The effect of injury on elite players

The debate about Hall of Fame worthiness is as healthy now as it’s ever been. As fans are provided with more statistics that illuminate certain aspects of value (here’s looking at you, WAR) and fantastic sites like Baseball Reference have all the information available a click away, within 24 hours of a game finishing, the fire is fueled for some healthy discussion.

In that vein, earlier this month Joe discussed Hall of Fame credentials and standards. There are some basic guidelines that won’t change in the eyes of the electorate (namely, baseball writers), and Joe does a good job outlining them. There are, however, some great players who are on the bubble for the Hall of Fame because of the negative impact of injury on their careers. How much should that affect the voters? It might seem unfair to keep great players from the Hall because of injuries, but it’s one of many aspects that feed into the composition of a career. None of those should be taken lightly.

Pitchers with poor deliveries

Sandy Koufax was a legend, without a doubt. His career-ending injury, however, could have cost him a Hall of Fame spot. He pitched brilliantly in his final six seasons and earned three Cy Young awards before leaving the game at 30. With what Larry Schwartz calls an “arthritic arm,” Koufax pitched four no-hitters.

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Mid-season thoughts, pt. 2: Trade targets

There are a number of things to note about the Phillies as they currently stand.
It is unlikely they will make enough noise to make a serious run, but they’ve done crazy things before.

Here the focus is on different elements of individual players, in no particular order.
This post addresses Phillies who are at least somewhat trade targets – Utley, Ruiz, Papelbon, Lee, and Michael Young.
See part 1 for notes on seven players who are less likely targets or not at all on the trading block.

1. Chase Utley: self-determined trade target

Right now, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether he will stay or go. Because of what Chase Utley brings to the clubhouse, the Phillies may need to get more in a package to be willing to part with him. And ultimately if Chase wants to stay, Chase will stay. He has partial no-trade protection and can veto trades to 22 teams. If the Phillies fall apart, though, he could be headed out. This one is tough to call, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Utley stay a Phillie.

2. Carlos Ruiz: what can you get for a veteran catcher?

Carlos Ruiz has seen limited action this year because of the 25-game suspension and injury, but he could still be a trade target. It’s an interesting situation in a contract year. Ruiz entered the day .276 in 33 games, up 9 points after a few hits in yesterday’s game.

Teams looking for a veteran presence behind the plate may be calling, and if they have a good offer, it may be better to trade Ruiz, who is 34 — most catchers tend to fall off production-wise in the mid-thirties. Last year’s great success may also be in the back of the minds of those looking to acquire him, and the Phillies should capitalize on that.

3. Jonathan Papelbon: keep a closer or deal for the future?

Jonathan Papelbon is another player at the center of trade rumors. Papelbon’s fiery play is a plus, but his outspokenness may be unsettling, particularly in the Phillies’ clubhouse. He’s willing to say things that are needed, but he’s not particularly tactful, and it rubs plenty of people the wrong way. These things don’t go into my analysis of whether or not he should be traded, but they seem to merit mentioning.

Despite four blown saves, Papelbon is having a fairly good year. He’s getting guys out in the ninth inning, and that’s about all you can ask a closer to do. However, are the Phillies in any position to contend this year and next? As the trade deadline approaches, the team needs to answer that question. If the answer is “no,” they need to listen to offers. Yes, Papelbon’s contract runs through 2015, but hanging onto a great closer does a team little good if they’re not getting into many save situations.

4. Cliff Lee: keep him

Not everyone agrees with this analysis. A number have mentioned the injuries Roy Halladay has sustained over the last two years in arguing we should trade Cliff Lee. I’m not buying it.

Each time Lee has been traded, he hasn’t brought back anything like what he’s worth. What evidence is there that this time will be any different? Besides, Lee is a southpaw ace. Lefties last longer, especially when they’re as good as he is. Lee relies not so much on his power as his command, which is impeccable. It may be wishful thinking, but if his command continues to be as good as it is, he could last another 8 years. Jamie Moyer did it, and he wasn’t as dominant a pitcher when he was 34. Lee has half the number of innings pitched compared to Moyer’s tally over 27 years; if he stays healthy and adapts properly, he can keep pitching.

5. Michael Young: getting a return

Michael Young is signed through this year. His defense is less than stellar, though his average is pretty good — he was leading the team in average for a while at the beginning of the year. Keep in mind that Young was essentially meant to be a one-year replacement. Younger players can fill the gap adequately — Galvis, Hernandez, or someone else — with the added benefit of seeing how one of the prospects does at third full-time.

An AL team might be able to use Young, and if it becomes clear the Phillies aren’t going anywhere this year, they need to unload him for the best deal they can get. The Yankees certainly fit that bill, and are rumored to be interested. He is the most likely man to be moved.