I think you got it right, Doc. The reason the 2nd month back is probably "mostly" related to muscle fatique (and repair).
I've been the one griping incessently about how age slows down the amount of healing the body can do in a 24 hour period ... and how with age, you start losing ground and accumulating damage.
Well, post-injury (ANY injury), there are a couple of things that are typically going to be true.
1) You will NOT have been going through a normal active DAILY routine of full-out professional level effort.
2) The difference between "pain" and "fatigue" has a LOT of gray area.
3) Having been out of competition for X amount of time, "returning" creates a psychological state different from "continuing to play".
Even given that rehab assignments are "supposed" to return you to 100% ... I suspect in the vast majority of cases, there is still residual damage to be repaired, (but is not pain-inducing).
I would bet that part of the reason for the 2nd month swoon is that once back playing every day at 100% effort, players start to accumulate extra damage to the muscles, which is not being repaired as quickly as it is accumulated. The nightly repair facilities of the individual are simply overloaded.
But, I suspect part of this is psychological -- that "returning" infuses a player with additional adrenaline and an enhanced level of concentration and competitiveness that is simply impossible to maintain over long periods. I think MLB players *ALL* have to "relax" into their normal production levels.
Think of it like the Griffey return (or the Raul return this season). In that ONE year, there is a psychological mix that cannot be duplicated or facilitated the next year. When you arrive "back home" - and you know it might be your final season, there is going to be a very different mental state than the one you're going to be in if you stick around for another season. While the "this could be the last year" feeling may be the same, it can only mix with the "I'm back home" feeling when you just returned.
I think that first month back, players have two items helping production - one is that they BEGIN the first month at the peak "rested and rehab" level. Physically, they don't get back on the field (mostly), until they and the doctors "feel" that everything is 100% ... so, it's probably pretty close. The accumulated muscle damage that follows takes some time to build up enough to increase the downward production pull. The second is that they have a heightened mental state helping feed superior production during that first month, (which also likely exacerbates the mental let-down, when they perform under their normal levels during that first month).
The player is forced to overcome BOTH the phsycial issues - (and I suspect MANY of these guys, who are slumping and then slumping deeper - start getting additional off days in that second month - which actually allow the physical stuff to REALLY make it back to 100%) -- as well as the mental issues of underperforming (despite high enthusiasm initally) - which gets worse in month two when the slumping gets worse, because the enthusiasm wanes AND the muscles deteriorate.
My own view of baseball history and understanding of accumulated muscle damage makes me believe that "rest days" are EXTREMELY undervalued in baseball as a whole, and definitely not appreciated by fans at all.
I suspect that even the young guys (Seager is exhibit #1), probably benefit FAR more from *regular* two day respites than anyone suspects. But, if it doesn't just happen to show up in the SINGLE game after two days off, it gets dismissed. My belief is that the most successful managers in baseball history tended to have rosters of high performing star players ... who "somehow" still managed to accumlate 7-10 games off spread throughout the season. And I think the benefits may be as much related to mental rest as physical.
I also think the natural pro athlete response to lowered production is actually to "press". If you come back and because your shoulder isn't "really" 100%, your long flies are dying at the warning track, what is the natural response? It's to try and "muscle up", (likely causing MORE damage to the muscles that aren't 100% as well as screwing up your natural swing timing).
If there is a simple way to summarize my belief it is that you cannot "think" your way out of a slump - you have to "feel" your way out of a slump, and I think mostly that means "surrendering" to the slump and NOT trying harder.
Exec Sum - What the Article Says
Counselor Mojo calls our attention to this Lookout Landing article by Thirteen, claiming that it is "one of the best articles written about the Mariners all summer." He's right. In the article, Logan says:
JUST THE FA'AX, MA'AM
1. Michael Saunders hit .270/.360/.560 the first six weeks of this year. Then he has hit .270/.360/.560 since the All-Star Break. In between, there were about two months.
2. There have been about 180 shoulder injuries reported by Yahoo in the last 12 years. (He counted these up by hand!)
3. About 80 of those could be compared to Michael Saunders' shoulder injury. (His premises are sound, IMHO.)
4. Logan took a shipload of time, compiling monthly stats splits for these 80 guys AS THEY RETURNED from injury. (This is the kind of thing that Bill James does, sit in his office and burn a day going through 1956 Sporting Newses. It is the kind of thing that Bobby Fischer did, sit in his room and burn a day leafing through old Russian chess magazines.)
5. The 80 players were -- as a group -- weak in ISO (homers, doubles) the 1st month ... terrible!, the 2nd month ... and back to normal the 3rd month.
6. When the BACK shoulder was injured -- the left one for Saunders -- stats dropped off only a little on return.
7. When the FRONT shoulder was injured -- the right one for Saunders -- the 80 players' power dropped off a whale of a lot.
