Happy Birthday Johnny Damon!!! Johnny Damon turns 39 years old today. While Johnny Damon is not named with the sport’s greatest players, he has certainly put himself into the category of ‘Winner’. And some of the sport’s biggest stars cannot … Continue reading →
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The Royals worked out a trade a few days ago with the Angels that brought Ervin Santana to Kansas City. The move starts "The Process" of creating a respectable starting pitching staff after having the 2012 staff decimated after losing 2 starters to Tommy John surgery. The problem is that Santana looks to be just as much of an injury risk going into the 2013 season.
Over his career, Santana has been a relatively healthy pitcher. He has been on the DL twice, both in the 1st half of 2009. It was the only season in the last 5 when he didn't start 30 games. Since coming into the league in 2005, he is 13th in total game starts with 233. Few pitchers look to be as durable as Santana.
That view is changing. Some sources have already reported that Santana might be injured. Most of the rhetoric surrounding his possible injury focuses on his drop in velocity over the course of the 2012 season. He lost close to 2 MPH total.
A generally assumed philosophy is that a pitcher is hurt when the pitcher is experiencing a velocity loss. While not studied directly, I would have a tough time arguing that a pitcher wants to lose velocity and therefore make his pitches easier to hit. Some exceptions will exist, like the velocity drop a pitcher sees when they move from being a reliever to a starter, but a drop is not a good sign for a pitcher and can be an early sign of an injury.
Besides fastball speed, I have been trying to recreate the injury projection work started by Josh Kalk back in 2009 at the Hardball Times and recreated by Kyle Boddy earlier this fall. I have not completed the work to the level that I would like it to finally end up at. I feel have enough information to see if a pitcher is showing some signs of injury. With the details of the work in the Appendix at the end of the article, I created a value, Injury Index, which measures the chances a pitcher is hurt (0.0 being 0% chance of injury and 1.0 being 100% chance of injury).
I have gone ahead and plotted Santana's Injury Index and average fastball speeds over the past 2 seasons.
Through much of the 2011 season, Santana was able to maintain a fastball speed around 93 mph, except for a drop in early July. That was at least until the 2nd to last game of the season when he saw his velocity drop and his Injury Index spike.
In 2012, his velocity stayed near 92 mph and his injury factor steadily increased with a couple of large jumps along the way. On August 26, his injury index spiked near .8. It is the highest value I have seen without the pitcher eventually needing Tommy John Surgery.
Does the drop in velocity and the high Injury Index mean that Santana will be injured in 2013? No, but the chances are higher for him missing extensive time next year compared to other pitchers. The Royals really need a couple of free agent pitchers to give the team 30-35 starts in 2013. Santana was brought in to be a consistent starter and be on the mound every 5 days. It looks like the Royals may have spent quite a bit of their free agent money on damaged goods. At least Santana will only be on the Royals one year.
Appendix - Description of Injury Index
I have been wanting to recreate the work done by Josh Kalk for a while. I made it my goal this off season to have some working variation of it running. The model I have so far is just in its infancy and hopefully will grow in scope and accuracy with time.
Kalk and Boddy used neural networks to find injured pitchers. I had no idea on how to set up a neural network and could not find anyone else that could help. Instead, I used logistic regression for my analysis. Logistic regression takes different variables as inputs and and yes (0) or no (1) outputs. Then, it finds a percentage chance of the input variables leading to one of the two outputs.
For this analysis, I looked at the variance of a pitchers release points and breaks over the last 10 fastballs that a pitcher threw in a game. Also, I looked at the difference in average speed from the "first 4 fastballs of the last 10 pitches" minus the "average of the last 4 fastballs". I was basically looking to see if pitcher could maintain their speed and mechanics at the end of the game.
Here is an example of the breakdown in Santana's mechanics on August 26th. The main issue contributing to the high injury factor that day was an inconsistent release point. Here are his release points from the 6th and 7th inning on the 26th and the release points from the previous game he started.
As it can be seen with Pitchf/x data, his release point differs by over a foot during the game on the 26th. Also, he did not have this problem on the 21st.
Here are the two pitches in which his release point differs the most.
The differences are tough to tell, especially seeing the pitch only once. To show the difference, I put just the release points from 3 pitches together. I drew a box from the release point to the point were the grass meets the dirt in front of the batter's box.
The difference is easier to spot, but it is still not an ideal method. Pitchf/x data makes the differences easier to spot.
