Moneyball was about finding an edge, an advantage, something that the other teams valued incorrectly, and exploiting that advantage. The financial term is arbitrage, something that every fantasy player understands implicitly. We're all trying to find the undervalued player or at least getting a player for proper value. That can be finding a $1 Jose Bautista or paying $45 for Albert Pujols and seeing him rack up $55 in performance. So if we're doing it in fantasy, are teams? Of course they are, but in varying degrees.
The Athletics under Billy Beane, Paul DePodesta, and now David Forst are the pioneers of the modern method, but that advantage has slipped. I wondered if every team had a quantitative or research-oriented staff and asked around. While some are open about having a data guy -- Cleveland with Keith Woolner, Pittsburgh with Dan Fox, Boston with Tom Tippett, the Rays with James Click and a cast of thousands -- some are less open or might not even have one. So I'm asking you -- who is your team's "smart guy?" Let me know via e-mail or Twitter (@injuryexpert) and I'll put up the full list next week.
Powered by a lack of triskadekaphobia, on to the injuries:
The New York Times did a great investigation into the procedure that Colon had last winter, involving adult stem cells and the injection of fat -- yeah, the jokes are easy -- into Colon's injured elbow, which evidently gave him improvement. I say "evidently" not to denigrate the procedure, but in the article, Colon's doctor called his 95 mph fastball a "miracle." I'm a bit less excited, since Colon has always possessed this. It's like the so-called jump after Tommy John surgery, something of an illusion as a player goes from injured to healthy. Guys run faster after knee surgery, compared to when they were injured, but we don't talk about that.
Colon's procedure was completely legal and doesn't appear to even walk any ethical lines. The use of stem cells, the avoidance of HGH (which would have necessitated a waiver if used medically), and rest seem little different than platelet rich plasma, which is being used more and more in sport. The question now is whether pitchers seeking that one last chance will flock to this doctor if Colon holds up this season.
But that raises another question that hasn't been answered yet: what was the surgery?
Injections of stem cells and other similar (and I'll say again, legal and not banned) substances don't require surgery. Did Colon's doctor, an orthopedic surgeon, also perform more standard repairs on his damaged elbow and shoulder? Moreover, this surgery took place in April of 2010. Given that, his recovery time wasn't stellar, depending on what was done. Until we know the complete story, we have no way of knowing whether the additional injections had any effect whatsoever. Then again, these are questions that pitchers with sore arms and one more shot at the major leagues probably won't ask.
If there's any good news from Sizemore's injury, it's that it's not the left knee. That's the one that needed microfracture surgery. I'm not sure if Sizemore consciously slides with his right knee forward or if it's been coached but it's a good thing either way. (If photos are any evidence, the few pictures I see of are mostly with the right foot out.) The team will understandably be cautious with him, but the images showed nothing more than an internal bruise. The Indians will make sure he's comfortable and running normally, so as not to cause a cascade of any kind. This kind of caution is great in the long term, but could create some absences of a few days here and there, like we'll see here. He could be back as soon as Friday, but don't be surprised if he rests a few extra days.
The Angels finally have an answer as to why Morales hasn't made as much progress as they felt necessary for a return. Morales developed a "thick pad" of scar tissue in the repaired area. It was creating a good deal of discomfort and raises an issue that hasn't really been addressed -- was the move to the DL necessary?
Morales could hit, but not run well. Not "not run," but "not run well." There's an open question about how effective he could have been or if Morales was willing to play through the significant discomfort. Morales isn't a speed player, and the Angels do have an open DH slot. We'll never know for sure whether this move was absolutely necessary, because the surgery will take Morales out for six months. The freakish injury that came as part of a celebration has now cost Morales the better part of two seasons of his career.
Heyward never played football, which eliminates one suspect from the list of culprits at the heart of his shoulder issue. Heyward's symptoms -- pain, numbness and tingling and weakness -- match up with a brachial plexus injury, one like the "stingers" we often see in football. Or it could be one of a number of other issues.
Many will note this same set of symptoms applied to Phil Hughes, which is true. There have been cases where thoracic outlet syndrome has been found in position players, but reports that Heyward is suffering from this are early at best, speculative at worst.
He's headed for tests and imaging, so we'll have to wait and see. Early word is there's no structural damage, but that there's some swelling that's impinging the nerve as it goes through the shoulder. It should respond to anti-inflammatories in the short term, though there's a possibility that he made need something more permanent if it recurs. It is a chance for many to take a run at stealing Heyward away from another fantasy owner if they're panicking.
