CTBNL: Cards Garcia and psychology of shoulder surgeries

JUPITER, Fla. • Over the past month of being here in Florida covering Cardinals spring training, I have received several questions about where to go and how to find the transcript for the chat here on StlToday.com.

Part of our Constant Cardinals Coverage (trademark pending) means offering up an avalanche of instant coverage.

The chats tend to be appointment reading.

Or so I thought.

If it works for you, what I'll do each week is pull the 12 most-resonant questions -- some fun, some challenging, all noteworthy for a reason -- out of the chat and put them up here in the blog. The entire transcript of the chat will also be available from a link I'll provide. The Cardinals Chat to be Named Later has a multimedia element that I cannot recreate here.

For example, if you check some of the spring chats, you've seen:

  • A video answer from Bernie Miklasz
  • Live video from a bullpen session
  • Pictures from the back fields
  • A video of me opening a pack of baseball cards. Gripping.
  • And polls as far as your mouse can click.

You'll have to go back to the individual chats to see some of those elements, but the goal of the chat has always been to interact but also to transport you here. That's the beauty of spring training. It offers a chance for a more immersion-chat experience than, say, chatting from the Residence Inn in Cincinnati.

Here is the link to the full transcript, complete with references to Pearl Jam, "Breaking Bad," and, of course, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

Cardinals CTBNL ... March 3, 2014

At the bottom of this entry you'll find the links to all of the spring chats from the past few weeks. But first, the dozen. I'll start at 12, and maybe if this is too many we'll dial it back to the best 10 or a lineup of the best answers. If you dig this format, then let me know in the comments and we'll continue doing it, and then each week will be your chance to crack the "Best of CTBNL" blog ...

(the questions are not in any particular order, other than clarity)


Q1: Wow...when was the last time we got 2 HR's from the SS position in one game?...

by jon power

DG: Well, since you asked, here are the last five times a Cardinals shortstop has hit two home runs in a single game:

Daniel Descalso on Aug. 8, 2013, two homers vs. Cincinnati

Edgar Renteria on April 13, 2003, two homers vs. Houston

Edgar Renteria on July 30, 2001, two homers vs. Florida

Edgar Renteria on May 31, 1999, two homers vs. Florida

Garry Templeton on July 6, 1979, two homers vs. Atlanta

Q2: Hi Derrick, Is it at all likely that Carlos Martinez makes the rotation out of camp?

by Aaron F

DG: It's a 50/50 chance, yes. It's him vs. Kelly, and it may not be talent that keeps him out of the rotation, it could be just the Cardinals interest in saving innings so that Martinez doesn't have starts in April that they can get from him in September or October, ala Wacha.

Q3: Derrick, Which Cardinal has your favorite walk-up song? My, by far is Matt Carpenter's which is "Long Hot Summer Day" by Turnpike Troubadours.

by Jon from Iowa

DG: David Freese's selection of Even Flow by Pearl Jam was inspired.

Q4: What batting avg. and OBP does Wong have to have to nail down the starting 2nd base position?

by Alan Schramm

DG: I don't think spring works that way. Sure production is part of it, but it's not like there's a litmus test for stats. If he hits .250 it's his. If he gets on base for a .392 OBP that's not enough because darn it they wanted .400. Ellis could have better numbers this spring, but Wong's play day in day out will be enough for the Cardinals to feel comfortable going with him. Has he done enough yet to win the job? No. But then again no one in a competition has. It's early. There are a lot of games. I would imagine that it will become very obvious in the final two weeks whether Wong is winning the role or not. Playing time and where he hits will tell us as much as his batting average.

Q5: Any chance Wong starts the year in AAA?

by Harrison

DG: That is a possibility yes. If he cannot win the starting job and Ellis does, it would make sense for Wong to get the reps in Class AAA and Kozma remain with the big-league club. There are a lot of moving parts here, as you'd expect, and that's one of the options.

Q6: What's your gut on the long-term solution for SS. Trade for a younger, known talent or get it done via the farm?

by just me

DG: To borrow a phrase from the political world -- no, not "narrative" -- the Cardinals have kicked that can down the road for a few years. That gives them a chance to know what they have with Mercado, Sosa, and even say Mejia. Sosa and Mercado haven't even taken a swing or gloved a groundball for a full-season squad yet, so who knows really how ready they'll be two years from now or three, four years from now. They have the potential. They need the growth. The Cardinals don't expect to pick high enough in the draft to grab that rare surefire college shortstop, but there are some out there already in the pros that the Cardinals could target. Again, that's a year or two away, at least.

Q7: It's a shame Piscotty couldn't play 3B! Too many OF prospects with not enough IF prospects.

by Tony

DG: Patrick Wisdom would like a word with you.

Q8: Thanks again for the chats. What's your take on Garcia? Is it just the case where (after the shoulder surgery) his new "norm" will be pitching with discomfort? How often do pitchers adjust to that sort of thing and make a successful comeback?

by Chris

DG: Shoulder surgeries are tricky. I hope now people who were critical of Garcia back when he tried desperately to avoid surgery understand his point. Surgery is not a guarantee. Repeat of me: Surgery is an invasive procedure and it is not a guarantee. We'll numbers again. If there's a 1 in 5 chance that you can come back from an injury WITHOUT surgery and a 5 in 7 chance that you come back once you've had surgery, isn't it worth the chance to be that ONE in five as opposed to knowing you could possibly be one of the TWO in seven who doesn't come back at all? That's the odds of surgery and that's why teams and players avoid it.

