Under The Knife 7/23/21

Ted Lasso Day!

Yes, it’s Ted Lasso day. The new season starts on Apple TV+. You’ve probably heard about the show and will again, but if you haven’t watched Season 1, do it. It’s a perfectly timed show. It’s too early to call it an all-time great and with most comedies, longevity is one of the key themes. (I’m trying to think of the shortest run for a great comedy - Arrested Development at 5 with limited episodes? I asked on Twitter and while I am partial to SportsNight, either The Honeymooners or WKRP probably takes this.)

Early word is that Season 2 lives up to the promise of Season 1 and even if you hate soccer, you’ll find yourself rooting for AFC Richmond and confounded by offsides. I hope the Hounds don’t have a lot of injuries, but MLB has some:

Kris Bryant 3B CHC (strained hamstring)

Ryan asked: “Not sure if you saw it or not but reading David Ross's comments prior to Thursday's game about Bryant in the Athletic. Ross mentioned the teams keep track of yardage and sprints. He was talking about Nico Hoerner, who is coming back from a hamstring injury. He also said something about Bryant having a lot of yards and needing a day off soon. He left that game with fatigue. Could you elaborate or explain that any more? Are they watching sprint speed? Is it something else like a Motus pitching sleeve just focusing on legs? I feel like there is something I am missing here.

There’s a couple possible answers here and while I couldn’t get any Cubs source to comment on this, even off the record, none said the following answers were wrong either. The first is that every field has Hawkeye cameras now, installed as part of the overhaul of Statcast. Those cameras do a lot, including motion tracking which can be used for things like sprint speed, distance, and even for motion capture on the mound, something that was shown at a recent SportTechie conference, but unacknowledged by MLB to date.

Every team has analysts and consultants that help analyze this data, plus the league office, some of which we see in the public facing Statcast formats. Trust me, there’s a lot we don’t see, mostly because it’s simply a lot of data. Gigs and terabytes of data.

The other possible answer is that the Cubs are using something like Catapult or Statsports on field. A few teams are using something like this for all their athletes, but the devices have gotten harder to spot. Looking at pictures of the Cubs over the past few weeks don’t give me any insight, but those give the same kind of data, including more specific movement tracking.

Either of these technologies could give the type of data that Ross referenced, including a signal that showed Bryant was showing fatigue. That could also include input from the S&C or medical staff, and even the front office with Bryant a clear trade possibility.

The answer is that there’s multiple possibilities, that most sports are using this or something like this, and that the cameras used by MLB will give us even more in years to come. I think back to when we first got PitchFX data which created a cottage industry. The addition of Statcast did even more. I’m curious to see what we end up doing with all this data, plus the explosion of new technologies that could give us even more insights. I know the use of GPS trackers in Euro football has created a major decrease in injuries and hope it can do the same here.

Mookie Betts OF LAD (strained hip)

Mookie Betts hip isn’t getting better, but it’s not getting worse. The thought was at the start of the week that a couple days off would clear it up. The Dodgers could play a man down, with Betts as an emergency bat if need be. The fact that it hasn’t gotten better is the problem, given the roster and the IL rules.

It’s always a tough read on healing time. Rest and treatment don’t work on a schedule and each injury, even of a type, responds individually based on too many factors to even hope to control. This isn’t the fault of Betts or the medical staff. It’s just one of those things.

The question is - what now? Assuming that there’s some progress, the Dodgers could elect to eat it and put Betts on the IL, or they could continue to play a man down and hope that it’s just a few more days. The move to bring in Billy McKinney is tipped by some as an indication, but bringing in a DFA isn’t going to replace Betts, even if he goes full Juan Pierre.* My guess is that the Dodgers will be conservative here and IL Betts, but only if they feel that taking him off the bench will speed the healing.

There’s also an element of fear here, it feels like. With Luis Robert and Byron Buxton, two players that could reasonably be compared to Betts as a type, having similar injuries that have dented their seasons, the last thing the Dodgers want to do is lose Betts for any longer period of time. That’s why I’m leaning to the conservative here, but we should see this play out quickly.

*I forget the year without looking it up, but when Manny Ramirez was suspended, Juan Pierre stepped in for him in left field and went on a two week tear like nothing he’d ever done in his career. That didn’t make Pierre better than Ramirez any more than Kevin Maas being better than Lou Gehrig. It’s a small sample quirk that reminds us anything can happen in basely.

Nick Castellanos OF CIN (fractured wrist)

“Microfracture” isn’t really a thing, at least not in the sense that Nick Castellanos used it. A broken bone is a broken bone, though there are certainly different varieties of fractures. Castellanos isn’t incorrect here; it is a small fracture, but it’s a small bone, and it was undetected by not one but two X-rays. After he continued to have pain, they took a CT and it showed the small fracture.