To get a sample of pitchers, I looked for pitchers that were assumed to be either healthy or hurt. I tried to stay away from the middle of the road pitchers whose health was in question. For the healthy pitchers, I took pitchers from the last 2 seasons, better Pitchf/x data, that missed no time to injuries and those pitchers that ended up having Tommy John surgery. I was looking at quality of data vice quantity of data to create the equation.
I am continuing to expand the data set, but it takes around an hour to collect the data for each pitcher and run an analysis. Right now, I am concentrating on automating the process so I will be able to get the data for all pitchers in seconds vice days.
The injury index it is not close to being 100 accurate and it never will be. It will just find the chances for injury. Here is a look at some pitchers and their Injury Index. It is a look at the pitchers that fit into all aspects of the model.
Here are some pitchers that had their Injury Index go over .8 once during the season and each of them ended up having TJS.
Now here is a look at the charts for a couple of healthy pitchers
To further expand out Gonzalez's data, here is his Injury Index plotted against his average fastball velocity.
There is definitely some trend of his velocity increasing when his Injury Index is low and vice versa. I have only plotted Santana's and Gonzalez's Injury Factor and average fastball speeds on the same axis, but with this super small sample size, there does look to be some correlation between the two.
So much more work needs to be done on this front and I will be releasing more and more information on it once it becomes available.
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Houston Astros Topics:
Let us know what you think of the new uniforms. I would also love to get any impressions from those of you that went to the Astros Launch Party on Friday night.
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If you have any comments or questions in regards to the podcast you can email the show at SBN.firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a question please be sure to include your name and where you're from. Also big thanks to those of you that have rated us on iTunes we really appreciate the feedback.
?30-YOC Top Ten Lists? ? Top Ten Offensive World Series Heroes From The Last 25 Years With the lasting images of the 2012 World Series firmly engrained in my brain, it got me to thinking about some of the other … Continue reading →
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As a kid my curiosity was aroused every time I rode past Wrigley Field. Wow! What's inside that huge strange looking building? I thought.
Eventually, I got my big chance. When I was 12 years old I saw the whole thing. A unique baseball field with an infield and real bases. Dugouts. Cool baseball uniforms. And baseballs moving fast over the grass and traveling through the air at record speeds in all directions.
But baseball games at that time were played during the day. That is, until I went to Comiskey Park, and watched the Chicago White Sox play the New York Yankees and later the Detroit Tigers. Wow! More excitement.
Then, when I learned that a new baseball team was being formed in Houston, Texas called the Houston Astros, my attention was again aroused to find out that they played their home games under a roof. I couldn't imagine how a baseball never hit the top of that dome. More questions for a curious mind.
However, my curious mind was satisfied a couple of years later when I saw the Milwaukee Brewers play the Cincinnati Redlegs in Miller Park in Milwaukee. Miller Park has a rotating roof with a gorgeous ball park inside. Now I saw everything. And I can still remember the day it was pouring rain outside with enough water to dredge any other ball park. Meanwhile inside baseball fans were in another world.
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Fergie Jenkins 2006 Upper Deck SP Legendary Cuts ‘When It Was A Game’ – Silver It is getting a little bit harder to find ‘new’ cards of Fergie Jenkins for my player collection. He is not being included in as … Continue reading →
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By now, everyone knows the story about Tommy John. In 1974, Dr. Frank Jobe performed ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery on his left arm, a procedure that would forever be associated with John and allow him to extend his career another 14 seasons.
Since that time, hundreds of baseball players across many different levels have undergone the same procedure in an effort to rebuild their arms and sustain their baseball careers. Not surprisingly, most of these players are pitchers, who exert the most force on their elbows with the repeated throwing motion that defines their position.
In searching for a list of players who had undergone Tommy John surgery, I was surprised to find that there did not appear to be any one website that published a list that even attempted to capture all such players. Baseball Prospectus does list Tommy John surgeries for many players in the beta version of their Injury History section on individual player cards. MLBDepthCharts has a good list of players, but it only covers from 2010 to present. While combined these account for a solid list of names, there are many more to be found one and two at a time, at dozens upon dozens of sources around the web.
I started compiling a list, and eventually came across this post from Jeff Zimmerman, on Beyond the Boxscore no less (before I started here!), seeking public assistance toward the same endeavor. At this point my search was already winding down, so I completed the process as I had intended. Since that time, Jeff and I have been in contact, and have merged our two lists into one more complete list.
