Greener Pastures

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BRIAN ANDERSON AND TOMMY JOHN SURGERY

During July of the 2005 season, while rehabbing an elbow inflammation at Triple-A Omaha Brian Anderson felt consistent pain from his first start there, beginning with minor soreness and escalating far enough to cause him to end his season. “It’s tough. It’s really hard to swallow. It’s a terrible, terrible feeling to know that the one thing that you want to do, you can’t do,” Anderson said at the time.

Brian Anderson

Nine days later he paid a visit to Dr. Timothy Kremchek, who told him if during exploratory surgery he found a problem with the ulnar collateral ligament (or UCL) he would replace it. As it turns out, Brian’s elbow was essentially FUBAR, with exceptionally large bone chips that had to be broken up before they were removed, as well as a tear in his flexor tendon. “After going into your elbow and seeing the damage, I have no idea how you were able to pitch. No idea at all,” said Dr. Kremchek.

On top of the bone chips and flexor tendon tear, Dr. Kremchek discovered the damaged UCL, the cause of Brian’s pain and inability to pitch effectively. Dr. Kremchek replaced it with a ligament from his left wrist, and when Anderson awoke after the extensive repairs he had practically a whole new elbow.

The procedure was a success, and after rehab and signing with the Rangers in the offseason he made his way back into the game — perhaps too soon. After experiencing elbow pain in an extended spring game it was found he had re-torn his new UCL and had to undergo a second Tommy John surgery.

Brian Anderson

He spent the 2007 year beginning his career as a broadcaster, but never let a return to baseball out of his sight. “I feel there’s a lot more left in the tank,” Anderson said in an interview as seen here. In late January 2008 he returned to the mound to throw a 60 pitch session for Rockies, Indians, Phillies and Rays scouts, and following that the Rays decided to take a shot, giving him a minor league deal and an invitation to Spring Training.

He figures to start the season in Triple-A Durham, but could end up on the major league club to fill out the back of the rotation or shore up the bullpen. This isn’t the first time the Rays have signed a pitcher with multiple Tommy John surgeries under his belt. Al Reyes underwent two during his career and has been a useful veteran addition to the Rays ‘pen.

A note on Tommy John surgery:

Dr. Frank Jobe performed the first successful surgery on Tommy John in 1974 and turned the sports medicine world on its head as well as increasing the shelf life on pitchers. Up until that time the unknown injury was referred to as “dead arm,” it did not always present pain but took away the control and velocity of the pitcher as the arm shifted uncontrollably during the throwing motion.

During that first procedure Dr. Jobe put Tommy John’s chances at 1 in 100 for a complete recovery. Today the surgery has around a 90 percent success rate, becoming a common practice with dozens of pitchers and even position players going under the knife and returning after extensive rehab, sometimes to throw even harder than previous to the operation.

Dr. Jobe credits this to the player having increased conditioning from the long rehabilitation, as well as the fresh ligament in the elbow restoring some velocity that was lost as the old UCL became broken down with age and use.

Quotes from Confessions of a Left-Hander, Royals.MLB.com
Photos credit MLB.com

THE NEW DELMON?

The Minnesota Star-Tribune ran an article today about Delmon Young’s reaction after being traded to the Twins which goes a long way in showing the Rays fans Delmon’s true colors.

“Delmon Young had just finished a workout Nov. 29, when the news came that he’d been traded from Tampa Bay to the Twins. He hung up the phone and started beaming.”

I understand that the Twins have been a much better team than the Rays in the past, and from that perhaps he should be happy. However, Minnesota is not in serious contending position in 2008, apparently building a contender for 2010 according to the same newspaper. This has to lead Rays fans to wonder just how bad Delmon thought he had it in Tampa Bay, as he’s not exactly going to a perennial World Series threat like the Red Sox.

Throughout his Rays history Young was a notorious malcontent, several incidents gave him the reputation of being immature and aggressive, such as the bat slinging we’ve all heard about, as well as being lazy and disrespectful; Joe Maddon benched him after repeatedly not running out ground balls despite having been approached multiple times about it.

