Q+A: Will Carroll

Will Carroll, writer of the “The Juice: The Real Story of Baseball’s Drug Problems” and another book on baseball injuries, also writes at Baseball Prospectus. He recently came out with The Red Sox Team Health Report – head over there to check it out!
Below are his answers to the Q+A I set up where people could ask Will any question they wanted. Considering Will is more of an expert on injuries and steroids, it came as to no surprise that the majority of the questions covered injuries. Thanks to everyone who left a comment, and read ahead for a fascinating read…
Curt Schilling, David Wells, and Tim Wakefield are all getting up there in age, and Schilling, Wells, and Matt Clement all had injury problems last year if not throughout their career. What do you envision happening to the starting rotation in 2005? – Evan
WILL CARROLL: The rotation should be much like last season for the Sox. A lot of solid innings, a lot of worry about the breakdown, some efficient use of depth, finding rest, and using the minors when necessary. I think the bullpen is actually a little bit better, taking some of the load off.
Last year David Ortiz sustained a shoulder injury sliding into home- something we’ve since heard he took cortisone shots for, skipped the Dominican League World Series for, and had to temper his offseason training for. Seeing as Ortiz has been had injury issues in his career with Minnesota, and he’s been healthy thus far in Boston, how would you rate his risk of injury for 2005? How serious do you take that shoulder issue to have been? -Tim Rogan
WILL CARROLL: See The Red Sox Team Health Report.
I have been curious for a long time about Keith Foulke’s “dart thrower” delivery and whether or not it puts him at greater risk for injury. Why does he throw that way? Does it give him some kind of advantage? Is it better or worse mechanically, or neutral? – Beth P
WILL CARROLL: Foulke has a very nice delivery, keeping the arm very quiet on the driveline, repeating his delivery, and commanding the umpire’s zone. As for why he throws that way, you’d have to ask him. I’m sure it started early. It’s very difficult to fundamentally change a delivery; usually, we have to tweak here and there and hope it makes enough difference in command, velocity, deception, or health to be effective.
Do you think that after Schilling and Wells retire the Red Sox have the arms to attempt a run at the four man rotation? Wakefield, Arroyo, Clement, and one of the two Jon’s in the minors perhaps? Any reasons why a go at it this late in their careers could injure them? – Marc Normandin
WILL CARROLL: No, I don’t think they will, but Rany Jazayerli’s made a great case for it. What we don’t know about fatigue is stunning, given its importance to pitching. I’d love to have some proven guys who have gone 200 innings, have an efficient approach, and toss in a knuckler as a swingman if I was going to make a run at a real four-man.
That or start with a tandem rotation in A and part of the AA season, then bring them to the four man in late AA and AAA. It would work.
Why do Red Sox fans think Clement is gonna do well in Boston? He’s a huge baby. The guy gets “hurt” anytime he pitches bad. How long before he goes on the DL with hurt feelings? – Tanner
WILL CARROLL: Prove it. Last I looked, we had no real info that this is true. If Dusty had something negative to say, he would have said it by now.
Are David Wells and the Green Monster as bad a combination as I fear they are? Actually, why be narrow? More broadly, are David Wells and Fenway Park as bad a combination as I fear they are? And I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else mention this, but why doesn’t Carl Pavano get himself a splitter? He’s got a good fastball and plenty of control, but he’s badly in need of a true out pitch. If he had one, he’d be fearsome. Now, Pavano is a big guy, and big guys usually have big hands, and big hands make for a good split/fork. What’s stopping him? Am I the only one seeing the potential here? – Sam
WILL CARROLL: It’s hard to learn new pitches or everyone would do it. When I teach high school age pitchers, I say (using Tom House’s phrase) that it takes 1000 tries to do something right. Maybe Pavano’s happy with what he has, given his results and bank account.
As for Wells, I’m unsure how he’ll do. I think he’s got enough experience and command to alter things if the results are bad. I’d be curious to see his numbers in Fenway, even though it’s small sample size. I bet Epstein knew when he signed him.
When should we start worrying about Varitek? I mean, being a neurotic Sox fan, worry is one of my default states (the others being RAGE, despair, and now mild euphoria. Weird), but when should we start to specifically worry about him falling apart? I know he’s played less than some other catchers his age, but I’ve no idea how much that factors in. All this is, of course, is talking about normal catcher decline. This is assuming something freakish doesn’t happen, like he slides into second base and shatters his fibula or something. – Boston Fan In Michigan
WILL CARROLL: It factors in. All players age and decline, but none of them do it on a set schedule. Catchers obviously take more wear and tear and have more opportunity for injury. It shows up clearly in their injury stats. If we could predict this decline accurately, we’d be working for Theo or Billy or Chuck.
