Thinking about toeing Kate Upton's rubber
Photo Credit: Keith Allison
Diehard players know that among all the fantasy sports, baseball is the true test of an owner's skill and dedication. Whether it’s the long season, huge player pool or myriad of stats to pore through, fantasy baseball rewards knowledge and preparation. Some of the most difficult things to prepare for are injuries, and the more knowledge you have, the better prepared you will be. Injuries WILL play a major role in the success of real and fantasy teams alike.
Not all injuries are created equal. Knowing which players are worth the risk can pay huge dividends on draft day. As a practicing physical therapist with extensive experience in orthopedic rehabilitation (and a fellow fantasy nutjob), I have the skill-set to steer you in the right direction. I’ll be discussing a number of players with injury concerns entering the season and whether or not I “trust” them to stay healthy and/or produce at expected levels. Basically, will you get what you pay for on draft day? Players I don’t trust get a spot on Don’s Do Not Trust List (DDNTL). If there’s a player I didn’t address that you want to read about, feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment. I’m here for you.
All ADP data courtesy of MockDraftCentral.com (MDC) and rankings courtesy of Yahoo! default ranks, current as of this writing.
More after the jump:
Despite dominant performances in the postseason, Justin Verlander is coming off his worst season statistically in five years (13-12, 3.46 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 217K in 218 IP) and saw his average fastball velocity drop for the fourth consecutive year. Now 31 years old, Verlander has logged over 200 innings for seven consecutive seasons (not including the playoffs). With his workload and declining velocity, it would be fair to wonder if this is the beginning of the decline phase of Verlander’s career. To further complicate matters, Verlander suffered a “core muscle” injury in December while working out. Verlander reported hearing a “pop” in his groin, and considering he’s dating Kate Upton, I’m sure there’s plenty of groin-popping going on in the Verlander house. Upon examination doctors determined that Verlander had both acute (new) and chronic (old) injuries to his “core” and he required surgical intervention in early January to correct the issues. “Core muscle” is an extremely vague term that appears to be similar to the equally vague “sports hernia,” both of which refer to abdominal and groin musculature that comprise the body’s “core.” As of this writing, Verlander has been throwing without issue and plans on throwing live batting practice within a week. He’s expected to be ready for the start of the season, but fantasy owners want to know if the old Verlander will be back, or if 2013 was a warning sign to stay away.
Verlander himself admits that his mechanics were off last year, possibly due to injury, and I can understand why. Your core muscles stabilize your trunk during nearly all daily acitivities, athletic or otherwise. Pitchers with core muscle injuries would likely see a mechanical breakdown in terms of how their trunk stabilizes and rotates while the arms and legs progress through the throwing motion. Not only was Verlander’s velocity declining, but his control wasn’t as sharp as we’re accustomed to seeing as evidenced by a spike in BB% and BB/9. While his advancing age could be a factor in his declining arm strength and control, faulty mechanics due to core muscle insufficiency could also be at fault. With the core injury corrected, his mechanical flaws can be corrected as well.
I’m taking a cautiously optimistic approach to Verlander this year and leaving him off my list. Spring Training reports will be important to monitor in case of a setback, but as it stands currently I think we might see a bounce back year. 31 years old isn’t ancient, and while he’s got a lot of miles on his arm in recent years, he’s also been remarkably durable. We also saw a glimpse of vintage Verlander in the playoffs; the dominant Cy Young form is still there, will it be there all season or just in big games? His current ADP of 82.65 (11th SP) isn’t unreasonable when you consider he’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball for a few years running. I always wait on pitchers in early rounds so I’ll probably miss out on Verlander this year, but for those of you who don’t mind drafting pitching early, you might end up with an elite pitcher at a discount rate.