Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Friggin' Phillies

The less said about the weekend sweep at the hands of the Phillies, the better. Tim Hudson came back to earth on Friday night, Buddy Carlyle pitched about how you'd expect a 29-year old AAA pitcher to pitch on Saturday, and Kyle Davies reverted to the form that he shows against pretty much every team other than the Mets on Sunday. Fortunately, Chuck James pitched well yesterday in Milwaukee and got both relief help from Rafael Soriano (who has been an absolute steal) and Bob Wickman and an extremely fortunate line drive right at Scott Thorman to eke out a 2-1 win. The win did little to reduce concerns about the team's slumping offense, which has produced 17 runs in the last six games. Over that stretch, the Braves are 2-4 and their two wins have both been 2-1 nailbiters. Chipper Jones's absence is quite noticeable.

And if the news couldn't get any worse, Mike Gonzalez is out for the rest of this season and a good chunk of next year with a torn elbow ligament. This is something I really don't like about baseball: it seems as if any time a pitcher has any sort of malady, the ultimate diagnosis is beyond the worst-case scenario. Lance Cormier experiences a little tightness in his triceps at the end of spring training and hasn't thrown a pitch for the Braves two months into the season. Mike Gonzalez experiences a drop in velocity and after three MRIs, it turns out that he is out for a year (and with Murphy's Law in full effect for pitchers, we can expect him to return some time in the next decade). And we haven't even mentioned my wife's least-favorite Brave Mike Hampton.

And it's not just Braves fans who get to experience this joy. Imagine being a Yankees fan, watching crappy start after crappy start. Your team calls Phillip Hughes up, he flirts with a non-no in his second start...and then promptly hurts himself and is out until G-d knows when because all pitching injuries have epic recovery times. These injuries highlight just how unnatural the act of pitching really is. They also remind us that John Smoltz is truly Der √úbermensch, since he didn't miss a start after dislocating a finger on his pitching hand.


peacedog said...

Read some great commentary recently about how eschewing a high leg kick is probably causing a lot more injuries, as the lack of leg movement is putting more torque on the arm. I hadn't considered this before.

The Gonzales thing is disheartening. Not that surprising, as that big a drop in velocity is usually indicative of something seriously wrong. But it sucks ass, and hard.

Also, I've never been this afraid of watching us on defense when Smotlz and to a lesser extend Hudson aren't on the mound. Every inning has the potential to be a 10 run inning, it seems like.

This is all terribly depressing.

Anonymous said...

That would explain El Duque's ability to pitch well into his 40's. It's hard to find a player with a higher kick.

Also, anyone remember that bastard Kevin Brown? He didn't lift at all, just twisted and turned and now he's out of the game.

Might be something to what you read.

peacedog said...

Unfortunately, it's difficult to do a study on this sort of thing. Pitchers have an immediate and pressing incentive not to go with high leg kicks. Stolen base %s plummet if you combine throwing to first with a more modest motion.

Bill James once came up with a list of rules to speed up baseball. One of them was a throw to first rule. You got like one free throw an inning (or maybe ut was two). After that, if you threw to any base in a pickoff attempt and didn't get an out, you were charged a ball on the batter. I liked the rule, because it seemewd weird at first but made sense in his larger context. It'd raise steal rates for sure. And it might also mean that kids were more likely to go with developed leg kicks.

One leg kick that didn't make it was Avery. Even if there is something to the leg kick thing, it wouldn't help everyone. Kids are still going to have injuries and shortened careers. Just theoretically not as many. Plus, the Braves more or less made his undoing a certainty (not on purpose, but they piled a frightening amount of innings on his arm pre 25).