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Front Page: Dealing with Wheeler Gets Minnesota an Ace

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:58 AM
This offseason the Minnesota Twins chief focus is going to be on acquiring impact pitching. The front office has suggested as much, and w...
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Front Page: Can the Twins Become the New Astros? Part 2

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:52 AM
After looking into the similarities in the use of analytics, technology, and communication in both the Twins and Astros organizations in...
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2019 Dominican Winter League Draft

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 08:28 AM
Several Twins minor league players were selected in today's Dominican Winter League draft...      I believe to be eligibl...
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2019/20 Off-season Manager Openings

Other Baseball Today, 08:19 AM
With the season winding down, let's talk about what manager spots will be open this winter. Already open: Kansas City - Ned Yost retirin...
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Front Page: Can the Twins Become the New Astros? Part 1

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:01 AM
After recently reading both Ben Reiter’s Astroball and The MVP Machine by Ben Lindbergh and Travis Shawchik, both highly recommended, I f...
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Buxton's Bad Breaks, and the (Futile) Search for Answers

When bad things happen, we inevitably grasp (and sometimes flail) for answers — solutions and safeguards that might prevent future occurrences. Sometimes these ideas are logical and realistic, and often they're not. We see this reaction play out in the gravest of circumstances (gun violence, terrorism, etc.), and in relatively frivolous ones (sports).

On the latter front, there is the case of Byron Buxton, whose familiar inability to stay on the field this year has triggered another round of declarations about what the Twins *MUST* do to nix the problem. From my view, this campaigning is futile and largely misguided.
Image courtesy of David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
It's understandable enough that fans see Buxton — who is without a doubt one of this club's most essential players — barreling into outfield walls, and envision simple coaching fixes that might remedy the problem. The truth is unfortunately a lot more complicated.

Let's review the various incidents that have landed Buxton on the disabled/injured list over the past two seasons:
  • April 18, 2018: Placed on DL due to migraines
  • May 20, 2018: Placed on DL due to fracture in left toe (suffered on foul ball during rehab stint)
  • July 14, 2018: Placed on DL at AAA due to left wrist strain (suffered swinging the bat)
  • August 1, 2018: Placed on DL at AAA due to lingering issues with left wrist
  • June 18, 2019: Placed on IL due to right wrist contusion (suffered on HBP)
  • July 16, 2019: Placed on IL due to concussion-like symptoms (suffered on impact with ground on diving catch)
  • August 3, 2019: Placed on IL due to left shoulder subluxation (suffered in collision with OF wall)
So there you have it. Seven different stints in the past two years, and only ONE was actually the result of crashing into the wall. Even in that case, if you watch the replay, I think it's pretty tough to make a case he was playing with reckless abandon; Buxton was chasing a ball in the gap, came up short, and stumbled into a wall that was closer than he expected in an unfamiliar outfield. It's simply the kind of risk you run when you're the fastest player in the game.

Similarly, the play in Cleveland coming out of the All-Star break where he hit his head on the ground was not some crazy over-the-top effort. It was a ball he should've caught, and did catch, helping the Twins seal up a big victory.

Outside of those two plays, none of these mishaps can be attributed to Buxton's style of play. They are bad-luck breaks, which have unfortunately been plentiful in his young career. It's fine to be frustrated or disappointed with this pattern — I know I am — but let's ease up on the armchair coaching directives, and insinuations that Buxton is somehow at fault for playing the game hard.

In reality, he has come away from countless diving plays and run-ins with the wall over these past two seasons without major injury. And in the process, he has made numerous game-changing catches, helping him establish a reputation as the most valuable defender in baseball when on the field. By asking him to fundamentally change the way he plays, and "throttle down" based on game situations (a rather absurd request for a multitude of reasons, frankly), you're reducing his positive impact and taking away the very thing that makes him such an asset. Meanwhile, evidence suggests this course of action is not really preventing many, if any, of the costly injuries.

So, if you're amongst the crowd advocating for such measures, I urge you to take a look at the facts and exercise some perspective. There ARE feasible steps that can be taken to reduce injury risks and keep Buxton on the field, such as having him play deeper in the outfield and equipping him with an oven-mitt contraption to protect his fingers while sliding on the bases. These have already been implemented.

But telling a player who is the greatest center fielder in baseball, and one of the best athletes in the world, to take it down a notch when his level of effort and drive are exactly what earns him those designations? It's just silly.

