Under The Knife: Cards need more than threats to protect Pujols
The Brewers have found that Albert Pujols doesn't hit well on pitches up and in
Some teams worry Jose Reyes may be healthy for only 100-120 games a year
Tommy Hanson's shoulder issues indicate he is having a problem with fatigue
The Moneyball movie is coming out soon and with a trailer that makes the story seem like a cross between Seabiscuit and Hoosiers, a whole population of people who haven't read the book, seen the term used and misused for the better part of a decade, and don't know much about the Oakland A's during the Billy Beane era will learn.
Unfortunately, they'll learn the Hollywood-twisted version of advanced baseball statistics, the same way that NFL fans saw a brilliantly written book about offensive tackles turned into a Sandra Bullock tearjerker. If there's a real chance for the truth -- the real heart of the story -- to come out, it won't be on the big screen. Instead, it's going to happen on the dial. The voice of sabermetrics right now isn't Bill James or even Billy Beane, but a guy they call Boog.
Jon "Boog" Sciambi calls baseball for ESPN Radio every Sunday night and calls the closest thing to a sabermetric radio call as we have now. He's informed by the statistics and what they mean, putting it together in a manner that doesn't alienate the generation that has grown up not on the storytelling skills of Vin Scully, Bob Uecker and Jack Buck, but the corporate beige tones of Joe Buck and other empty suits that have as less passion for the game than they do for their next commercial read. Sciambi walks the line, introducing little nuggets, putting things in context, and inserting education into his anecdotes. He knows the limitations of what he can do, but by doing it, he's pushing the boundaries. I'm sure there are announcers out there in the minor leagues who grew up reading Joe Sheehan and Rob Neyer, who drop in Fangraphs stats into their Single-A broadcast alongside Baseball America quotes. I'd love to know who they are, but more, I'd like to support them. Let's get them some ratings and help smart young broadcasters move up the chain and find a seat alongside Sciambi. Powered by MILB.tv, which let me watch Stephen Strasburg's start on Sunday and hear a lot of these good young announcers other days, on to the injuries:
As the Cards and Brewer face off again -- they'll play nine times in the last two months of the season -- the acrimony of a week ago is still very fresh. Most of the problem, according to the St. Louis Post- Dispatch's Derrick Goold, comes from the Brewers pitching up and in on Pujols. The problem is that to pitch effectively against Pujols, he has to be pitched inside. The Brewers are one of the innovators in video scouting, but heat maps that show what pitches and spots that Pujols hits in have always shown that he doesn't like it up and in. The downside is that occasionally, one will come too far inside, like what happened last week when Takashi Saito put one on Pujols' hand. Tony La Russa has used the threat of retaliation to try and get pitches out of one of Pujols' few weaknesses, but wouldn't it be much more effective to get Pujols some kind of hand protection? A simple foam padding piece or a hard plastic piece glued inside the glove like Mike Lowell wore would make the retaliation moot and save Pujols from the occasional shot to his valuable hands. Or would that be too easy for La Russa's sense of "how the game should be played?"
Reyes is on the DL with a situation much like what he dealt with just before the All-Star break. He came back from that well at a bit over the minimum, though the break factored in. Let's assume he's back at a few days over the minimum. The key here is that the strain keeps happening at the same spot. It's weaker, scarring and re-scarring, unable to hold up to the forces that Reyes is putting on it. Some teams are starting to worry about whether he's a 100-120 game guy who'll continually have this problem or if it will only get worse. As a free agent, he'll be on his own when it comes to rehab this off-season, which might end up a good thing. Peter Greenberg might not have his own institute like Scott Boras does (and yes, that was part of the Boras pitch to Reyes), but there's already talk that Reyes is scouting out his possible off-season home. Odds are that he ends up at Athletes' Performance, though his relationship with Under Armour may come into play as well.
