Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Miguel Andujar, Michael Brantley and a Small History of Players Having and Attempting to Play Through Shoulder Labrum Surgery

The New York Daily News reported today that Miguel Andujar, the third baseman of the New York Yankees, would attempt to play through a “small tear” in his right shoulder labrum that he suffered on a play earlier in the week. There are plenty of mixed emotions and opinions on this, but instead of jumping on one end of the spectrum or another, instead I decided to do some research. Honestly, I had no idea if it was a good idea that Andujar tried to play with the injury or not. I honestly had no idea if this could make the injury much worse, or if it would mean more time off if it did for the promising young Yankees star, so I did some research. I looked at some of the more recent and comparable torn labrum situations across MLB and found one such situation that fits that of Miguel Andujar’s situation more so than any other. But before we jump right into that, let’s take a look at some of the more recent labrum surgeries, their success rates, and how much rehab and “off” time it took to get these players back.

Let me preface this post by saying that I am focusing solely on torn labrums for positional players in this post, and torn labrums in their shoulders only. When I say “the most recent labrum surgery” I mean the most recent that fits the aforementioned criteria. Please do not litter the comments section with the fact that Michael Pineda came back from a labrum surgery or that Alex Rodriguez came back from labrum surgery in both hips, neither are really relevant with the Yankees third baseman.

The first question that came to mind when the news broke, at least in my mind, was if Andujar was able to play through the surgery, how would it affect the Yankees 2020 season? Would the team be without Andujar for a long stretch in 2020 as well? And would that be worth it, given the Yankees “window” with this team? My research brought me to San Francisco and the most recent torn labrum surgery that I could find aside from Andujar’s

Steven Duggar of the San Francisco Giants announced on August 31, 2018 that he would have to undergo surgery on his torn labrum in his left shoulder. Duggar had successful labrum surgery during the month of September last year and was back for spring training and Opening Day. Duggar’s production did not seem to slip after the surgery, which was evident when he was named the Giants starting center fielder here in 2019 (well, until the team acquired Kevin Pillar, but that had nothing to do with his rehab from shoulder surgery in my opinion).

Does that extra month that Duggar had help him in his rehab? I was unsure, so I went and looked for an example of a player that waited until the regular season was over to get the surgery and I ran across the story of outfielder Matt Kemp.

Matt Kemp waited until the offseason after the 2012 season before having his torn labrum surgery and was back on Opening Day in 2013. Granted, his spring training was cut a little short and, granted again, the start to his 2013 campaign left much to be desired, but whether that was because of the surgery or not, while assumed, cannot be confirmed with 100% certainty. Then again, every shoulder is different. Just because Kemp struggled after coming back from the surgery it doesn’t mean that Andujar will. The point of it all is to say that conceivably the Yankees could wait until the end of the regular season to have the surgery and still have Andujar back on Opening Day, or very shortly after, if all goes according to plan.

Here are Kemp's before and after stats from the torn labrum surgery for your reference: 

Standard Batting
My next question was whether or not Andujar could even play through such an injury. In my research, I learned that not many players had even attempted to play through it, nor did I find many examples of a player successfully playing through the injury. Luckily enough, I did find at least one example of both instances, although there are a few more of each.

Devin Mesoraco, at that time a member of the Cincinnati Reds, at least considered playing through his torn labrum in his left shoulder in 2016. Ultimately, Mesoraco was limited to just 16 games that season and opted for the surgery, but the initial report on MLB Trade Rumors on May 2, 2016 stated that Devin at least considered trying to play through the injury. For what it’s worth, Mesoraco is right-handed and the labrum tear was in his left shoulder. While that did not hinder him much in the throwing department, through the research I am gathering it DOES affect hitters more in their lead shoulder (for a right-handed batter it would be their left shoulder) than their back shoulder, the right shoulder on a right-handed hitter like Miguel Andujar.

In our research of an instance where a player did play through a torn labrum, we go to J.J. Hardy of the Baltimore Orioles in 2015. On October 1, 2015 it was announced that Hardy, who opened the season on the disabled list with a “left shoulder sprain” at the time, had been knowingly playing through the year on a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Hardy is a right-handed throwing and batting shortstop, FYI, so it was not on his throwing shoulder, but it was on his lead shoulder while at the plate. Hardy’s final stat line in 2015 with the torn labrum can be seen below. I put his 2014 season, 2016 season, and his career numbers as well just for your reference.