Unfortunately, we're all going to have to live with the fact that Buxton carries a uniquely high level of injury risk, and there's no fixing that. It's the nature of the beast. There's no black-and-white adjustment to be made like tweaking Miguel Sano's swing or altering Jorge Polanco's throwing mechanics. The best thing the Twins can do for Buxton is carry quality CF depth (which they have), control what they can control, continue to give him the best recovery support possible, and hope for a little better luck going forward.

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39 Comments

YES!!

Teflon forearm skid plates, and a small, discrete air bag inside his hat. Boy, would Buxton slide a long way...

    • Riverbrian and Minny505 like this
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twinssporto
Aug 06 2019 06:00 PM

Is Kevlar allowed in MLB? Maybe if he wore chain male(SP?) it would help. It might actually weigh him down enough to stop running at mach 5...:)

    • Riverbrian likes this

This is really good. We (I) seem to remember the DL/IL stints being related more to walls and dives...

 

Can't really do anything about being hit by a pitch or fouling a ball off your foot.

 

Maybe he's just been removed from games after crashing into walls and only missed a few games. I don't know.

 

I don't think anyone wants him to stop playing hard... and I think instinct may change as he ages...I don't know.

 

 

    • rukavina, Riverbrian, gagu and 4 others like this

Nicely written

    • gagu likes this

I think Buxton has sat out some games without going on the IL after some wall collisions.

 

If I were running the team, knowing I have a guy like Buxton out there, I would upgrade the wall padding during the offseason. It's a sound investment which would help more than him. Other teams don't have to know about it. They would only figure it out after crashing into the wall, if they ever did.

 

Buxton gets hurt, and typically not in a "rub some dirt on it" type of way. Rather than trying to change his behavior, I would try to entice him to put on more weight. This would slow him down, but now that he has been hitting consistently so what?

    • Jerr, Dantes929, mikelink45 and 1 other like this

Yes, great article.....

 

We need him soooooooooooooooooo much in the playoffs....

 

He is really the wild card that could trigger an upset by covering some of our pitching deficiencies.

 

....and more under the radar.....get hot at the plate and take advantage when pitchers may have a lapse in concentration with him after dealing with the rest of the monster line up!

    • gagu likes this

While this is fair, he has hurt himself hitting the wall a couple other times and missed 4-5 games. What frustrates me is that every time this happens we hear "wouldn't change a thing" "I'd tell him to do it again" from both him and the Twins. At some point, it does need to change, even if this particular instance was unavoidable. 

    • Jerr and jkcarew like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Aug 07 2019 06:19 AM

Interesting, timely, fact-based article. Thank you, NIck.

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yarnivek1972
Aug 07 2019 06:54 AM
The wrist injury that occurred while swinging the bat is concerning and seems to indicate a frailty. I mean, he’s going to swing the bat dozens of times per day, including batting practice.


Also, while over aggressiveness may not have played a part in his recent injuries, they are definitely part of his past.

From wikipedia:


The Twins invited Buxton to participate in spring training in 2014.[25] He injured his left wrist, spraining his pisotriquetral joint, while diving for a ball and opened the 2014 season on the disabled list.[26] He was activated on May 4, and assigned to Fort Myers.[27] After playing in five games with the Miracle, Buxton reinjured his wrist.[28] Buxton batted .240 in 30 games before receiving a promotion to the New Britain Rock Cats of the Class AA Eastern League on August 11.[29][30][31] In his first game with New Britain, on August 13, Buxton collided with fellow outfielder Mike Kvasnicka. Buxton was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a concussion.[29][32] The Twins shut Buxton down for the remainder of the regular season,[33] but assigned him to the Arizona Fall League after the season.


There is also mention of a sprained thumb in 2015 but not how it happened. I don’t remember.

I think this is an excellent article and even better advise - players have to be themselves.To protect themselves and change their way of playing is to diminish the player and remove a lot of value.

 

It is really sad to see these things happen, but so many different reasons means that if he does not play baseball in a Sumo suit he is probably going to get hurt.If he adds some more body mass (in a good way) this season like he did last maybe we can get past this.  

In the meantime he reminds me enough of Pete Reiser that I am going to put up a blog on the topic.Check it out.

