Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Three-Bagger: Grounders, Injuries & Plouffe

* If it seems like Joe Mauer's been hitting the ball into the ground a lot this season, it's because he has. According to FanGraphs, a whopping 80 percent of the catcher's balls in play thus far have been grounders.

It comes as no surprise, then, that his double off the right field wall in the eighth inning Sunday was Mauer's first extra-base hit of the season. Not an encouraging start for a guy who saw his home run total drop from 28 to nine last year.

As Jon Krawczynski notes, the Twins' backstop is trying to work through some early kinks in his swing.

* The Orioles placed J.J. Hardy on the disabled list over the weekend with a strained oblique, just after I posted an article on Friday ridiculing the "injury-prone" label that has been (in my opinion) unjustly attached to him and so many other players.

Naturally, this led to many emails, tweets and comments poking fun at me. There's nothing wrong with that; I can certainly admit that the timing is pretty humorous.

But I think these people are missing the point. I never suggested that Hardy would not get hurt this year -- only that anyone can get hurt. Yes, he's been placed on the disabled list. So has Nick Punto. So has Tsuyoshi Nishioka. So will many other players over the course of the season.

In major-league baseball, injuries are frequent, and that's why it's important to have strong depth.

Hardy is no iron man, that's for sure. But if you're going to try and convince me that he was somehow more predisposed than the average player to suffer a strained oblique -- an ailment that he's never dealt with before -- just because he's experienced a variety of unrelated injuries over the past two seasons, you're not very likely to succeed.

* Trevor Plouffe opened his season at Triple-A by earning International League Batter of the Week honors. The shortstop went 8-for-18 (.444) in Rochester's first four games, hitting three homers and two doubles over the weekend.

If Plouffe keeps up his hot start, he'll increasingly be mentioned as a potential replacement for Alexi Casilla, who's looked dreadful in early action for the Twins. I'd note that while Plouffe's power is intriguing -- especially for a middle infielder -- his on-base skills and defensive aptitude are questionable. Much like with Luke Hughes, we shouldn't allow a brief power-hitting streak to skew our perceptions of him as a ballplayer.

When given his chance to make an impression on the big-league coaching staff this spring, Plouffe hardly took advantage, hitting just .206 while committing a team-high five errors in Grapefruit League play.


Alex said...

I still wish JJ was at the bottom of the lineup. Injured from time to time or not, we didn't feel the need to pinch hit for him in the late innings ANY TIME WE ARE DOWN.


socaltwinsfan said...

Yeah, "injury-prone" should be reserved for players that have continually had the same injuries, especially those that tend to be chronic, like knee, elbow, hamstring or back injuries.

Maija said...

To me, injury-prone just means a player who gets injured frequently. In fact, I tend to associate the term with players who continue to suffer all kinds of different problems, rather than a player who suffers from one continuing problem multiple times. So the fact JJ Hardy frequently suffers a variety of problems cuts towards him being so-called injury prone, not away.

There is also the question of whether it is something specifically about these players, or if it's just coincidence/bad luck. I don't think as a fan I really have enough information to tell, and maybe both causes can be correct depending on the player/situation. So while I can't say definitively that players bring this on themselves, I also can't say definitively that it's just bad luck.

Good post Nick, interesting topics and points as always.

cy1time said...

I'm glad that you can find the humor in the timing of the Hardy injury, Nick. You can't make stuff like that up. When I read it, I started a giant belly-laugh and immediately came to the site to see what everyone had to say.

Ian in Chicago said...

So whats the deal with Mauer? At first thought one might suggest plate discipline, but so far he's maintained above average O and Z contact rates and is still swinging at pitches in and out of the strike zone in line with his past tendencies. His BABIP is uncharacteristically low (.280) no doubt due to the grounders you mentioned. My thought is that he may just not be in the same athletic shape as in year's past but he'll get there and then Mauer will be Mauer.

Nick N. said...