Standard Batting
162 162 16265560275154301207143100.256.305.408.71490
FYI, through my research I have read that it is much harder to play through a torn labrum on your lead shoulder while at the plate, which means your left shoulder if you are a right-handed batter and vice versa.

I think the most compelling case, and maybe the closest case that matches that of Andujar, is the torn labrum that Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley suffered in 2015. Brantley, a left-handed hitting and throwing outfielder currently in the Houston Astros organization, was diagnosed with the same “small” tear of his right shoulder labrum in 2015 after attempting to rob then Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks of a triple in a September 22nd game. Brantley would take his next plate appearance after injuring the shoulder but would be removed following the inning. Brantley would appear in two more games that season before the Indians season ended without a trip to the postseason. Initially, both Brantley and the club thought that they could avoid the surgery following the season, but the discomfort in his shoulder lingered for two weeks into his rehabilitation program, prompting the surgical procedure. Brantley was told that he could not pick up a bat for the four months after the surgery. Brantley was also told that he could not begin getting rehab games for at least another month after that, leaving him out for at least six months after the surgery.

Here are Brantley's before and after stats from the surgery. I included Brantley's 2017 stats as well because he was limited to just 11 games in 2016. Brantley had other shoulder issues as well as biceps tendinitis that limited his season that required a secondary shoulder surgery that also cut into his 2017 season as well:

Standard Batting
So, how does it compare? Both tears are considered to be “small” and both tears are small enough that the team and the player thought that they could play through the pain. Brantley ultimately couldn’t as pain continued to linger in the shoulder, while Andujar is saying that the shoulder still feels healthy and strong. If pain persists, obviously Andujar will shut it down and face the same time period as Brantley did before the 2016 season, but if he doesn’t experience that same pain are the Yankees essentially robbing Peter of time in 2019 to pay Paul by Andujar missing more time in 2020 because the surgery will need to be completed eventually anyway?

The 2019 season ends on September 29, 2019. If the Yankees do not make the postseason that gives Andujar four months of surgery and rehab (October – January) and a return in February, or whenever spring training begins. If the Yankees make the postseason as a Wild Card you can push that back about a week and get the same result. But if the Yankees make a deep postseason run that stretched until basically the end of October (Game 7 of the World Series would be projected to be played on October 22, 2019) then the Yankees may have a bit of a problem. If the World Series ends somewhere around the last week in October, you have to expect Andujar to not get the surgery until at least the beginning of November. Four months of rehab, November through February, and then another month of rehab games, puts Andujar’s readiness into March, and that’s if everything goes exactly according to plan.

Would the Yankees be better off with Andujar even missing the first month of the 2020 season if it means they have a chance at the World Series here in 2019? The more I research, and the more I think about it, the more I am inclined to say yes. It’s really, for lack of a better term, a no-lose situation here for both Andujar and the Yankees. Andujar needs the surgery regardless. If Andujar attempts to play through it and can’t, he gets the surgery early and is 100% ready for the 2020 season. It’s a huge blow, but the window for this Yankees team stretches far beyond just the 2019 season in my opinion. If he plays through it and does more damage, he is going to need the surgery regardless and can clean it up whenever it occurs, or after the season. A labrum surgery is a labrum surgery. A small tear and a larger tear require the same surgery and the same rehab time, give or take very little. It’s still a very serious and intrusive surgery, so I’m not saying that a smaller tear and a larger tear are exactly the same, but I am saying that with either one it’s likely a five-to-six-month process regardless before being game ready.

I won’t sit here and say I am 100% on-board with Andujar trying to play through this injury, but I can’t say that I am 100% against him trying to play through it either. History suggests that he can and that the Yankees, nor Andujar, would be any worse for the wear if he was to attempt to play through the injury, but I’d be lying if it still didn’t scare me just a bit.