    • SQUIRREL and Riverbrian like this
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TwinsGuy55422
Aug 07 2019 07:03 AM
Very well written article but I think there is a little more to the story. Let's go back a few more years to Buxton's very first game at the AA level where he collided with a teammate so hard he missed an extended period of time due to a concussion. It was a really reckless play in my opinion and frankly a scary one to watch. Might that play have contributed to the migraines you mentioned last year and the concussion against the Indians this year? Then there's the manner in which he slides into bases. If you go back further than your two-season window, I am quite positive he has missed time in both the minors and at the MLB level sliding head first into bases so hard it just looked like a recipe for a broken wrist. As a previous poster mentioned, there have definitely been a few times where he ran into the wall and didn't land on the IL but rather missed a few games as a precaution. I also wonder about the cumulative effect of hittimg the wall and/or the ground so many times over the years. I am not an athletic trainer but might a series of jarring hits (even ones that didn't
cause injury at the time) gradually damage his shoulder leading to the current subluxation that is probably going to cost him at least a month?
    • Jerr likes this
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In My La-Z-boy
Aug 07 2019 07:19 AM

Durability is either a gift or a skill. Of all the gifts and skills he has, durability isn't one of them and may never be. He plays no harder than Kirby. Kirby had the gift/skill of durability. Let him be what he is, or he won't be who he is. Hopefully as time passes he will find his own way of mitigating his ailments as he continues to play the way he plays. I don't know how you change him, without changing him? 

    • Riverbrian and jkcarew like this
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Nick Nelson
Aug 07 2019 09:38 AM

I'm not sure citing injuries from 4-5 years ago really makes the point that he's defiantly playing in a reckless style. He HAS made adjustments and begun to play smarter. He IS showing more awareness of the wall, and more care when sliding on the basepaths. He's just getting hurt in other ways, and yet many are prone to fall back on the same outdated argument without crediting him for evolving.  

    • SQUIRREL, Riverbrian and Minny505 like this
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yarnivek1972
Aug 07 2019 09:46 AM

I'm not sure citing injuries from 4-5 years ago really makes the point that he's defiantly playing in a reckless style. He HAS made adjustments and begun to play smarter. He IS showing more awareness of the wall, and more care when sliding on the basepaths. He's just getting hurt in other ways, and yet many are prone to fall back on the same outdated argument without crediting him for evolving.

He’s on the IL right now for crashing into the wall. This is the second time it happened THIS YEAR (wall or ground). Where’s the evidence of evolving?

Maybe he was just lucky to not get to balls at the wall the preceding few years.
    • jkcarew likes this
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Nick Nelson
Aug 07 2019 09:47 AM

 

Durability is either a gift or a skill. 

And sometimes, it's just a trend based mostly on luck. J.J. Hardy comes to mind as a prime example; the Twins moved on from him in part because was purportedly "injury-prone." From 2008-2010 he missed an average of 47 games/season due to various (non-related) injuries. In 2011 and 2012 with the Orioles, he played in 317 of 324 games. Also won two Gold Gloves and made an All-Star team. Instructive example, IMO.  

    • Riverbrian, gagu and In My La-Z-boy like this
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Nick Nelson
Aug 07 2019 09:49 AM

 

He’s on the IL right now for crashing into the wall. This is the second time it happened THIS YEAR (wall or ground). Where’s the evidence of evolving?

As I discussed in the article, neither of those plays were reckless. At least in my opinion. You might disagree. There have been countless occasions where he shielded himself to minimize impact against the wall. You don't run around at absurd speeds making the most plays of any CF in baseball and not dive or hit the wall ever. 

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yarnivek1972
Aug 07 2019 09:55 AM

As I discussed in the article, neither of those plays were reckless. At least in my opinion. You might disagree. There have been countless occasions where he shielded himself to minimize impact against the wall. You don't run around at absurd speeds making the most plays of any CF in baseball and not dive or hit the wall ever.


