Monday, January 3, 2011

Bullish on Bedard?

This is an odd post for me to write.  I'm certainly much more associated with skepticism than optimism, and without a doubt, when it comes to Erik Bedard, I'm not the first person on the "woo hoo we have two aces" bandwagon, and one surely exists.

Regarding Bedard, I've always maintained that whatever you get from him, whether it's 3 games or 10 games, you should consider yourself lucky - and this opinion was grounded entirely in my own suspicion that he'll get hurt again and the notion that you simply can't plan around a healthy Bedard because that would be just downright stupid.

So taking a step back, Bedard signs a very team-friendly-deal for 2011 out of apparent loyalty to the M's and an interest in showing the fans he can give a little back after Buzz's kid gave away the farm for him.  Awfully nice of him, really.  Low cost, high risk, but potentially high reward.  Super duper.  I'm all for it.

But again, there's this:

26, 24, 33, 28, 15, 15, ZERO.  Those are number of starts since 2004.  He has one full season, and three "almosts".  He has been hurt way more than he has been healthy, and that's why Bedard garners the eye-rolls among baseball enthusiasts.

I know the internet-snarky way to go is to just laugh at Bedard, and suggest anyone who thinks he can contribute is a fool because it's better to be wrong than right if you're a fan.  People who have false hopes can look silly in hindsight, and that's kind of how I always approached Bedard as well.  But after talking to BJ Maack who I write with over at RotoHardball, my tune might be changing. 

BJ knows about injuries - he's been a trainer for his professional life (19 years), and has spent time with major league baseball organizations working with players dealing with the whole range of baseball injuries. So where my opinion is just opinion based on observation and gut relative to Bedard's injuries, BJ's opinion is based on medical information and fact.  Read:  he should be trusted way more than anyone without a medical background (like me, or Paul, or anyone else who blogs about this stuff).  So on to Bedard... here's what BJ had to say:
In 2002 he had Tommy John surgery.  In 2008, he had a shoulder scope to debride/clean up some labral tissue...then last year the "big" labrum surgery.  Is there a "connect-the-dots" pattern here with the elbow & the shoulder?  Probably, but with it being 6 years apart it's not likely.  What does need to be looked at is a mechanical issue.  Something caused his arm & specifically his shoulder to be in a position to cause such wear & tear on his joint.
At which point, I referenced an article written in 2004, I think, where Will Carroll made a famous (ok, famous if you read as much as I do) statement about labrum injuries - "If pitchers with torn labrums were horses, they'd be destroyed".  Labrum tears were the death knell for pitchers.  Will Carroll knows what he's talking about too, if you're not familiar with him.  Here's what BJ said:
In the last 4-5 years, labral surgeries have come a long way, but more importantly the rehab process of allowing these things to recover.  I feel fairly confident that Bedard will be back to form...maybe not back to his 2006-2007 form...(but better than the previous two).  The thing to remember is the velocity issue.  His velocity should be back to or near that form after this procedure, as decreased velocity is almost always a sign of a full labrum tear.
So, looking at his velocity, indeed - he was throwing 92.1 in 2007, 91.2 in 2008, and 91.5 in 2009.  Not a massive drop, but notable. Would have been nice to peek at 2010 to see if it took a big hit, but reading this information from BJ is awfully encouraging. 

What we're left with is a Bedard that needs to address his mechanics, but also one who ought to be returning from a surgery with a fairly decent success rate, along with better approaches at rehab associated with labrum tears.  Changing one's mechanics is not something easy, but I'm suddenly way, way more optimistic about Bedard contributing to the 2011 Mariners than I was before. 

Recall that even in just a little over 80 innings in each of 2008 and 2009, Bedard was worth 1 WAR and almost 2 WAR, respectively.  Or put in perspective, half of Bedard in 2009 was about as valuable as an entire season of Doug Fister. 

And now I'm left to dream of getting 25-30 starts out of Bedard, and the possibility that he could be a compliment to Felix, netting us perhaps 3+ WAR on the cheap, and actually giving the squad a shot at a somewhat competitive season.  And I just know that I'm being set up for disappointment, but at least I have someone with a medical background to blame instead of my own hometown fantasies.

Go Mariners

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