INFERENCES BY LOGAN
Saunders' shoulder injury was mid-May, and his slump precisely coincided with the expected 2 months' slump.
Since Saunders rebounded to an EERILY PRECISE echo of his pre-injury form, we have every right to ask whether that level is his true non-injury level.
QUIBBLES BY DR. D
1. Logan quibbles with his own article more than Dr. D would -- he sells it more modestly than it deserves to be sold. It always makes me smile wryly when somebody takes 30 hours compiling such an awesome paper and then goes "aw, shucks, this is probably wrong." It isn't probably wrong. It's definitely right. But ... he who humbles himself shall be exalted, right?
2. This chart right here can be taken as a light bulb, an atomic kernel of truth in baseball. In fact, what is news to you, me and the rest of the blog-o-sphere, is probably perfectly obvious to the Mariners. Saunders was probably being afforded those 2-3 months with an air of, "Well, of course he's not going to drive the ball until his shoulder comes around." So all of this is in that category of, riveting to us, probably trivially obvious to the Mariners (and to Gordon).
3. That's not to diminish Logan's work in any way. He has put numbers to a baseball truism. Bill James makes quite a handsome living doing exactly that.
4. There isn't any way that there's an exact 60-day waiting period on shoulder injuries for all patients. Dr. Grumpy or Gordon could explain exactly why. But the sharpness of Logan's graph is compelling. The reality can't possibly be as simple as that, but the truism underneath it could: front shoulders take power with them when they leave.
5. I don't know if May 15 was when Saunders hurt his shoulder. Was it? How bad was it?
6. The front shoulder / back shoulder split is pure genius. ::golfclap:: (Though Richard Sherman was shocked that anybody would catch a ball on him, none of us are shocked to get a great read from LL.)
Implications for the Mariners
Michael Saunders may be a 4-7 WAR player after all.
Suddenly it seems like he probably is. p > 50%. That's how convincing Logan's article is.
Dr's R/X for the Mariners' Future Actions
Let Michael Saunders play and find out who he is.
Don't trade him to the Red Sox tomorrow. Wait at least until next week.
This is going to sound like a pitch for employment, but it isn't. It's just such an obvious point I don't know why it isn't talked about more.
Ronald Reagan, as governor of California, used to hire loads of staff to Exec Sum problems for him. He demanded that they be reduced to 1/2 of 1 page so that he could scan dozens a day. His political opponents took it as proof that he was simple-minded; in fact, Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov have "seconds" do exactly the same thing for them in the arena of world-class chess.
You would think that Jack Zduriencik and Eric Wedge have interns working for them -- lots of guys will work free in this situation -- providing Exec Sums of everything on Hardball Times, Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, etc., with a little section at the end, "Implications for the Mariners." But why do we suspect that they don't have this?
Without any question, Zduriencik should know EVERYTHING important, written every day, in baseball, and it should take him 10-20 minutes to riff through it. In top-flight chess, this is an axiom. Grandmasters have to have "full information" -- they've got to know everything written that day.
One of you whiz kids, high school or college, could prepare a day's worth of these and mail them to Zduriencik, offering to do them for free. It probably wouldn't be long until you weren't working for free any more.
Logan's article (if it weren't already posted in Seattle) would be front-and-center in a compilation like that, a gem of an article among 1,000 ... with the caveat, as we mentioned, that probably guys in uniform probably knew all along about front shoulders and power. ;- )
If anybody wants to do that, start a blog that Exec Sums everything on HBT, BP, etc, with an "Implications for the Mariners" section, I'll be your first subscriber, at $10-15 per month.
Why should the front shoulder be so much more important than the back one? There is a comments thread at LL with lots of interesting suggestions. Here are mine:
1. Whatever Mo' Dawg says, go with that. He's spent 30+ years thinking about front shoulder vs. back shoulder. You and I have spent a coupla days.
1a. As far as why the shoulder would feel worse 30 days into the return, I don't think it's hard to guess. The practice time makes it feel worse, probably. Then the body finds its level. Or not.
2. As a general rule, the better the hitter (golfer), the more the power comes from the front side. Me? I use my back side, my right bicep. I'm a kludge, a weekend warrior. You and I push the bat/club through. Pro's pull it through.
3. As a general rule, the more a hitter is letting go of the bat with the back hand, the more the power comes from the right side. Michael Morse and Jim Thome bludgeon the ball. Michael Saunders is an EXTREME front side hitter.
4. We will watch the rest of Saunders' season with GREAT interest. .270/.360/.560, that's a Ken Griffey batting line. In the Kingdome.
