Saturday, May 22, 2004

Torn Labrums - Oh How the Sox Have Suffered.

There was a great column in Slate by Will Carroll (who usually writes for Baseball Prospectus) concerning the severity of a torn labrum injury. As most Sox fans know, both Mike Sirotka and Jim Parque suffered torn labrums after the 2000 season when they both pitched effectively.

Carroll's essential conclusion is that:

The leading minds in baseball medicine are flummoxed by the labrum. Doctors can't agree on how to detect a tear, don't know the best way to fix one, and aren't sure why, almost without fail, a torn labrum will destroy a pitcher's career.
But if pitchers with torn labrums were horses, they'd be destroyed. Of the 36 major-league hurlers diagnosed with labrum tears in the last five years, only midlevel reliever Rocky Biddle has returned to his previous level. Think about that when your favorite pitcher comes down with labrum trouble: He has a 3 percent chance of becoming Rocky Biddle. More likely, he'll turn into Mike Harkey, Robert Person, or Jim Parque, pitchers who lost stamina and velocity—and a major-league career—when their labrums began to fray.

What's especially interesting about this is that Jon Rauch is known to have suffered a torn labrum. Before 2001, when he suffered the injury, Rauch dominated in the minors - 73 K's in 62 2/3 innings in 1999, and 187 K's in 166 innings in 2000.

Since he's come back, he's been OK, but not great. He had 116 K's in 138 innings in 2002, and 94 K's in 124 innings in 2003. So far in 2004, he's got 39K's in 49 innings. So his strikeout rate looks a little like this:


So even though Rauch is pitching well at Charlotte - he's 5-2 with a 3.10 ERA in Charlotte's bandbox - he may not really be a good prospect anymore because of his injury. He's likely to be looked at as damaged goods by other organizations, so, while I initially thought that Rauch could be traded for someone good in a mid-season deal, he might not bring the value we would otherwise think.

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