Hitters Playing Through Injury Means Jack Squat

Dammit. For a few years, I followed an old study showing hitters who played through an injury would outperform their next season’s projections, especially in relation to power. Last offseason, I collected a list of 26 such hitters. When I went to compare this group’s projections to their actual performance, I found no overperformance and I’m not sure how I’ll value them going forward.

I thought the 2018 and previous numbers would match with the likes of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Matt Carpenter improving. Their gains weren’t enough to offset the losses by the likes of Dexter Fowler, Freddie Freeman, and Adam Jones. In the end, these hitters performed the same as their projection to a bit worse. Using weighed plate appearances, differences were exactly .000 except SLG and OPS which was -.001. The unweighted declines were closer to -.020 across the board but Pedroia weighed heavily on those values.

The Difference from 2018 Projected & Actual Values
Name 2018 PA AVG OBP SLG ISO OPS
Adrian Beltre 481 -.010 -.019 -.034 -.024 -.053
Mookie Betts 614 .048 .072 .135 .087 .207
Greg Bird 311 -.047 -.051 -.099 -.052 -.150
Xander Bogaerts 580 .001 .010 .083 .082 .093
Ryan Braun 447 -.006 -.092 -.183 -.177 -.275
Miguel Cabrera 157 .013 .030 -.041 -.054 -.011
Matt Carpenter 667 -.004 -.006 .068 .072 .062
Josh Donaldson 219 -.027 -.025 -.085 -.058 -.110
Dexter Fowler 334 -.080 -.084 -.134 -.054 -.218
Freddie Freeman 707 .018 -.007 -.036 -.054 -.043
Paul Goldschmidt 690 .002 -.011 .006 .004 -.005
Adrian Gonzalez 187 -.022 -.027 -.044 -.022 -.071
Yasmani Grandal 518 .006 .022 .018 .012 .040
Guillermo Heredia 337 -.017 -.003 -.006 .011 -.009
Ender Inciarte 660 -.023 -.014 -.015 .008 -.029
Adam Jones 613 .010 .003 -.044 -.054 -.041
Aaron Judge 498 .025 .026 -.007 -.032 .019
Ian Kinsler 534 -.018 -.016 -.032 -.014 -.048
Andrew McCutchen 682 -.014 .004 -.038 -.024 -.034
Mitch Moreland 459 -.009 .001 -.012 -.003 -.011
Mike Moustakas 635 -.017 -.008 -.030 -.013 -.038
Daniel Murphy 351 -.009 -.026 -.043 -.034 -.069
Dustin Pedroia 13 -.195 -.121 -.312 -.117 -.433
Corey Seager 115 -.024 -.011 -.097 -.073 -.108
Scott Schebler 430 .007 .021 -.023 -.030 -.002
Ben Zobrist 520 .046 .029 .033 -.013 .062
Projections: FanGraphs Depth Charts

I thought something was off, so I cut and diced the 26-sample set by age, known injuries going into the season (e.g. Bird and Murphy) and weighing the plate appearances differently. Nothing made a difference.

I used to personally adjust my projections up a bit for these hitters since the projections didn’t know about the jump. I’m not going to make any whole scale adjustments with this season’s list. If anything, I’ll keep the 2018 list in mind and may make small adjustments on a case-by-case basis. Until then, it’s off to some more offseason mining for hidden gems.

We hoped you liked reading Hitters Playing Through Injury Means Jack Squat by Jeff Zimmerman!

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Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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You are a saint for posting negative results. Keep up the good, disappointing work!