I’m not one to dwell on bad news, but the latest word that Patrick Corbin will require six weeks of rehab or Tommy John surgery for a UCL injury might just be the worst news for D-backs fans all season. After feeling tightness all spring, Nick Piecoro reported, Corbin felt a “small little shock” in his elbow at the end of his last start. And as Piecoro wrote, surgery was recommended for Corbin, but he will seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews this week.
Corbin also allowed 32 earned runs in his final 36 innings pitched last season, and though that was chalked up to fatigue, one wonders a bit more now; after all, Corbin viewed his elbow tightness this spring as something “normal” until he felt that “small little shock.” And maybe it doesn’t really matter. For readers: if Dr. Andrews suggests that Corbin could try rehab for the partial tear first, would you rather see him try that? Or would you rather see him go ahead and get the Tommy John? Getting the surgery sooner could set Corbin up well for 2015, but obviously it would count him out completely for 2014.
In a notebook, Piecoro had more on the Corbin injury:
Whatever the causes, there’s no getting around just how crippling an injury this looks to be for the Diamondbacks. It’s amazing how far Corbin has come in 12 months. A year ago, he was fighting for a rotation spot. Now, his loss seems catastrophic.
At the SABR Analytics conference this past week, I learned a bit more about injuries. 53-54% of all player time lost to the DL came from shoulder or elbow injuries for pitchers. Stan Conte of the Dodgers referenced a study that showed 74% of MLB pitchers who had Tommy John returned as a productive player, but also that it typically took 18 months for a player to return to form. It’s a real shame to lose Corbin, and I hope we see him pitch sooner rather than later, even if he isn’t the ace he was at the outset of 2013.
The identity of Corbin’s replacement is not so clear, although both Archie Bradley and Randall Delgado are on a schedule that would permit them to slide into Corbin’s slot in the rotation without too much difficulty. For now, it’ll be Wade Miley standing in for Corbin in Australia, but the D-backs will still need five starters. Supposedly Josh Collmenter is also a candidate. I’d support that, actually, so long as Collmenter had a dedicated handcuff, and that he could be pulled in fourth innings without much hand wringing. But that’s just me — I think a starter by committee approach is a winner. As for whether Bradley is the guy — as Rod noted last week, there are very strong incentives not to bring up Bradley until at least mid-April.
Jeff Wiser and I spoke on Saturday before attending the D-backs’ Sunday Cactus League game that there was every reason to expect all of the teams’ starters (position players) to play; with a layoff of 4 days or so, it seemed unlikely that an extra off day would be deemed helpful. So it was interesting to see Didi Gregorius start over Chris Owings yesterday, as Jim Bowden of ESPN Insider and Sirius XM Radio said early Sunday morning that he was “hearing that Chris Owings will be the everyday shortstop.” We haven’t heard this report confirmed by anyone else, although as Jeff and I recently discussed, making Owings the starter for a while makes sense. It doesn’t seem like other front offices value him that highly. If he starts and plays very well, his stock with other teams could climb; if he scuffles, his stock will probably just stay the same.
- The most impressive thing I’ve read in the last week is this Baseball Prospectus piece (subscription req) from Robert Arthur on pitch sequencing. Arthur uses the concept of “mutual information” from information theory to quantify how frequently a particular pitcher’s pitch carries any information (any information) about the pitch that comes next. I highly recommend the read, but two things here. One, Arthur found that this pitch sequencing business may only make a difference at the extremes; that is, pitchers who very frequently throw pitches that carry information about the next pitch do get hurt by it, and pitchers who very infrequently do so do get helped. But it’s not a linear relationship, because there’s no correlation in the middle. Two — Arthur identified the five pitchers who gave up the most mutual information in their pitch sequences, and one was Randall Delgado. Given that Delgado performed much worse than expected last season, you really wonder if this is the explanation. And the good news about that: it’s fixable, so long as he and the team try to fix it. It’s not like he’s a two-pitch pitcher; he tends to throw four pitches at least 10% of the time.
- At Snake Pit, Jim McLennan lists the 31 players who made the trip to Sydney. They took two or three extra players — only 30 are eligible even for just the Team Australia exhibition (Ryan Rowland-Smith will actually pitch for Australia, perhaps against the D-backs). It’s also my understanding that Brandon McCarthy and Bronson Arroyo will count against the 28-man limit, even if they aren’t identified for the Dodgers games. Corbin will, too, unless he is put on the DL before that. And speaking of the DL, I note that Cody Ross didn’t take the trip, even after finally playing in a Cactus League game yesterday.
- As Thomas Lynch covered at Venom Strikes, the D-backs did reassign several players. Joe Paterson was assigned to Reno, and with Blake Lalli assigned to minor league camp, it looks like the backup competition is down to just Henry Blanco and Tuffy Gosewisch. It’s too bad that Marcos Mateo was returned to the Cubs, but taking him in the Rule 5 draft was still an excellent decision. Had there been more bullpen injuries, Mateo might have been an important asset.
- Doug Miller of mlb.com has a good, long piece about the D-backs and Dodgers heading to Australia.
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