Trade Him? Keep Him? Sign Him? The Complicated Issue Surrounding David Price

It’s that time of the year again, but not that season of Christmas cookies, Santa and disco balls dropping at midnight that you are probably thinking about. Instead, its that time of the year in Major League Baseball where there are blockbuster trades taking place and record shattering contracts being signed. We have already seen the monster trade of Prince Fielder take place and scroll across the bottom of our TV’s on the ESPN ticker. One trade or sign we haven’t seen scroll across that ticker is David Price, the left-handed starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. The situation of David Price is a complicated one though and the Rays need to decide whether they keep him for the next two years and let him walk in free agency, trade him to another team for top MLB prospects or try to work a deal out with him and sign him long term.

Lets look at and examine those options more below.

Sign Him

Of the three options, this is the least likely to happen by far. The Rays are a small market franchise, that are not able to spend a lot on payroll. The Rays only spent $58 million on payroll in 2013 and that is not nearly enough money to pay Price. Price will be commanding around a 7 year $190 million dollar deal, that will make him the highest paid pitcher in baseball. Price would be about half the payroll for the Rays, so financially it is just not possible, unless he takes a hometown discount (which he won’t).

Related Article: Jeff Passan from Yahoo Sports analyzes the Felix Hernandez contact and how it bodes well for future pitchers like David Price.

06-22-11 188

Keep Him

The second option is for the Rays to hold on to him one more year and make another playoff push for the World Series. After next year they could either hold on to him for the final year of his deal and let him leave via free agency and get a compensatory draft pick or they trade him before the season or even trade him mid season depending on Rays record.

Related Article: Jamal Wilburg from BleacherReport.com explores if the Rays can figure out a way to keep David Price.

06-22-11 066

Trade Him

The third and final option for the Rays is to trade him to another team outside of the AL-East. This is the most likely option for the Rays to explore and go through with. Last year the Rays traded both James Shields and Wade Davis to the Kansas City Royals for four players, most notably Wil Meyers the top prospect in baseball. The Rays got one great player and three potentially good or great players for one mediocre pitcher and one great pitcher. If the Rays to trade Price this offseason, expect a similar deal, but one with even better player that the Rays would get in return.

Related Article: Jay Jaffe from Sports Illustrated explores eight possible trade destinations for David Price.

06-22-11 065

All of those options have their pro’s and con’s and some sound better than others, but a decision has to be made. It’s a tough decision to make and a decision that could alter the future of the Rays organization drastically. I am glad I am not the person who has to make that decision.

Tommy John – Part 3 – How Do We Prevent It?

Let’s recap what the UCL tear is. A UCL tear is a tear in the ligament that occurs after repetitive throwing motions. At the age of 10-16 year’s kid’s bodies are really starting to develop. The growth plate is still open in their elbow during that time, meaning that kids shouldn’t be putting any more stress on that elbow than they need too. Ten to sixteen year olds are throwing the ball more and more and at the same time the number of young pitchers who are having Tommy John surgery is also increasing. Coincidence? I think not. Take Stephen Strasburg for example. He had surgery at the age of 22. Part of the reason why he injured him self was poor mechanics, but also because of the amount of throwing he had done up to that point in his career.

Stephen part 2

How can we help to lower the risk of kids one day injuring their UCL? Kids cannot stop throwing the baseball all together because we would not have baseball then, but what we can limit is the type of pitches kids are throwing. The human body is not designed to throw a baseball like we do, especially at such a young age. What can be done is limiting the number of throws a kid takes not only during the game, but after the game also. People make a big deal about pitch count, but don’t pay attention to the pitch count kids add up while throwing the ball with their friend in the yard, when they are warming up for the game, when they are warming up in-between innings and while they practice. Parents and coaches need to limit those types of throws and so does the individual, as they get older. Parents and coaches also need to give their kids time off during the off-season. Let the arm rest and recover for a few months and when they do start to throw again slowly ease back into it, don’t just start doing a lot of throwing. Lastly parents and coaches need to wait to teach their children how to throw breaking balls. Wait until the child is at least 14 until they start to throw the curveball or slider, so that their body and arm can develop and have as little stress as possible on it.

little league pitcher

How do I know all this? I know this because I was also that child. I hurt my elbow when I was about 13 years old. I don’t blame my parents because I was one who chose to push my self, but I messed up looking back on it. From the age of 11-15 I would play baseball year round not taking a week off. In the summer it was baseball everyday and offseason it was three days of constant pitching with a pitching coach. By the time I got to high school my arm would start to hurt after a couple of innings. I ended up only playing one year, in large part because of that. In order to stop this alarming number of Tommy John surgeries that go on every year, we need to start from the beginning and educate the parents and players on how to keep their arm healthy and not over use their arm.

Tommy John – Part 2 – Career Maker? Or Career Breaker?

