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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Papelbon's Protection Program

With a hat tip to Tom Tango, it seems to me that this is what the Reds -- and all teams -- should be doing with all of their young pitchers on a regular, if not daily basis:
Each day, when Papelbon reports to work, he sees Reinhold and estimates the fatigue level of his shoulder on a scale of zero to five, with five being the most tired. Then Reinhold hooks him up to a strength-testing machine that supplements Papelbon’s subjective score with an objective measurement of his shoulder strength. A report of the scores is logged along with Papelbon’s recent usage patterns and presented to Francona and front-office officials. A summary advisement is included, which might give Francona clearance to use Papelbon aggressively or keep him from using the reliever at all.
Think about what two-three years of this sort of data on all the pitchers in the Reds' system could do for their ability to prevent injury and scientifically structure usage programs for their prospects. Given how much money they've invested in their players--and how much money they stand to gain (via wins) if they can get a bunch of healthy home-grown pitching prospects prospects to the major leagues--I can't see any reason to justify NOT doing this. Or something like it.

Update: Here's something Will Carroll had today on why Clay Buchholtz was shut down. It sounds like they're using a strength testing system with that young pitcher too. Again, I just have to say that this seems like it's exactly what the Reds should be doing with their pitchers, especially young guys like Bailey, Bray, Cueto, etc, as well as guys who've they've invested heavily in, like Arroyo, Harang, etc. And that's at the minimum--I'd do something like this with every pitcher in the organization if I were in the Reds' system:
About three-quarters of my email volume yesterday had to do with Clay Buchholz, and that was just the internal BP emails. The decision to shut down Buchholz isn't one based on innings, PAP, increases, or a Magic 8-ball. It was the product of physical fact. Paul Lessard and Mike Reinold, the Sox trainers, do a series of baseline tests on each pitcher. While I'm not privy to the full extent of these tests, knowing that Reinold was one of Kevin Wilk's top assistants at Champion Sports Medicine in Birmingham gives me some ideas. If you've seen Cybex testing at the NFL Combine, you probably have some idea. The fact is that Buchholz is being shut down not on a theory or on hunch, but on the comparison of his current measured function versus that of previously measured function. That functionality combined with both medical knowledge and with the teams current needs led to this move. Kudos to the Red Sox for making an informed decision.