Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"It's kind of something that's built up over the course of the whole year."

Chico Harlan reports the bad news:
Rookie starter Craig Stammen, a member of Washington's pitching rotation since May, has been scratched from his start on Friday because of elbow soreness. An MRI, scheduled for Thursday in Washington, D.C., will determine the severity of the injury.

"I don't really know what's going on," Stammen said of his elbow. "It's just painful. It doesn't feel good. It's kind of something that's built up over the course of the whole year. It's something I've pretty much dealt with over the course of the whole season. It's just kind of time to get it checked out right now."

Stammen, with a 4-7 record and a 5.11 ERA in 19 starts, admitted that he had been trying to "gut it out" and finish the season.
Benefit of the doubt, pitchers get hurt a lot... blah blah blah... WTF!?!?!?!?!

Stammen isn't the second coming of Tim Lincecum by any stretch of the imagination, but under no circumstances should any rookie 25-year-old pitching prospect of any grade be trying to "gut it out." You don't mess with elbows.

Why on Earth was he not sent for an MRI the day he complained of the soreness in the first place? Is the team being cheap? Did he hide it? These questions should be answered, especially when you have a manager, GM, and pitching coach all beating their chests every day about how old school they are.

I have questions, not answers, but Stammen's comment about trying to gut it out and the injury being there all year really, really worries me.


Ben said...

I think about questions like these when people ask "how can the Nat's be so unlucky with injuries".

The answer, as you demonstrate, is of course that we aren't. We are reaping the rewards of organisational ineptitude.

ckstevenson said...

From the little that has been reported so far, I'm not clear as to when Stammen first reported any sort of an issue with the Nats. Do we know for sure?

If it was at any point before this now reported in the papers issue, then we have a good idea of a systemic issue (as Ben points out).

IF (a big one) this is the first thing the Nats have heard about, we have a whole different set of issues. Maybe pitchers are keeping their issues to themselves. If so, we must ask "why?"

Do we have the same issues with our minor leaguers? If not, what is being done differently at the major league level than the minor league?

Is this a pitching coach specific issue? We don't have large major league McCatty sample size, but we do have his time at AAA. Is it McCatty? Was it St. Claire?

Do our mounds suck? Are they too steep? That's an out there thought, but I think we're at the point of having to take a (word I dislike forthcoming) "holistic" view of what is going on with our pitchers. Even if this is a "pitchers get hurt, blah blah blh" thing then we need to figure out a system-wide approach that minimizes the "blah blah blah" component.

I'd love to know if our pitchers on the whole throw more/less innings than others, are more or less injury prone, etc.

And it seems as though this is only our starters. What are we doing with them that we aren't our relievers? Our starters are NOT pitching 8ip/game!

Section 222 said...

I had the same reaction when I saw this: WTF?! I cannot believe that a major league team doesn't lay down the law in no uncertain terms to all it's pictures: "Thou shalt not keep arm discomfort or any injury at all to yourself. We need to know everything about how your recovery after each start is going. This is not optional." And especially after JZimm went down, how could Stammen even think about continuing to pitch with discomfort in the elbow. For goodness sake.

hleeo3 said...

If you read the the Sean Burnett interview by Chico you can see a parallel between Stammen and Burnett's reasons for "toughening it out". I don't agree with them but it is what it is.
I think Stammen kept it to himself. As soon as Z-mann mentioned slight soreness they shut him down immediately.
Mcatty and Riggles are gone after the season anyway. The only coaches that have shown competency have been Listach and Eckstein.

An Briosca Mor said...

Maybe pitchers are keeping their issues to themselves. If so, we must ask "why?"

Why? Because they're competing for jobs, that's why. They know that if they voluntarily pull themselves from the rotation every time they feel a little tweak, there is no guarantee they'll ever get back in. That's why they're going to try to gut it out whenever possible.

And let's be clear: this is an attitude you want in your pitchers, or for that matter in all your players. Expecting them to give a daily report every time they think there might be any little health issue so that management can decide how to deal with it is not at all feasible or realistic. If a pitcher feels pain but thinks he can still pitch, he's going to lie about it. Because he knows that his job is not guaranteed.

Get real, people. Pitching is not a natural act. Injuries are going to happen. Careers are going to be cut short. There's a big difference between this and the systemic abuse of pitchers that you guys are all up in arms about.

Sasskuash said...

Yet another reason why the Nats should mandate pre-emptive Tommy John for Strasburg. And use 2 tendons while we're in there. After that baby heals, let him pitch 3 times a week, it will be the next-best thing to a completely bionic arm!

On a serious note, I had 2 thoughts when I initially read the report. 1) I got the impression he did not say anything. My first impression this morning was he felt it a little, and it got progressively worse, but he thought he could pitch through it, and now he can't so he'll probably be on the operating table by Sept. 15.
2) The way he described the feeling, it sounded to me like he might as well have said, "It felt like a ligament was tearing a little bit more every time I threw a baseball. But I decided to pitch through it anyway. How bad can it be, right?"

Section 222 said...

@ABM, I certainly agree that you want that kind of attitude in players generally. But young pitchers are in a different category. They are our future, and the team should be all over them to make sure they don't injure themselves by taking unnecessary chances. So yes, I don't think Dunn and Willingham should be reporting every tweak they feel, but rookie pitchers I feel differently about. Some injuries can heal with rest and treatment rather than the surgery that's needed (and that knocks you out for a year or two) if you keep trying to "gut it out."

Steven said...

