Predicting K-Rod’s Post-Cactus Comeback


The above is a dramatization.

The already questionable Milwaukee bullpen was thrown into disarray earlier this week by the news that Francisco Rodriguez had sustained a serious injury. K-Rod has received the preliminary diagnosis of a third-degree PCSI (Plantar Cactaceous Spinaceous Implantation), and while the veteran righty will be soliciting a second opinion next week from Dr. James Andrews, he is by all accounts already preparing himself for a procedure that will sideline him indeterminately.

How quickly, and how fully, can we expect Rodriguez to return to form? The procedure in question — manual microscopic podiatric despining, or MMPD, better-known as “Wile E. Coyote surgery” after the oft-afflicted Looney Tunes villain — is far from new, so you might expect plenty of relevant data to be available. Surprisingly, I was only able to turn up two MLB players to use as comps for K-Rod’s predicament. One is the little known Samuel “Tucson Sam” O’Doul, who underwent MMPD toward the end of an undistinguished nineteenth-century stint in the American Association. The other is Ned “Stallion of the Cimarron” McGillicuddy, whose MMPD procedure in 1911 split his pitching career into two notably different halves. In what follows, I’ll try to glean what I can from the examples of these two men and apply it to the case of Francisco Rodriguez.

McGillicuddy, who during offseasons worked as a rattlesnake exterminator in New Mexico, underwent MMPD following an encounter with a cholla in the winter of 1910-11. That season saw his WAR plummet from 3.5 to -2.6, largely thanks to an astronomical BB/9 of 27.2. Although he saw a slight positive uptick the following year, he had another abysmal campaign in 1913, and his career was effectively never the same. Anecdotal contemporary reports mention the hurler performing “extraordinary gyrations” and “steps worthy of the most degenerate dance-hall” on the mound. The strong implication is that McGillicuddy’s MMPD procedure was only partially successful, and that symptoms of spinaceous implantation continued to recur for years thereafter.

As for “Tucson Sam,” his case is of limited use for our purposes, as shortly after his procedure he was pistol-whipped at a blackjack game by a gang of desperadoes, hogtied and left in the desert, and eventually scalped by Comanches.

As you can see, based on historical precedents, the outlook for Rodriguez is decidedly unclear and this was an entirely ridiculous exercise.

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love it.