Historically, I’ve “corrected” hitter projections to my own liking and every time I’ve backtested them to the actual results, my adjustments have failed miserably. So why create more work when the end results make my final product worse? Am I a glutton for punishment? In all fairness, I’m sure a heavy dose of Dunning-Kruger is going on but I also believe there may be a sweet spot where personal scouting can come into play. Today, I’m going back to the well one more time to see if some injured hitters should have more encouraging projections because they may have played hurt.
First, I’ve always thought playing through an injury meant that the team and the player were accepting suboptimal production. Then the player could come back healthy and full productive the next season.
While an initial study I conducted supported the conclusion, I could not replicate the study last year. Additionally, I was digging through some of my old work and found these conclusions on how hitters recover from certain injuries.
- Arm issues have the largest effect on short stays and elbow on long stays. Elbow injuries would include Tommy John surgeries, so it’s apparent why such injuries would require longer stays. Arm, elbow and wrist issues seem to have more of a long-lasting effect than other injury types.
- Head issues, which are mainly concussions, have more of an effect on the players’ continued production after a short stay versus a long stay.
- It is interesting that players who take time off for groin issues see a huge improvement. I wonder if the players suffered through the problem for more than one season before finally dealt with it.
The key here that some hitters are able to bounce back from certain injuries better than others. With a little more humility and couple extra tools, I’ll dive into some hitters whose production may have been or will be affected by injuries.
Note: I like to use OPS because it’s a great way to evaluate a hitter’s overall talent and I previously created a solution for converting OPS into roto stats.
Josh Bell missed days with hand injury (7/28) and was also shut down with a groin injury to end-the-season (9/13)
2019 pre-injury (hand) OPS: .965
2019 post-injury OPS: .858
2020 OPS projection: .872
It’s tough to know if the post-injury decline was from just regression from having a career-best season or from the hand injury. In all fairness, it was not a huge drop and he posted a .927 OPS in August.
Bell made the two changes people have been hinting at for a while, raising his launch angle (GB% from 49% to 44%) and pulling the ball more (34% to 43%). He started putting a ton of balls over the short corner fences for a career-high 37 homers. And more importantly, he kept the swing adjustments from one half to another.
I’m not worried about either injury and am more concerned if he can keep his 2019 games. If he can, his current ADP is 91st or the start of the 7th round which seems like a steal. But if he can’t, he still might be a decent option even with 25-30 home runs which is where the projection put him. I feel comfortable with the projection with some possible upside.
• Michael Chavis on the 10-day injured list. Left AC joint sprain. (8/12). Started missing time on July 20th. Also, was shut down for the season with a strained oblique.
2019 pre-injury OPS (July 20th): .799
2019 post-injury OPS: .683
2020 OPS projection: .765
Chavis came out on fire with a 1.061 OPS in April but his OPS settled in the high .700’s until the July injury and he was never the same.
Just with the previous sentence’s values, I might have gone with a .775 OPS projection which is close to his actual projection. And with the three injuries, it’s tough to improve his talent and playing time projection. I’m fine with settling on his standard projection going forward.
• Rhys Hoskins was hit in the hand, needed X-rays, and missed a game (8/15/19).
2019 pre-injury OPS: .866
2019 post-injury OPS: .652
2020 OPS projection: .864
Hoskins debuted in 2019 with 18 homers in just 50 games. Since then, his results have been steady but a little disappointing. I think he’s become the hitter he’ll be. The pre-injury and projected OPS are almost identical. Since he had a hand injury, I don’t expect a step forward. I can’t see a good reason to push the projection up or down any bit.
• Rougned Odor on the 10-day injured list. Right knee sprain (4/13).
2019 pre-injury OPS: .470
2019 post-injury OPS: .744
2020 OPS projection: .758
In Odor’s instance, it seems like it took him a while to get healthy with a .654 OPS in the first half and .793 in the second half. His overall sub-standard talent level is at the point where there is a chance he starts losing playing time. A .793 OPS is not great, and the .758 projection is higher than his OPS from any of the last three seasons.
I’m not seeing any improvement but with his current 236 ADP ($6), he’s effectively free. Owners are not wanting the batting average downside, but the 31 homers and 10 stolen bases are enticing. I might move his projection down to a .703 OPS (three-year value) but there is going to be a point where I jump in for the chance of a 2016 repeat (.271 AVG, 33 HR, 14 SB).
• Hunter Renfroe: Early September ankle injury (9/7)
2019 pre-injury OPS: .788
2019 post-injury OPS: .627
2020 OPS projection: .761
With a .805 OPS in 2018 and .788 last season, I don’t see a reason for Renfroe to decline. He came back hurt and also needed offseason surgery to remove a bone spur.
I’ll give him a small bump to this value to the .780 OPS to .800 range. Him getting healthy is at least a tie-breaker over similar hitters.
• Eddie Rosario on the 10-day injured list. Left ankle sprain (6/27).
2019 pre-injury OPS: .841
2019 post-injury OPS: .750
2020 OPS projection: .819
Rosario went from having a great season to ending up decent. If he had kept the .841 OPS going, it would have been a career-high, so some regression pullback is expected. Maybe I could give him ~10 points of OPS to .830. Just a small bump up.
• Miguel Sanó on the 10-day injured list. Right heal laceration (3/27)
2019 post-injury OPS: .923
2020 OPS projection: .855
Once Sano got on the field, he rebounded from a horrible 2018 (.679 OPS). I really want to move this projection up. The .679 OPS is weighing down his projection. I could be comfortable at .875 and if he came into camp slimmed down again, maybe .900. My reservation is that he’s provided the following returns over the past four seasons:
Year: 15-team return
He’s never really been productive. Owners are for sure tempering expectations. In the early NFBC drafts, Sano is going with an average pick of 135 which works out to $10.4 in auction value. I like his current price with the potential for upside.
• Domingo Santana on the 10-day injured for right elbow inflammation (started missing time on July 23)
2019 pre-injury OPS: .814 OPS
2019 post-injury OPS: .484
2020 OPS projection: .783
The elbow injury straight up destroyed him. He just couldn’t hit after it with a 46% K% and .119 ISO. No power or contact skills. The rest was just as bad. The injury being in the arm region limits a bounceback with the .783 OPS seeming reasonable. It’s higher than his overall OPS the past two seasons and a bit below his pre-injury rate. If someone wants to split the difference to .800, I could understand.
The biggest question going forward is if the 27-year-old outfielder can find regular work with a team.
• Dansby Swanson on the 10-day injured list for right foot contusion (7/24)
2019 pre-injury OPS: .798
2019 post-injury OPS: .552
2020 OPS projection: .741
This production is almost a repeat of 2018 when Swanson had a .766 OPS before his wrist injury and a .678 OPS after. I guess the plan is to own him until the first injury and then release him. With an ADP of 253, that seems to be the plan of many owners.
He’s a player I ignore the projected value with. I don’t want to count on him for anything but I wouldn’t mind using a bench spot to see if he can stay healthy.
• Brian Anderson on the 10-day injured list. Fractured left 5th metacarpal. (8/24)
2019 pre-injury OPS: .811
2020 OPS projection: .771
Anderson is an interesting case in that he missed time with a serious injury. His projection will have some negative regression baked into it, so it’ll be a little low than if he had played a full season. Putting the ball aside, a person may go with a lower projection based on that the injury was a break in the hand. As for a skill change, the only thing he really did last season was lower his groundball rate from 52% to 45% so the home run gains may stick (8% to 16% HR/FB). I’m fine with letting the projection stand.
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.