Mike Quade summed up why Soto had to go on the DL with his groin strain: "It's a tough place to be, squatting, when your groin's bad." I can't disagree, Mike. Soto's groin strain didn't look so bad on an MRI, leading the team to think he'll be back at the minimum, though again, it's very tough to tell how the injury will go and how it will respond to catching. The Cubs could shift Soto to 1B in the short term, giving Carlos Pena a bit of a break if it's needed. From a fantasy perspective, Soto should be fine to put back in your lineup as soon as he's back in the Cubs'. It's not like you drafted him for his speed.
Being compared to Johan Santana is usually a good thing for a young pitcher. For Braden, it's the last thing he wants, because the comparison is for an injury to his pitching shoulder. Braden has a torn capsule in his shoulder, one that comes in an identical location as Santana's and one that will require an identical surgical fix and rehab. Braden even got the confirming opinion from Dr. David Altcheck, who did Santana's surgery. Some asked whether Braden's no-hitter might be to blame, which makes sense given the stress of no-hitters that we've discussed here before. But looking at his game log, it's difficult to place blame on the no-hitter. Braden had several solid starts after his big day, showing both stuff and stamina. The surgery will cost him the rest of '11 and possibly into '12. The 10- to 12- month rehab could cost him spring training, which would put him behind and make it appear as if he was at the long end of the rehab.
The Dodgers placed Kuo on the DL in a mysterious manner. The reason it was mysterious was privacy. Matters like anxiety disorder -- what the Dodgers later clarified Kuo's condition to be -- have a different methodology, involving a team's Employee Assistance Program, which has even higher privacy standards. That's smart, and as someone who does this column because of an anxiety disorder (I started UTK while I was essentially housebound by panic attacks), I can understand the severity. Sources told the Los Angeles Times that Kuo's problem is less panic or anxiety and more like "the yips" that golfers suffer with. In baseball, we've seen similar issues with throwing, most notably players like Chuck Knoblauch and Mackie Sasser. For a pitcher, that's a big deal, and Kuo will be out for an indeterminate amount of time while he works to correct the situation. If there's any positive, Kuo has dealt with this before and come back.
The Phillies are once again well represented in UTK as they have so many injuries to deal with. Schneider was placed on the DL with a strained hamstring, in part to open up a slot for Ruiz. It wasn't the planned way of getting Ruiz back, but the retro DL move looks like genius now. We have to give credit to everyone -- front office, medical staff, and Charlie Manuel -- for handling this. Ruiz will be activated Friday and thrown right back into the full-time role. The team doesn't seem to have much confidence in Dane Sardinha for more than the occasional start, which could put some stress on Ruiz as long as Schneider is out. That gives me some pause, though the conservative nature of the Phillies medical staff makes me feel a bit better.
In their rotation, the Phillies think Blanton will be ready to go despite some "barking" in his elbow after his first start back. They'll shadow him and look to get him out early to protect him, which could reduce his value. Having pitchers like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee following Blanton allows Manuel to burn his pen a bit more to protect Blanton.
Down in Clearwater, the Palm Beach Cardinals must have thought they made the big leagues. They faced a lineup that included Utley, Ruiz, and had Oswalt on the mound. Utley played the field for five innings and had a HR, another solid outing. He's expected to play the field again tomorrow, testing his response to day-after-day play. So far, things are going better than expected. Oswalt looked solid, going five innings and using all his pitches. He was hittable, mostly because he was working on things rather than focusing solely on outs, but his seven strikeouts showed that he wasn't too challenged.
Tiger Woods has re-strained his Achilles, according to sources. Yeah, I've got golf sources, too ... I've said it before, but after a three-homer day, I'll say it again -- the Mets medical staff has been masterful with Carlos Beltran ... Jake Peavy had a very solid first start back for the White Sox. He showed no issues during the game or after ... Robinson Cano was back in the Yankees lineup after a knock to the head. He was pulled and checked, according to MLB's new policy, so it's working as designed ... Logan Morrison is expected to be activated on Friday, the minimum after a sprained foot that looked very serious at the outset ... Kevin Frandsen was suspended 50 games for a positive stimulant test. Had he been on an MLB 40-man roster, he would not have been suspended due to the differing minor and major league policies. Frandsen tested positive for Ritalin and did not have a waiver for medical use ... Delmon Young will be activated on Friday, assuming no setback during his last rehab game ... I got into this business because of Rick Wilton. He's on the DL right now, but I hope he'll be back in his slot at BaseballHQ.com soon. Help him by helping yourself, guys.