Albert Pujols and the Effects of the Wrist Injury

When Albert Pujols fractured his wrist this last weekend, fantasy owners scrambled to find a replacement for him. Besides finding a replacement, owners may be wondering what type of production they should expect from him once he returns later this season. Also, owners may want to know what to expect from him on draft day next season. The following is a quick look at players that went on the DL and their production level before and after their wrist injury.

I took a sample 30 players that had wrist injuries from 2002 to 2009 from Josh Hermsmeyer’s injury database. I only looked at the stats before and after injury for seasons in which the injury occurred. The player’s change in AVG, OBP, SLG, K%, BABIP and home run rate were collected. All the data was adjusted to the harmonic mean of the PAs for the two time frames.

Here are the results (~11,000 PA worth of data was used for the matched seasons and ~3400 PAs for the inter season data):

Time Frame AVG OBP SLG BABIP K’s Home Runs
Change from season before injury to season of injury -0.008 -0.006 -0.005 -0.001 0.17% 0.01%
Change from season of injury to season after injury -0.002 -0.001 -0.001 -0.001 -0.46% -0.22%
Total from season before to season after -0.009 -0.007 -0.006 -0.002 -0.003 -0.002
Change from before to after injury (season of injury) 0.018 0.010 0.010 0.004 0.53% 0.77%

Some change in production can be seen from the season before the injury to the season after to the tune of a drop in 0.013 points of OPS. This drop is not large and could easily be explained off because the player’s average age was 29.0. A player’s offensive capabilities would be in decline from age 28 to 30, so the drop in production could just be from the player’s general aging pattern.

Looking at the single year data, the players generally improve after coming back from the DL. Several of players may have tried to play though the injury initially and then went on the DL after their production had declined.

As a general rule, hitters don’t seem to have any major loss of production after coming back from a wrist injury. It has been written that wrist injuries can effect a player’s power. Even I have written about the possible effects on a hitter after a wrist injury, but I am now lessening my view quite a bit. It doesn’t seem that wrist injuries have any long term effects on a player’s production.

So for this season or next, I would not devalue Albert Pujols because of the injury. A person may actually be able to get him a little easier because Albert’s current owner may be looking to get rid of him.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

3 Responses to “Albert Pujols and the Effects of the Wrist Injury”

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  1. CSJ says:

    But didn’t Pujols break his forearm, not his wrist?

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    • bmenezes says:

      Yes, non-displaced fracture of the radius, probably at the tip of the bone as a result of jamming the wrist. I had the same injury a few years ago and the docs told me there’s a world of difference between that and a fracture or soft tissue damage in the wrist itself. Heals faster, less danger of longer-term problems.

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      • bmenezes says:

        Also recall the docs telling me healing time for that type of fracture is about 4 weeks … for a 10-year-old. I got 6-8 weeks. Guess it’s possible Pujols is a fast healer and Cards provide therapy, treatment that speeds the bone healing but he could be in the cast easily more than 4 weeks…

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