Word is that it’s not displaced and that surgery is not a consideration (so it’s probably not the hamate.) That leaves the question of why it’s painful and that means the issue might not be the fracture itself. The wrist has a lot of nerves, cartilage, and other structures beyond just the bones and getting anything even a little out of whack, which the inflammation from a bone injury can easily do, can cause secondary issues. If there’s inflammation, it could be simply entrapping a nerve. Simple, but painful.

With what little is known here, this could go a number of ways. Bones heal, as I often say, and with no major issue besides the trauma, it should heal enough to play relatively quickly, but they’ll have to watch to make sure it doesn’t separate again and there’s the risks of the force of a swing or another HBP. The Reds are usually quite good at this sort of management injury, so I think this could go quicker than most will expect when they here “broken wrist” or even “microfracture.”

Alex Kirilloff OF MIN (sprained wrist)

Alex Kirilloff’s wrist injury is a lot more straightforward. He tore a ligament inside his wrist in late May. It was painful but manageable, but Kirilloff attempted to play through it. It didn’t get better and after a recent couple weeks of reduced performance and an inability to do much more in terms of maintenance, all parties decided the best course was surgery. He had that this week and will be out eight weeks, functionally ending his season.

Ligament injuries aren’t rare, but they’re much less common than wrist fractures, which have a known pattern of return. There’s a bit more uncertainty with this than the more common bony injuries, even with surgery. We normally see a period where power is down, which is thought to be a result of changed biomechanics that are overcome by repetition. We’ve seen that period come down at the same time that guys have taken to the indoor cages and launched balls by the thousands, so it makes sense that if repetition is all it takes, it can be reduced even further.

Add in that with this timing, Kirilloff should be past this by the spring and the assumed normal offseason. This becomes a bit of a Schrodinger issue - we’ll know he’s fine once we see he’s fine, but won’t know it until then. He’s young, he’s talented, and he’ll have every chance to come back from this, but probably not until next year.

Sixto Sanchez SP MIA (strained shoulder)

Sixto Sanchez had the expected shoulder surgery and we have a few new facts. He went to Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the top shoulder surgeon in the world, so that’s good. The downside is that there was more damage in the shoulder beyond the expected capsule tear. That tear was fixed and the rear of his shoulder was cleaned out. That’s likely some labrum and rotator cuff fraying and neither is good, but then again, it’s not unheard of with any pitcher. It may well have been asymptomatic as many pitchers have, but ElAttrache would have assessed this and having it fixed concurrently isn’t going to add time.

The hope is that all of this will get Sanchez back. The big “but” in all of this is that shoulder injuries are tough to come back from and even with advances in shoulder capsule repair, it’s about 50/50 by the numbers. This is rare in baseball pitchers, but not rare in the broader population. There’s just a big difference in function. What works for a factory worker or someone’s grandpa is not exactly what is best for a young shoulder throwing in the mid-90s. That’s where the expertise and experience of a top surgeon comes in, and why there’s so few of those.

Sanchez should have about a three to four month medical rehab, which puts him on track to have something of a normal, but likely light, offseason. He should be throwing by spring training, but competitively? That’s a bit of an unknown, leaving him in that same “we’ll know when we see” category that reminds me - never draft early.

(Someone recently asked me if I was planning a new “top surgeons in baseball” article. The answer’s no, because from the first one I did twenty years ago, it hasn’t changed much. It’s not like a prospect list.)

Quick Cuts:

Jacob deGrom is throwing again, but it’s flat ground and low intensity. It’s something, but there’s no timeline on his return … Stephen Strasburg’s setback after a sim game seems minor now. He threw again quickly after discussion of a shutdown, then threw a 30 pitch pen with all his pitches at “high intent.” There’s still no clear timeline, but this is progress … Ryan Weathers (knee) will come off the IL and start for the Padres Saturday. He will likely be limited, but it’s unclear just how deep the Padres want to let him go … Jack Flaherty threw another good bullpen session. He continues his comeback from a nasty Grade II oblique strain … Bryce Harper fouled a ball off his foot and it was described as “kind of purple” on Thursday but he played. Harper had to talk his way into it, I’m told, but wanted to set an example as the Phillies head down the stretch … Danny Jansen had a bit of a grab on his hamstring and given his recent issues, that’s a worry. The Jays pulled him from last night’s game and will re-evaluate on a day-to-day basis for now … Austin Nola returned from his knee sprain Thursday. The Padres are hoping his bat upgrades on Victor Caratini, though they’ll split time. There is some rumor that this is someplace the Friars are looking to upgrade. There’s an absolute dearth of talent at the position, but if the Reds are sellers, Tucker Barnhardt could bring an outsized return. Want to get crazy - what could the Cardinals get for Yadier Molina and how would he fit in on the Padres? … Guardians? Okay. I’m switching to the name here now … I also highly recommend “Home After Dark” and “For All Mankind” on Apple TV+.