Let me preface this by stating that I actually hope this turns into a series, as it would be interesting and fun to call out an expert and his analyzing skills-or lack thereof. This is not to suggest that I will be calling out the same expert, rather, anyone whom I feel made an erroneous claim.
Also, keep in mind; I am going into this with a great deal of respect for Mr. Rosenthal. A few years back when I was doing research on Barry Bonds, Ken was one of two experts to get back to me when I had questions regarding the subject. He even responded more then once, which I found very impressive given his stature and popularity.
So Mr. Ronsethal, no offense...
BUT, what are you talking about?? On February 2nd, 2008 you posted a blog defending the move the Mets made. Suggesting that this was the best possible move, despite the amount of years, money and prospects invested. Many actually agree with you, not even acknowledging as much as you did in the factor of years. In that, you write, "...then seven years for Johan Santana is stupid. Seven years for any pitcher is stupid...”
However, what are you talking about with this?
“Maybe the Mets could have bid $200 million for Sabathia next winter, but the Indians' oversized lefty is much more of a physical risk than Santana...”
Let us define 'physical risk'. One can assume you are discussing the risk that is attached to the physical nature of a player, i.e. their body. Yes, Carsten Charles is a big boy, no one, not even the big man himself, would disagree with that. Yes, the guy has had a couple 'weight' related injuries. However, few, if anybody say anything about his mechanics and he is yet to have a serious arm injury. So what’s the big deal?
Presumably, Ken, you have made this comment based on speculation. That is, you see his size and figure, 'how can he succeed as a professional athlete?'
However, did you look into this? Did you have anything to base this on?
My guess is that you did not. However, if I left this column simply debating your comment without any backing information, I would be doing what I despise. That is, making unfounded claims and statements. I will, however admit to making mistakes. I have overlooked issues and ideas; I have also erred in calculations. That said; I do my best to ensure that my opinions have at least some ground to stand on.
With that said how is it that the big boy is a 'physical risk'? In 2006 David Gassko at The Hardball Times did a six part study researching the effects size has on ballplayers. He wrote,
“More surprisingly, fat pitchers have much more staying power than any other group. Pitching isn’t really very stressful for most body parts, except for the arm. I think that for big guys there just isn’t as much of a risk of breaking down pitching as there is hitting, running, and playing the field. Think about it: Who would you expect to fall apart first, Curt Schilling or Pedro Martinez? But that being overweight isn’t a detriment is one thing; why is it helpful?”
“One theory would be that some of the pitchers I bunch in as overweight aren’t really fat so much as they muscular. Maybe, but we’re looking at the fattest 15% or so; I doubt that there are enough in-shape pitchers among those to make such a large difference. Furthermore, even if we limit ourselves to the 100 most overweight players, 31 of them make it to 32. Out of the 50 fattest, 15 do. Seven out of the 20 fattest pitchers make it to 32 as well. So again, fat pitchers just have higher survival rates. Why? I don’t immediately know.”
Essentially, there has been a study performed-and over a year prior to your 'physical risk' conclusion-stating that over weight pitchers have little to no greater of a risk then do smaller pitchers. In fact, Gassko suggests that pitchers with smaller builds are more likely to be removed from their role as a starting pitcher. Thus, Gassko concludes, "Because their bodies are more poorly equipped to handle the stress of starting in the major leagues for a long time. It’s no wonder their survival rate is low."
Another interesting quote by Gassko occurs in his conclusion of the series (Part 6). Here he writes, "Given that overweight pitchers also survive for much longer time periods in the major leagues, all else being equal, invest in fat guys."
In April of 2006, the Washington Post ran an article, with the same concluding thoughts. The author quotes then Nationals pitching coach with saying, "If a guy stays aerobically in shape and does all the little things that are necessary, like fielding the position -- which Livan does very well -- I don't see where it really does any harm."
While this is about Livan Hernandez, the basis of this point is to suggest that a pitcher's determination has as much to do with further health issues as does his size.
But maybe, just maybe we can not solely place the blame of the ‘size stigma’ on Ken Rosenthal. If you have read Michael Lewis’ Moneyball you may recall the following, “Brown…has been so perfectly conditioned by the conventional scouting wisdom that he refused to belief that any major league baseball team could think highly of him” (102, 2003). That ‘conventional wisdom’ being Mr. Brown is ‘too fat’. While things certainly have not worked in Brown’s favor, Beane has helped spark the mainstream media’s attention in the stats vs. scouts debate.
It is, however, his fault for not researching.
However, while we are on the topic of injury risks, how about this fact, which I source in my debut article at Baseball Digest Daily. That is, according to Will Carrol at Baseball Prospectus in 2004, "Johan Santana got a thumbs up at his last checkup before spring training. After minor surgery on his pitching elbow to remove a bone chip, Santana has full range of motion and full strength. Bone chips often recur, but over a period of years, not months."
Good news, right? Let’s consider that Rosenthal agrees that signing a long term contract for any pitcher is a foolish decision. Let us also consider that Rosenthal would be more against signing Sabathia then Santana due to the supposed 'risk' of injury. However, does that actually make sense? Given that Santana is at a greater risk of injury due to being smaller, added to the fact that he has a pre-existing condition that tends to recur.
So Mr. Rosenthal. Do you still believe that the Mets made the best and correct decision? I have been certain all along that they did not, and one of your most recent arguments certainly does not suggest any inaccuracies in my claim.