Struggling hitters and rehabbing pitchers

Injury Watch, July 13, 2007

Bobby Crosby (SS, OAK)
Early in the season, we were encouraged by some offensive signals from Crosby. After he got off to a slow start in April, Crosby hit .291 with three homers and 11 RBI in May. Not earthshaking numbers, but positive enough considering he was coming off a fractured vertebrae from last season. As it turns out, May was a mirage. As in April, June and so far in July he’s struggled to hit .200 or more than two homers in any month. His strikeout rate is one per 5.6 at-bats, which is an improvement over last year’s rate. So we can’t blame a lack of contact for his offense woes.

We can conclude that either the 2004 season was a freak (22 HR) injuries and he really wasn’t as good a hitter as he displayed then, or his struggles in the 2 1/2 seasons since are due to injuries. We can only speculate that his back troubles have contributed to his decline. It’s safe to say that if you’re hoping Crosby will rebound in the second half to 2004 levels, you will be sorely disappointed.

Injury Watch, July 13, 2007

Todd Helton (1B, COL)
In the preseason, the Rockies tried to hold the Red Sox up for a king’s ransom in a deal for Helton. Looking at what he’s accomplished in 300 at-bats so far this season, maybe they should have pulled the trigger on the deal. While Helton is still a .300 hitter, he is on pace to hit only 15 home runs this season. That’s the same number he belted last year.

It is clear that the back problems Helton continues to endure have greatly reduced his power, even at Coors Field. He entered the season with an extra 20 pounds of muscle. That was supposed to bring back his power to the glory days of 2000-2004. It is now clear that those days are gone, and they will never return.

Breaking news, July 14, 2007

Chris Carpenter (RHP, STL)
The Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter is recovering from May surgery to remove bone spurs from his pitching elbow. He had an uneventful and positive recovery until, after his second rehab outing on July 8, he developed stiffness and swelling in the elbow region. That outing was six days ago, so it is curious that this news wasn’t released earlier and that he has not seen a staff physician since the setback. Were the Cardinals waiting for the stiffness and swelling to dissipate with treatment?

Carpenter is expected to see team physician George Paletta shortly to determine the cause of the swelling and pain. Odds are pretty good that he has scar tissue tearing in his pitching elbow. One physician who advises us concurs that is a strong possibility. It’s also possible he has strained something in the elbow region and this is a new injury. A recurrence of the bone spurs this soon after surgery is unlikely.

This is a setback for Carpenter, but whether he can overcome it this season depends on whether this is a scar tissue problem or a new injury.

Breaking news, July 14, 2007

Curt Schilling (RHP, BOS)
In a surprise development on Saturday, Schilling was expected to throw 30-35 pitches in his first test of his strained pitching shoulder off a mound. He ended up throwing 55 pitches and did not report any discomfort in his shoulder. While this is good news that may indicate Schilling is further along than we thought, we need to remember one point: He is the type of pitcher who will work through discomfort, and he is eager to get back pitching for the Red Sox. Did he push too hard to fast? We’ll know more in a few days.

Injury Watch, July 12, 2007

Manny Ramirez (OF, BOS)
We’ve already speculated that David Ortiz’ drop in home run numbers is due to a knee problem. Can the same be said for Ramirez? Last season, he struggled with patellar tendinitis in his right knee. We haven’t heard any stories regarding his knee this season, but he has struggled to a 27.5 AB/HR ratio, the worst of his major league career.

Digging a little deeper, Ramirez’s home run decline started in the second half of last season (14.6 AB/HR). Manny is having a subpar season by his standards, but we cannot blame his struggles on an injury at the moment. He may have one that we are unaware of, which would explain his depressed numbers across the board. Until we hear otherwise, his 2007 struggles are either mechanical in nature or, at 35, maybe Manny’s lost a little bit off his swing.

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