When I was in Arizona I was party to a conversation with some people who are convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Stephen Strasburg is going to get hurt again. It’s just his motion and genetics and stuff, you see, and no matter how cautious and well-intentioned the Nationals have been in bringing him back from Tommy John, he’s gonna have another visit to Dr. Andrews in his future.
I didn’t press, but I am certain if I did that, ultimately, the speakers would say that they have no actual basis for that. It’s, at best, an educated guess and a lot of gut feeling and if someone put a gun to their head they could not say for certain what his future holds. Or the future of any other pitcher for that matter.
Will Leitch has a big piece in the latest New York Magazine about pitcher injuries, and he concludes more or less the same thing. The upshot:
Ever since Moneyball, baseball has had just about everything figured it out. General managers know that on-base percentage is more important than batting average, that college players are more reliable draft targets than high-school players, that the sacrifice bunt is typically a waste of an out. The game has never been more closely studied or better understood. And yet, even now, no one seems to have a clue about how to keep pitchers from getting hurt.
It’s true. Despite everything we know and everything we do, we still don’t know which pitchers are gonna get injured, why and how to prevent it.
It’s good stuff to read and internalize for the next time someone claims that they have any kind of special knowledge about this stuff. About how so-and-so is being overworked or how whatshisname is going to be better off skipping starts or what have you. We simply don’t know. Some things make a good enough amount of sense that we should do them unless or until there is actual science telling us it’s a bad or useless move — like, say, not letting pitchers continue to throw when tired — but it may just be a genetic and mechanical crap shoot.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.