15 May 2014

Can History Tell Us Anything About Chris Davis' Return From the Disabled List?

On Sunday, Chris Davis returned to the major league roster after spending the previous 15 days on the disabled list.  All in all, he missed a total of 12 games.  It’s debatable whether or not the Orioles missed him however, as they went 9-3 during his time out of the lineup.  Other than a 2 game cameo at first base by Nick Markakis, Steve Pearce manned the cold corner while Davis was sidelined, and performed better than anyone probably expected he would.  While Davis was nursing his strained oblique, Pearce hit .314/.385/.629 (AVG/OBP/SLG).  In fact, Pearce was so good filling in for Davis that he has been worth same number of wins (0.3 fWAR) in 50 fewer plate appearances.

Chris Davis hitting a bomb (Photo: Keith Allison)
Of course, a contributing factor to that last nugget of information is the fact that Davis started the season off to a slow start in 2014, especially in the power department, where he was only slugging .400 (compared to .634 in 2013).  For the purposes of this article, we’ll chalk that up to some bad luck and a small sample size, as his HR/FB% is down by almost 20%.

However, if Davis’ oblique has been bothering him since the beginning of the season, his overall health may be another contributing factor to the April power outage that was starting to make Baltimore fans antsy.  With that in mind, I wanted to take a look out players who are similar hitters to Davis who have also been sidelined with a strained oblique.  Specifically, in the season that they experienced the injury, I wanted to investigate how they performed prior to the injury compared to how they performed after the injury, as measured by wOBA.

To do this, I used Baseball Reference play index looking for any players who had a batting average less than .280, an OBP less than .350, and a slugging percentage greater than .450 over the entire 2008 to 2013 time frame.  Essentially I was looking for players similar to Davis’ career numbers; low average, high slugging hitters.  From that list, I looked at each player’s injury page on Baseball Prospectus to see if they have ever missed time due to a strained oblique.  Here is the result of that search.

*Players listed with zero games missed experienced the injury during spring training

As you can tell from the chart, 4 of the players experienced a decrease in performance, 3 players experienced an increase in performance, and 3 players experienced the injury during spring training (Curtis Granderson and Ryan Ludwick did not miss any regular season games, whereas Corey Hart missed the first 22 games of the season).

Based on this very simple look at “Chris Davis like” players who have experienced a strained oblique, it doesn’t appear that the injury has any short or long term effect on a player’s ability to produce at the plate.  Overall, there were about just as many players who did worse after the injury that did better, and each one of the players who experienced the injury in spring training went on to have their best offensive season of their careers, as measured by wRC+.  I wouldn’t worry about the possibility of Chris Davis having a down year as a result of his strained oblique.  If he does have a down year, it will likely be the result of other factors.

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