Before 1974 when a pitcher had a UCL tear his career was effectively over.  When Tommy John had surgery in 1974 to repair his UCL tear he was give a 1 in 100 chance of returning to the MLB and pitching effectively. Tommy John returned from the surgery better than he was before. Now, in 2013, the chances of a pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery are 85-92 percent. That recovery rate and return to form percentage is great, but what is alarming is the number of current pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery. On MLB opening day 2013 there were about 360 pitchers on opening rosters. Of those 360 pitchers, 124 of them, nearly one third, all had Tommy John surgery done at some point during their career. That brings us to the question of, does a pitcher need to have Tommy John surgery at some point during their career to be successful or if they have surgery will it end their career?

Career Maker

Tommy John was just the first of a long line of pitchers to have UCL surgery and make a full recovery. In 2007 Josh Johnson of the Miami Marlins underwent Tommy John surgery and returned in 2008 and pitched a phenomenal season earning 15 wins and 191 strikeouts.  Four years later, 22-year-old Washington Nationals, pitching prodigy Stephen Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery. Strasburg returned in 2012 with similar dominant numbers compared to Johnson, earing 15 wins and striking out 197 batters.

7164931783_c2deb7a8f8_h

Career Breaker

For every Stephen Strasburg type success story, there is another story where one does not return to form. A name that comes to mind for all Toronto Blue Jays fan’s is B.J. Ryan. Ryan underwent surgery in 2007 and came back to baseball in 2008. He had a good 2008 season, but after that it all went down hill. Ryan pitched in 2009, but his command was all over the place and was being hit on by anyone who stepped into the batters box. Ryan never pitched in another MLB game after 2009.

Conclusion

What is interesting about the list of MLB pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery is that there are two distinct groups of players that have had it. There is Tim Hudson, Billy Wagner and John Smoltz who were at the end of their prime and careers when they had it and then there is Stephen Strasburg and Josh Johnson who had it at the beginning of their young careers.

tim Hudson

In the end Tommy John surgery is just re-adding life to a pitchers arm. The surgery is strengthening and re-doing what had been worn down over all of those years of pitching and almost essentially giving a pitchers arm a reboot for the remainder of their pitching career.

Tommy John – Part 1 – What Is It? What Causes It?

What Is It?

Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) reconstruction surgery; a surgical graft procedure where the UCL in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon from somewhere else in body like the right or left elbow.  Now hearing just that, doesn’t that sound like a painful surgery? So does anyone out there even know what that surgery means? What if I were to tell you what it is infamously called? Does Tommy John ring any bells? Tommy John surgery is the name most often used when someone goes through UCL reconstructive surgery. The surgery is called Tommy John because Tommy John, a MLB pitcher from 1963-1989, was the first pitcher to have UCL reconstructive surgery.

Check out this video on Tommy John surgery by in their ESPN series 30 For 30 : Tommy And Frank

111010-N-GC412-458

Up until 1974 Tommy John surgery had never been performed or even been developed yet.  Before 1974, when a pitcher had a UCL tear, their only option to try and fix it was rehab their harm and play through the pain. It was largely known though, that a pitcher’s career was over if he suffered the tear. In 1974 there was a doctor by the name of Frank Jobe, the LA Dodgers team physician, who came along and forever changed the landscape of pitching arm injuries in the MLB. Tommy John was the one that actually approached Frank Jobe and told him to fix his UCL tear, so that’s when Frank came up with Tommy John surgery.  When having the surgery done, Tommy was given the chance of making it back to the MLB of 1 in 100. Tommy John made a full recovery from the surgery and actually became a better pitcher because of it. It took Tommy one year from when he had the surgery to pitch in a game. Tommy John went on to win 288 games in the MLB with more than half of those wins coming after he had the surgery.

NCAA gymnastics: FEB 26

Photo Courtesy Cal State Fullerton Athletics

What Causes It?

A UCL tear is most commonly caused when the UCL ligament becomes stretched, frayed or torn from stress on ligament because of repetitive throwing motions. After years or even months of throwing hard and putting stress on elbow and the ligament, is when the tear begins and ultimately ruptures. After this pro longed stress on the ligament, is when the ligament ruptures while the pitcher is pitching and the pitcher hears a “pop” noise in their elbow. This noise is their UCL ligament rupturing and them now needing Tommy John Surgery.

