April 29, 2003

And on the third day, Aaron stopped talking about it

Previous entries on A.J. Burnett's injury:

Monday's entry ("Okay, now I'm pissed)

Tuesday's entry ("The Day After")

I know I have been talking about the A.J. Burnett thing for the last couple days now, so I will put an end to it. But before I do, I just want to mention one final thing. Burnett underwent "Tommy John Surgery" yesterday, as expected, and is likely out for 12-18 months.

Here's the first sentence from the ESPN.com story:

"MIAMI -- Florida Marlins right-hander A.J. Burnett won't pitch again this year, and he might miss next season, too."

Great. Just great.

A little bit further down in the story:

"[Dr. James Andrews] marveled at A.J.'s toughness and pain threshold," Braunecker [Burnett's agent] said. "He said it was probably one of the more remarkable things he's seen in medicine -- A.J. throwing as hard as he was with a completely torn ligament in his elbow."

Great. Just great.

Here's a little piece of advice for all the youngsters out there: When you feel something strange in your arm, like possible something that has completely torn, don't try to throw the ball harder.

Modern medicine is an amazing thing and the treatment of baseball and specifically pitcher injuries are certainly miles ahead of where they were just a couple decades ago. That said, A.J. Burnett has an incredibly tough road ahead of him and the best-case scenario is a return to the mound about a year from now, which I'm sure is a tough reality for Burnett to deal with right now. Hopefully the Marlins with have a manager with a fully-functional brain by then.

Okay, that's it for the Burnett-talk on this blog for a while, I promise.

If you want to read my more detailed discussion of the Burnett-situation from the past two days, here are the links to get you to those entries:

Monday's entry ("Okay, now I'm pissed")

Tuesday's entry ("The Day After")

I want to thank everyone that sent emails about my comments on Burnett. I was even able to strike up a little email conversation with Will Carroll, Baseball Prospectus' injury guru, and I took the opportunity to ask him about my own team's injured starting pitcher, Eric Milton...

Aaron Gleeman: I was wondering if you've heard anything new on Eric Milton's knee and his recovery/rehab?

Will Carroll: Milton is continuing his rehab, but a lot depends on his recovery from the surgery. There should be some new images taken at various intervals after the surgery, but the best case scenario is still three months (he's on the 60 day, so late May is his first eligibility to boot.) The problem is that the cartilage (meniscus) was so destroyed that the bone on bone friction caused damage, inflammation, and (quite probably) arthritis. He's going to have that bone on bone for the rest of his life and will likely need a complete knee replacement at some point. Can he continue to pitch? Probably. Sid Fernandez pitched that way for years - it depends on pain tolerance and his desire to pitch.

Geez, that does not sound good at all. Just hearing "bone on bone friction" makes me cringe and I can't even imagine having to actually pitch with it, particularly for someone with as violent a landing as Milton has in his follow-through. My completely unscientific and uninformed opinion is that Milton landing so hard on his leg after every single pitch probably did a lot to cause the knee injury.

I guess an interesting question is which guy do you feel worse for?

A.J. Burnett, who was used and abused and now faces 12+ months of rehab on his elbow? Or Eric Milton, who was generally handled pretty well and who has had zero arm problems, but now faces a major career obstacle because of an injury that has absolutely nothing to with his arm or elbow or shoulder or anything like that?

At least A.J. can maybe deal with the reason for his not being able to pitch being the actual thing (his arm/elbow) that he relies upon to throw a baseball. Whereas Milton, if the knee injury wipes away a lot of his career, will have to deal with not being able to pitch, but having a completely healthy left arm.

Of course, Milton should be back long before 12-18 months, but his injury strikes me as more likely to affect him down the road, as strange as that sounds when talking about "Tommy John Surgery" as the other option. I guess that's how far the ability to deal with pitching injuries have come.

Either way, good luck to both pitchers. I am a big A.J. Burnett fan (although he will no longer be the ace of my Diamond-Mind staff!) and I feel sorry for the way he has been treated, abused and likely manipulated. I hope he has a safe recovery and is not pressured to do things at a quick pace. As for Milton, I'd love to see him make a few starts down the stretch for the Twins, although, the way they're playing, there might not be a "down the stretch" for them...

The Twins did manage to beat the Devil Rays last night, but they certainly made it "interesting."

The good news is that the Twins managed to hit 2 homers (one each by Koskie and Hunter) after having only 18 homers through their first 24 games. They also got a very good performance from Kenny Rogers and the bullpen did a nice job too.

The bad news, as always, is that they continued to not take a lot of pitches and they drew only 2 walks off of a pitcher, Jorge Sosa, who came into the game averaging 5.4 walks per 9 innings this season and 5.0/9 over his entire career. And, despite banging out 9 hits (and the two walks), the Twins saw a total of 114 pitches in the game (3.3 per plate appearance).

Through their first 25 games, the Twins have drawn 64 walks, which works out to 1 walk for every 13.2 at bats. Last year they drew 472 walks, which was 1 per 11.8 ABs. That may seem insignificant, but if you project their current numbers over the course of 162 games they would end up walking 414 times, which is 58 total walks and 14% fewer than last year.

