Some good news, some not so good news from the San Francisco Giants after a morning press release updating folks about some player injuries. The press release (which I’m copying over from Danny Emerman’s tweet this morning) reads:
Giants Medical Update for Tuesday, March 21
* Brandon Crawford (left knee inflammation) is progressing to full baseball activity. The plan is to return to game action in the next few days.
* Mitch Haniger (left oblique strain) started his throwing program and hitting progression on Monday and will continue his activity this week.
* Luke Jackson (UCL reconstruction) is continuing his bullpen progression.
* Austin Slater (left hamstring strain) is not participating in baseball activities at this time.
* Thomas Szapucki (left arm neuropathy) will go see Dr. Robert Thompson in St. Louis on Thursday.
Injuries are a part of Spring Training, but of course, there’s always a concern that these things will snowball and impact the regular season. Let’s do a quick rundown of these injuries to gain some added perspective.
36-year old shortstops
Crawford’s inflamed left knee is the exact same injury that knocked him out for a month and a half last season and it’s entirely possible it will be a big issue for him in this final year of his deal. Dude is also 36 and, well, he’s played a lot of baseball in that time and at the second-most demanding infield position (after catcher).
Brady went ahead and generated a list of age-36 shortstop performances in baseball history and, basically, unless you’re sort of knowing for being an athletic middle infielder, you’re likely not going to maintain performance at that age point:
In order to hit his career OPS of .722, Crawford would basically need to be Derek Jeter or Ozzie Smith. The only thing Crawford could’ve done to have improved his chances of a decently healthy season this year was lose a lot of weight in the offseason. That’s hard to do in such a short window, especially in your mid-to-late thirties when your body just doesn’t respond the way it used to and when you have a family to raise (obviously, the most important part of his life):
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Brandon Crawford had a lively offseason, but not for the reason you might think. Four children 10 or younger, each playing multiple sports and two in hip-hop classes, can reorder your priorities. Think chauffeur and snack boxes.
“I was their private driver,” Crawford said with a smile at the Giants’ Spring Training facility on Thursday. “It was busy, but it was fun.”
In this same post, Crawford talks about altering his swing path, and I think that coupled with the Giants “slow playing” him this year — especially if they can claim a decent middle infielder on waivers near the end of Spring Training to back him up — will go a long way towards maximizing his likely final year as a Giant.
The Giants added Luke Jackson back in January and I noted then that he just might be this year’s John Brebbia. He’ll be a little under a year from Tommy John surgery come Opening Day, so some time in May or June might be a better timetable for his return.
Incredibly, MLB.com has a description of oblique strains:
The oblique muscles lie alongside the rectus abdominis muscles — the ones that make up the “six pack” — and are responsible for core control and rotation. The internal oblique sits under the external oblique and is the most commonly injured abdominal or core muscle in baseball because it is the most activated core muscle during hitting and throwing.
MLB even commissioned a study on these strains:
Using MLB’s Health and Injury Tracking System (HITS), the study ultimately revealed that hitters typically take 27 days to recover from a Grade 1 strain, while pitchers typically take as many as 35 days.
Haniger’s strain was announced 10 days ago. He had previously missed six weeks back in 2017 with a similar oblique injury. In other words, you never know with this sort of injury.
Left arm neuropathy
Robert Thompson, MD, professor of surgery at the School of Medicine, is a vascular surgeon who specializes in the treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) and who has performed the surgery on dozens of elite athletes. He was also the first to examine surgical outcomes in MLB pitchers treated for what’s known as neurogenic TOS in a research article published in the Annals of Vascular Surgery.
Austin Slater’s hamstring
Evan Webeck for the Mercury News just published an article about Slater’s hamstring strain:
After receiving an MRI on Friday that revealed a strained left hamstring, Slater was given a timeline of three to four weeks to return to play, sources said. [...]
Slater, who missed the first half of Cactus Leagues games with neuritis in his throwing elbow, said it felt like he had taken “one step forward, three steps back” with the unfortunate news. He had played in three games — two at designated hitter — and taken nine at-bats this spring before he suffered his second injury.
Slater has been slated as a key figure in the Giants’ offensive scheme for the last few seasons, and losing him for an extended period of time — even once cleared to play he’ll need some rehab time just to get some reps, I’d imagine — will not only hurt the model, it’ll hurt the Giants in a big way.
On the other hand, getting Crawford back to start the season will be a very good thing. The Giants need as much stability on the roster as they can get if they’re to hit the ground running, and despite his age, he’s still the only guy in the organization you’d want playing shortstop.