As of today, that list consists of 488 names of players who we can confirm with reasonable certainty underwent Tommy John surgery. The other criteria to make the list is that I had to be able to confirm with reasonable certainly at least the year of the surgery. In many cases, I have the exact date of the surgery. This additional requirement is what added a great deal of effort to the search process.
The list includes the name of the player, the date of the surgery, the organization for which the player was playing when the injury occurred, whether or not the player was pitching in the Major Leagues or minors at the time of the injury, and whether or not the player was a pitcher. For players where only the year of the surgery could be determined and not the exact date, the surgery date is listed as January 1st of that year. In a few cases, where both the month and year could be determined but not the exact date, the surgery date is listed as the 1st of that month in that year. In cases where a player underwent the surgery prior to being drafted, they are listed as playing for the organization who ended up drafting them subsequently.
It should be noted that as this was a very manual process, it is certainly possible that there could be some data entry errors within the table.
Jeff Zimmerman has done fantastic work already in the injury field, and maintains an excellent website called Baseball Heat Maps where he has an entire section dedicated to DL and Injury Articles as well as a Disabled List Database. This seems like a perfect place for the list to live. In this case, I use the word live purposefully, as I hope this table will act as a living document and will continue to have names added to it over time. There will be a comment area below the list that may serve as an arena for public additions to the list. There is a separate tab on the spreadsheet, called Unconfirmed Dates and Surgeries, where we list those players who are missing one or both of the two requirements to make the list. If anyone is able to confirm a surgery and a date for anyone on that list, that would also be beneficial.
It is important to understand that by no means do we pretend that this is a complete list. It is the most complete list that I have seen, and if you have access to a better list then please let us know!
Armed with the list, there are now many possibilities for studies involving pitchers and Tommy John surgeries. At least some of this work has started in earnest. An area that I plan to explore involves looking at pitch mix and frequency used by pitchers both before and after the surgeries.
While not every player who has undergone Tommy John surgery will have been captured in this list, we can break down this current snapshot in a couple of simple ways: by year and by team. We can think of these totals as minimums.
Not surprisingly, the totals in the pre-internet era are very low. I anticipated that there may have been fewer Tommy John surgeries performed in that period, but certainly there would be under reporting as well without the ease of information sharing that exists today. It is interesting to see that the number of surgeries uncovered over the last decade appears to be fairly stable year-to-year. I had suspected to see many more in the past few years, mostly because it would be easier to find such information, but also because I expected a greater willingness to undergo the procedure as the sample of pitchers that have returned successfully from the surgery grows each year.
It is important to remind you that the team listed for each player is the team for which they last played prior to the Tommy John surgery. This means that a pitcher could have been drafted and developed in organization A for six years, only to move on to organization B in his seventh season. If he were to have submit to surgery just a month into his seventh season, he would be still be listed here under organization B. I feel this is important to recognize for those who are interested in trying to form a link between a quantity of surgeries and the development/training philosophies of a particular team.
That being said, it is not surprising to me to see the Chicago White Sox as having the fewest names on the current list. While pitching coach Don Cooper does not appear to be a fan of incorporating new biomechanics research into his system, he does have a solid track record to fall back on with respect to his pitchers' health. Much has been written about the importance of long time White Sox trainer, Herm Schneider, and his success at keeping his players on the field.
The Tommy John Surgeries list and comment area for feedback can be found here:
If you have additions or corrections to the list, please leave a comment there or below this article. If you have updates but cannot find the link, you can contact Jon Roegele at @MLBPlayerAnalys with the information. We will do our best to periodically update the list.
Other Interesting Discoveries from my Search Process
You can follow me on Twitter at @MLBPlayerAnalys. Follow @MLBPlayerAnalys
You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jeffwzimmerman. Follow @jeffwzimmerman
Thanks to Jeff Zimmerman for collaborating on the creation of this list. Credit and thanks to Baseball Prospectus, MLBDepthCharts and Baseball Reference for publishing data upon which part of this list was generated and confirmed.
Pascual Perez was clearly the type of character that would have gotten under the skin of an old-timer like Dick Williams. When the Pirates first gave him a chance to pitch in the big leagues, he would occasionally blow the smoke away from his imaginary finger gun after blowing a hitter away. Perez dropped that act in short order, after all, it couldn’t have been popular with guys like Chuck Tanner or Willie Stargell. It’s also the kind of thing that people don’t forget. I don’t know that Dick Williams ever witnessed this act, but there’s nothing about Perez that would have appealed to him. Do you remember Pascual Perez sprinting into the dugout at the end of an inning? Williams would have hated that. Can you remember Pascual Perez spiking the ball into the dirt around first after he made the final out of an inning like Pete Rose used to do? Yeah, Williams wouldn’t have liked that either.
