Before the season began, we had the opportunity to ask injury expert Will Carroll a few questions about the Mets’ team health. Will is a writer for Baseball Prospectus, who writes a regular column concerning player injuries titled “Under the Knife.” He’s written two books, Saving the Pitcher and The Juice: The Real Story of Baseball’s Drug Problems, and he’s also written for ESPN.com and SI.com.
MetsGeek: Where do you get your information? Is it simply a matter of collating injury reports from individual teams, or do you consult with medical professionals? Do you have any inside sources in the training rooms?
Will Carroll: I work hard to keep up a network of sources. Then I take the information and, when necessary, talk to a group of advisers who are doctors, therapists, trainers, and more to make sure that I have the best possible information. I talk to a lot of people on a lot of teams, then have a great team supporting me to make sure that my information is accurate to the best of my ability. Perfect? No, but pretty damn good.
MetsGeek: What are the hallmarks of a good training/medical staff? In your opinion, which team is the best at overall health maintenance? The worst? Where do the Mets rank?
Will Carroll: I ranked the teams in my team health reports. Hallmarks? Prevent when possible, maintain at all times, rehab when necessary, and be flexible. It’s easy to say, hard to do. These guys do more with less than anyone I know. Why no team has doubled their salaries and staff is beyond me.
MetsGeek: Over the past couple of years the Mets have signed a number of players who are either aging or who carry significant injury risks. It seems like the team is putting an awful lot of faith in their medical staff to keep players healthy. How well do you think the staff has performed, given the composition of the roster?
Will Carroll: Mixed. Ray Ramirez has a great reputation, but the results haven’t been especially pronounced. I think this year, with all the maintenance concerns, is going to be very telling.
MetsGeek: How do the Mets’ injury concerns compare with those of the Braves? Which team should be more worried about injuries wrecking their seasons?
Will Carroll: I think the risk is comparable but that the worries are more … worrisome … for the Mets. The Mets have more at risk—Pedro, Johan, Beltran, Castillo, Reyes. Anyone of those is really bad. The Braves know they’ll lose Smoltz and Hampton and Chipper for a while, but the rest are pretty interchangeable. I think the Braves have one irreplaceable player (McCann) while the Mets have one (Wright).
MetsGeek: The Mets altered Orlando Hernandez’s delivery this year, most obviously reducing his leg kick to mitigate the stress on his toe. Is that a smart move, or does it make more sense to just let him sit on the DL as long as necessary and fully recover?
Will Carroll: I’d shelf him given other options. Making any mechanical change is hard and doesn’t always work. Having him healthy and effective for half a season is more likely to have value than scraping along. It’s not a great position for the team to be in; I wish they’d dealt with their pen more in the off-season.
MetsGeek: What are the health concerns for Johan Santana?
Will Carroll: The elbow and the workload. He got very fatigued at the end of last year. If that’s all it was, he should be fine and he’s looked fine this spring.
MetsGeek: At least with Moises Alou, it seems like when he’s healthy, he’ll hit. But that seems less certain for Luis Castillo and Carlos Delgado. Will their injuries merely limit their playing time, or will their performances take a hit when they can play? Or both?
Will Carroll: Yeah, you know what you have in Alou and you have some decent backups for him. It works out. Castillo without his speed is … not much. Delgado is the surprising one for me. I thought he would make adjustments that he simply hasn’t or can’t make.
MetsGeek: What are the chances that Jose Reyes starts getting hurt all the time again?
Will Carroll: I don’t know. There’s always a risk, but the last couple years have been solid. Why jinx it?
MetsGeek: Will Carlos Beltran still be a base-stealing threat or is that part of his game evaporating? On a related note, can he still be a great defensive player?
Will Carroll: I think he’ll slow down, just to save the wear and tear. I think he can be a great rightfielder or a good centerfielder, but that’s just a guess.
MetsGeek: Will Jason Vargas pitch this year?
Will Carroll: Doesn’t seem like it. Tough break.
MetsGeek: Is Fernando Martinez an injury risk going into this year?
Will Carroll: Not really. You worry about any young player and their conditioning, fatigue levels, and enthusiasm, but Martinez profiles pretty well.
MetsGeek: A big thanks to Will for taking the time to talk to us.