Spring Training Injuries Happen

In what can only be described as a cruel joke from a sardonic deity, Placido Polanco became the latest Phillie to visit the team trainer. Todd Zolecki reports:

Polanco left [yesterday's] Grapefruit League game against the Toronto Blue Jays because of a hyperextended left elbow. He had surgery on the same elbow Oct. 29 to remove bone fragments and repair the extensor tendon.

“It’s right where I had the surgery, but it’s nothing bad,” he said. “I’ve had it before. I’ve had it a million times. But the fact that I had surgery in that elbow, we’re being safe. We’re playing it very safe. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow and the next day, take it a day at a time.”

Without Polanco and Chase Utley, the Phillies have an infield comprised of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Wilson Valdez, and a to-be-determined fourth wheel. Understandably, this has Phillies fans worried, but there are still two weeks left in spring training. Pessimists will say that it is simply two more weeks in which the aging Phillies can get injured, but the reality is that every team has players that collect bumps and bruises and suffer sprains and strains during spring training. Few of the injuries are season-threatening.

As an example, take the spring training injuries over the past two years in Phillies camp:

Player Year ST Days Injury
Lidge 2010 39 Right elbow recovery
Victorino 2010 8 Right shoulder soreness
Utley 2010 7 Virus
Polanco 2010 5 Right knee strain
Ibanez 2010 3 Elbow Contusion
Ruiz 2010 2 Left arm contusion
Hamels 2009 25 Left elbow inflammation
Lidge 2009 10 Right forearm tightness
Dobbs 2009 9 Right thigh strain
Durbin 2009 9 Right thigh soreness
Park 2009 9 Left thigh soreness
Werth 2009 8 Right shoulder strain (6),
Right groin strain (2)
Eyre 2009 4 Right forearm tightness
Ruiz 2009 3 Neck strain
Rollins 2009 1 Lower back soreness

(Data courtesy Corey Dawkins’ Baseball Injury Tool)

With the exception of Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels, none of the injuries led to future injuries and significant time missed, or were a direct correlate to terrible on-field performance. By and large, when you scan over that list, you can’t find any injuries where you say, “Yep, that was the beginning of the end.”

That’s not to say that Utley’s patellar tendinitis isn’t worrisome, or that Lidge’s biceps tendinitis isn’t a harbinger of things to come. Those injuries are by no means good news. However, we have these scares multiple times every year and most of them turn out to be rather meaningless. The real problem here is that the Phillies have an image problem: they are viewed as old and fragile, and any spring training nicks and scratches will reinforce that belief – confirmation bias.

Spring training, like the first month of the regular season, does not lend itself well to legitimate analysis. Players are far too prone to wild swings of good and bad luck both in terms of health and performance. Don’t fret too much over the Phillies’ current health woes. Besides, it’s bad for your health!

Miscellany

In lighter news, help Crashburn Alley win the most important contest on the planet. You may recall The Phield, a bracket contest started last year, containing 64 Phillies blogs where readers voted for their favorites. The most popular blogs advanced to the next round. Crashburn Alley is a #2 seed this year. You can view the entire bracket here.

To vote, follow @ThePhield‘s instructions:

E-mail your winners to thephield@gmail.com by 5 p.m. Thursday. Just write the winner. If not, vote is void.

Your continued support is appreciated.

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7 comments

  1. Toni Scomo

    March 16, 2011 09:30 AM

    Bill, I have been thinking about this for quite awhile. I recently heard MLB call Howard as getting old, the phillies as getting old. I also heard MLB describe Pujols as being in the prime of his career.
    Howard is only 2 months older than Pujols, on average he has scored more HR’s than Pujols (37/year) Howard (42/year), RBI…Pujols has averaged 111/yr, Howard has averaged 125/yr. I think you need to do some research and do an article on this.

  2. Scott G

    March 16, 2011 12:27 PM

    Using RBIs to compare the two isn’t fair. RBIs are largely a factor of the team surrounding a player. Remember, if there’s no one on base to knock in, it’s pretty hard to get RBIs. The Phillies lineup has been much better than the Cardinals for many years now.

    You have a point with the age, but by citing the RBIs it seems like you’re trying to claim that Howard is better than Pujols. This is certainly not the case.

  3. Josh B

    March 16, 2011 01:15 PM

    Uh oh Crashburn Alley is in the same exact spot nova (2 seed bottom right) was in last year. Lets hope to avoid the second round upset.

  4. TMS

    March 16, 2011 09:50 PM

    @Scott G….I am not suggesting that Howard is better or worse, I just get annoyed that MLB keeps talking about how old the Phillies are blah, blah, blah!! And they are getting older, as everyone does, but to suggest that Pujols is in his prime while Howard is old, is ridiculous!
    Does 2 months make that much of a difference?

  5. Chris

    March 17, 2011 01:29 AM

    so lets put some numbers out there based on facts
    teams that are contenders and their avg. ages (oldest to youngest)

    Phillies 29.9 years of age
    Boston 29
    San Fran 28.8 (only cause they return most of last years team)

    St.Louis 28.6
    Atlanta 28.5
    Yanks 28.1
    Angels 28 (rangers w/out Lee dont scare me)
    Twins 27.8
    the oldest player on the phillies starting left fielder at 39 y/o
    all the other teams mentioned oldest players are pitchers ranging from 37-44

  6. Scott G

    March 17, 2011 06:23 AM

    Everyday starters ages:

    Ruiz-32
    Howard-31
    Utley-32
    Polanco-35
    Rollins-32
    Ibanez-38
    Victorino-30
    Francisco-29

    Lee-32
    Halladay-33
    Hamels-27
    Oswalt-33
    Blanton-30

    That average age is well over 29.9, and I think that’s what really matters. The Phillies ARE getting old, why fight that?

  7. sean

    March 17, 2011 10:07 AM

    the yankees won the world series with the oldest team in 2009

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