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Will Carroll Interview

Recently I had the privilege of interviewing Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus.  In addition to his daily Under The Knife column, will has authored two excellent books, Saving The Pitcher and The Juice.  Will also played a large role in the fantastic Baseball Prospectus 2005.  Any time I encounter a player I'm unfamiliar with, BP 2005 is my first reference. 

In our interview below, Will comments on Felix Hernandez's mechanics, usage of Kerry Wood, and an unexpected 2006 sleeper.  Enjoy!

Roto Authority:  What can we learn from Livan Hernandez?  What do you think he's doing that allows him to pitch so many innings without injury?

Will Carroll:  That's known. He's not throwing 100% on each pitch, pacing himself.  We have too many guys trying to pitch a marathon at a sprinters pace.  Part of that is teaching, part of that is the hitters they face and aluminum bats. The progression in the last 20 years is accelerated.  There's no Ozzie Smiths or Mark Belangers any more.

RA:  Did the As keep Barry Zito over Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson because they knew Zito was more likely to stay healthy in 2005?

WC:  It was certainly a factor. Mulder's had ongoing health problems with his back and hip; Hudson's had some minor recurrent injuries. I don't know how much the A's looked into it.

RA:  Did it make sense for the Mariners to prevent Felix Hernandez from throwing his slider in the minors?  At what age do you estimate Hernandez's injury nexus to be considering his teenage debut?

WC:  I haven't seen it enough to say how he throws it is right or wrong.  If he throws it correctly, it's no worse than a fastball according to research done by Glenn Fleisig. The key is, it has to be thrown correctly. Hernandez has some mechanical deficiencies, but with his results, it'd be hard for anyone to say "oh we have to fix this." He reminds me a lot of C.C. Sabathia, someone with HORRIBLE mechanics (Hernandez's aren't nearly so bad) but who's been used well and has survived. Rany Jazayerli and I argue about CC a bit and he's proven right so far.

RA:  Could the average 20 year-old man be taught to throw 90mph after a few years of training with Tom House?  Is talent more important than proper training and mechanics?

WC:  No, not even close. A 90 mph fastball is a gift. I can help someone get more efficient, which will occasionally help with velocity, but it's not something anyone can teach.

RA: Why are no Major League teams trying to exploit the gyroball?

WC:  No one knows how to teach it (besides me!)

RA:  Would you consider an in-depth analysis of reliever conditioning and theory for another book?  Or can you give us a hint as to what you're working on?

WC:  Hmm, would I? Yes, but it's probably not going to be a big seller.  What interests me isn't something that interests the broad public.  There's certainly lots of work to be done in that area.

RA:  Who do you see as the biggest sleeper among starting pitchers for 2006?

WC:  Jeff Francis. No one thinks a Colorado pitcher can succeed. I like Pittsburgh for next year, so there's a couple guys there coming back from injury. Anyone in the Atlanta bullpen.

RA:  How about the biggest bust, whether due to injury or disappointing performance?

WC:  Tough to say at this stage. There's always a lot of off-season things. I dont think Curt Schilling or Randy Johnson will be elite. We don't know what role Wood will be in (see below).

RA:  How should Kerry Wood be used in 2006 to maximize his contribution to the Cubs?

WC:  I think Wood should get one more shot at starting. If he breaks down again, you put him in the "relief ace" role - get 120 innings from him in whatever combo works. Then you let him move on.

RA:  What do you think a manager relies upon most when deciding to take a starter out – pitch count, velocity loss, the pitcher's word, or something else?  Should v-loss be paramount?

WC:  V-Loss was an interesting experiment and we learned a lot from it, but it led to a more interesting phenomenon. We tried to see if coaches could see velocity loss. They're experts, right? They could, but not as well as trainers and oddly, not quite as well as people that were asked to try it in the stands. It showed us that simple works as well as complex and that coaches just have to care.


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