Under The Knife: Age may be a culprit in Halladay's troubles
As he ages, Roy Halladay may see change in release that would hurt game
Phillies being careful with Ryan Howard to ease risk of injuries after surgery
Considered minor, Chipper Jones' strained calf has seen increase in bruising
If you're curious about biomechanics, this article from Gary Armida is something you'll want to read. It should be no surprise that Rick Peterson is doing this kind of thing with the Orioles, making them the third team known to use the technology to help understand the pitchers they have.
I could ask -- again -- why other teams aren't doing this, but I've done that before and I'm beginning to come around to the why. For years, people have been frustrated by commentators on TV that they don't like. The best known case of this was probably former Sunday Night Baseball announcer Joe Morgan, but there was never going to be a change because of complaints since the ratings were fine. That wasn't necessarily because Morgan was on the broadcast, but if the ratings are fine, why change? For many teams, a couple injuries a year are tolerable. For most fans, they've come to expect and even understand injuries. It takes some vision or some desperation to make a change and most teams simply aren't there. They're either winning despite the injuries (Yankees) or losing anyway (Royals) so there's just no push for change. We know that the process counts as much or more than the results, but in baseball, that process is often hidden. Processes change very slowly, so this will be very slow. Until then, we'll see if those teams have an advantage.
Powered by Alterra's Punch In The Face coffee, on to the injuries:
Halladay may have lost a bit of velocity, but people seem to want the easy explanation for it. There's no sign that Halladay is injured, but Rich Dubee told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Halladay isn't "completing his pitches." That suggests a minor mechanical issue, but is there a physical issue underlying it. I spoke with a couple of pitching coaches at the major and minor league levels about this and they told me to a man that they don't see anything different about Halladay's delivery. His sidearm is as consistent as they come, but one coach explained that older players tend to get a bit more upright. "With a guy with as much tilt as Doc, that'd be the first thing I'd look for," he explained. Tilt is the angle of the shoulders off the horizontal. This old picture of Halladay during his Jays days doesn't even look natural, but the view gives you a good indication of how he tilts (and that, yes, he really is a sidearm pitcher.) Data doesn't match up with a release change. PitchFX suggests that it's very similar to past seasons. Tilt isn't directly measured, but a change in tilt will almost always change the release point. It's worth watching to see if Dubee and Doc can figure out what the issue is, if anything
So the debridement that Howard went through as part of his surgery to clear infection from his surgical wound appears to have surprised a lot of people. There's no question that the graphic description catches people off guard, but this isn't an unusual thing. Howard did not lose so much muscle that he lost function. Muscle not only is quite redundant, but can be restrengthened. This all takes time, of course, and in the interim, Howard continues to miss time. The reason he's doing all this is to get as close to normal as possible so that the problem that was fixed and the complication that resulted doesn't lead to a series of cascade injuries. A weakened calf could cause foot and ankle issues, it could imbalance the gait and cause hamstring issues on either side. This news came out after a Philadelphia Inquirer story questioned the use of cortisone on Howard before the injury. The Phillies are always cautious, but with so much drama, it's no wonder they're being extra careful with their expensive slugger.
An MRI told the Yankees that Gardner's muscle had healed, but with all the issues baseball has had with MRIs lately, it's likely the stiffness that Gardner is still complaining of will win the day. The problem is with his right elbow and as a lefty swinger, he needs a full range of motion and full strength in order to be effective. The worry here is that while the muscle has healed, the underlying issue might still be in effect. Called a bone bruise at the time, Gardner's elbow hasn't made much progress over the month he's missed, in large part because of the ensuing strain. Once he begins swinging again, scheduled for early next week, the Yankees will learn quickly how soon he'll be back.
The Red Sox won't magically have all their problems fixed once Bailey returns, but it can't hurt. Bailey is beginning a throwing program at the Sox facility in Fort Myers with a target return of the All-Star break, but he's been slightly ahead of schedule during his rehab. Bailey's biggest concern is that he's able to execute all his pitches, so he's very literally going to have to work on touch. Stamina isn't a concern for a closer, though recovery is. Bailey's been able to keep his conditioning going, but without throwing it's tougher to gauge what he can and can't do. He's a ways from a rehab assignment, but watch to see whether he has any recovery issues or missed work during the early stage of this process.
Seeing Roberts back on a field is a good thing. He's missed over a year and most of the last two with various injuries, but the concussion is by far the most serious. We've seen concussions take a long time to get over in baseball, Justin Morneau being the most recent and similar example. The worry is that even if the post-concussion symptoms are gone, Roberts' age and time away from the game has reduced him. The O's are weak at 2B, so anything resembling the Roberts of old is going to be a big plus. Expect Roberts to use much, if not all, of the 20 days he has on the rehab clock as he tries to find his swing. From a fantasy perspective, watch the walks to see if he'll be able to get his OBP back where he needs it to be.
Jones' calf strain isn't getting better. Considered day-to-day initially, the bruising has gotten much worse. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described it: "The bruising in Chipper's leg is really severe. I mean, it runs now all way around ankle to other side of foot, and way up high into calf." Jones had the area "milked" to try to clear things up, but at least initially, this hasn't helped the situation. Jones is returning from minor knee surgery, which could be significant here. The Braves are dealing with a lot of injuries and illness, so having Chipper go beyond the weekend without roster relief is going to be tough. That ERD above assumes the Braves aren't forced to shift him to the DL.
It's a simple medhead rule -- control is elbow, velocity is shoulder. But that's a generalization and one that is often misused. The wildness recently exhibited by Romero and Bard could be a sign of an elbow issue, a proprioceptive reaction to a weakening ligament. It could also be absolutely nothing, the kind of fluctuation that every pitcher sees unless their name is Greg Maddux. It's still smart to look at these kind of changes and see if there's anything instructive, the same way that teams do. We can't get in and take a look at them physically, but video does wonders. Romero is the most "off" with 21 walks in his last four starts. He's not repeating his delivery, but it seems more like he's tinkering than he's injured. John Farrell isn't the pitching coach, but he's involved and has been known to over-tinker some deliveries. And Bard has 17 walks and his delivery seems fatigued, perhaps a result of the role change. Both pitchers don't appear to be dealing with injury here, but they'd better figure something out quickly.
Matt Kemp could be back in the Dodgers lineup by Tuesday. Things have gone very well with his hamstring rehab ... Carlos Ruiz was back in the Phillies lineup this week, showing that he'll play though his bruised wrist ... Chase Utley and Jim Thome are both progressing. Utley is still dealing with issues when fielding, though there's been clear progress ... Edwin Encarnacion's 14th homer is a sign his back is loosening up. The Jays slugger is slumping while the medical staff has worked to get his back functional ... Kirk Gibson thinks Chris Young came off his rehab assignment too soon, saying Young's not in game shape yet ... Nick Masset has begun throwing again, but there's no timeline for his return ... Austin Kearns heads to the DL with a strained hamstring ... Franklin Gutierrez will play in XST next week and could start a rehab assignment by the following week. His pectoral strain appears to have cleared up, but he'll need an extended rehab assignment to get his swing back ... Justin Sellers will have an MRI after reporting numbness in his leg. That could mean more wiggle room for Dee Gordon ... Marco Estrada will miss a month with a hip flexor strain ... Mark Ellis was discharged from the hospital after a pair of surgeries on his leg. He's still expected back in six weeks ... Emilio Bonifacio had thumb surgery and is expected back in mid-July ... Thanks to Paul Larkin for assistance with PitchFX data ... Have a great Memorial Day and a safe race. I'll see you back here next Wednesday.
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