Earlier this week, Will Carroll and Thomas Gorman of Baseball Prospectus produced the A's Team Health Report. Carroll has developed a system of rating players via the traffic light (red, yellow, green).
Earning reds were Crosby, Kotsay, Frank Thomas and Rich Harden. Yellows were Blanton, Bradley, Chavez, Ellis and Swisher. The rest were green.
The A's seem poised to challenge for the AL West crown in 2006. The team's major obstacle, in all likelihood, will be health. So naturally, when Will presented me with the chance to interview him about the THR, I jumped at the chance.
Here is my chat with Will Carroll.
Blez: The Eric Chavez decision not to have surgery caused many A's fans to shake their heads and wonder why he wouldn't just get it taken care of in the offseason if he's eventually going to need it fixed. You gave him a yellow light, but there were times last year when Chavez was literally one-hopping throws to first base just to try and get them there. To many A's fans, that shoulder is a serious concern. How big an impact do you think it has on him in 2006?
Will Carroll: Yes, at some point, he will need to get it fixed, but the state of the art with shoulders is a bit shaky. It's much, much better than it was just a couple years ago, but if you can avoid it, you do. Chavez is likely to be, at worst, what he was last year. That's not MVP, but it's not bad either. I'm going to side with the A's here; they have info I don't and I don't think they'd risk much with Chavez.
Blez: Huston Street got a green light, probably because he didn't really have any injury issues. But does his somewhat unorthodox delivery concern you at all?
Carroll: No, I really like his delivery the more I see it. It's deceptive and funky, but don't mistake "unorthodox" for "wrong." There's no one true motion and while there's always things to fix here and there, Street's pretty clean. Add in the depth of the pen and Street shouldn't be overused. There's a more interesting issue about strict relievers. Most closers, even from the past, have been failed starters. This new breed, closing all through the minors and even in college, is a big unknown. I hate unknowns, but thus far, it's been a healthy bunch.
Blez: It's very interesting that Joe Blanton got a yellow when he didn't really seem to have any health issues last year, but consistency problems. Can you expand on the reasons he would get a yellow because he's one of the last starting pitchers I'd fear getting hurt?
Carroll: Goofy splits, really. He had a big jump in innings but it's not real. My system doesn't look at minor league info, a major flaw. It did see his splits and thought early season injury, which I have no information to suggest it was. Quirks happen and the system is far from perfect. Really, any young pitcher is pretty risky, so I don't think the rating is too far out of line. Who'd have thought Harden would be felled by a non-throwing shoulder injury? Risks are everywhere.
Blez: Not sure if you've heard about Danny Haren's cut on his finger from throwing his breaking ball early in the spring. Is that a real concern?
Carroll: Only if it lingers. I'm going to say it's a fluke now, rather than something like Beckett's blisters.
Blez: Thomas Gorman (the co-writer of the A's THR) says you hate the red light rating on Harden. Is this the season we finally see what Harden can do over 35 starts or so or does he just seem to be injury-prone?
Carroll: Everyone I spoke to is a little concerned at his build. There's not many pitchers that have his muscularity. I hate the red because I like Harden so much, but I'm not going to play with the ratings just because I'm wishcasting a breakout season. I'll take the 35 solid starts action.
Blez: Look into your crystal ball and tell me how many games you think Frank Thomas plays this year. What are your reports on him right now?
Carroll: Oof. This one is vexing. I had a TON of info on Thomas' foot which was contradicted by a very good source just before going to press. I ended up copping out a bit with his red. I mean, he's RED RED RED, but the A's aren't helping me much here (Are you reading this, Billy?) He's certainly worth the gamble and can produce when healthy. I think it's just such a task to figure out when to use him that the inevitable problems are going to look worse for the team. If he did what he did last year, would you be happy?
Blez: I was talking with Justin Duchscherer earlier this spring about his recurring back problems and he was telling me that he feels like has it under control because he picked up a new mattress. He also said he feels like hotel beds on the road are part of the problem. Do you think something like this can contribute to the recurring back issues? If so, should teams start bringing beds with them on road trips? (I mean this partly in jest, but you get my point)
Carroll: Isn't that a great way to start a sentence? "I was talking with" a major league player. God, I love my job. You know, I talked to one team who was trying to use one hotel chain in each city because they have a special bed. Not that it was any better, but it would at least be consistent. I'm stunned that some large-market team hasn't tried something.
Blez: Crosby also claimed that he isn't an injury-prone player when I interviewed him earlier this spring. Would you give him that distinction or is it a wait-and-see kind of thing in 2006 first?
Carroll: Play healthy for a full season, Bobby, and I'll agree.
Blez: Thanks for your time, Will. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed for a healthy season from the team in 2006.