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FBIW #4: Wounded Warriors

Posted By Mo Johnson On Mar 9 2011 @ 3:11 am In Fantasy Baseball | 2 Comments

     Fantasy sports, particularly baseball, has a bit of a randomness to it. You can do all your homework, analyze players, adjust for risk/reward potentials, be more prepared for the draft and work harder all season long then your co-owners…..and still not win. It’s just the way fantasy sports is. All of the work you do is only to give yourself the best odds of winning. Nothing is guaranteed. The fantasy gods produce slumps and career years at a mere whim. It’s all part of the game. But by far the most traumatic bit of fantasies randomness is injuries.

     Injuries raise havoc on every fantasy league in every fantasy season. Although you can shy away from injury prone players, your team will still fall victim to some kind of injury during the season. There is no avoiding it. But before the season, on draft day, injuries are something that can be worked to your benefit. Analyzing injuries, just like analyzing stats is a big advantage on draft day. Knowing when a player will return and if he’s likely to return at 100% is as valuable as crunching stats. Knowing who to target at a discount can get your team valuable cheap help. Conversely, avoiding players who aren’t likely to heal may be crucial to your teams success.

     Not surprisingly, the best thing to do is to get constant updates on injured players. Each injury is different. Each player is different, and their recovery will surely be different. Updates on the individuals should be your main guide in determining a players recovery. But with that said, my years of following baseball as a fantasy zealot has shown me some trends.


Tommy John surgery/elbow injury-
      Tommy John surgery is a reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow. Usually the ligament is replaced by a tendon from another part of the body. This surgery typically takes 12-18 months to recover from & the success rate for is about 85%.

     When a pitcher is rehabbing from an elbow injury reporters will often offer information about the pitchers velocity returning to normal. While that of course has importance, with elbow injuries location is a better indicator of recovery. When the pitcher is able to snap off that strong curve or nasty slider without fear he is officially back. Any reports of forearm issues are a huge red flag, as that is often connected to an elbow issue.

     Because of the high recovery rate of Tommy John surgery fans of Adam Wainwright and Stephen Strasburg can have faith that they will return at 100% sometime next season. For this years draft, if the reports stay good, I expect Joe Nathan to possibly start slow this year but be back to his old self by mid-season.


Rotator cuff surgery/torn labrum/shoulder problems-

     The rotator cuff is actually four tendons and the neighboring muscles that stabilizes the shoulder. Because of the amount of muscles and tendons involved in the area there is a huge range of possible injuries, and recovery times. You MUST look at each case initially. In fact most rotator cuff injuries are not treated with surgery but rather rest and rehab. But when faced with rotator cuff shoulder surgery pitchers do not have the same rate of sunny outcomes as elbow surgery. Quite often pitchers will never regain their previous form.

      Here velocity is a huge indicator. While pitching is much more about location then absolute velocity, if a pitcher does not have their normal  pep on the fastball their job gets harder. Even a small decrease in speed can cause dramatic results on effectiveness. This is especially problematic for power pitchers. Extra velocity causes the hitter to decide on a pitch earlier, and that in turn makes off speed pitches more effective. If the hitter has even the smallest of additional time to react it makes a world of difference. Be wary of all shoulder problems. Also take note of any pitcher who has a bicep or tricep problem as this may indeed be a sign of a shoulder problem.

     I have not seen a report of Brandon Webb’s velocity this spring, but last years mid 80’s highs will simply not cut it in the major leagues. At the moment I see no reason to draft him.

      Johan Santana should be an interesting case. He seems to be following the Pedro Martinez career arc. He was originally as dominant as they come. Then slowly lost velocity, but remained a top flight pitcher because his game was based on pinpoint location as mush as velocity. Any who saw Pedro’s run with the Philly’s, saw a man who still knew how to get someone out with what was basically a high school fastball. I believe Johan could have similar success. With that said, he won’t be more then a waiver pick up for me near the all-star break at most. More likely I won’t pick him up at all, but will watch his late season starts to see if he is a late round flier in 2012. It’s never too early to look ahead my friends!


Speedsters with leg injuries-

      This is fairly obvious but I have seen it missed over and over. If a player is recovering from a major leg injury do not expect the player to run much when he returns. The Grady Sizemore’s and Carlos Beltran’s of the world should not be expected so help you in the stolen base column this season.

 Broken hand/ Hamate Bone-

     The unfortunate injury to Domonic Brown has brought this injury back into focus. I can think of three cases of this injury. Gary Sheffield in 2007, Ryan Zimmerman in 2008 and Troy Tulowitski last season. All came back pretty quickly and hit well. The one ingredient missing for Sheffield and Zimmerman were a temporary power outage as both had homerun totals dip. Tulowitski as anyone who watched had an amazing September hitting 15 home runs in the month. But it must be noted that his first 100 plus at bats upon return only provided 3 homers. Domonic Brown was not exactly ripping the cover of the ball prior to the injury so the immediate future of this prospect is certainly in doubt. Hopefully he will eventually bounce back like those 3 did.

      Remember, always track injured players and pay close attention to how they are recovering. Stack the deck in your favor and hope the fantasy gods shine their light on you.


“ You start chasing a ball and your brain immediately commands your body to ‘Run forward, bend, scoop up the ball, peg it to the infield,’ then your body says, ‘Who me?’”
Joe DiMaggio

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