It’s reckless for him because the evidence has shown that his body can’t take it. If he doesn’t understand that almost no team is going to guarantee a boatload of money to a guy that can’t stay on the field, I’m sure his agent does. I can guarantee that if he goes to an arb hearing next year (which seems all but inevitable) it is going to come up.
I think the players today are babied quit a bit...sorry. If I stayed home from work every time I had a pain I would not have a job. If a player's contract was restructured based on performance milestones, I bet there would be a lot less whining and sore fingers and toes...You get paid if you sit on the bench too. A co-worker once said "If I woke up and didn't have a headache, I'd think something was wrong", after learning another person called in with a headache...Lets send Byron to Pilates, Acupuncture and Yoga and I think that would help his focus and strengthen his body and Mind...And this is how I feel after a bad loss...
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Nick Nelson
Aug 07 2019 10:09 AM

 

I think the players today are babied quit a bit...sorry. If I stayed home from work every time I had a pain I would not have a job. If a player's contract was restructured based on performance milestones, I bet there would be a lot less whining and sore fingers and toes...You get paid if you sit on the bench too. 

Your takeaway from the past two years is that Buxton should play through pain MORE often?:huh:

    • gagu likes this
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TwinsGuy55422
Aug 07 2019 10:18 AM
I agree that he has made adjustments and I give him credit for that. I just don't think you can say the incidents from 4 or 5 years ago are irrelevant or "outdated" as you say. You cannot tell me that a violent collision with a teammate a few years back might not be related to his migraines last year or his concussion like symptoms this year. I also don't think you can tell me that a guy hurting his wrist simply swinging a bat last year might not be related to previous wrist injuries from aggressive slides into bases and dives for balls in the outfield.

The counter argument is always you can't take away a guy's aggressiveness or you reduce his value and play making ability. While Buxton has done a lot to tone things down, will it be enough to keep the cumulative effects of his concussions and other injuries from putting him out of the game before the age of 30 ? I mean seriously, he could start having recurring concussion symptoms from just running after a flyball in the outfield. Then what? This is why I think his past reckless habits are still part of the discussion and not just misguided venting.

 

As I discussed in the article, neither of those plays were reckless. At least in my opinion. You might disagree. There have been countless occasions where he shielded himself to minimize impact against the wall. You don't run around at absurd speeds making the most plays of any CF in baseball and not dive or hit the wall ever. 

Semantics. Let's go with avoidable, instead of reckless. There have been many center fielders in history that were aggressive in attempting difficult catches. Many knew how to mitigate risk while doing so, and, in fact, were rarely injured. Others, including Buxton, don't/didn't know how to do that. Agree that some of his missed time has been unavoidable...the hbp, etc. But, much has been avoidable.

    • yarnivek1972 likes this
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Nick Nelson
Aug 07 2019 10:21 AM

 

I agree that he has made adjustments and I give him credit for that. I just don't think you can say the incidents from 4 or 5 years ago are irrelevant or "outdated" as you say. You cannot tell me that a violent collision with a teammate a few years back might not be related to his migraines last year or his concussion like symptoms this year. I also don't think you can tell me that a guy hurting his wrist simply swinging a bat last year might not be related to previous wrist injuries from aggressive slides into bases and dives for balls in the outfield.

I'm not saying that at all. In fact I do suspect that his wrist issues last year were tied to previous significant injuries, and I'm always going to be a little worried about that left wrist. But there's nothing he can do about any of that now. He hasn't collided with any teammates or hurt his wrist by diving in the past two years. 

Thanks, Nick.

 

Have been thinking about a possible contract extension this winter.Do they offer something similar to Kepler/Polanco, which would be low for someone with Buxton's talent?Then also build in bonuses for number of games played, say beginning at 120?  

 

Problem I see with that is Buxton's agent would say, "so you are penalizing him for playing hard and being who he is and what makes him great?"

 

Don't know what they do, other than they gotta keep him long term and on the field.

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yarnivek1972
Aug 07 2019 10:33 AM

Thanks, Nick.

Have been thinking about a possible contract extension this winter. Do they offer something similar to Kepler/Polanco, which would be low for someone with Buxton's talent? Then also build in bonuses for number of games played, say beginning at 120?

Problem I see with that is Buxton's agent would say, "so you are penalizing him for playing hard and being who he is and what makes him great?"

Don't know what they do, other than they gotta keep him long term and on the field.


IMO, this is exactly what is likely to happen and if people thought the relationship between the Buxton camp and the Twins FO was strained before, this will be a “you ain’t seen nothing yet” moment. It could get so bad that the Twins are all but forced to trade him.

I said elsewhere that the Twins should have Lewis focus on CF because the chances of Buxton being in a Twins uniform beyond 2022 are almost nil.

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