His reactions to the trade add icing on what I already knew to be a solid one. Young, despite what you might hear from some places, didn’t deserve AL Rookie of the Year with his meager 5.7 VORP — he was vastly outperformed by Dustin Pedroia, but I digress. These comments of his put a stamp of confirmation on what I had wondered; whether Young was even moderately content with being on the Rays — as it turns out, not so much.

Every player wants to win and that’s understandable, but you can still play for a sub par team and be respectful, still hustle, still be positive. Delmon did none of those things and it makes me happy to know we’ve cut loose that baggage and received a considerable helping of talent in return.

“They traded for the old Delmon, and they’re getting the new Delmon.”

I hope so, for the sake of the Twins.

RUNNING THE NUMBERS: POSITION PLAYERS

I thought I’d take a quick look at some of the combined 2007 (2006 for Aybar) offensive statistics of players we added, versus players we lost. I realize that it won’t tell us everything, but I thought it’d be interesting nonetheless. First:

It’s unsurprising to me that the combined OBP is higher, losing the likes of Young and Dukes who both had abysmal marks there, granted Dukes’ Batting Average was almost 100 points lower and goes to show just how futile Young is at getting on base. The differences in Batting Average are negligible, not that it really matters in the first place.

Slugging Percentage is also slightly higher which could be explained by Brendan Harris’ fluky season at the dish. Win Shares go to the players lost 38 to 22 due to their 573 more at-bats. If you factor in Harris playing over his head, Hinske’s horrible first half and the disparity in plate appearances that number figures to even up.

Another factor is the defensive upgrade of Bartlett over Harris: Bill James’ Fielding Bible has Harris the third worst in the league at -19 just behind Derek Jeter and Hanley Ramirez, with Bartlett tied for fourth best at +18. This is also reflected in their defensive Win Shares, 6.6 Bartlett versus 2.6 Harris.

Thanks to R.J. Anderson for the spreadsheets.

INTROITUS (AND A LOOK BACK)

More and more often I’m beginning to find some of my friends (mainly R.J.) telling me to write baseball, so I thought I’d give it another shot. I’ve done it before; I had a Rays blog during the 2005 offseason that dwindled after I became busy with school. During the short lifetime of that blog I wrote quite a bit about Joe Maddon and what we, as Rays fans, could expect.

His two years thus far have been more or less what I anticipated given the talent we had on the club. Since then I’ve began to realize that baseball managers don’t play a large role in the win/loss column, or at least, they shouldn’t. Only things like pulling a pitcher too early or too late, or continually trotting out the wrong players or relievers could have a noticeable effect if he was consistently stupid.

Joe Maddon

Like it was written in Moneyball, ideally you just want a “strong chin,” or in other words, a manager who will give the media and fans the idea of leadership and an inspiring, unflappable presence. However, for the most part, the best kind of manager is one that plays the right players as much as possible without running them into the ground, and one that exploits statistical mismatches while at the same time emanating positivity to the club and press even in rough times.

I think, for the most part, Joe has done well fulfilling these parameters. Sometimes fans, not to mention myself, have to wonder at some of his personnel decisions (Tomas Perez in RF comes immediately to mind) and his management of the bullpen, which is not always sensible. However, if you’ve watched the Rays over his two seasons here you know for a fact that he hasn’t had much to work with, especially in the ‘pen.

With his .392 winning percentage he’s third out of the four total Rays coaches (Piniella .412, Rothschild .411, McRae .366) and he looks like he’s in a good position to improve on that mark during the 2008 season with the bevy of moves the Rays have made to shore up the pitching staff along with the probable arrival of A+ prospect Evan Longoria and a legitimate defensive shortstop in Jason Bartlett.

I used to be a skeptic, but I believe now that his continually positive outlook is just what a team like the Rays needs. Where young players might be doubting themselves and the team itself, he can keep their chins up somewhat in this extremely tough division. Time will tell if this year the much improved team can make Joe Maddon look good — and more importantly, make him proud.



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