Under The Knife: Red Sox, Braves forced to dig deep into rotations
I'm an "injury guy," as Sammy Sosa once called me. I probably overvalue availability. In light of increasing debates about the term "value," the wider adoption of stats like WAR, and consistency, the ability of a player to play is of interest.
Take Dan Uggla, he of the terrible first half and the solid second half. I asked some of the best baseball minds inside and outside the game to imagine a player -- I called him Bobby Bipolar -- who would either go 2-for-4 with some pop or 0-for-4 with some bad strikeouts. They wouldn't be predictable, but they would be equal. In theory, Bobby's going to end the season with a .250 average, a low OBP and a slugging percentage that wouldn't carry anything unless he was a plus defender up the middle. Would he be as valuable as a guy who had a more "normal" shape to his season?
On a pure statistical basis, the answer is yes. Of those informally polled, those inside the game valued consistency more than those on the outside. Tom Tango, a widely-cited sabermetrician, didn't believe that Bobby Bipolar could be consistent enough to show any increased value. An assistant GM said that he would always pick the player that was more consistent. "I'd give up a little bit for predictability, but I'd give up more to know that the guy was never going to slump or at least not for long." Jon Sciambi, one of ESPN's baseball announcers, was right in the middle, saying "It probably affects how he's perceived" but wouldn't affect his real value.
No definitive answer seems apparent, but it's a question I think needs to be asked. If you have an idea on this, e-mail me and I'll get it in here on Friday. Powered by the
The Red Sox already have one famous ankle. They don't really want another. Beckett was pitching to Brett Lawrie when he had a pain that he said was "like nothing he had felt before." That may sound bad, but there are a lot of ways that can be taken. Beckett was sent to Boston for tests and an exam, with the Sox quickly saying that they'd be cautious and push him out of his next scheduled start. Initial reports were that Beckett's ankle was sprained, but that there was "no ligament damage." By definition, a sprain
Beckett doesn't have to be fully healthy to return, with bracing taking up the slack. This is going to be a big test for the Sox medical staff and how they get him back, both in time and function, will determine how they close out the season. If Beckett can get back for one or two outings at the end of the season, both he and the team could gain some confidence, and then he could buy a little more rest by being the No. 3 starter in the ALDS.
With Beckett out, getting Clay Buchholz back could be more important. While Buchholz says he wants to start, I'm curious if pairing him with Beckett wouldn't be a better idea. If any team could pull off a tandem start in the playoffs, it's the Red Sox.
The Red Sox aren't the only team struggling with their rotation. The Braves, once very deep, are now seeing that depth tested. Jurrjens' situation is one to watch closely. The Braves said he had no structural damage, but the definition of "structure" can be very wiggly when it needs to be. Usually, it means a bone, ligament or tendon, but not always. Jurrjens' problem was thought to be a bone-on-bone grinding or bone bruise, which wouldn't be structural under some definitions, but would be a big problem regardless. Jurrjens will be shut down for a couple of weeks, but watch to see how he handles gearing back up. The pushoff has been the biggest issue.
Hanson is perhaps a bigger worry. As a relatively young pitcher, his big innings increase last year was a huge red flag. One of the ways Tom Verducci and I differ on how we calculate the "Verducci Effect" is that I don't count minor league innings. I know, it shouldn't be zero, but I found a better correlation when I did my original work on this back in 2002. Under my variant, Hanson was a
Where did Jose Reyes go in your draft this year? According to MockDraftCentral, Reyes went No. 33, putting him in the third round for most leagues. And at where did he produce? He's
Weeks was thought to be ready to go on a rehab assignment 10 days ago, but didn't. The Brewers were surging and questions about Weeks' lateral movement delayed things. Now, there's no more minor league to go to for Weeks, so the Brewers might end up getting creative. Weeks can continue his rehab, but with roster expansion there's no reason the team couldn't activate him and use him as a pinch hitter. Weeks ran well on Monday and it looks like the team will do just that, according to MLB's Adam McCalvy. He's not going to play much, but this will let him help as he continues his rehab and work on his timing.
The Phillies are doing much the same thing with Rollins as the Brewers are with Weeks. Rollins is eligible to come off the DL now, but the Phillies aren't in any rush to do so. I'm a bit surprised they don't activate him, but keep him on the bench, just to stop the DL days from racking up, which is something teams do think about, though the Phillies have been so good with injuries over the last five years that they're likely seeing their premiums reduced as is. Rollins should have no problem once he's back, but the continual leg problems this season do have to worry Rollins as he heads toward free agency.
Tuesday night wasn't "Strasmas." Instead, this year's version was "Strasurrection." OK, that's not going to work as well on the T-shirts, but the Nats are more concerned with the product than the marketing. Mostly. Strasburg looked like Strasburg for the most part, featuring high 90s heat and a low 80s breaking ball. His mechanics looked like they did before the injury and the results did as well. He was efficient with his pitches and didn't seem bothered by much of anything. I was a bit worried when he ended up on the basepaths in the second inning, reaching on an error and coming around to score, but he didn't show any fatigue issues. (For pitchers on hard pitch limits on rehab assignments, hard running usually subtracts five pitches. Fatigue is fatigue.) The problem is that as good as Strasburg looked, it's just a look. The Nats don't know any more than we do. Strasburg's last year wasn't wasted, but the Nats did miss some opportunities to learn a lot more about one of their most important assets.
With the minor league season over, teams that didn't have affiliates reach the playoffs have lost the chance to have rehab assignments ...