Multiply that concern when it's a shoulder.

Garcia is coming to grips with the notion that this is his new norm. Mulder didn't come back until his most recent attempt. Clement never did. Carpenter did. A few weeks ago I quoted a study that Dr. George Paletta was a part of about six years ago. The study looked at 67 elite-level pitchers and found that 11 of them did not return to their previous level of pitching. That's one out of every six pitchers who had the same surgery that Garcia had who did not return to pitching.

Q9: To add to Chris' question, how is Garcia mentally handling his "new normal". How's his body language in camp? He's always been portrayed as being mentally finicky and perhaps not up to the challenge of essentially starting from scratch.

by Brad

DG: Maybe that perception was wrong or a bastardization of the reality. Call it the Room Service Red Herring. Dave Duncan's comment about Garcia being very detail oriented and frustrated by late room service or a bad cab ride was not to say Garcia couldn't pitch through pain or that he was somehow not up to the challenge of starting from scratch. It's just that he was consumed by details and things going right and could be undone by a gnat. The Cardinals have ample evidence that Garcia hasn't had trouble pitching through pain or even coming back from it.

A story: When the Cardinals drafted Garcia they signed him to a contract for the next season. They put it there as a carrot. They said get in shape, lose weight, get stronger, come back from your shoulder issue, and then you'll have a pro contract. Garcia spent the end of that first summer in Johnson City doing everything the other players did -- except appear in games. He wasn't under contract. He just had to watch. But he did the work. He slimmed down, he improved his conditioning, and he emerged the next season as a bona fide prospect.

Another story: His elbow popped and he had Tommy John. Garcia threw himself into rehab and came back stronger through his core and upper body and flinging a cutter. The next season he finished high in the Rookie of the Year voting.

He has come back stronger after each setback. He hasn't lacked for work ethic.

Look, I know that I've contributed to some of these perceptions about him. I do know that at one point in time I spoke with other players and coaches and they were frustrated with his body language on the mound and his unwillingness to articulate what was going on. He was a riddle. He vexed his own teammates. I wrote that he would go for a meeting with doctors but the Cardinals had to wonder if "there was an MRI for poise." Well, it turns out he was hurt. He was dealing with a tear in his labrum and a pulped rotator cuff. He pitched through it. He refused to acknowledge it or discuss it, and that left people guessing. It doesn't change the fact that now in hindsight we know that his body language was off and his whole affect on the mound was off because he had physical limitation that he was trying to pitch through.

How is he mentally handling his "new normal"? He's frustrated.

But that's only because he is searching for a way to physically succeed in his new normal.

Q10: Interesting article by Jay Jaffe over at SI.com about new video analysis tools which are now in 3 ballparks (Milwaukee is one of them) and is expected to be in all MLB parks by 2015. In your opinion, where is the sweet spot of player analysis--or has it already reached its value peak? There is just so much data already--how can fans to take it all in intelligently?

by Dairyman

DG: I wish I had a good, intelligent answer for this. I do worry that we've reached a point where it's hard for the fans and the media to, as Nate Silver suggests in his book, differentiate the signal from the noise. There are so many numbers out there now that can used to contradict each other. Even baseball cards need to come with a legend these days. With the way things are going we're going to have to need stats for stats so we know the VORS of RBIs vs. the VORS of OPS+.

I don't think there's ever such a thing as too much data. But I do worry that what we've done is flooded the conversation with too much data and not enough explanation.

Too often now stats are used to show off, not just to show.

Q11: Thanks for the chat. MM's decision to go with BP uniforms during games so that the players can "earn the uniform" seems a little high-schoolish to me, though I am aware that other teams have done this or something similar. Have the veterans bought in or has there been some eye-rolling over it?

by Bob

DG: A few veterans have been pushing for this approach for a couple years. They wanted to see it because they wanted there to be a distinction between the ones who have made the majors and some of the young players who will never get there. If there's eye-rolling it's coming from the veterans who are from outside or are apathetic about most motivational things. A few veterans have asked for this to happen, or at least advocated it in the past.

Q12: Aside from Yadi, who would you say the most indispensable Cardinal is this season? Would I be crazy to say Matt Carpenter?

by Justin

DG: No, you wouldn't be crazy, but that's not the answer. I call this the Replacement Gap. The player who has the largest Replacement Gap over the player who would, well, replace him is the most indispensable on the roster. Carpenter's replacement would likely be Kozma or Descalso in this equation because if Carpenter goes down, Peralta moves over, and Kozma starts or Descalso takes over at third for a stretch.

That's not the largest Replacement Gap after Molina's.

My opinion: Adam Waiwnright's Replacement Gap is the next largest. How's that? you say. Wainwright to the No. 2 pitcher isn't that wide. Right, but it's not Wainwright to the pitcher behind him, it's Wainwright to the sixth starter. It's Wainwright to Kelly or Martinez or Lyons. It's Wainwright, and his 240 innings, to a pitcher who may not be good for 175 innings. That's a tremendous gap and that is where you find the most indispensable answer.

It's Wainwright.


Past chats:

Cardinals CTBNL from Feb. 24

The one with Tony La Russa in civvies.

Cardinals CTBNL from Feb. 17

The one with the 2018 Cardinals lineup.

Cardinals CTBNL from Feb. 10

The one with a new pack of Topps cards.


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