I can only assume that Dick Williams didn’t like Pascual Perez, otherwise, the events of August 12, 1984 don’t make a lot of sense. That’s not to say that Dick Williams dislike of Perez was the only reason for the events of the day. Even though the Padres had a comfortable lead of nearly 10 games over the second place Braves, Williams was worried that his team was soft. I doubt that he looked around his clubhouse and found himself reminded of his world champion 1972 Oakland A’s. Old school guys like Dick Williams believed a fight could bring a team together, and it sure looked like he was looking for one that Sunday afternoon in the late Summer of 1984.
The Padres sent Alan Wiggins to the plate to start the game, and the first pitch he saw from Pascual Perez landed in the small of his back. Perez wasn’t exactly known for his subtle body language, and it sure looked like hitting Wiggins was not his intention. The Padres have claimed that Perez told Wiggins he was planning on hitting him to start the game. No matter, as he walked to first escorted by the umpire and a Padres trainer, Wiggins let Perez know what he thought about him. The Padres, a bee buzzing in their bonnet, emptied the dugout onto the grass. Order would be restored, but Dick Williams put a plan in motion. They would not retaliate immediately, but would instead get Perez, no matter how many tries it took. He went as far to specify a list of replacement managers and pitchers should any of them be ejected.
The Padres had their first chance in the bottom of the second. Ed Whitson sent a fastball that came in high and tight on Perez, who was trying to bunt the ball. The ball caught the knob of his bat, but Padres catcher Terry Kennedy was ready to get in Perez’s face. Even in the midst of a serious situation, Perez was funny and entertaining. He raised his bat like a weapon and all but danced away from the Padres towards the Braves dugout and his backup. (Well, actually, he sprinted. It was still hilarious.) Both dugouts emptied and met at home plate where they did a lot of yelling and a lot of staring. Tensions were not high with both teams. It’s notable that at this point, nobody was ejected from the game. Perez hit Wiggins and the Padres tried to hit Perez, but missed because Ed Whitson simply wasn’t a very good pitcher. The umpires followed the code. As far as the Padres were concerned though, it wasn’t over until Perez had a bruise from being hit.
Pascual Perez would again face an angry Whitson in the bottom of the fourth. Perez came up to the plate in his dancing shoes, and Whitson again failed to hit the Braves colorful starter. The umpires gave the Padres their chance in the second, but now they were done. Whitson and Williams were ejected and the game carried on. In the sixth inning, Perez came to the plate to face Padres reliever Greg Booker who, keeping with tradition, attempted to hit Perez and failed. This time, the Braves weren’t mollified by the ejection of Booker and Padres coach Ozzie Virgil Sr and the game’s first brawl took place. It’s unfortunate that MLB left the footage of the first brawl out of their highlights of the infamous game.
If Padres pitching had been even remotely competent that day, it’s doubtful that anyone would have remembered this game as anything special. Everyone watching the game on WTBS had to know that the Padres would not give up after failing to hit Perez in three straight at-bats. Craig Lefferts was on the mound when Perez again came to the plate in the eighth. The target was Perez’s elbow and this time the Padres pitcher did not miss. The dugouts and bullpens emptied again and the resulting brawl was full of highlights. There was Tony Gwynn all but body slamming Brad Komminsk to the ground before he could reach Lefferts. There was Tim Flannery and Gerald Perry throwing haymakers before wrestling each other to the ground. Craig Nettles managed to get a punch in on Braves reliever Donnie Moore.
The late Champ Summers wanted to rush the Braves dugout and get at Perez but was restrained by Bob Watson. Braves slugger Bob Horner was on the disabled list with a broken wrist, but after the earlier events in the game, he suited up and joined his teammates in the dugout. After Summers slipped free from Watson, he bum rushed the Braves dugout to be met by Horner who, with the assistance of two Braves fans took him to the ground as the fight moved in around them. When the dust cleared, ejections were handed out all around.
