just the day before yesterday, usa today ran an article about pitchers who have had two tommy john surgeries. it's a very short list, which includes former cardinal setup man al reyes --- and, shortly, will include chris carpenter. the cardinals grudgingly confirmed yesterday that carp needs the procedure again, for the second time in five years --- he previously had this operation in 2002, right before he joined the cardinals. while first-time TJ surgeries succeed 80 to 85 percent of the time (with "success" defined as the pitcher's returning to his pre-operation level of ability), the outlook is less favorable for second-time patients: only 20 percent come back from it. al reyes represents the best-case scenario; a more cautious analog is darren driefort, who had his first TJ surgery in 1994 and his second in 2001 --- after which his arm had only 111 major-league innings left in it.
those are the facts. don't gotta like 'em; do gotta live with 'em.
Update [2007-7-20 11:59:2 by lboros]: wait a sec --- those are not the facts. as several people pointed out below, carpenter has never had TJ surgery before; he did have elbow surgery, but it was to clean out bone spurs. i got some bad information, didn't check it carefully, and passed it along --- my mistake, my apologies. [end update]
the cardinals seem not to want to face reality; jocketty is not returning reporters' calls, and paletta is unavailable for comment. it's as if they think they can change carp's status by not talking about it. although the decision to cut was made wednesday and has been widely known since then, the organization refused to confirm it until late yesterday afternoon. indeed, it took them several days to confirm that carpenter had visited TJ specialist james andrews. why the stonewalling? what did the club gain from it? what did the fans gain? given the significance of this news, you'd think the front office would have something to say. weird . . . .
out of curiosity, i went back and looked at how VEB reacted eight months ago, when carp signed his extension. the immediate reaction was glee; the day-after reaction --- more glee. in the latter post, i addressed the injury risk --- "the cardinals accept the fairly high likelihood that, at some point during the life of the contract, carpenter will miss half a season with an injury; might even need a little surgery (on his shoulder, elbow, back, or whatever)" --- but then blithely waved it off: "put me down as a supporter [of the extension]; the cardinals are taking a sensible risk." it might have been sensible in spite of the outcome; maybe the cards just got unlucky. or maybe i (and the cards) underestimated the risk; maybe it wasn't a smart deal after all. don't forget, at the time they extended carpenter the cardinals already had him locked up through next season; 2007 was the last guaranteed year, and they held an option on him for 2008. that being the case, a lot of people wondered why the cardinals didn't wait a year before considering an extension. what if he has a catastrophic injury? what if he goes into gradual decline the way matt morris did (or the way barry zito and dontrelle willis seem to be doing this year)? joe sheehan at Baseball Prospectus was one of the people asking those questions, and suggesting the cardinals should have waited at least one more year; another was our own azruavatar:
Even assuming that two years from now (or one year) ace's are getting 20M a year...I still don't like it. There was no reason to extend now. It's one thing to make a 4 year offer in the effort of landing a player (Burnett) it's another thing entirely to give a 4 year guaranteed extension to a pitcher with an injury history when you have him under control for 2 more years.
Maybe I'm missing something . . .
before i leave the subject, i'll refer you to an article in today's new york times stating that aspiring young pitchers throughout america are clamoring to have tommy john surgery. in god's name, why? according to this piece, the procedure has such an outstanding track record that it is now thought, mistakenly, to add mphs to a pitcher's velocity --- people believe they will throw harder after they have the operation. pure bunk, the doctors all say, but teenagers with dreams of big-league paychecks are eagerly submitting to the scalpel anyway --- even trumping up their symptoms in some cases to persuade their docs that the surgery can't be avoided.
* * * * * * * *a little news about the game on the field: earlier this week mgl published his midseason UZR ratings. most of you already know UZR (or ultime zone rating) as one of the premier systems for measuring players' skill with the glove. the cardinals grade out as follows (figures expressed as runs prevented above / below average for the position):
by these lights, rolen has the 4th-highest total of runs prevented in baseball, trailing only pedro feliz (19), oakland 2bman mark ellis (16), and cleveland cf'er grady sizemore (16). adam kennedy ranks 2d among national league 2bmen and 5th overall; only ellis, cano, kaz matsui, and aaron hill have prevented more runs. pujols is 3d among national league 1st-sackers, behind todd helton and adam laroche. on the other side, encarnacion is dead last among national league right-fielders (al RFers alex rios, michael cuddyer, jose guillen, and jd drew are worse).
these are overall figures, with all positions lumped together; spiezio, for example, has saved 3 runs as a third-sacker but has cost the team 3 runs in the outfield and one at first base. the team's unit ranks go like this:
the infield defense has actually been better than it appears here, insofar as one player (miles) drags the overall score down by 8 runs; without him they've saved 30 runs, or 3 games in the standings. these figures only go through games of july 9, and brendan ryan doesn't appear; i guess he hadn't taken enough chances afield yet to show up in the system. the outfield defense . . . . well, put it this way: with average outfield gloves (and the excellent infield gloves), the cardinals would rank 10th in the league in era, instead of 15th.
so that's another of the many problems this organization will need to address as it goes forward.