The amazing thing about it is that Torii Hunter, who walked a grand total of 35 times in 604 plate appearances in 2002 and 29 times in 603 PAs in 2001, already has 10 walks this season, none of which are intentional.

Torii is on pace for about 65 walks this year, which isn't in Barry Bonds-territory, but is more than he had in the past 2 years combined and would definitely make me awfully happy. The only other guys with a walk/at bat ratio better than a 1/10 thus far are Corey Koskie and, of course, Bobby Kielty (who doubled and walked last night).

Doug Mientkiewicz was one of the most disciplined hitters in the AL last season, but he has only 5 walks thus far, which works out to a 33 walk pace (he had 74 in only 143 games last year). After talking all off-season about being more selective at the plate, Jacque Jones is back to his hacking ways and has only 3 walks in nearly 100 PAs. Cristian Guzman, who last showed signs of knowing that taking a fourth ball in an at bat results in being allowed to go to first base in 2000, has 4 walks in 21 games.

And, last and certainly least, Luis Rivas has 1 stinking walk in 20 games. He also has 14 strikeouts and a .194 batting average. But hey, he's young and lots of people say he looks good on the field, so...nevermind.

As a team, the Twins are 29th out of the 30 MLB teams in walks, ahead of only Tampa Bay (and just barely, 64-57).

On the other end of the spectrum, the Yankees have 131 walks, the Phillies have 116 and the Mariners have 111. Coincidently, all of those teams are currently in 1st place.

The Twins are not a team that is ever going to lead the league in walks, but there is no way a team with as many quality hitters as Minnesota has should be 29th in major league baseball in walks, surrounded by teams like Tampa Bay and Detroit.

In other games yesterday...

Two former Twins pitchers continued their great starts.

Matt Kinney pitched 8 innings and allowed only 2 runs in a no-decision against the Expos. His season ERA is now 2.48 in 29 innings pitched, and he has 26 Ks.

Former Minnesota first-round draft pick Mark Redman pitched 7 innings of shutout baseball for the Marlins yesterday, lowering his ERA to 2.72. The most amazing thing about Redman's season thus far is his strikeout rate.

Check out these numbers:

Year     IP      K    K/9

2000 151 117 6.9
2001 58 33 5.1
2002 203 109 4.8

And now this year:

Year     IP      K    K/9

2003 40 38 8.6

I really don't know how to begin to explain that, so if anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Already this season Redman has games of 11, 10 and 7 Ks. He made 30 starts last season and didn't reach double-digits Ks in any of them, topping out at 8 Ks. He made 11 starts in 2001 and the highest K total was 6!

So, in his previous 41 starts he had a high of 8 Ks and averaged 4.9 per 9 innings during that stretch. And then he goes out and strikes out 10 guys in his very first start this season and follows that up with 11 in a game last week!

You know, maybe in addition to ruining the arms and elbows of talented young pitchers, the Florida Marlins are very good at increasing the strikeout rates of veteran lefties who used to pitch for the Twins?

I'll be surprised if either Kinney or Redman finish with an ERA under 4.00

The Tigers got whooped again yesterday, losing 11-3 to Baltimore.

Take a look at the batting averages of the 9 guys that started the game for Detroit:










What the heck is .203 doing batting 9th?! That's their problem, I think. They gotta move him up to the cleanup spot and take advantage of his ability to get a hit every 5 at bats!

I am actually starting to root for the Tigers to do badly, simply because their historic offensive ineptitude is keeping the attention off of the Twins regular offensive ineptitude.

After watching the Yankees put a 15-spot on the Twins a few games back, I would have thought it impossible, but the Seattle Mariners shutout the Yankees last night, winning 6-0.

Gil Meche (who looks awfully good thus far) went 7 2/3 and was followed by the always-awesome Arthur Rhodes and Shigetoshi Hasegawa.

Even "The FoN" went 0-4!

The Rangers won a 16-11 slugfest over the Blue Jays. Alex Rodriguez went 4-6 with a double, a homer, 3 runs scored and 3 batted in. He is now 9 for his last 11 with a homer, 3 doubles and 9 RBI.

ARod is hitting .347/.441/.683 on the season and my only question is which player is going rip him off and win an undeserving AL MVP Award this season? It probably won't be last year's guy, because he is hitting .157/.229/.287...

Greg Maddux appears to be back. Maddux pitched 7 innings last night against Houston, allowing only 1 run off 5 hits and striking out 5 without a walk. His first few starts this season were so brutal that it is going to take quite a while to get his ERA back down to Maddux-territory, but his last two starts have been very good (14 innings and only 1 run, with 0 walks).

Today's picks:

Boston (Lowe) -190 over Kansas City (May)

Detroit (Maroth) +135 over Baltimore (Lopez)

Tampa Bay (McClung) +200 over Minnesota (Radke)

Total to date: + $1,145

W/L record: 52-49 (3-2 yesterday, putting me back over the $1,000-mark)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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