The Attrition War, Athletics

DMZ · June 3, 2005 at 7:13 pm · Filed Under General baseball 

Part of a continuing series, follow-ups to the initial post detailing the Mariners history over the same period.

Do the Mariners, in comparison to other teams, suffer a higher rate of injury to their pitching prospects than other teams? Here, I look at the Athletics.

Please note that I am trying to refrain from drawing any conclusions or making any comparisons, guessing at causes or relationships, or doing anything but presenting straight data. When the series is finished, I’ll have a summary post where I talk about those things.

The Oakland Athletics had 32 pitchers who appeared at least once on a Baseball America Top Ten prospect list between 1995-2004.

Of those, pitchers who injured their elbow and required surgery: 0
Of those, pitchers who injured their shoulders and required surgery: 0
(generally, I’m looking for major surgeries that require ~1y off)

I can’t believe that I have not overlooked something, and as a disclaimer I’m about to fall asleep I’m so tired, so there might be something right in front of me I’m not seeing in the citations.

Detailed data:
Name, rank/year (one rank/year for each year)

Willie Adams, 8/1995, 9/1996
Two years of okay then bad relief pitching.

Tom Bennett, 10/1996
Didn’t make it.

Joe Blanton, 10/2003, 2/2004

Jeremy Bonderman, 7/2002
Traded as part of the Carlos Pena deal in 2002.

Jesus Colome, 3/2000
Traded to the Devil Rays in July 2000.

Jeff D’Amico, 10/1998 (no, the other Jeff D’Amico, the slightly shorter one)
Traded to the Royals in July 1999 as part of the Kevin Appier deal.

Eric DuBose, 9/1998, 3/1999, 9/2000

Justin Duchscherer, 10/2004

Chris Enochs, 5/1998, 5/1999, 10/2000
Didn’t make it.

Franklin German, 9/2002
Traded as part of the Carlos Pena deal in 2002.

Rich Harden, 1/2003

Chad Harville, 4/1999, 6/2000, 8/2001, 3/2002
Traded to Houston in April 2004 for Kirk Saarloos.

Stacy Hollins, 5/1995
Didn’t make it.

Tim Hudson, 10/1999

Heath Haynes, 10/1995
Didn’t make it.

Justin Miller, 5/2001
Traded to the Blue Jays in December 2001 as part of the deal for Billy Koch.

Mark Mulder, 2/1999, 1/2000
Had some forearm problems, a weird hip stress fracture in 2003, other than that…

Jamey Price, 8/1997
Didn’t make it.

Mario Ramos, 9/2001
Traded to the Rangers in January 2001 as part of the Carlos Pena deal (and later reacquired).

John Rheinecker, 2/2003
26 in AAA.

Brad Rigby, 3/1996, 3/1997
Traded to the Royals in July 1999 as part of the Kevin Appier deal.

Blake Stein, 8/1998
Traded to the Royals in July 1999 as part of the Kevin Appier deal.

Brad Sullivan, 4/2004

Joe Valentine, 7/2003
Traded to the Reds in July 2003 in the Jose Guillen deal.

Luis Vizcaino, 8/1999
Traded to the Rangers in March 2002 for Justin Duchscherer.

John Wasdin, 2/1995, 2/1996
Traded to the Red Sox in January 1997 for Jose Canseco.

Steve Wojciechowski, 7/1995
Relieved badly for three years, granted free agency.

Bret Wagner, 8/1996
Didn’t make it.

Don Wengert, 9/1995
Traded to the Padres in May 1997 for Doug Bochtler and Jorge Valendia.

Jay Witasick, 4/1997
Traded to the Royals in March 1999 for a PTBNL and cash.

Mike Wood, 6/2003
Traded in June 2004 as part of a many-player, three-team deal that won Octavio Dotel.

Barry Zito, 2/2000
No injuries of note.


27 Responses to “The Attrition War, Athletics”

  1. Chris Begley on June 3rd, 2005 7:22 pm

    Derek- next time I am in Seattle, I am dropping off a 6 pack of good Canadian beer for this kind of work. Fabulous day of effort here

  2. bogus on June 3rd, 2005 7:25 pm

    Wasn’t it the A’s that had the can’t miss prospect? Van Patten high school out of Texas. Didn’t he ge injuried? Sorry no more info.

