I’ve had a semi-fixation on hitters playing through injuries and how the diminished production could hamper the next season’s projection. At first, I found some correlation. Then, I didn’t. One possible answer to there being no bounceback is that the injury becomes chronic and the hitter never improves. Or the dataset could be too small.
I want to dive further into the subject, but the information around injuries is sketchy at best. Most of the time, there are no usable details. The lack of an answer means that I should stop coming back to the subject but I’m stubborn.
I’m going to go through this past season’s hitters. The dive has a couple of goals. One is to create a better dataset for future reference. The second is to understand why some hitters may have struggled when creating a profile. And just maybe, I’ll find out if I can put to rest the notion that hitters who played through injuries are under projected.
After diving through the material, I removed some players (e.g. Aaron Judge) from the list mainly because the media theorized injuries were behind the struggles. I wanted facts from the player or team. In all, I ended up with 30 hitters and here they are grouped into two main categories. When possible, I included the injury’s approximate date and the hitter’s before and after OPS.
First off all, I found five hitters useless for this analysis. The reference to Roberto Pérez’s injury was too vague to get any kind of read on it. I just don’t care about David Bote and Daniel Descalso. Finally, Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo had their injuries too late in the season to really matter.
I’ll start with the 20 who had a defined in-season injury date.
|Name||Injury Location||Injury Date||OPS before||OPS after||Difference|
|Hunter Renfroe||Ankle & Elbow||06-23||.936||.620||-.316|
The results are as expected. On average, the injury hampered the hitter’s performance by about 100 points of OPS. The performance didn’t always get worse with 30% (six) experiencing a performance increase. Remember, it has not been determined if a bounceback can be expected. They could continue to struggle.
The final five hitters where basically hurt to start the season so there is no before and after dates.
|Brandon Nimmo||Neck||.851 before to .536 to IL to .995|
|Ramón Laureano||Shin||Injured in the first series, production climbed, then the IL, came back strong|
|Daniel Murphy||Finger||Not sure he got healthy.|
|Trea Turner||Finger||IL to start the season|
|Gregory Polanco||Shoulder||Was never healthy and needed surgery|
So what to do with this information? For any actionable and impactful information, little. I’ll wait until the 2020 season ends to update the projected versus actual results and see if anything exists. While I’ve collected the general lists over the past two seasons, I haven’t dived into each injury as I did above. Maybe if I get bored, I can make tables like those above. It’s just time-consuming. I am though designating these hitters on my draft board and if there is a tie-breaker, I’ll pick the one who played through injury. Old ideas are tough to let go.
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.