Will Carroll
Monday September 19th, 2011

The show Behind The Seams: The Stat Story was on MLB Network Sunday night, and if you recognized a lot of people -- Joe Sheehan, Cory Schwartz and Alan Schwarz among others -- from this column, good. I'm not a stats guy, never was, but I respect the work they do. (I've been a middle ground guy all along.) In the midst of watching the show, the thought struck me about how little front offices have changed in terms of their public face, but how much they have transformed behind the scenes.

Some of the advanced stats were thought of years ago, but it took Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to make crunching all those numbers practical. What is new is that there are statheads in front offices such as Keith Woolner or James Click, and that their input has influence on important baseball decisions. It doesn't take a revolution to listen, and if there's any lesson in Moneyball (book or movie), it's that when the artificial gulf between "baseball man" and "numbers geek" is bridged, a lot of good that can come of it.

As for me,, the hope is that, just like the statheads, the medheads will get a voice as well. It's happening more, but not fast enough despite hundreds of millions of dollars lost to injury just this year. Then again, the fact that there's an advantage there to exploit means someone might just be chasing it. Powered by that glimmer of hope, on to the injuries:

The Red Sox won one of three against the Rays over the weekend, perhaps the one they needed most when Josh Beckett returned to the mound. Beckett's return from his capsular sprain went relatively well. I asked Eric Seidman of Fangraphs to take a look at the PitchFX data. He compared this post-injury start to his previous ones and didn't see much difference. Seidman noted a bit less movement on his cutter, but that could be rust. If Beckett can be the anchor they badly need right now, it's a big win for the medical staff in recognizing a very unusual problem and getting him back well before expectations.

Despite the good news from Beckett, injuries are weighing on the team. Youkilis is still struggling with his hip/hernia combo. Toughness is one of those qualities that's a good thing up to a point and then becomes a problem. Youkilis is dancing on that line, but knowing whether he's helping or hurting the team on any given day (or inning, with deeper rosters in effect) is a big task for the medical staff and for Terry Francona. And now comes a report that Gonzalez's shoulder is weaker after surgery. Ken Rosenthal is one of the best in the business, but this one doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Gonzalez rehabbed well and showed good power early in the season, when there was more of a likelihood of weakness and inflammation. The labrum surgery he had shouldn't be showing any problems, but there are often other issues. If the doctors also cleaned up spurs, those may be recurring or there may be some kind of permanent issue. It's one to watch, though, considering how high he'll go in next year's fantasy drafts.

Price is lucky. After taking a line drive to the chest off the bat of Boston's Mike Aviles Sunday, he's got a nasty bruise. A few inches over, though, and Price may have become among those players whose hearts have stopped after being hit. A couple inches up and his neck could have been crushed, or his face could have been smashed. Of course, it's also true that if the ball travels a little to the third base side and it whistles by. There's protective equipment out there and Price -- or any pitcher -- could elect to wear it. Until they do, I'll keep writing reminding everyone how close players can come to disaster.

The last time the Twins were this bad, they ended up with Joe Mauer. They can only hope whoever is there at the No. 2 slot next June is half as good. Sure, Mauer's '11 season has been a mess, but it's hard to call him a bad pick. The downside for the Twins is that their expensive core is fragile, whether it's Mauer at catcher, Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan on the mound, or Morneau at first. Morneau has been solid, but he also has been injury prone in the minors. Once he got to the majors, Morneau was largely healthy for a time. Morneau's career is a little like an Oreo, in which the health was the filling and GMs those kids who suck out the filling and don't even like the cookie part. Morneau's season is over because of the recurrence of his concussion symptoms and the team's record. They'll watch him closely over the offseason, knowing this kind of recurrence can end careers.