  3. Chris Begley on June 3rd, 2005 7:26 pm

    Todd Van Poppel – drafted in 1990 or 1991, well before this survey

  4. Zach in Spokane on June 3rd, 2005 7:33 pm


    Offhand, I’d say you’re talking about Todd Van Poppell (sp?) who was drafted before the period Derek is looking at.

  5. Nathaniel Dawson on June 3rd, 2005 9:22 pm

    Steve Wojciechowski, 7/1995

    Wasn’t he one of the founders of Apple?

  6. nad on June 3rd, 2005 9:57 pm

    that was Steve Wozniak

  7. Tim in Japan on June 3rd, 2005 10:56 pm

    So far every team has less total injuries than the M’s.

    My personal hunch is that it’s mostly just a matter of bad luck. And extremely good luck for the A’s.

  8. Jeremy on June 4th, 2005 12:28 am

    It’s been long rumored that the A’s have a conditioning system that helps minimize risk of injuries. Looking at the track record: if it’s true, they have a brilliant system.

  9. Tim on June 4th, 2005 12:57 am

    #7 & #8: Did either of y’all read the Wheelhouse? That absolutely fantastic and terribly missed (by moi) Mariners weblog?

    We’ve got a rather nice analysis called ‘the Mariners Pitching Medicine Mess’. It’s here and still online, just a ways down the page.

    The Athletics have already sent several pitchers to the American Sports Medicine Institute for delivery analysis. It’s reported as a fact, and found still on

    Some things we know.
    1. We know that the Athletics sends some of their pitchers at least to Dr. James Andrews’ facility to have their deliveries analyzed.
    2. Derek is providing us evidence that they have a low rate of attrition.

    3. We have no idea whether the Mariners do anything similiar.
    4. The Mariners seem to shed good pitchers like a husky (the dog) in July. At least, their rate of attrition is higher than average.

  10. Matt Williams on June 4th, 2005 1:37 am

    Also, Oakland avoids high school pitchers like the plague. That should also seriously reduce their injury rate (it’s easy to abuse your body until you’re 18…every year after that does more and more damage).

  11. Kevin Tao on June 4th, 2005 1:48 am

    Somebody please pass this info along to the M’s front office. It will save us much anguish down the road.

  12. Josh on June 4th, 2005 5:52 am

    I’ve never understood the avoiding High School pitchers, and how that would help reduce injury. I understand that high school pitchers can often be over-used but is the fact that they go onto college, just erasing that fact? Or is it a case of well if they were to get injured from over-use in high school it would have came out by the time they are done with college?

  13. toonprivate on June 4th, 2005 7:16 am

    i remember that Wheelhouse analysis and it was very provocative. obviously, the M’s aren’t going to reveal their “trade secrets” on taking care of pitchers, so there’s data missing. And this is where USS Mariner and other blogs and fan groups can help. Demand transparency! Demand it every day until they tell us what they are doing to change the fate of the pitchers in the organization. Ask at press conferences, post online, call in to radio stations. Tell us what your pitching “practices” are and whether or not you are changing them given the utter failure of the current system to groom healthy arms for the major leagues. Really, if you follow the M’s, nothing matters quite as much to the success of the team.

  14. Matt Williams on June 4th, 2005 9:32 am

    Josh it’s the latter, although it’s not just overuse it’s also mechanical and physical problems you’re hoping are weeded out. A guy may have an arm that’s durable enough to face crappy high school hitters for four years…then you draft him not knowing his rotator cuff is almost gone. They’re hoping four more years against tougher hitting will give a better picture of what a pitcher’s true ability is and weed out the guys who have no chance of making it through the minors.

  15. mike on June 4th, 2005 10:05 am

    Not to nit-pick, but I’m fairly certain the Enochs’ career was sent downhill by injury.

  16. wabbles on June 4th, 2005 11:26 am

    I don’t like the way this analysis is trending so far. Everybody has lower attrition than the hometown boys. ‘sigh’ And as it’s been this way for many years, I can’t see it changing.

  17. Tom Davis on June 4th, 2005 12:17 pm

    Wabbles – while it doesn’t look so good for us, it could be worse. Quoting from the Mariners Wheelhouse analysis (specifically, the excerpt from the Cincinnati Post, 1/15/2004,

    “In the past two years, more than 20 Reds major- and minor-league pitchers have undergone arm surgeries.”

    They don’t provide any further details regarding the actual number of injuries or the level of severity of each surgery, so we don’t have a true apples/apples comparison, but the article does prove that other clubs are/were having difficulties.

