Monday, August 09, 2004

Q&A With Will Carroll 

On Friday July 30th (aka “Black Friday”) the Mets made a series of trading deadline deals which resulted in the organization’s top two pitching prospects, Scott Kazmir and Matt Peterson, being shipped out in exchange for two Major League pitchers, Tampa Bay’s Victor Zambrano and Pittsburgh’s Kris Benson. The trades were almost universally slammed, both in the blogosphere and in the mainstream media, with the focus of the criticism directed at the Kazmir for Zambrano trade. Questions soon arose such as; can the Mets new pitching coach Rick Peterson really fix the wild Zambrano “in 10 minutes,” as he was reported to have claimed? Is Kazmir susceptible to future injuries due to his size, the fact that he’s a southpaw or does he have some flaw in his mechanics? Since my lack of knowledge with respect to pitching mechanics is rivaled only by my lack of HTML knowledge (it took me 3 hours to change the font of my blog’s logo), I though I’d enlist the services of someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.

Will Carroll writes for Baseball Prospectus, including his weekly series called Under the Knife, where Will presents some of his groundbreaking work in analyzing baseball injuries. Will also hosts Baseball Prospectus Radio and has recently published his first book, Saving the Pitcher. Thank you Will for taking the time to answer some questions and help us crazy Met fans deal with some of these issues.

Shea Hot Corner: Part of the Mets rationale for trading Scott Kazmir were concerns about his durability because he is relatively small in stature and a lefty. Were these legitimate concerns?

Will Carroll: I don't have any data on durability for right/left, so I'll ignore that part. The concerns weren't that Kazmir wasn't durable because he was small, it was because his mechanics were so problematic. Kazmir was one of the pitchers that Peterson took to ASMI this winter and there were certain adjustments that needed to be made. While I don't know the results of that testing, it's possible that he was putting a strain on his arm that was greater than the normal forces that a UCL or a rotator cuff can withstand. That would be a very legitimate concern.

Shea Hot Corner: Mets fans have heard for a while that Kazmir "throws across his body." Whether that is, in fact, the case or not is another story but what exactly does this mean and why is it a concern?

Will Carroll: If you imagine that there is an invisible line running from home to second base, a pitcher normally wants to keep his force - and therefore the force on the ball - on that line or as close to parallel as possible. (We're ignoring breaking balls here.) A pitcher that has his arm come inside that line, one that appears to come medial (further towards the middle of the body) to the armpit is throwing across his body and placing stress on his shoulder. When you see this, think impingement syndrome.

Shea Hot Corner: Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson was recently reported to have said that he could fix Victor Zambrano "in 10 minutes." He was presumably talking about Zambrano's mechanics and wildness. Is it possible for a pitching coach to correct a flaw in a 29 year old pitcher's mechanics "in 10 minutes" to the point that results on the mound are seen quickly?

Will Carroll: 10 minutes. Sure! It depends on what the flaw is and how strong the habit is, but yes. If I can do it working with kids, there's no reason to doubt that Rick can do it with professionals. Zambrano could be doing something as simple as pulling his head, striding incorrectly, or maybe his eyelids are just stuffed up.

Shea Hot Corner: Rick Peterson also said recently that part of the impetus behind trading both Scott Kazmir and Matt Peterson, both drafted out of high school, was that they were still several years away from being able to make an impact at the Major League level, citing two other high school draftees, Tom Glavine (536 minor league innings) and Al Leiter (692 minor league innings), as evidence. Is there some magic number of innings a pitcher should throw in the minor leagues from a health and/or effectiveness standpoint?

Will Carroll: Not that I've seen evidence or even a study for. One of the chief advantages of a college pitcher is that he's more physically (and hopefully mentally) mature and will advance faster. Beyond David Clyde, I can't really think of any HS pitchers that rush through the minors in the fashion a Mark Mulder or Mark Prior did. It would be an interesting study to see how fast certain types of players make it to the majors.

Shea Hot Corner: The Mets, under the direction of Rick Peterson, have implemented an organizational wide pitching system from the Major League club down through the minor league clubs. Mets fans were excited about this as Peterson's arrival coincided perfectly with a wealth of young, minor league pitching talent in the Mets farm system. However, the recent trades and comments from Mets brass indicate that the Mets are not only willing to trade pitching prospects, but prefer established Major League pitchers over minor league pitching prospects, even top pitching prospects. Why would the Mets go through the time, expense and effort to implement this system to mold and prevent injuries to young pitchers for other teams?

Will Carroll: First, I think the "wealth" was a bit overstated. What I believe the Mets are trying to do is get some certainty, much like the A's did. A pitching prospect (and we know there is no such thing) is valuable if he makes the majors successfully or can be traded for something that helps the major league club. It's nice to win at Double-A, but that doesn't mean wins at the bigs. For a pitcher like Kazmir, there's so much risk of injury or ineffectiveness - he's never been dominant at any level - that there's a significant chance he will never have any value to the big league club. Zambrano may not have the potential, but he's proven himself to be a major league #3. For the right club at the right price, that's something. Trading Kazmir is not necessarily wrong, but I'd want more for him. That Soriano deal sure looks nice about now.

Shea Hot Corner: Lastly, departing from the trade issue for a minute, one of my readers astutely pointed out on draft day that seven of the Mets first fourteen picks in this year's amateur draft were right handed pitchers with so called 3/4 arm-slot deliveries and no wind-up. First, what is a "3/4 arm slot delivery" and is there something more advantageous about one arm slot delivery over another? Similarly, is there something to be said for a pitcher with no wind-up versus a pitcher with one?

Will Carroll: 3/4 arm slot means the arm comes through halfway between overhand and sidearm. From behind, it looks like the clock is at 1:30 or so. Arm slot is extremely overrated according to most biomechanical studies. The windup has no value at all other than deception and rhythm. I personally don't teach it. I don't care how my pitcher gets to the start of the motion as long as he gets there and doesn't balk.

Again, thank you to Will. As always, please leave comments below. And if anyone would like to ask Will a follow-up question, no need to track him down since he’s coming to us. On Friday, August 13th at 5:00 p.m. Baseball Prospectus will be hosting one of their pizza feeds at Shea, lead by Will Carroll:
Come out August 13th as the Mets take on the Diamondbacks. We'll meet at 5pm in the Picnic Area for some baseball talk, then sit together for some baseball. Will Carroll leads the group but there should be plenty of special guests. Tickets are $14 and should be ordered through Josh Orenstein of the Mets Group Sales department (joren@nymets.com).

Site Meter Listed on Blogwise Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?