Game Thread: New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers 4/3

Game six of the young 2019 campaign will be an afternoon game in the Bronx between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers. In the finale of this three-game set inside Yankee Stadium the Yankees will send Jonathan Loaisiga to the mound to face off with Matthew Boyd of the Tigers. The game will be played at 4:05 pm ET inside Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and can be seen on the YES Network and MLB Network. You can also follow along with the game on MLB TV and on WFAN with John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. Enjoy the game and go Yankees!!

Miguel Andujar Wants To Return, and Possibly Can

Kristi Ackert of the Daily News reports that Miguel Andujar wants to return this season, and may do that as a DH-only.

In the article, Dr. John Kelly, an expert on shoulder injuries in athletes, notes that due to which shoulder Miguel's labrum tear is in, it's entirely possible that he can return and hit as normal. Throwing, on the other hand, will be more difficult.

In looking at the possible regular lineup with Andujar as it's DH, I think the team would be very good. Not only would their offense be better, but their defense would improve as well since LeMahieu would be their regular third baseman.

Not that I don't see some problems if this were to happen.

For starters, having a DH-only on the team is not ideal. As good as he was, I didn't like having DH-only Hideki Matsui in the regular lineup. With only having a three man bench it's nice that every guy can step on the field if something happens. Could Andujar at least fake it at third base if needed? Maybe, but his defense was already suspect.

Secondly, along with the likely returns of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks, there are some very tough decisions to make for the active roster. They need a backup catcher around, so Austin Romine will be there. And I highly doubt Brett Gardner will go anywhere, so he's a lock as the backup outfielder on the bench. The fact that Gardner is not a zero on offense, and can play well anywhere in the outfield, will keep him in New York. The last spot would not be as clear.

Although I think sending him to Scranton wouldn't be a bad thing, the Yankees could miss out on seeing if they have the second coming of "Luke Voit" in Mike Tauchman. Of course, since it's not like all those guys would return tomorrow, Tauchman will have the opportunity to show us what we'd miss in him... if anything.

I think Gardner being the fourth outfielder will also make the Yankees send Clint Frazier back to AAA, as well. I really want to see if Frazier can live up to his expectations as a prospect, but I just don't see how that could happen. The active roster is just not big enough. Like I said earlier today... he's destined to be traded.

If the Yankees can get by with seven relievers instead of eight, then they'd be set. But history tells me they'll stay with a three man bench, making this final decision a real toughie...

Tyler Wade or Greg Bird?

On the surface this question may seem easy... keep Greg Bird. But when you look harder at the position factor I think you have to go with Tyler. Sure, if Andujar can at least fake it at third base (kinda like what he did last year, anyway), then that would make it okay to keep Bird in MLB. That way either Miguel would play third base should LeMahieu go down, or DJ would cover for Tulo or Torres should they get hurt while again Andujar goes to third base.

That case would be idea because without Bird the team doesn't have a real backup first baseman. However, even with very few innings under his belt there, LeMahieu can move over there. Or maybe 1B is a spot Andujar could move to since he won't be asked to throw much at all there.

The only way in this scenario that I see Bird sticking around is if he turns it on and finally gives the team what they've been waiting for with his bat. Otherwise this is what I see happening. And you know what? I like it.

1. Hicks CF
2. Judge RF
3. Stanton LF
4. Voit 1B
5. Andujar DH
6. Sanchez C
7. Torres SS
8. Tulowitzki SS
9. LeMahieu 3B

Gardner OF
Wade 2B/SS/OF
Romine C

Will The Real 2019 Yankees Please Stand Up?

The main takeaway from the first five games of the season is that we have not seen the real 2019 Yankees, just like we've not see the real 2019 Red Sox or Astros. 

DJ LeMahieu is not going to have an OPS+ of 258 for the entire season. Troy Tulowitski will not have an OPS+ of 167 much longer, either. On the flip side, Brett Gardner will not have an OPS+ of 46 nor will Gleyber Torres have an OPS+ of 72. Then there's the run prevention side of things, as Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton will probably not be as dominant as we've seen, while J.A. Happ will be better than his first start showed us. 

Furthermore, this simply isn't the New York Yankees we should expect to see for most of this season. 

Sure, we knew Didi Gregorius was going to be out until June or maybe later, but the current Yankees are going without one of their biggest power threats in Giancarlo Stanton, will possibly be without another big offensive threat in Miguel Andujar for the entire season, and their star centerfielder and leadoff hitter Aaron Hicks has been sidelined for a month. And that's just on offense, as pitching-wise they are without ace Luis Severino and star set-up reliever Dellin Betances.

