Cubs Pitching

One of the latest and most exciting developments in baseball research is the measurement and analysis of individual
pitches. For instance, the Pitch f/x system created by the
company Sportvision
tracks the in-flight movement of pitches from two different cameras,
thereby assessing a pitch's velocity, horizontal and vertical
movement. A bit less than 1/4th of all pitches from last year were so
assessed, and MLB has made the raw contents of that data available at this location. Better yet, there are several bloggers who, unlike me, have the
talent and dedication to transform that heaping mess of data into
meaningful findings. Most notable, Josh Kalk
has been developing player cards,
a la what's available at baseball-reference or fan graphs or baseball
cube, except with graphs incorporating this incredible new source of
information on pitch selection and pitch behavior. He also has
developed a remarkable application where you can select any
player and any pitch with just about any limiting parameter you could
want - say, Bob Howry fastballs to right-handed hitters on 0-2 counts with a velocity above 93 MPH that resulted in swinging strikes - and then view the results on a handy X/Y graph.

As if that's not enough, there's the more user friendly if less revolutionary pitch data commercially available at Baseball Info Solutions which is being applied by the talented folks at Fan Graphs.
Fan Graphs now offers data on individual players' pitch selections and
velocity, all thoroughly sortable. For instance, Tim Wakefield
and Chad Bradford feature the two slowest average fastballs in the
major at 74.2 and 78.6 MPH, respectively, while no one threw a changeup
with greater frequency last year than Matt Wise, at 54%

There's a gold mine of potential information available at our
fingertips, with The Baseball Analysts and The Hardball Times leading
the way in this sort of analysis. With far less sophistication than
what those guys can offer, let's see what it can tell us about the
Cubs' staff.

Part of what makes TCR great is the knowledgeable and active participation of the readers. I mean, it's a very SMALL part, of course, but still a part. Keep sending stuff in, and we'll keep reading it. And maybe, just maybe, posting it. - Trans

YOUR 2007 AVERAGE BATTING PARTNERS (ABPs)
By Lawhide

Being bored recently, I decided to work on some statistical tomfoolery: I decided to find out who was the ABP for each Cubs pitcher in the majors. What’s an ABP? I took the OBP- and SLG-against for each pitcher and tried to find the most comparable 2007 MLB hitter. For instance, batters hitting against Will Ohman in 2007 hit a line of .355 OBP and .436 SLG (an OPS-against of .791). Luis Gonzalez (the old one) hit .359/.433/.792 this year, making him Will Ohman’s Average Batting Partner, or ABP.

Keep in mind that there’s not really any useful statistical information in an exercise like this, it’s purely for fun (at least, fun for those of us who are into the numbers side of things). That being said, here are your 2007 Cubs Pitcher ABPs.

What a difference a year makes. During the 2007 spring training, the starting rotation discussion centered around which of these three candidates would be our number five starter: Wade Miller, Mark Prior, and Angel Guzman. Combined, they started six times (three apiece for Miller and Guzman) Trachsel also started four games, with the next smallest total belonging to Sean Marshall, at nineteen.  Congrats to Marshall for grabbing the "Ruben Quevedo Fifth-Man" mantle, and running with it.

This year? Carrie Muskat gives the rundown on the candidates for the two open spots in the rotation. The first bit of news is this notion that the fourth spot is open, that Marquis evidently has to apply for his old job. The other applicants being Dempster, Lieber, Marshall (also applying for his old job) and Gallagher.

Among the more interesting observations from the Muskat article is that Marquis has a history of fading in the second half. A quick check of ESPN's stats page shows Marquis with a 4.41 ERA pre-All Star break for the last three years, 5.54 after it. How stupid and unrealistic would it be to let him have the fifth spot for the first half of the season, then ship him off to some unsuspecting foe, and bring up Gallagher for the second half?

The newest addition to the Cubs pitching staff, 37 year old (38 on April 2nd) Jon Lieber is apparently ready to pitch. His tenure in Philadelphia ended abruptly last season in the 6th inning, on June 20th, while backing up home plate on a play in Cleveland. It was one rotten day for him already as he had given up 7 runs on 10 hits and was on the hook for his 6th loss. Initially, and at least for the first few days, it didn’t look like anything serious, probably just the run of the mill lateral ankle sprain.

This was the initial report from the Phillies mlb.com site:

June 21st: Ken Mandel, of Philadelphia.Phillies.MLB.com, reports Phillies SP Jon Lieber (ankle) injured his right ankle Wednesday, June 20, while backing up home plate. Lieber had the ankle checked out and it turned out to be largely a muscular injury. Because of off-days, the Phillies should be able to give him extra time to heal and he won't be needed until Friday, June 29, at the earliest.

Mirroring this information, Will Carroll, from Baseball Prospectus, in his Under the Knife column on 6/22/07 said:

The Phillies are also waiting to see how Jon Lieber responds after spraining his ankle in Wednesday's start. He limped off the field after rolling the ankle running to back up home plate after a hit. It didn't look serious, but we should know more by the time his bullpen session comes up this weekend.

Day three injury update:

June 23: Ken Mandel, of Philadelphia.Phillies.MLB.com, reports Phillies SP Jon Lieber (ankle) had his ankle wrapped Friday, June 22, however, he is still expected to make his next start Wednesday, June 27.

Now we know that this was no conventional ankle sprain.

