Welcome back to another season of Ambulance Chasers, Razzfolks!
It seems like just yesterday it was the end of the season. Some of you struck gold. Some of you (okay, it was me) struck a more of petrified cow patty. I am not actually sure what we struck, but I sent a sample to the RazzLab a few months ago. Last I heard, they have a quite a backlog over there. So, we may never know what this mystery item is, but it’s not something I am going to bury it 8 feet deep out back.
One thing is certain: you all had to manage it through your players’ various injuries.
And maybe another thing is certain: injuries suck!
For example, how many of you drafted Fernando Tatis Jr. first last year? I avoided that one but suffered from the loss of Ozzie Albies Jr. fairly early to a fractured foot early in the 2022 season. When he returned three months later, he fractured his pinky sliding into second base. They can’t all be winners, folks.
While we could not have predicted these things, we can learn from our past. In the first edition of Ambulance Chasers for 2023, we will take a look back at some patterns and updates.
Three Horsemen of the Injury Apocalypse: Starting Pitchers, Relief Pitchers, and Catchers
If you review data from the 2019-2022 MLB seasons (and probably before), there are always three groups of players who spend a lot of time on the IL: starting pitchers, relief pitchers, and catchers. Over the last four seasons, these three groups have the most players on the IL and for the most days.
In the case of pitchers, the sheer number of players and the wear-and-tear of pitching on their bodies makes this a bit of a “duh”. You draft a ton of pitchers and you likely end up trading and dropping them throughout the season (unless you are blessed by Catcher Christ).
As time goes on and the dynamics of catchers shift, catchers start to become a little more interesting. There has been a shift away from a starter/backup catcher model to more of a 50/50 split or 1A/1B, as Daniel Epstein called it in his Beyond The Box Score article “Starting catchers are disappearing”. The shift away from a starter/backup model is one that is reflected in pitching as well: giving players more time to rest and recover.
— Sam Greene (@SGdoesit) July 22, 2022
What this shift to a 1A/1B catcher model means for your draft is something that Rudy Gamble pointed out long ago in his 2016 Razzball article “Debunking Position Scarcity in Mixed League Fantasy Baseball”. Rudy suggested there should not be a premium on catchers because they are unreliable and injury prone. The changing model to 1A/1B may mean catchers are more rested, but this does not stop them from sustaining injuries and could affect their production by quantity (not quality). Going into your drafts, remember the perceived premium on catchers might be less than ever.
3B: Rise of The Injuries
In 2022, 3B and LF players moved up in the ranks in terms of number of players injured and time spent on the IL.
Over the last year, we saw a few 3B players suffer serious or nagging injuries. Anthony Rendon’s season ended due to a tendon injury. Brett Baty’s season ended with a torn UCL. Evan Longoria was sent to the IL with a host of various injuries. Justin Turner was also a frequent visitor of the IL because of an abdominal strain and other injuries. Rafael Devers suffered with hamstring issues throughout the season. Finally, perpetually injured Yoan Moncada was, well, perpetually injured.
Meanwhile, LF became a sort of Bermuda Triangle for many teams. Eddie Rosario, Nick Solak, Yadiel Hernandez, Canaan Smith-Njigba, and Jake Fraley were just a few players that joined the 60-day IL. Several teams like the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, and Atlanta Braves have been going through a carousel of LFs or guys that are going to have to pretend to be LFs. Additionally, there have been a few major offseason moves for LF. It is brutal out there, and I will revisit this in the coming weeks.
Happy Note: 2022 Was Better Than 2021
According to Spotrac data, the good news is that the number of players injured and the time and money spent on the IL decreased. There was a 13% decrease in players injured from the 2021-2022 MLB season. While no one can promise that will improve, it is a positive sign moving forward and coming off the shortened 2020 season.
Join me over the next few weeks to discuss who is back from injury, who is at risk for more injuries, and how the hot stove may have affected your players in terms of injuries.
A new season and a new reason to reach out! Hit me up here in the comments with what you would like to see in terms of injury content this season. You can also follow me on Twitter: @keelin_12ft.