Way to Go amig-O,
I think you got it right, Doc. The reason the 2nd month back is probably "mostly" related to muscle fatique (and repair).
...the Mariners are not carrying a legion of analysts. Perhaps they would gain benefit from doing so...but they are not currently carrying much in the way of analytics.
Is sporting a .273/.373/.461 line. That's a good player. Michael always seems to me to be the ignitor, the straw that stirs the Mariner offense. When he has a good game, we seem to win. He makes the catch and throw, draws the walk, hits the rbi, turns the game. If I were Logan, perhaps I'd try to back this all up with some statistical evidence. But..,I got my own deadlines to miss.
ALL of that seems so sound, that ... again I would assume (now that you lay it all out) that it's second nature to the athletes who do it for a living.
My question is why they don't mix in more rest days, like you describe. Seager's a nice case in point. There is some set of reasons, but they're opaque to me. (James used to say regarding Cal Ripken's streak: "I am completely opposed to putting personal goals ahead of the team."
The point about sharpened mental focus seems like a good one too. I've gone through that cycle of, Okay, I'm back at it, great!, and the extra focus overcomes the pain. Then you get into a dreary grind...
Saunders didn't miss games, though, did he? Or did he -
Doesn't exactly shock. Thanks Matt.
Like if they have a question, they probably e-mail Tango and their other couple-three go-to guys. But man. Why wouldn't you have a little staff of guys providing you "full information"? A chess GM wouldn't be able to enter a tournament without his team.
... beyond all proportion to what one guy like that should actually be. ... is it that his contributions come early in games? In tight games? ... I dunno, but...
Injured April 10 - (missed 17 games) - .833 OPS when injured.
Returned April 29.
Next game skipped was May 27 -- (OPS down to .655 before off day) -- had one non-start on May 18, but appeared in game, no PA
Next game skipped was June 16 - (OPS at .608 at this point).
Next game skipped was June 25 - (OPS at .613).
Note: Played 7 straight days and then got a rest day - closest rest interval all season.
Gets TWO (2) days off - July 1-2. -- .616 before rest
Gets another day off on July 7 -- .615 before rest
Played 7 straight games - then the ASB - creating 4 consecutive days off. - OPS at .667 before break.
The turn-around can really be pegged at July 8th. But, in addition to the two days off to start July, with another rest day a week later, the ASB creates not only a natural break where muscles can fully recover - but also provides a natural mental break, allowing lots of players to "reset" and begin the season anew.
Since the ASB, he's only had two days missing games, July 26 and August 17.
His OPS peaked on August 4th ... and he's maintained it since then.
As to why they don't mix in more rest days ... I think that's typical athletic macho BS and cultural tradition of all sports.
And, of course, this is precisely where the top managers get successful buy in for off days, even from star players. Poor managers either don't rest players effectively or often create tension in the clubhouse as a result of poor player management, (the worst managers to do both).
The math problem is -- if you have a starter running an OPS of .820 and a backup running an OPS of .680 ... on no specific individual day does the math make resting the starter obvious. It takes a little faith that the off days for the stars (and regular PT for the scrubs) are going to raise the individual production for BOTH players, (making the .820 guy an .840 guy - and raising the .680 scrub to .700.)
I think what happens too often is that managers wait for a slump to start - and give a player a rest day only AFTER their production has waned. That probably helps create a mental break, and is better than not reacting at all and simply running the slumping star out there regardless - but I believe the better approach is to pre-emptively give starters rest days - on a fairly regular schedule. I think this creates the mental break days ... but it also removes the perception of rest days being punitive. (I slumped in the last two week - and was "punished" with an off day).
As to postscript #2 above Jeff, your right side makes you actually quite a smart kludge. As with so many other things on here, I am always impressed at the knowledge level. Going back again to Homer Kelley's "Golfing Machine," to merely get your power from pulling does not maximize one's power. I was taught at an early age about the "load and lag" and then the "right arm extensor action." Especially if you are right handed? Take advantage of that power that it generates. As with the baseball swing, the power angles and maximized applied strength are the only way to go!
A good manager given enough backing by club management can help shape the clubhouse culture to where occasional rest days even for stars is par for the course. Tommy Lasorda used to be a booger about playing the regulars the absolute maximum amount of games. There seem to be a few players who can handle all 162 if called upon. I look at Seager lately and he just looks plumb tuckered. Perhaps that's part of his recent uncharacteristic defensive lapses. I wager he could benefit from 140 to 145 starts a season (he played 155 last year, starting 151).
I always thought of this as one of Pinella's strengths. He would often use the 'day game after a night game' to play a lot of reserves. Of course, it helped that Pat always seemed to give him some really good options on the bench. The M's declining salary base has kept the Javier/McLemore über subs off the team.