AL Cy Young Motoring Into The Motor City

The AL Cy Young appears all but certain to be heading back to Detroit for the second time in three years.  This time it will not be Justin Verlander taking home the hardware, it will be Max Scherzer, the right-handed starting pitcher instead. Out of all the pitchers in the AL, Scherzer had the most complete and dominate 2013 season.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5UnbUVPEAU

Inside The Numbers

Strikeouts

Innings Pitched

Wins

WHIP

ERA

WAR

 240  214.1  21  0.97  2.90  6.7
 2nd in the AL  T-5th in the AL  1st in the AL  1st in the AL  5th in the AL  3rd in the AL

When first looking at Scherzer’s numbers, the stat the pop’s out the most is his 21 wins. His 21 wins are the most wins in all of baseball in 2013 and two more than the closest pitcher. Any pitcher that reaches 20 plus wins is reaching a milestone considering that Scherzer is only the 14th pitcher since 2009 to reach 20 plus wins.  Even if you were to take out Scherzer’s impressive number of wins, he is still deserving of the AL Cy Young. As Ken Rosenthal of Foxsports.com points out he is first in WHIP, second in strikeouts and in the top five for all other major pitching statistical categories. In a sport based a lot on stats, his stats sure do talk for themselves and prove why he is the best pitcher in AL for the 2013 season.

Over Shadowed

Scherzer is deserving of the 2013 AL Cy Young and he should win it, but people are still tying to find reasons as to why he shouldn’t be the most deserving. A lot of fans still don’t really know who he is, so why should he win it if people don’t know who he is. Scherzer is constantly over shadowed by other stars on his team by the likes of Prince FielderMiguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander who are the well known, high paid players who put up big numbers and put on great performances and get all the highlights on ESPN. In their shadow Scherzer quietly put together the best season of any pitcher in the AL. If people stop, look and pay attention to the season he had, the reasons as to why he should not win will disappear.

Two Man Race For NL Cy Young, Who’s Going To Take The Crown? Part 2

The NL Cy Young has come down to a two-man race between LA Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw and Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. This is  the second part of a two part series that breaks down each player and their respective season.

Clayton Kershaw’s Case

Clayton Kershaw might just be the best southpaw pitcher in baseball today. Kershaw has spearheaded the second half surge by the LA Dodgers to put them in playoffs and has led them to the third best record in the NL. Since the All-Star break the Dodgers have gone 43 and 19, which at one point, winning 36 of 44 games. A big part of that is because of Kershaw taking the hill every five days and being that guy who can get a win every time he goes out.

Lets go inside his numbers

Strikeouts Innings Pitched Wins WHIP ERA WAR
232 236 16 0.92 1.83 7.9
1st in the NL 2nd in the NL Tied for 3rd in the NL 1st in the NL 1st in the NL 1st in the NL

As you can see he is either first, second or third in each major pitching category, with the most mind boggling and amazing stat being his ERA of 1.88. No other starting pitcher in the entire MLB has an ERA below two. This number is so amazing because every time he goes out on the hill, he his shutting down almost every offensive weapon a team has to offer. The Dodger’s offensive players know that if they get just 2-3 runs every time he is out there, they will win because he sits batters down left and right.

Who Wins?

Comparing a closer to a starting pitcher can be like comparing apples to oranges because they impact their team differently, but one could not do their job without the other. However, when looking at the numbers they both put up this year, I have to give it  to Clayton Kershaw as the 2013 NL Cy Young winner. Kershaw is having a bigger impact on his team this year and it has shown throughout the second half of the baseball season. Kershaw’s impact has even put him in contention to win the NL MVP award, which is very hard for a pitcher to win. Kershaw is a game changing pitcher every time he steps on the hill. He is a true ace and will be for many years to come.

Two Man Race for NL Cy Young, Who’s going to take the Crown? Part 1

The NL Cy Young has come down to a two-man race between LA Dodgers Starting Pitcher Clayton Kershaw and Atlanta Braves Closer Craig Kimbrel. This is a two-part series that breaks down each player and his respective season. This is part one.

(Note: Stats for Kimbrel and Kershaw are not final. 2013 Regular season not over yet.)

Craig Kimbrel Case

Having a closer with a really good chance of winning the NL Cy Young is a big deal because in the 45 years of the NL Cy Young Award a closer has only won the award 5 times. The last closer to win the Cy Young was Eric Gagne of the LA Dodgers; with 55 saves he converted in a row.

9879699215_a68992a9b2_kLet’s compare the major stats of Gagne’s 2003 season v.s. Kimbrel’s 2013 season.


Saves Strikeouts ERA WHIP Blown Saves
Gagne 55 137 1.2 0.69 0
Kimbrel 49 93 1.27 0.91 4

When looking at the stats Eric Gagne does have an edge in every major category. A big part of the Cy Young that has to be considered though is the success of the player’s team. Kimbrel has team success going for him, where as Gagne did not. Kimbrel’s Atlanta Braves have the best record in the NL and are going to be the top seed in the 2013 Postseason. In 2003 Gagne’s Dodgers didn’t make the playoffs and finished 15.5 games out of first in the NL West.

Stay tuned for the next post which will break down Kershaw and say who wins the 2013 NL Cy Young.