left shoulder inflammation.

For those of us who haven't gotten in the box against someone throwing anything near triple digits, it's hard to imagine how different a pitch like that would be from a pitch in the high 90s. Perhaps this will help: The average fastball so far this season clocks in at 90.9 mph, according to data available on Fangraphs, while Chapman's average fastball is a major league best 97.8. The standard deviation for fastballs is about 2.8 mph, so Chapman clocks in just shy of three standard deviations above the mean. He's above average for being above-average.

While he is the king of Speed Mountain, Chapman isn't the only pitcher making radar gun-watchers do a double take. Henry Rodriguez, Jordan Walden, Joel Hanrahan, Daniel Bard and Jeremy Jeffress are all averaging 97 mph or faster on their fastball. It will be interesting watching the younger players, especially Jeffress and Walden, to see if they can sustain their velocity all season or if, like Chapman, they succumb to injury.

Almost three standard deviations? That's more than even I was expecting and goes from bell curve to power law, a system that Barabasi says requires outliers. My next question is how much velocity, especially at the extremes, affects hitting.

Powered by Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony, on to the injuries:

Hamilton is back a bit early, going against the conservative motif of the Rangers medical staff and the stated plan. A fractured arm is an easy thing to diagnose and monitor using X-rays and other imaging techniques. That made it possible for the Rangers to see that Hamilton's arm had healed up and he was ready to start a rehab assignment. Sources tell me that while Hamilton is at DH, he's not restricted in any way. The hope is that common sense will take over for him, but the Rangers also realize that his all-out style is part of what makes Hamilton so good. Changing anything at this stage might actually increase risk or reduce his effectiveness. Hamilton appears to understand this, given the quotes he gave to the press. Hamilton had a homer and a single in his first game. He's expected to stay with at AA Frisco through the weekend, but it's not clear yet when or if he'll play in the field.

The Red Sox say the symptoms regarding Matsuzaka's elbow injury are "consistent with a UCL sprain." It's a technicality, sure, but the Red Sox aren't saying this is a UCL sprain because they haven't done the imaging necessary to confirm the diagnosis. This might seem a bit strange for a team that's regularly on the cutting edge of sports medicine, but sometimes you don't need to know everything. Matsuzaka's elbow is not at a place where he could pitch, either from a physical or a performance standpoint. An MRI was performed on Matsuzaka, but only after the original diagnosis was given. Matsuzaka and his representatives are considering asking for a second opinion.

Matsuzaka will be shut down for a couple weeks and then start up a throwing program. At some point, the Red Sox are going to have to either throw up their hands and the remaining money on Matsuzaka's deal or just say "do what you did in Japan." It's time to see if there's enough left in him for it to work. Even in the best case, Matsuzaka's gone for a month and probably more.

The Dodgers were leaning against from putting Padilla on the DL according to several published reports, but then Thursday night, they did anyway. It's fair to say that they felt there wasn't any way he was going to be able to continue in the next 10 days since there doesn't appear to be any new information regarding his elbow.

Padilla's situation has consistently been described as one of swelling, not soreness or pain. Padilla has a long history of injuries, but the biggest issue is that Padilla's never been a closer. While the common thinking is that relieving is easier than starting, it's not necessarily the case. The question is whether or not a specific pitcher deals with the workload and recovery. We've seen situations that go both ways in both directions, so oversimplifying things in any specific case is fraught with problems. While the Dodgers continue to think Padilla won't be out long, this situation is a reminder that context is everything and that every case is individual.

I had a chance to discuss the Wright stress fracture with one of the top specialists in the country, Dr. Neel Anand of Cedars-Sinai. While Anand hasn't examined Wright and couldn't discuss the specifics of this case, he could give me some answers to general questions about the condition.

First, I was curious why this was being called a stress fracture, when there was a clear, precipitating event. "That's a great question," Dr. Anand said, "and I certainly would agree that a stress fracture is a misnomer here if there is a clear precipitating event. The name should be reserved to fractures caused by repetitive stress." I also asked if he was a bit surprised the Mets said that Wright would only need 10 days or so of rest. He wasn't: "If there is true edema within the bone and there is direct tenderness in a clinical exam to substantiate the finding, then usually 10 days to two weeks should suffice to calm the symptoms down." All very positive. I asked if Dr. Anand thought there would be any long term issue. Again, no. "Long-term effect should be negligible to none." Mets fans should be very encouraged by this as they wait for Wright's return.

The Cardinals have been touched by injury enough to do things that might seem desperate, like shifting Albert Pujols to 3B. This probably isn't the result the team was hoping for when they shook up their medical staff in the offseason, but it's early. The latest injuries to the OF have the team scrambling again, but it appears that both injuries are relatively minor. Berkman "jammed" his wrist and was unavailable, but images showed no serious damage. The symptoms appear to be consistent with a mild strain, which should clear up quickly but might cost Berkman a bit of power and bat control in the short term.

Holliday has a mild quad strain, which has him out of the lineup as well. He's said to be available to pinch hit, but the Cards are hoping to avoid that, both to keep him rested and to retain a retro DL possibility if necessary. Both are expected back this weekend, but there doesn't seem to be a great deal of confidence about that.