Lieber apparently was having some problems with his foot starting the first week in March in spring training (per a C. Muskat interview this year). Older pitchers expect to have a lot of aches and pains. Apparently it wasn’t enough of a nuisance to get an MRI at the time. Still, it certainly could have been that Lieber's foot was giving him some soreness at the start of the season with the tendon having degeneration, inflammation or wear problems and it finally ruptured with the June 20th injury.

Looking at Lieber’s last 5 starts with the Phillies, four were awful, including three-10 hit outings each over 5 innings and one 13 hit outing over 6.2 innings. Nobody was blaming those outings on a inflamed foot tendon and it must not have been overly obvious as in the midst of that ugly string on June 9th, he did throw a beautiful complete game 3 hit shutout against the Royals.

With an acute injury in Cleveland and significant swelling, MRI imaging of the foot/ankle was obtained and it showed that the injury was something fairly uncommon. He had a rupture of the peroneus longus tendon, well below the outside of the ankle as the tendon goes toward the bottom of the foot.

Then, after the Phillies team orthopedist evaluation, came second opinions by sub-specialty trained foot and ankle orthopedic surgeons.

Finally, USA Today reported:

AP--Jon Lieber will undergo season-ending surgery on Friday (July 6th) to repair a ruptured tendon in his foot.

Lieber was 3-6 with a 4.73 ERA in 12 starts this season. He was the Phillies' opening-day starter in 2005 and '06, but will become a free agent after this season. "He pitched some good baseball for us," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "If things had been a little bit different, he could've pitched better. He had the talent." Lieber will have the surgery at the Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, the team said.

Jon Lieber had his peroneal tendon repair surgery on July 6th at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, The head of this center's foot and ankle department is Dr. Mark Myerson, who is one of the most renown foot and ankle surgeons and who apparently trained the Phillies local foot and ankle specialist (Dr. Steven Raiken). We are talking high end orthopedic sub-specialists here (their practices focus only on foot & ankle care). I'm not sure which surgeon did the tendon repair but it appears he was in very good hands.

More newswire stuff:

Philadelphia Phillies SP Jon Lieber (foot) had successful surgery, Friday, July 6, to reattach a tendon in his right foot, according to the Associated Press. He'll be in a walking boot for three to four weeks.

Sat, 14 Jul: Phillies | Lieber moved to 60-day disabled list

Tue, 7 Aug 2007: Phillies | Lieber cleared to begin rehab program

Finally, from C. Muskat, at the cubs.com site:

Lieber…finished his rehab in early October. Now, he said, everything is fine, and Lieber is back on his normal off season routine.

From my perspective as an orthopedic surgeon, this was an injury I had to do some literature review to learn more, as I haven’t seen an isolated peroneal longus rupture. I've read the chapter in Dr. Myerson's textbook. I’ve seen and treated many peroneal tendon subluxations (partial dislocations) where the two peroneal tendons (longus and brevis) slip around the injured or stretched retinaculum that supports these tendons just behind the ankle. That situation was the infamous “bloody sock” injury that Curt Schilling had back during the 2004 World Series. Schilling’s memorable treatment was very unconventional as the former Red Sox team physician, Dr. William Morgan, put stitches through the skin deep enough to stabilize the slipping tendons as a temporary measure to get him through the playoffs. In the offseason, he had more definitive reconstruction of the injury.

Here is a link to the anatomy of the outside of the ankle/foot.

The peroneus brevis tendon attaches to the base of the 5th metatarsal and is responsible for eversion (outward rotation) of the foot. The longus tendon goes under the foot and ultimately attaches to the undersurface of the 1st metatarsal. This stabilizes the 1st metatarsal and foot from rolling over in both push off and landing, so it’s function is very important in pitching from a mound.

Lieber’s injury was a bit lower down (distal) into the outside portion of the hind foot, well below the ankle. I could see why there might be a delay in diagnosis and confusion with a conventional ankle sprain which is a lateral ligament injury (ligaments between the fibula and talus/calcaneus and tibia). Lateral ankle sprains will look similar to this injury with lateral ankle and foot swelling and an X-Ray that doesn't show a fracture. For most ankle injuries, it’s conventional to get X-Rays to make sure there is no fracture. MRI’s are usually not ordered unless the ankle sprain is taking too long to heal. Most severe lateral ankle sprains take 2-6 weeks to heal. In Lieber’s case, the correct diagnosis was made very quickly. So getting the MRI early on meant Lieber’s swelling and tenderness initially didn’t match up to where a typical ankle sprain should have been tender. Score one for the Phillies athletic trainer and Orthopod showing excellent clinical decision making, a very fine job indeed!

In the case of a peroneal longus tendon rupture, there is a tunnel/groove in the outer hind foot, which involves the cuboid bone where the peroneal longus tendon passes and often there is a spur or small (sesmoid) bone that can lead to friction and subsequent tendon rupture. One of the larger published series I found on this had only 41 patients of which only 11 patients had isolated peroneal longus rupture as Lieber had. So it’s a pretty rare (or at least not commonly diagnosed) injury. In the days before MRI scans (the early 1980’s) this injury had virtually not been reported on in the ortho literature. Also, I couldn’t find any previously treated professional pitchers with this injury, but the orthopedic literature suggests athletic patients do well when the tendon rupture is surgically repaired.

Thus, if you see Derrick Lee backing up the catcher on throws from the outfield when Jon Lieber is pitching, you’ll be a bit more understanding. That is, unless Jon Lieber has already let in 7 runs by the 6th inning.

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