But let’s look at this two other ways. First, the Red Sox could eat the contract with nary a ripple on their bottom line. Signing someone to a bad contract does not stop them from spending money. (Though they sure don’t want to cross the tax threshhold.) Second, what if Varitek has two good years, one average one, and one bad one? Everyone would be saying what a bad contract it was – in year four! If it’s ten million for four years, wouldn’t you pay 12-14 for what he did last year, 8 for a decline, and 5 for a crappy year (he’s a vet …). That puts you in the ballpark. Shifting the thought process on long term deals is often necessary.
Add in the PR value of the contract and I don’t fault the signing one bit.
I’ve read your being very skeptical of both Wade Miller’s recent optimism regarding his health and the notion that he could be back as early as May. What kind of season do you project for him health-wise (and at the same time, productivity-wise) in 2005? How does his shoulder injury compare to Pedro Martinez’s 2001 injury- an injury from which he managed to return the next season (2002) incredibly effectively- and can they be measured with any similarity? – Tim Rogan
WILL CARROLL: They are similar, tho we don’t really know exactly what was wrong with Pedro’s shoulders. There’s too much noise. Miller will be handled conservatively and, barring serious injury to one of the main starters, there’s no value in rushing him. Sure, he could pitch in May, but knowing what we know about the situation, that’s not the optimal usage. Thinking of Miller as a mid-season acquisition is the best thing. He’ll fit in the rotation, not be asked to be the savior, but just a fresh, effective back of rotation starter. With those expectations, what’s the downside and what’s the rush?
Now that the Red Sox have won a World Series, and in the fashion they did, beating the Yankees in that 7 games series.. What impact do you think it’s going to have on the rivalry? From the fans, through the players and to the owners, who have all at some point or another shared words, and “actions” against one another. Obviously, many claim this is the greatest rivalry in all of sports, I tend to agree. But now, will it start to fade and take a back seat? Thanks for your time. – Dan
WILL CARROLL: I think it’s a timeless rivalry of passion and occasional classlessness that will feed on itself as long as the teams exist. It’s fun, it’s good for baseball (mostly), and it sure gets media attention.
Who are we going to be most surprised to see get suspended because of steroid use? And also, do you see MLB doing anything about turning over steroid users to law enforcement for prosecution? – Dave
WILL CARROLL: Use is not a crime. Possession is a crime, as is distribution. I’d be more interested in seeing distributors turned over. If you tell me a player is selling to other players, yes, I’d advocate bringing the FBI or proper authorities in.
As for who gets suspended – well, you must have confused me with Jose Canseco. I’m not going to slander anyone with speculation.
Matt Mantei cautioned everyone that he does lousy in Spring Training. Yet, he has been lights out and reports no problems. What percentage do you put him at for finishing the entire season without a DL stint? Do you have any predictions as to what his season this year will look like both statistically and injury-wise? – Evan
WILL CARROLL: Mantei’s a UTK [Ed. Note – Under The Knife is an article Will Carroll produces for BaseballProspectus.com] All-Star. He’ll find a way to get hurt, but I hope I’m wrong. I always hope that every player makes it through and plays to his potential. Relievers are such an odd set with usage, small innings totals, and fluky components that any guess would be just that. I think he’ll fill Scott Williamson’s role nicely.
We know Jose Canseco and Jeremy Giambi, both ex-Red Sox, used steroids. If you had to ‘finger’ some other Red Sox who more than likely used steroids, who would the culprits be? – Evan
WILL CARROLL: Again, I’m not Jose Canseco. If people want testing, then they should accept that testing is the judge and jury. Wait for a positive test. We don’t know who’s on the list of 12 that tested positive, but the first test in 2005 that’s positive will ignite a media storm we’ve likely never seen. I only hope that idiot that does can handle it.
Mark Ellis appears to be at full strength, but just how likely will it be that he’ll finish the season without reinjuring his shoulder a la Richie Sexson or Troy Glaus? Is he damaged goods, or is it possible for him to still have a long career? – Dave
WILL CARROLL: Shoulder injuries do tend to recur. Ellis has had good results so far. I think if two years go by, he’ll be “in the clear.” We’re still learning how shoulder injuries impact careers.