While I believe starting all three of your current bench players at the same time is unnecessary, the lineup we saw last night is most likely not even close to the regular lineup we will see for the vast majority of this season. So I, for one, am not going to read too much into the very first week of the season.

A few other notes from what I've seen so far...
  • Adam Ottavino may not have an ERA of 0.00 all season, but if you look past the stats you'll see that he is indeed filthy. His ball moves all over the place. I'm glad I'm not catching him (everyone else is too).
  • Some fans will not be happy until Mike Trout is the 4th outfielder. The fact that many fans believe the Yankees were idiots to pass on Machado and Harper based solely on the injuries to Stanton and Andujar is beyond stupid. You don't sign guys to $300 million deals for depth reasons, you sign them simply because they're great and you need that greatness. Oh, and for the record, I don't think the Yankees needed that greatness.
  • After his first start Domingo German has my undivided attention. Paul O'Neil mentioned that on cold days the ball is slippery, which may have factored into German being a little wild (particularly with his fastball). If he can lean some control we could have a top of the rotation starter here.
  • Whether Clint Frazier turns into the player many have believed he can be or not, I don't think he'll be a New York Yankee all season. If he reaches his potentional, or at least looks like a regular, I believe he'll be traded. If Clint fails then he'll be sent back to AAA to try and find himself once again. I just don't see how he fits on a team with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, and Brett Gardner. Plus, I'd like to see Mike Tauchman get an opportunity should the team need him again, as I wonder if he's the next "Luke Voit".
We've been through just five of 162 games (hopefully more), and I have a strong feeling that the best is yet to come. 

What it Means to Be a Yankees Fan: Daniel Burch

What does being a fan of the New York Yankees mean to you? It seems like such a simple question, but the answers may not be as cut and dry, black and white, and as simple as you think. When thinking about it myself I couldn’t quite put my finger on just one thing or aspect that made me a Yankees fan, and I knew that it wouldn’t be that easy for others to answer as well, so I scoured the internet, our own family here on the site, and I looked within myself to try and find a concrete answer to the question, “What does being a Yankees fan mean to you?” Here are my own personal findings, enjoy.

What makes you a fan of the New York Yankees?

I was always destined to be a fan of the New York Yankees. Looking at my fandom and my life I couldn’t imagine a path where I wasn’t a fan of the team. I mean, I was born in the Bronx, New York in Bronx Lebanon Hospital. Now while my family moved out of the city while I was still very young, and while I don’t remember it well, I was always told that you could see Yankee Stadium from my hospital bed. True, not true. I don’t know, but it is a story I have always told because I’ve always been told that way. Maybe one day soon I can go up there again and see for myself.

My family are all Yankees fans, with the occasional black sheep that we don’t really like to talk about, and I was just immediately drawn to the Yankees and to the sport of baseball. My mother has told me stories from my childhood of me trying to toss baseballs up in the air and hitting them as young as two-years old. The Yankees weren’t the best team back then, I was born in 1985 so by the time I was starting to pay attention New York was still feeling the ill effects of George Steinbrenner and his iron fist, but they were my team and I loved them regardless.

The history drew me to the team. The World Series rings. The traditions. The facial hair policy, which I am not really a fan of anymore, and the lack of last names on the backs of their uniforms. It was everything. The Yankees were different to me, and as you can see on this blog daily I have always been drawn to and attracted to doing things a little different. It was just everything, the team and he organization just completely consumed me.

What is your earliest memory of the New York Yankees?

For some, you are just born into Yankees fandom. Personally, I can remember growing up as a young child as young as two-years old watching Yankees games with my family. Now while my mother and father weren’t the biggest Yankees fans I can say my Yankees fandom began with my uncle, David Pittinger of New York, and his wife, Lisa. My parents had to give up custody of me due to personal reasons and rather than toiling away in foster care or whatever they were gracious enough to pick up the slack and take me in at a very young age. I am and will always be forever grateful for that, and I am also grateful for my uncle for introducing me to my Yankees fandom.