To start the ninth inning, the Braves brought in the late Donnie Moore. Braves skipper Joe Torre was ready to put the game away and move on. He told Moore as much, but when he looked in Moore’s eyes, he knew the Braves would be fighting again. Moore promptly plunked Nettles in the small of the back and started walking to the dugout to accept his inevitable ejection. Nettles rushed him, was turned around and tackled by former Yankee teammate Chris Chambliss who took him high, while Braves catcher Bruce Benedict took him low. Kurt Bevacqua rushed the field from the Padres dugout swinging wildly at anything that moved. Gerald Perry landed a hilarious sucker punch on Tim Flannery.
Once more ejections were handed out and order was restored on the field, the Padres got into it with the Braves fans behind their dugout. Bevacqua, pulling a Ron Artest, went after the fans, but he slipped in beer on top of the dugout and fell and the Braves fans began pummeling him. It took a security guard to get him away from the fans. One of the great images of the game was a shirtless Whitson returning to the dugout from the clubhouse to get into it with the fans. Once everything calmed down, the final tally was thirteen ejections and five fan arrests.
After the game, Braves manager Joe Torre let the press know exactly what he thought of Dick Williams. The words “idiot” and “gutless” were thrown around. To listen to the 1984 Padres tell the story, you would think the game was a turning point in their season. I don’t buy that. They were far ahead of the division at the time of the game and finished the season was a similarly large lead. They played no better after that point. They were, however, a very good baseball team. They would go on to stave off three straight elimination games against the Cubs in the NLCS before losing to a vastly superior Detroit Tigers team in the World Series.
As for the Braves, it was something of a lost season. They played well for a large portion of the season, but floundered as they fell out of contention. Joe Torre was fired after the season and replaced with the inept Eddie Haas. The game did cement Pascual Perez and Bob Horner as Atlanta favorites. Bob Horner showed himself as the consummate teammate, risking his own health to defend the Braves. Perez showed himself as the perfect entertainer: the instigator, the court jester, the comedian. There are those who look back on this game with embarrassment, but to a lot of us, it was simply great, great fun.
This is two straight weekends I’ve set here at my keyboard thinking about Pascual Perez. Last weekend was planned, obviously, but this weekend was not. The news of his murder is stunning to so many of us. It seems just like yesterday that I was listening to Skip, Pete and Ernie joke about Perez’s antics. It has been repeated again and again but Perez is one of the great characters of the game and I’m glad that for a short time WTBS was his stage. RIP Pascual.
Let's not be mistaken, the Rockies need added help on the field if they expect to turnaround anytime soon, therefore it should be unsurprising that any number of elite MLB free agents would be seen by baseball reporters as "fits" for the team. Heck, in that sense, we're a fit for almost all of them. The issue, of course, would be in any sort of expectation that Colorado, with it's mid-market payroll, death for pitchers environment and Grand Canyon sized gap between where they're currently at and playoff contention will wind up being seen as a "fit" by any of these free agents. So when Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe sees the Rockies as possibilities for top FA's Anibal Sanchez and Nick Swisher, I wouldn't put much thought into it until both the players and the team also indicate it's so. Still, we don't have much else to talk about in these long, dark and cold months, so I'll usually post these mentions anyway.
I'd of course love to have Sanchez on the team and it's pretty easy to see how he would fit even if he's not going to be signing here. Swisher? That requires a bit more faith that another current Rockies outfielder can be moved for equivalent talent elsewhere on the field, but if so, the signing would also represent an upgrade, plus according to Cafardo, he apparently prefers to "go West," so uhm, dream on?
Between the time I post this Rockpile and my next one on Thursday, a great and vital decision will have been made in America, possibly the most important of our lifetime. The Rockies will likely have decided on their new manager, and let me tell you, it will change everything. Patrick Saunders has the rundown on the four candidates, including the two front runners, Walt Weiss and Jason Giambi, and the two third party candidates, Matt Williams and Tom Runnels. Williams will interview Monday, after which the decision should shortly follow.
In another move yesterday, Cleveland turned their scrapheap find of former infielder Esmil Rogers into current infielders Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes. Rogers as a pitcher was the same type of hot potato that Franklin Morales was, that Zach Putnam now is, where they're not good enough for the majors for awhile, but too talented to let go easily. So they get passed around from team to team burning whoever touches them in the majors until suddenly they're ready and somebody puts some sour cream and bacon on them and gets a nice meal out of it. Putnam and Rogers are once again evidence that the Rockies talent evaluation is fine: they're recognizing the raw ability and getting it into the system; it's their pitcher development operation that's been the big issue. Hopefully Mark Wiley fixes that, which is why I see his hiring as far more important than whoever winds up with the manager position.