Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Is JJ Hardy "Injury Prone"? (With Paper Dolls!)

Editorial note: I had this post about 2/3 done when rumors of the Twins trading JJ to the Orioles started flying hot and heavy on Wednesday. But, since I've been cooking this in my head for about a week and a half, I figured I'd still go with it. So there's a very good chance that this article will be moot and worthless in 24 hours, but hey, any chance I get to break out my paper dolls, I'm going for it.

K-bro's 2010 JJ Hardy Injury Paper Doll
I find myself defending JJ Hardy a lot lately. Especially since there are rumors that he's possibly being shopped as a trade candidate. I want to keep him around. I think he's a great defensive shortstop and he's decent offensively. But several of my friends tell me that they wouldn't be sad to see him go because he "can't stay healthy" and he's "injury-prone."

Really? I knew he missed a lot of time due to that nagging wrist injury that was caused by a freak event, but I never really considered him "injury-prone." Let's examine.

First, I need to define "injury-prone." How the hell do I know? I've never spent more than 15 minutes willingly on an athletic field of play in my life. So, I did the most logical thing; I asked my Twitter friends.
The responses I got were quite varied: everything from "unlucky" to "Eric Bedard" to "unwilling to play hurt" to "managed by Dusty Baker" (that one made me laugh). But I'll go with Andrew's (@Bryz_OffTheMark): "I'd probably say one significant injury per year for 3+ years where 'significant' means spending more than 15 days on the DL." This definition is good because it excludes players who have a bad-luck injury that hurts them for only one season, such as Justin Morneau and his concussion (hopefully it's only the one year). It also excludes "achy" players who need an extra day or two here and there, but that sitting out time doesn't really hurt the team, such as Jim Thome. So under Andrew's definition, Joe Crede comes immediately to mind. Remember him?

K-bro's 2009 Joe Crede Paper Doll
JJ's 2010 injuries consisted of a migraine, sore or swollen knee, turf toe, and that poor wrist. Over the previous three years, he's reportedly missed games because of back spasms (4 in '09, 3 in '07), collarbone injury (1 in '09), a rotator cuff injury (5 in '08), a hip flexor injury (1 in '07), and a stomach virus (2 in '07) for a total of 16 games, which is not significant, and nothing DL-worthy. Additionally, the turf toe (which is a lot more painful that it's silly name implies -- it's pretty much a ligament strain under the big toe) was listed as an ongoing injury, "I played probably half my games last year with the same problem, so it's not a big deal," but he only missed one game because of it, so he is willing to play hurt.

So it's got to be that wrist, right? The wrist is what everyone is thinking of when they're complaining about JJ's heartiness (Hardy's heartiness?). But can he really be labeled "injury-prone" because of that? He jammed it by sliding innocently, feet-first, into third base after smacking a lovely triple. I'm no expert, because I've never slid into any base in any fashion ever, but looking at it didn't seem out of the ordinary -- guys put their hands down as they slide to keep the upper halves of their bodies from hitting the ground. He's probably slid like that thousands of times. It was just a freak occurrence that he wouldn't be able to do again if he tried. The unfortunate part was that it was especially stubborn to heal. A cortisone shot and a trip to the DL just didn't do it. Apparently either he or the team, or both, rushed him back too quickly, it flared up again, and he needed even more time on the DL for the second trip.
Does this one, obstinate injury make him injury-prone? I don't think so. If he still has problems with it next season, or if it happens again, maybe, but even then I'm not convinced. Yes, it was frustrating how much time he missed, but, if anything, I'd call him "slow to heal" (I totally get that -- I'm "slow to heal" too). However, after a restful off-season, there's no reason to believe it'll hold him back in 2011.

And, hey, isn't it great that I found some real clothes for the JJ paper doll rather than the body-paint uni I had for Joe's?


My tweet above inspired Nick Nelson of Nick's Twins Blog to explore the Myth of Injury Prone using JJ as an example. Be sure to check it out; it's a good read.


Bryz said...

I lol'd at BACK BACK BACK BACK on Joe Crede's doll, possibly because I was imagining Chris Berman saying it.

margo said...

If JJ is traded, I will be "slow to heal".

margo said...

By the way, it's possible that Hardy's migraine thing may have ruffled a few management feathers. As I recall, Hardy was unavailable to play (due to a migraine) the night the Twins clinched their division. Yet during the televised post-game celebration, JJ looked quite healthy as he sprayed champagne all over his teammates.