    Of course, the rest of the article is regarding the things Reds GM Dan O’Brien is doing to change their results.

  18. ChrisK on June 4th, 2005 12:53 pm

    I love the term “prehab” vs. “rehab” when discussing the A’s pitcher development program. But honestly, do we except the Mariners’ front office to do anything innovative? They’ve proven that they don’t make any significant organizational changes (if any) until a problem is painfully obvious to everyone including the casual fan. Maybe we’re reaching that point now, but I’m still skeptical of any sweepting changes. Maybe just a few tweaks here and there – like “hey make sure to look at a player’s medical records before drafting them”.

    Do we know what the health history was of the Dodgers’ and Angels’ pitchers when Bavasi was working there? That might be a good indicator of what kind of pitcher development philosophy we’ll have here.

  19. Steve on June 4th, 2005 12:57 pm

    When I did the Wheelhouse piece a year of so ago, I googled various phrases relating to the Oakland A, some of their affiliates, and various phrases involving arm injuries. (I also did the same searches for the Mariners). In the article and some followup pieces, I listed everything I found for the A’s, as well as a couple of others that some readers provided.

    I think the differences between the A’s and the Mariners are twofold – part is the “prehab” program and part is the emphasis on drafting college pitchers. Between the two, I suspect the emphasis on college pitchers is more significant. When drafting college you simply bypass four years of injury nexus – you’re drafting from a pool in which many of the most injury prone guys have already been weeded out.

  20. Eric on June 4th, 2005 1:28 pm

    One thing I noted, besides the lack of injuries of course:-) was how many of the As pitchers have been traded for usefull parts that helped the As win. if nothing else the Ms have to get over the fear of making a bad trade and hoarding all their prospects. Sure the Ortiz/Varitek/Lowe stories hurt but how many pennants were lost because the Ms wouldn’t part with Anderson, Nageotte, Blackley and other prospects who are as likely to never pitch a game for the Ms again as they are to be above average major league pitchers?

  21. Jon Wells on June 4th, 2005 1:36 pm

    In a piece we ran in the May Grand Salami about the M’s pitching injuries (written by Conor Glassey), we asked Bryan Price what the M’s are doing wrong to have all these injuries. His reply was “There’s just no rhyme or reason as to why these guys got hurt…it’s just unfortunately, a part of the game that in the past couple of years has kind of bit us in the butt a little bit.”

    So apparently the organizational philosophy on the injuries is that it’s just a bunch of bad luck!

    Price went on to claim that the organization is doing everything within its power to prevent injuries saying “We’ve got mulitple trainers and team doctors. We have someone that can do acupuncture, we’ve got massage, we’ve got just a tremendous group of people working in our trainer’s room to prepare these guys to be able to pitch. We’ve got video work, obviously we’ve got coaches working with our guys at all levels that are giving them proper instruction.”

  22. dave paisley on June 4th, 2005 1:39 pm

    So what does “chilling” mean, exactly?

  23. ChrisK on June 4th, 2005 1:45 pm

    Translation of Price’s quotes: “We’re doing the same thing teams have been doing for the past 2 decades. Please don’t ask us to do anything differently or to look at things from a fresh perspective. We just have bad luck.”

  24. Matt Williams on June 4th, 2005 2:14 pm

    “We’ve got mulitple trainers and team doctors. We have someone that can do acupuncture, we’ve got massage, we’ve got just a tremendous group…

    Great. They have a guy who can stick needles in our pitchers, but forgot to hire someone who can tell the difference between a sore arm and a problem that requires surgery.

  25. Conor Glassey on June 4th, 2005 3:18 pm

    Hey Derek – good stuff. I can’t wait to see all the teams, and how they stack up. I was wondering if it would please be possible to get an “Attrition War” link in the sidebar – so that it’s easier to see them all in one place. Thanks!

  26. roger tang on June 4th, 2005 7:31 pm

    Well, to be fair to the M’s, if you can’t POINT to something that appears to be the problem, what are you going to fix?

    We all know correleation doesn’t mean causation, but we aren’t even to correlation yet.

  27. Brian Rust on June 4th, 2005 9:31 pm

    Also in fairness to the M’s, I think Rafael Soriano’s injury should be charged to the winter ball team that rode his arm to their league championship just prior to 2004 spring training. I seem to recall they relied on him like the M’s relied on RJ in 1995.