Yeah, "injury-prone" should be reserved for players that have continually had the same injuries, especially those that tend to be chronic, like knee, elbow, hamstring or back injuries.

My thoughts exactly. There might be examples of players who make themselves more susceptible to injury by failing to take care of their bodies, but I think those are few and far between. Pro athletes don't generally become pro athletes by not staying in pristine shape.

TT said...

"But if you're going to try and convince me ... you're not very likely to succeed."

That is because you are in denial. No amount of hard evidence is going to convince you.

And there is plenty of evidence that some people are more prone to injury than others. Some people are less limber than others, have stronger or weaker connective tissue and bones that are more brittle or resilient. All of those contribute to how "injury-prone" a player is.

Brittle bones can break, weak connective tissue can tear and stiff muscles an pull when the same situation would leave someone else uninjured.

In addition, some players can play through pain better than others. And there is a lot of evidence that steroid use increases the likelihood of injury. So there are any number of factors other than an existing injury that can make a player "injury prone" whether you want to call it that or not.

Its certainly possible the Hardy has just been unlucky. But he has had enough problems that I wouldn't bet on it.

Andrew said...

Does JJ hardy play on the twins again? We are spending a lot of time talking about him.

Anonymous said...

When your job is to twist your body, whether it be to swing or throw, any injury to a shoulder, hip, knee, ankle, foot, or other part of your body that causes a change (because of trying to protect the injury)to the twisting motion, other injuries can arise. Hardy is injury prone; get over it.

Hardy's absence is not why the Twins are struggling; the fact that the 2-9 hitters are all batting below .240 is.

Gabriel said...

We don't call a person clumsy because they only trip over the same two things; they are called clumsy because the trip over many different things!!

Nick N. said...

No amount of hard evidence is going to convince you.

Well we wouldn't know, since no one has presented any yet.

Polish Sausage said...

Gee I come here for Twins news and I see an argument has broken out over whether the Baltimore Orioles' shortstop is injury-prone. Next topic: Is Corey Hart "clutch"? Discuss.

Ed Bast said...

Leave it to our "ace" to go from cruising no-hit dominance to mentally melting down and losing the game for his team before getting the next out.

So far certain folks have rationalized Liriano's terribleness by saying 1) Pavano had a bad start too, and 2) Well he was behind in spring training (conveniently ignoring the fact that it was 100% Frankie's fault that he was "behind"). So, how do we rationalize this latest terrible performance, at home against a terrible team?

I'm guessing we'll hear the "luck" excuse. Maybe something to do with BABIP?

Karl said...

Was at last night's game - It was a blast. Duensing got lots of weak contact and looked pretty much like the above average 3-4 starter that we need him to be. Thome's pinch hit appearance was the 2nd loudest cheer sent up through Target Field. The loudest was for a guy in his 50's or 60's sporting an unforgiveable Heathcliff Huxtable sweater and a blood alcohol level of .15-.20 dancing in the aisles during inning breaks and pitching replacements. He was pure comedy gold.

The Royals bullpen made Tim Collins carry the bullpen bag for the night. It was the most obnoxious pink Justin Bieber backpack you could possibly find.

On another note - Royals 3rd base coach Eddie Rodriguez was cool enough to come over and talk for about 5 minutes during BP and answered questions about the Royals and the Mariners AA team he coached last season. He thinks Michael Pineda is a Felix Hernandez clone. I asked if he could give my wife a shag ball from the BP bag the Royals were using - he not only did that but walked out to the mound to fish for a pearl from the stash of newer balls they were using for grounders. 5 star fan interaction - that guy clearly gets it.

Later Matt Treanor was nice enough to sign the ball Eddie gave my wife - she really likes him because he is ridiculously muscle bound in person and is married to pro beach volleyball player Misty May-Treanor.

Add an awesome game, with a Valencia walk off hit and the super funny post game interview with Valencia ultra paranoid about the old shaving cream pie in the face routine and it was a great night at the ballpark.