Do you think Byung-Hyun Kim will ever fully recover and be able to be a successful starter? – Mike Brunell
WILL CARROLL: Not in Colorado. Sidearm pitchers normally don’t throw with such force. I’d really love to see Kim in Glenn Fleisig’s lab, watched by the high speed cameras.
I have a question on Randy Johnson. I can’t remember the name of it, but they say he had an injection in his knee a year ago that can only be done once and only lasts for a year. Is this true (the only one and lasting a year part). Why can it only be done once? What does that say for him lasting another full season, let alone two? – Hoothehoo
WILL CARROLL: That’s incorrect. Synvisc can be injected multiple times. No one’s really sure how many times over how many years because it’s too new a substance. It doesn’t do any lasting damage that would preclude multiple uses and in fact, Johnson has had at least two series of these injections with great results. Johnson will retire when he wants, not when the knee forces him too. It’s important to remember that Johnson will someday need that knee replaced. Lots of players “leave it all on the field,” almost literally.
As an Astros’ fan, I was wondering what the risks are of possibly having two out of the three hitting spects (Luke Scott, Willy Taveras, and Chris Burke) starting on opening day, with the third being a regular bench player…Combined with the possibility of Zeke Astacio being in the starting rotation. So, in this specific instance, are 4 important rookies too much if the Astros do decided to do such a thing? – Michael Hurta
WILL CARROLL: Not if it’s the best option. I’m not sure if it is, but it’s temporary until Berkman is back. Call it extended spring training and hope that the pitching holds up.
Pudge Rodriguez. The latest news I heard is that he came into camp 22 lbs lighter than he had been LAST SPRING, maybe only 15 lighter from the end of last year. However, he appears to have dropped some 10 lbs since he got to spring training. Tell me there’s a plausible good reason for this that isn’t the big ‘S’, please. – Boston Fan in Michigan
WILL CARROLL: Sure is. Sari Mellman. Meet the nutritional secret weapon at her web site, sarimellman.com. She’s worked with a ton of athletes and has recieved a lot of attention in Indy because of her work with Dwight Freeney. Rodriguez figured out that lightening up, eating well, and staying in fighting shape would allow him to play longer and stronger. That’s smart.
People rush to blame steroids in an era where we have better workouts, better training, better conditioning, better nutrition, better legal supplements, and more money to fund all those and more.
Know what REALLY worries me? Players that won’t have their Vioxx this year.
Magglio Ordonez. I know he had that freakish knee injury, and that he had some shady overseas surgery done on it. Perhaps you could clarify exactly what he had done? It’s all very mysterious. – Boston Fan in Michigan
WILL CARROLL: It wasn’t so freakish and the surgery isn’t shady, just not approved here. There’s plenty of things like that. Ordonez had the access and money, so why not seek out a treatment that has a lot of advocates. Pujols had a similar procedure on his foot, so why do we say that’s ok and Ordonez’s isn’t – because he went to Europe and that sounds odd?
Carlos Guillen. Will he last the season OK? Or will I have the dreaded Knee Siren going off in my brain all year? – Boston Fan in Michigan
WILL CARROLL: ACL surgery is pretty simple. You replace the ligament, sew ’em up, and get ’em in rehab. It’s not rocket science, it’s carpentry. He’ll lose a bit of range and explosiveness, but I think he (and the plethora of ACL returnees) will be fine.
When will Kyle Farnsworth first flip out in a ridiculous manner and injure himself unnecessarily? May? June? July? – Boston Fan in Michigan
WILL CARROLL: Why wait that long? I think Trammell and Gibson and especially Cluck will be great for Farnsworth actually. I expect him to have a nice season, if not be good, be useful.
Thanks to Will Carroll for answering the questions, and to readers for asking the questions. Tomorrow I’ll unveil the eagerly awaited (or at least I hope it is) Know Thy Enemy on the 2005 Yankees.
The Red Sox just beat the Diamondbacks 10-9. Russ Ortiz got raked by the Red Sox, and in the ninth inning, Cla Meredith came on to get the final out after Kason Gabbard got into a jam. I really like Meredith’s windup, it’s like a slingshot. He’s going to be filthy.

That’s point one innings pitched. As in, he only got one out with four hits, four walks, zero strikeouts, and six runs. Way to go, Russ!