I'd like to see teams be more aggressive about teaching their players (esp. pitchers, but not just) about the nature of cascading injuries. Chad Cordero started with some lat soreness, pitched through it, ended up tearing a labrum. Some of these guys are dumb, young, think they're indestructible. Maybe a lot of them, but I think teams could make a difference with education.

I do think you can separate competitiveness from sensible good health and injury prevention.

An Briosca Mor said...

They are our future, and the team should be all over them to make sure they don't injure themselves by taking unnecessary chances.

They are the future if and only if they pitch well enough to stay in the rotation. If they don't pitch well enough, they're gone and the kid next to them gets his shot. They all know that. Once the team puts a kid in the rotation, it's his job to lose. If he steps out for whatever reason, he may not get back in. They all know that too. Thus any decision to take them out is going to have to come from the team, not from the pitcher. And the pitcher is not going to provide any reason to be taken out unless and until he absolutely has to. That's the way it is.

It's kind of the inverse of when a kid says it hurts and he can't go to school today. Most times he's lying. The mother needs to use her sixth sense to know when the kid really is telling the truth. If the team asks a pitcher if he's hurt and can't pitch, he's gonna lie and say he's not unless he absolutely can't. The team needs to use its intuition or read the tea leaves in the pitcher's performance to figure out that he really might be hurt and shut him down. There's no way in hell they can expect their players to pre-emptively warn them that they feel an injury coming on. That's a ridiculous idea on its face.

flippin said...

ABM has it right. We don't want a bunch of Ryan Church types clogging up the 40 man roster. How hard are we riding these guys? NOT AT ALL. Our guys are on the low end of innings pitched because they suck; they have trouble getting through the 5th. Our innings pitched by starters, 746, is sixth lowest in the MLB. And our starters have thrown the fewest pitches in MLB. How in god's name are these lightly used (relatively) starters so fragile?

An Briosca Mor said...

Some of these guys are dumb, young, think they're indestructible. Maybe a lot of them, but I think teams could make a difference with education.

Only if along with the "education" they provide a guarantee that if the player does pull himself out because he feels an injury coming on he gets his job back no matter what. And no team is going to commit to anything like that.

They can provide all the education they want and it won't change a player's behavior pattern unless the player wants to change. Hell, players still smoke and chew tobacco despite 40 years of demonstrated evidence that they're killing themselves by doing so, and even with surgeon general's warnings on every pack. And most players will not want to change established patterns when there's no guarantee that doing so won't cost them their jobs.

An Briosca Mor said...

How in god's name are these lightly used (relatively) starters so fragile?

John Patterson is their role model. They have his photo up in their lockers like Irish Catholics have photos of JFK and the Pope up on their walls.

Steven said...

I think there's a false choice being set up here. There's a way to be sensible, preventative, etc., without "coddling" players or undermining toughness.

Maybe this is a role better suited for agents or the union, or maybe the players need to get more of their own medical advice separate from the team, so that they can share information with someone who's expert and has only their interests at heart, like their lawyers and agents.

What's happening now though isn't working. Pitchers get hurt, but on the Nationals EVERYBODY gets hurt.

phil dunn said...

A trip to Dr. James Andrews is next and then you know the rest of this familiar story. The injury curse lives.

Steven said...

How in god's name are these lightly used (relatively) starters so fragile

Maybe IP and pitch counts aren't the only factor in injury prevention. Maybe the between starts routine, or proper warm-up, or weight training, or diet, or mechanics, or cardio or something totally different is most important?

There's still a lot we don't know about pitching injuries. Unfortunately, for years most people in baseball (and some still today) had the attitude that thinking about injury prevention was a sign of weakness. So there's not a lot that's been tried or researched.

Dave Nichols said...

"gutting it out" IS "old school". it's lesson No. 1.

nobody teaches players the difference between sore and injured. that's one of the primary reasons there are so many pitching injuries.

cause let me tell you from experience: pitching competitively hurts like hell.

flippin said...

I watched the Braves close up for the glory years and I was able, a the beginning of the season, to write down almost every starter for the year. I went to just about every Maddux home game, a guaranteed 2 hour (or less) day at the park. Mazzone did something between starts that kept those guys going almost injury free. I know Smoltz and Glavine have been dinged up recently, but hell, they're my age. Hampton, of course, does not count. I had heard that Mazzone emphasized pitching between starts to keep the arm strong. I don't know what St. Claire did (or did not do) and I haven't a clue what McCatty's philosophy is on between start work. Sit around and get fat like him? Who knows. But wahtever he and St. Claire ginned up is not working well. How about we hire Mazzone.

flippin said...

sorry for the typos

DMan said...

Guys who have the almost freakish genetic make up to be durable, big inning pitchers are far and few between. There was nothing special "back in the day" when starters routinely strove to pitch complete games. Because of the control they had over players, teams back then kept running em out there until they found the ones who stuck. For every guy who made it, dozens blew out their arms. It was pure Darwinism at work.

You have to accept that a much smaller percentage of youngsters today play baseball than in year past and there are more teams. The talent pool is thinner, and with current salaries, teams just can't afford keep running 'em out there like they used to. I also wonder how much of an impact the lower mound has had. I've heard it been said many times now that there is much more effort per pitch now than before.

The old adage is true - you really can't have too many arms in the system.

PS - Of course Stammen would keep going out there. Everyone is so in love with those big fast ball guys, that a control pitcher like Stammen will think it is their ONE SHOT to make it.

Steven said...

People who talk about "back in the day" are just completely out to lunch. Oh yeah, back in the day pitchers never got hurt. Look at Steve McCatty, Mike Norris, Mark Fidrych, Sandy Koufax, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Don Gullett, Gary Nolan...