I won't list "concussion" here, though getting hit hard enough to be knocked down is enough to meet the definition. (You too, Victor Ortiz.) Reynolds got plugged in the head and whether it was intentional or not, he has to deal with the consequences. For now, it appears he escaped the worst, but we've seen too many other situations change. With that, here is a simple suggestion for Joe Torre and Joe Garagiola Jr.: any pitch that hits a batter above the shoulder, intentional or not, results in an immediate ejection. If it's intentional, the pitcher shouldn't be in there; if it wasn't, his control is enough of an issue to get him out anyway. Pitching inside is fine, hitting a batter is tolerated, but dangerous "bean balls" should be eradicated from the game.

The Braves can't send Hanson to the minors to do a rehab start, but there are instructional leagues going. For Atlanta, that's just a short trip down to Orlando. It's been a while since Hanson was there despite the fact that it feels like he shot through the Atlanta system. It was 2005, just after he was drafted (in the 22nd round!) and he dominated, just like he did every level. The assignment likely won't be much of a challenge for him, but it will give him the right "look." Why simulated games and low-level games make as much of a difference as some teams think they do is a mystery to me. The practice seems one of those "we've always done it this way" things that will be tough to do any sort of study on, because who's going to be a control group? Hanson is scheduled to make one start before the playoffs, but the Braves still sound a bit nervous about him in the short term. With their depth and bullpen, they could combine Hanson with someone like Jair Jurrjens or Mike Minor for a 3/3 combo before the pen takes over.

The Beard is back. Wilson returned from the DL quickly, pitching in the eighth inning of his first game back. He had his normal stuff and things look good, but some questioned the value of his return. Fact is, Wilson wanted to come back and there was no medical reason not to. With all the talk about "rushing people" and high tech imaging and pitch counts, sometimes it's just as simple as "Brian's arm feels good and he wants to pitch." Behind the scenes -- and we got the tiniest glimpse of this in The Franchise -- medical people are watching to make sure that setbacks are avoided and that the athlete isn't put into situations where sore can become pain. Wilson's a pitcher for whom confidence is everything and his one weak point might be that elbow, once repaired with Tommy John and now just outside of that honeymoon period.

Gonzalez was shifted to RF in order to keep him safer. I'm not really sure why the Rockies think right is safer than left, but they have their reasons. Unfortunately, it didn't work. Gonzalez injured -- or re-injured -- his wrist by running into the wall. He's been good when healthy, but the sheer number and recurrence of his injuries have to be worrisome to the Rockies and to fantasy owners considering drafting him high next year. The Rockies will hold him out for a few days, but sources tell me there's no discussion of shutting him down. The longer term and more important concern about this recurrent injury becoming chronic. The downside case here is Rickie Weeks, who struggled with wrist injuries for a couple seasons before finally overcoming them.

Ryan Howard will miss a couple games after getting an anti-inflammatory injection for his foot/ankle issue. The worry here is that he'll have some recurrence during the playoffs. Rest doesn't really help, but the Phillies will be using the next 10 days to figure out how to best manage it ... The Mets have ruled out a start for Johan Santana. He'll continue working with the staff in Florida ... Logan Morrison remained out through the weekend, but is expected back on Monday. ... Dontrelle Willis was scratched Sunday with back spasms ... Erik Bedard will start on Tuesday. At this point, the Red Sox will take whatever they can get pitching wise, but I still think they'd be better off throwing pen games instead of bottom-shelf starters ... Stephen Strasburg looked efficient again in his third start. If this kind of Roy Halladay channeling sticks around, he's going to be better and healthier. He's likely to make one more start ... Jonathan Sanchez will throw from a mound on Monday. If it goes well, he could be back in the pen by the weekend, but he won't start again this season ... Carlos Carrasco had Tommy John surgery and will miss most, if not all, of 2012 ... The M's will be very cautious with Justin Smoak after he suffered a significant groin strain last week. Sources tell me he'd be on the DL if this were mid-season and is unlikely to return this season ... Jason Kubel isn't being shut down, but he'll only be used in emergency situations. So ... he's pretty much shut down ... I do not like this weird schedule, which made the first and last week of the season "extended." With fantasy such a big part of the sports business landscape, the commissioner should be thinking about things like this. Actually, here's a big question -- who advises the commissioner about fantasy's part in the game's success?

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.