The sports hernia is a relatively new phenomenon, something that new diagnostic techniques find that used to be overlooked or treated as something else. It presents like a groin strain in most cases, but can involve the hip, abs, and back depending on the location and severity. The Phillies had been worried about an acetabular labrum tear for Polanco so the sports hernia is "good" news. The Phillies are going to rest him and have him undergo treatment for a week, putting him out at least through the weekend. If there's no response, he'll have to have surgery, which would have him back in late September at the earliest. It's a risky move for the Phillies given their lack of depth at 3B, but they feel they can trust in Polanco to come back and produce, or at least produce at a level equal or greater than Michael Martinez, who's been a savvy Rule 5 pickup for the team.
The knee is fine, but now Beltran has a wrist issue that his new medical staff is contending with. The Giants have on occasion referred to this as a "hand" problem, so there's a bit of confusion as to what the actual problem is right now. Sources tell me that the problem is in the back of the hand, but that at various times, the pain has crossed the line between hand and wrist. X-rays didn't show a problem, but since this appears to be some sort of soft tissue injury, that really doesn't tell us much. This is going to take some close monitoring, but it's hoped that it's just a mild issue that anti-inflammatories will handle over the next few days.
The Braves expect to get McCann back soon, with his rehab assignment starting on Friday. They have a couple options close to Atlanta, though they haven't yet said where he'll be going. The oblique hasn't had any issues during his recovery, but McCann will need to show that he can both hit and make the often awkward throws a catcher is required to make. Even if he does, teams will test it early and often in hopes of finding some weakness there. The rehab assignment should be short and if he hits early, weekly leagues should put him in the lineup in anticipation of his return early next week.
Did I mention yet that pitching prospects are risky? Hanson, one of the best young pitchers in the game, appears headed back to the DL with a second bout of shoulder problems. Hanson is again having inflammation in his pitching shoulder as well as weakness, all indications of a fatigue/recovery issue. Teams continue to not directly measure fatigue, something that makes me want to pound my head into something solid. Hanson was already going to be skipped, with Mike Minor staying in the rotation in his spot, but unless things change, the team will DL him and add a second missed start. Hanson is headed back to Atlanta for an exam and sources tell me that Hanson's team is lining up a second opinion "just in case." (That's not uncommon. Appointments and flights can be canceled.)
You don't have to look far to see that even the best pitching prospects are risky. Strasburg is going to be back in September, but he's lost a year that he (and the Nats) will never get back. The Twins top pitching prospect, Gibson, has an injured elbow with a partially torn UCL. That ligament is replaced in Tommy John surgery, but at the 25-30 percent level, it can be rehabbed. The Twins are sending Gibson to Ft. Myers to work with their rehab guru, Lanning Tucker, in hopes that he can avoid the knife. Gibson, an Indiana native and about as good a kid as you'll find, is done for the season and could lose all of 2012 if his elbow doesn't respond over the next six weeks. The Twins also have a more immediate problem with Baker. His elbow is also problematic, with a flexor strain sending him to the DL. Baker had a bad outing and was complaining of soreness when he came out. We know why now. With the Twins playoff hopes all but gone, Baker's likely done for the season regardless. To top it off, Anthony Slama has an injured elbow as well, meaning the Twins will have to go with Kevin Slowey, whether they like it or not.
Alex Rodriguez continues to make progress with his knee and is expected to start a rehab assignment on Friday ... Trevor Cahill has a bone bruise on his index finger, making it tough on him to throw his curve. He's also looking like he could be gassed ... The Indians have put Carlos Carrasco on the DL with elbow inflammation ... Brandon Phillips was back at 2B for the Reds on Tuesday after hitting pinch HR on Monday. He's fine for all formats ... Grady Sizemore hasn't started baseball activities after his hernia surgery, but Sept. 1 is still the target date. It's within reach if he gears things up over the next 10 days ... The Twins deserve some good news in this column, so Justin Morneau coming back on Monday should suffice ... Aramis Ramirez is out of the lineup with back spasms. He could have had those at any of the four teams that made credible offers for him at the deadline ... Stephen Strasburg's next start will be at Potomac (A). Sounds like he's on "Make The Affiliates Happy Tour II" ... David Freese is back from his concussion just in time for the big Cards-Brewers series ... Orlando Hudson left Tuesday's game with a strained right groin. He missed three weeks with a left groin strain back in June ... Rich Harden had his second straight solid start after being passed on by the Red Sox ... Let's close with great news for Juan Nicasio.