A couple days ago, Will Carroll offered to answer up to five health-related questions for a team, so I submitted five for the A's. I won't say any of the answers are ground-breaking, but impressively he got back to me same day and it's always nice to hear a view from outside the fan base and inside the industry:
1. How is Eric Chavez' HR power likely to be impacted by his shoulder and back surgeries?
We're just not sure yet. Chavez is saying he feels great, but until we see him in games or at least batting practice, there's no way to tell. Beyond that, we don't know if he'll start off healthy and degrade slowly, or fall off a cliff statistically. It's such an unknown proposition. There are very few comparable situations, so we just have to wait and see, which is frustrating!
2. What, if anything, is the correlation between Dallas Braden throwing his screwball, and the arm problems Braden has recovered from in the past 12-18 months?
I don't think it's the screwball as much as how hard he cranks it. A circle change is kind of a "half" screwball and a sinker like what Brandon Webb throws has elements of that as well. There's very little research done on the screwball unless you subscribe to Mike Marshall's theories, but there's no reason to think that it has a higher intrinsic pitch cost.
3. If Daric Barton's recovery from hip surgery affects his play in 2009, how will it show up first/most?
I think we'll see his swing affected most. It's not like running is part of his game. If he can't get comfortable in his swing, I think we'll see him struggle. That said, he shouldn't - the hip surgery isn't a Ducscherer (sic) like situation here.
4. Was Mark Ellis' propensity for popping pitches up last year thought to be related to his then-ailing shoulder?
I've heard every theory in the book, but I'd just be guessing if I said A=B on that. Hitting is hard enough without trying to do it through pain.
5. Do Travis Buck's series of injuries the past few years scream "injury prone" or "series of flukes"?
A series of flukes is a pattern. I always say that health is a skill like anything else, and until a player shows he can survive under the intense workload of professional baseball, whether it's one big injury or a bunch of small ones, he doesn't have that skill. People try to wave off small injuries, but I think they're as telling as anything else.
Thanks to Will Carroll for taking the time to address these questions. In the 48 hours since I submitted the questions, Chavez has announced he will not play for the first week of spring training (presumably just a conservative move in response to the longer spring training) and A's trainer Steve Sayles has announced that Ellis will not be cleared to play 2B in games until March 25th (just two weeks before Opening Night).
So despite the A's cautious optimism about improved overall health in 2009, it is most certainly once again touch and go for the green and gold - or is the black and blue?