I can remember sitting on the couch watching games with him. I can remember really getting into baseball religiously during the 1994 season, and I can remember never fully understanding why the 1994 season was shortened due to strike. I can remember being supremely disappointed at the cancellation of the World Series and I can remember almost being heartbroken when the 1995 season did not start on time and began in jeopardy as well.

What is your fondest memory of the New York Yankees?

 I can remember watching the Yankees win game after game and World Series after World Series in the 1990’s with him as well. I can remember specifically being so mad at him because he was laying on the couch during Game 4 of the 1998 World Series, he worked nights and it was hard for him to stay awake and watch a game sometimes. I can remember asking him, no it was more like begging him, to wake up and watch the game. I can remember counting down the outs until the Yankees were back on top, and I can remember mocking the San Diego Padres with every pitch thrown. Three outs away, two outs away, and then one.

I can remember begging at this point. “Uncle David, please wake up. One more out!” and I can remember him replying with a simple grunt and a wave of his hand, almost dismissive. I can remember being excited about the Yankees winning another World Series, but I can remember also being a bit disappointed that we couldn’t and wouldn’t share this together. To my surprise he was playing coy the whole time and when the final out was recorded I can remember him waking up and grabbing a conveniently placed broom and sweeping the living room, which was carpet FYI which made it all the more comical. I can just remember him yelling “sweep!” as he did it, which may not be my earliest memory, but it was definitely my fondest moment as a Yankees fan in my early fandom.

The next day, just like we did after every World Series victory, I can remember my Aunt getting me the World Series championship shirts from Modell’s that I wore until I literally could not wear them anymore. We definitely always got our monies worth out of our Yankees gear in that household, a tradition that still holds true today.

What do you think of when you see the interlocking NY of the Yankees?

That symbol means everything to me. To be honest, I am surprised I don’t have the symbol etched into my skin somewhere via tattoo. When I see that symbol I see tradition, pride, history, greatness, winning, family, friends, and everything that is good in the world. It means a lot to me. Maybe it means more than it really should to me, but I don’t care, and I don’t mind. I wear that symbol with pride and I wear it down here in Atlanta just as proudly as I did when I was in New York.

So, what does it mean to be a fan of the New York Yankees? To me, Daniel Burch, it means everything.

What does it mean to you?

This Day in New York Yankees History 4/3: Yankee Stadium & Citi Field

On this day way back in 2009 the Yankees and the Mets both debuted their new stadiums on the same day. The Yankees hosted the Cubs at the new Yankees Stadium and the Mets hosted the Red Sox at Citi Field. Both teams would win their debuts in these exhibition games and the Yankees would bring home a World Series ring in the same season.

Game Preview: New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers 4/3

The New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers will finish off their three-game set this week in the Bronxc with the rubber match this afternoon. In the finale the Yankees will send --- to the mound to face off with Matthew Boyd for the Tigers. These are not must-win games for the Yankees, but these have the potential to be games you look back at in September and October and wish you had, so let’s get to it here in the Bronx.

Loaisiga will make his season debut for CC Sabathia, the veteran Yankees lefty that served a five-game suspension before being placed on the 10-Day injured list to start the season. Good luck, Johnny Lasagna. 

Boyd is a fly-ball pitcher. Mix that in with the fact that the ball travels inside Yankee Stadium, especially during the day, and this could make for a long day for the Tigers left-hander. Boyd allowed three runs on five hits in six innings of work in his last start in the Bronx in September, including two home runs allowed. Boyd did not pitch well in his first start of the season, a loss against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The game will be played at 4:05 pm ET inside Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and can be seen on the YES Network and MLB Network. You can also follow along with the game on MLB TV and on WFAN with John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. Enjoy the game and go Yankees!!

TGP Trivia and Fact of the Day for April 3rd, 2019

Good morning Yankees family.

Name the six members of the New York Yankees who have hit two home runs in an Opening Day game?

Highlight below for the answers!!

Joe Pepitone in 1963, Roger Maris in 1960, Mickey Mantle in 1956, Russ Derry in 1945, Babe Ruth in 1932 and Sammy Byrd, also in 1932. 

And a special good morning to my beautiful wife, Kari. Nothing in this world that I do is possible without you, whether I always recognize that in my actions or not.