With opening day now less than four weeks away, baseball analyst Will Carroll (of Baseball Prospectus fame) took a few minutes to go over the health outlook of the Angels with us.
HALOS HEAVEN: While every case is unique, can you give some examples of pitchers who came back from Ervin Santana's MCL tear/sprain in short order with no long-lasting effects?
WILL CARROLL: First I want to be clear that the MCL and UCL are just different names for the same piece of anatomy. It's what most baseball fans think of as "the Tommy John ligament." There's a ton of guys that come back without surgery; it's a matter of how much it's torn and how they react. I spoke with Dr. Glenn Fleisig of ASMI about this and he told me there's no right answer. Pitchers take about twice the normal breaking force in their elbow regularly, so they're already physical freaks. We just have to wait and see how Santana responds. Nolan Ryan pitched for years with a torn UCL.
HH: Mike Napoli's shoulder is barking again. Is this bark worse than last Summer's DL stint?
WC: I think his shoulder's biting. The worry here is that this is a chronic issue and given off-season rest, it doesn't look like he just just manage it passively. This will be a big challenge for the Angels medical staff.
HH: Kelvim Escobar has seemingly appeased the right baseball gods. Is there an explanation beyond genetics for his imminent return from retirement island? Would you slot him in as a reliever or strengthen him and push him to be a starter?
WC: Escobar's always had injury problems so a full year of rest and rehab do a body good. Most of his problems have been relatively minor, like recurrent chips. Given the rotation and options versus the bullpen's depth, I'd try him in the spring as a starter with the knowledge that he could be easily shifted to the pen.
HH: Was Torii Hunter's all-around good 2008 season a testament to grass over "turf"?
WC: I think it helps, but more in maintenance than any performance issue. I'm still sure I wouldn't have signed him to that deal on health issues alone.
HH: Over/Under is 100... Number of Howie Kendrick Games Played in 2009. If he is healthy he will play 162. What say you and why?
WC: PECOTA has him around 400 PAs, which seems about right. I'd take the over, but only slightly. My question would be is there a way to maximize the 100-120 games that can be reasonably expected? Is there a pairing with another type of player that would work? Is this where Brandon Wood could play, or maybe get a 3B and use Chone Figgins in the UT role he excelled in? It's an interesting question and one that could help the Angels in a tight division.
A BIG THANKS to Will Carroll for taking the time to conduct this interview.