It's not the knees, it's the bat. For Utley, it's going to be results that tell the Phillies when he's ready to come up, and performances like 1-for-4 against A-ball pitchers still don't have them convinced. It might be working against Utley in small ways. "He's getting visibly frustrated," said one NL scout who talked to someone who watched Utley play. (Yes, that's a bit second hand for me, but you take what you get sometimes.)

The worry is twofold. First, Utley pressing might push him to do something that could get him beyond his physical "comfort level", much in the same way that the Rangers worry that Josh Hamilton might dive again. Second, there's some concern that the chronic nature of his knee problem might give them what one physician I speak with calls a "six shooter" problem. "There's only so many bullets in the gun," he'll tell me, asking why teams waste so much of a pitcher's talent on minor league starts. The Phillies seem to have the maintenance of Utley's knees under control, so that's not as much of a concern, but it's something that has to be considered. I doubt Utley's going to be challenged by A-ball for long and a move by the end of the weekend is likely. Whether that's to a higher level or Philly remains to be seen. The ERD shows that I'm betting on the former.

In this article from the Detroit Free Press, there's some interesting discussion of pitching mechanics by Tigers pitching coach Rick Knapp. He's trying to correct some things that he feels will make Benoit more consistent and more effective. The interesting thing is that Benoit is coming out of Tampa, where these kinds of things are clearly noted. What happened that allowed Benoit to get out of those habits and patterns that made him effective, and why didn't Benoit seem to notice? The most likely answer would be conditioning or injury, but we then get directly back to the kinds of biomechanical analysis that most teams, including the Tigers -- a very smart organization in most regards - simply don't use.

Votto is "hobbling." That description isn't enough for me, unless Votto is in a remake of Misery, and shouldn't be enough for you. The Reds refuse to discuss injury specifics in most cases, but that doesn't mean we can't find out more. Votto's running shows that this is clearly a leg problem, which points us to the most likely culprit of a muscular strain. Votto played, despite the hobble, on Thursday and showed less of an issue, which would imply that it's getting better or at the very least responded to treatment. Two advisors -- one a PT, one an athletic trainer -- took a look at some clips, and while they couldn't be sure, both believed it looks like Votto had a calf strain. One said it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that this could be a minor knee injury, such as a small tear of the meniscus, but the Reds would likely be a bit more conservative with something like that. Votto's playing and there's no real change, aside from the running, so it's something to observe.

While some are saying end times are coming this weekend, Nats fans are saying that the time that they've been waiting for is drawing near. Strasburg is close to getting back on a mound, after progressing well through all the phases of his Tommy John rehab. The time frame is neither "early" or "late", though it is clear that the Nats have made no effort at letting him push forward on all but the most conservative of time frames. Getting up on the mound won't change the slow pace that the Nats have him on, so no matter what, he won't be back in Washington for anything other than September, and even then, it's unclear just how much he'll play. As Strasburg gears up, it will be interesting to see how the Nats will handle the minor league portion of the rehab, since those innings count and were essentially wasted last season. With the Nats saying they won't bring Bryce Harper up this year no matter what, the season ticket sales department has to be kicking the wall just a bit, thinking about the showcase that game might have been with the future of the franchise on the field, finally.

The Angels No. 1 pick in 2010 was Cam Bedrosian, son of Steve. He's out for the next year after he snapped his UCL. At just 19, he has plenty of time to come back from this, but it's a reminder of how risky many of the picks in next month's draft are. I don't like to make broad statements, but I would be very hard pressed to ever draft a high school pitcher in the upper rounds of the Rule 4 ... Joe Blanton was scratched and will have another MRI. He could be heading back to the DL. More on him on Monday ... Andrew Bailey will have at least four appearances on his rehab assignment before coming back to Oakland. The only real question left is whether he'll go right back into the ... Jake Peavy had a masterful game on Wednesday, showcasing the efforts of the White Sox medical staff ... Franklin Gutierrez has returned to the Mariners lineup. The doctors feel like they have his IBS under control with medication and diet. If he sticks in the lineup and builds strength, he could be a decent pickup in deep leagues ... All the reasons I worry about Aroldis Chapman hold true for Neftali Feliz as well ... Travis Hafner will have an MRI on Friday and could be headed for the DL ... The whole Indians OF is having trouble. Travis Buck is dealing with turf toe, but it's a maintenance issue, not a DL issue ... Michael Stutes came out of his start on Tuesday with back spasms, but was able to get some work in on Thursday. He could be in line for more starts if healthy with Joe Blanton down ... The Cardinals pushed Nick Punto to the DL with an elbow strain in order to bring up Peter Kozma, their former No. 1 pick, as well as getting a bit of needed roster relief ... Brian Roberts was placed on the 7-day DL, pending league approval. He's experiencing headaches associates with a headfirst slide at first base and had a concussion at the end of last season. This doesn't look like the O's are playing with the rules ... Cesar Izturis will have ulnar nerve transposition surgery and will miss two months ... The idea of a "Harry Potter" magazine is pretty amazing. Imagine a page that automatically gave you the latest Joe Posnanski or Tom Verducci column, along with their Tweets at the side. (Well, we'd need to get Tom tweeting ...) There's no need to imagine since it's coming this summer. Now we just have to convince people that there's room enough in a digital magazine for UTK!

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