By: Holly Horning
Yep, it’s Christmas Eve and Totally Tigers is here for ya. And we’ve decided to pull out an old favorite on a topic that I guess you could say is ongoing.
How the Tigers have dealt with injuries in the past is something we hope will be addressed like another team we know.
Let’s take another look at a post from November.
There were high expectations for this team in 2015 given their payroll, Cy Young Award winner, MVP and an elderly owner pushing for a World Series.
But the team was hit with yet another year in which a rash of injuries occurred – sidelining some of their best hitters and pitchers. And one of the reasons given for their disappointing finish in 2015.
And shortly after the season ended, the Front Office broomed all the trainers and fitness coordinators.
“What???” you say? Oh, sorry – I forgot to mention these introductory paragraphs were about the Washington Nationals.
It is eerie how similar the teams in Detroit and DC are. Two parallel stories, especially when you compare the managers, a past year riddled with injuries and accusations of underperformance.
Catch up on my earlier blog describing the same paths but different destinations of these two teams. https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/an-intriguing-interesting-tale-of-a-team/
It is amazing how two teams with the same goals and similar stories (except for the final standings) can do their own analyses and come up with polar opposite decisions and actions. And today, it’s about addressing fitness and injuries.
The Nationals had a year that was plagued by injuries to both their starting rotation and lineup. Many of the injuries were extended or exacerbated from rushing players back from the DL. And others were injuries undiagnosed until it was too late. The Front Office also believed that lack of proper conditioning contributed to the increase in injuries. Sound familiar?
But the Nats decided to do something about it. They hired a British soccer health expert to revamp how the Nats will address training, conditioning and the overall physical health of their players. Their new director was responsible for overseeing a 50%+ drop in soft-tissue injuries in his previous work.
Let’s now look at the Tigers. There have been 3 years of above-average injuries. Miggy has not been healthy since 2012. VMart’s great 2014 was sandwiched in between 2 years of injuries.
How can a team be surprised to learn the best hitter in the game was playing on TWO injuries including a broken foot in 2014? How could management bear to watch their two top hitters grimacing and limping around the bases? How can Victor injure his leg twice while doing routine exercise?
In 2015, the Tigers used 12 starting pitchers – the most since 2002. They had the fewest starting rotation starts in 13 years and a full one-third of last season was pitched by guys called up from the farm.
Sixteen pitchers out of 23 last year suffered from injuries. A total of 22 out of the 40-man roster were unavailable to play at times due to injuries of varying lengths.
There were starters coming into the year hurt. Others pitched inconsistently or were bombed consistently – only to finally find out that injuries were the root cause.
Then there is the case of Justin Verlander, the third most expensive pitcher in MLB, taking trapeze lessons over the winter with his girlfriend. A sport best performed by short men with significant proportionally-larger shoulders and arms, not guys who are 6’5″ and lanky.
And the injuries most likely to occur from trapeze work? Damage to the tri-ceps. You simply can’t make this stuff up.
What is unclear is whether the Tigers require players to get approval before participating in another sport or dangerous activity. Most teams do.
But someone needs to be in charge. You’ve got 2 of baseball’s most expensive players, 2 franchise faces – and their overall health and performance are not being adequately monitored and addressed. The investment – and the future – are not being protected.
The Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS), finds that each team addresses and manages injuries differently. Some are consistent in their philosophy, others aren’t. Some address players’ health seriously, some don’t because they see it as “part of the game.”
And in all the years PBATS recognizes the best medical staffs in the game, the Tigers won only once – in 2006. Coincidence?
A further look into Detroit’s training and conditioning program shows a bare-bones approach and program. A trainer and assistant, 2 strength and conditioning coaches and a part-time performance coach.
More than half of the other MLB teams have an entire department dedicated to maintaining peak physical performance of their players, complete with directors, chiropractors, sports psychologists, physical therapists, massage specialists and rehab coordinators.
Now that Al Avila is in charge, let’s hope he casts a fresh eye on the organization and evaluates and expands on the key pieces that keep teams in contention. Physical health is a top priority.