Quote of the Day: Nationals lose their 'prize pupil'

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Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, on Jordan Zimmermann needing Tommy John elbow surgery:
The small bit of sunshine is that there’s an 85 to 90 percent success rate with pitchers recovering to their pre-injury status after Tommy John surgery. It’s a much higher success rate than shoulder surgery. We’ve got a lot of depth in our young starting pitching, but Jordan was the prize pupil. We’ll have him back, full go, for spring training 2011, though he may pitch sometime in 2010. But you’ll see the real Zimmermann in 2011.
Rizzo is right to call Zimmermann the Nationals’ prize pupil among young pitchers, at least until Stephen Strasburg possibly signs later this week. Zimmermann put together an extremely promising 16-start debut, posting a 92/29 K/BB ratio in 91 innings despite pitching some of that time with elbow soreness. For a 23-year-old rookie who essentially skipped Triple-A that qualifies as excellent, so hopefully Rizzo is also right about Zimmerman making a full recovery for 2011.
My guess is that Rizzo quoting the “85-90 percent success rate with pitchers recovering to their pre-injury status after Tommy John surgery” is a slight overstatement, but the surgery definitely has an amazing success rate at this point. However, as a Twins fan who’s watched Francisco Liriano sadly go from the best pitcher on the planet to struggling just to be another mid-rotation starter after going under the knife I can tell you that nothing is guaranteed.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.