Saturday, November 3, 2007

Special Interview with Will Carroll

We here at The Stat Pack are pleased to bring you another exclusive interview with another fantastic baseball writer. You may know Will Carroll from his time at ESPN or, more importantly, his Under The Knife column at http://www.baseballprospectus.com/ . Will was kind enough to answer a few of our questions in a piece that we don't have a name for yet but we'll call it The Stat Pack 20.

TSP: Your father was in the Sports Medicine field so you've been around it your whole life. At what age did you decide that this field is what you wanted to do or was their ever really a question?

Will Carroll: I dabbled in the field, learning just enough to ... go another direction. Of course, that direction changed a lot, from working in finance and acquisition to insurance consulting, before becoming a professional writer. I understand the mindset in the training room and on the sideline, which helps me talk to the medical staffs in their 'own language.' That's the big advantage I had at first, but now that I've built up relationships, they know that I'll get the story right.

TSP: Has a team ever offered you a position on its medical staff?

Will Carroll:Yes.

TSP: If so, why did you turn it down? Would you be interested in a role like that in the future?

Will Carroll: I've worked in consulting roles, but I'm not a doctor nor an Athletic Trainer. I wouldn't want to nor would I be qualified to tell any of those hard-working, well-trained professionals what to do. What I can do is offer suggestions and give an outsiders look at what they do.

TSP: Everybody points the finger at Barry Bonds as the poster child for steroids. However, most of the suspensions so far have been pitchers. Why does a guy like Roger Clemens essentially get a pass when all signs so far point to pitchers using steroids more then hitters?

Will Carroll: Good question. I think we need a villain, a role Bonds fills nicely. What seems to hurt more is when a "hero" is knocked down, such as a Clemens, a McGwire, or a Palmeiro. No one even wants to think about a player like Clemens or Ripken.

TSP: The NFL suspends players regularly for violating the substance abuse policy. Rarely do we hear this happen is baseball, even though Rays OF Elijah Dukes has admitted in court that he used marijuana regularly. Does the MLB not care about illegal drug use?

Will Carroll: Good lord no. Dukes was suspended and we've seen Jeremy Jeffress get suspended for marijuana use for a second time, putting the Brewers' prospect's career in jeopardy. MLB takes this very seriously, but does a great job using the EAP programs around the league to handle them. The NFL's just better at PR.

TSP: Sort of a follow up to the last question. Steroids in baseball is considered like the end all be all but, in the NFL you get your 4 game suspension and then everything goes back to normal. Why’s there such a difference is philosophy between the 2 leagues? Is it because MLB records are more sacred then the NFL?

Will Carroll:Public relations and perception. Someone should write a book about this.

TSP:How would you rate the Rays Staff and Medical Facilities?

Will Carroll:Top notch on staff. What the team has built up with Ken Crenshaw has been carried on by Ron Porterfield. It's one of the big advantages the team has. While some might point to Rocco Baldelli, I'll put keeping Kazmir healthy as a tougher task and one that many teams would have failed at. I can't comment on the facilities -- as odd as this sounds, I've never been able to get a press pass for the Rays games.

TSP:The Rays have done an exceptional job of keeping their young arms healthy. What do they do better than other teams and how much of it is just pure luck?

Will Carroll:There's not much luck, especially over the long haul. The Rays have made a commitment to the medical staff from top to bottom in the organization, something that started in the Naimoli era and continues today. They have a plan that's supported by everyone in the organization and great people working together to carry it out.

TSP:You recently took a question in a chat about Scott Kazmir & Pitch counts. How do you feel the Rays have handled their young pitchers at the Major League level? Are they being too cautious or are their limitations justified?

Will Carroll:Absent a logical development plan, they've been about as good as anyone. You could ping them for being slightly cautious, but I'll take that over the alternative.

TSP: Which is better for a player to compete on; natural grass or field turf? Are there more injuries on one than the other?

Will Carroll:There's definitely more injuries on turf. Even the best turf has a higher injury rate.

TSP: Besides Jeff Niemann, which young Rays Pitcher has the biggest risk of injury?

Will Carroll:Wade Townsend has a similar injury history without the same upside, but the one that I'd say is Kazmir. His mechanics and stubbornness to recognize that the limits have helped him rather than held him back really worry me. He's just so talented.

TSP:Is it time to give up on Rocco Baldelli as an everyday player?

Will Carroll:No, but it's close. I think there's still the chance to get him back to some level, but they need to make their last, best effort now.

TSP:What is the key to guys like Tim Wakefield & Greg Maddux avoiding major injuries throughout their major league careers?

Will Carroll:The knuckleball? I'm not sure we can draw any lesson from Wakefield , but Maddux is a combination of great mechanics, smart pitching, efficiency, and a continual focus on the craft of pitching. There's not many that can do what he does. No one would look at Maddux or his stuff and compare him to Clemens, Johnson, or Schilling, yet there he is.

TSP:Do people still use the Pitcher Abuse Point System as a way to measure wear & tear on a pitcher?

Will Carroll:Absolutely. It's the best available proxy. I'm working on a research project now that might give us a closer, game-to-game proxy, but until we can do needle biopsies or get the results of functional strength testing made public, PAP is the best system.

TSP:Why do you think it isn't talked about more? If not why did it fail as a measurement of abuse on a pitcher's arm?

Will Carroll:I'm not sure any statistical tool has ever had more of an effect on the game than PAP. If you look at the usage stats, we just don't have high PAP starts any more because it measured it so well and pointed it out to the general public. Now, it's likely something of an overreaction - some pitchers could go further and throw more, just as some could get more efficient and go deeper into games on the same pitch count.

TSP:Has Microfracture surgery become to the NBA what Tommy John is to the MLB & ACL is to the NFL?

Will Carroll:Nooooooo. Microfracture doesn't have near the success rate, but it's far newer and is getting better.

TSP:It’s been 4 years since you and Derek Zumsteg wrote the "Pete Rose Article". Do you still stand behind it till this day as being correct?

Will Carroll:Absolutely. Rose himself has been quoted as saying he had a deal.

TSP: I know you were working on novel a while back, are we going to see the finished product?

Will Carroll:Someday. It's one of those things on my "someday list"; I have a couple books in the works now.

TSP:Do you have any Sports related books on the horizon?

Will Carroll:Yes, one that hopefully will involve the Rays, but getting all the ducks lined up has been a bit more difficult than I anticipated. Nothing before 2009 as far as "on the shelf" is concerned.

TSP:And the get away question....Once and for all who is the founder of the Rays Bandwagon you or Jim Callis?

Will Carroll:You know, Jim was one of the original three people that I sent a copy of UTK to back in 2002. We've played in a retro league for years. I think we can share that

Thanks Will. Be sure to check out all of Will's work at http://www.baseballprospectus.com/

3 comments:

RJ said...

Excellent job.

Anonymous said...

Missed an obvious follow-up question. If Pete Rose says he "had a deal" with MLB, then why hadn't he been reinstated?

Jules Winnfield said...

This was an e-mail interview so it was hard to do a follow up right away. Also we're going to have an in person interview with him this winter, so I can follow up then.