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  • How Can the Twins Keep Byron Buxton Healthy?


    Cody Christie

    Now that Byron Buxton signed an extension, the focus shifts to keeping him healthy and productive over the life of the contract. So, how can the Twins keep him on the field?

     

    Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

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    In recent years, the Twins have tried to utilize a variety of strategies to keep Byron Buxton healthy. Unfortunately, those mitigation strategies didn't work last season as a hamstring and hip injury slowed down his torrid start to the season. Shortly after returning from those injuries, he was hit by a pitch and broke his hand. 

    Buxton's injury history is complex, and it's one of the reasons the Twins were able to sign him to an incentive-based contract. Now that Buxton is under contract, how can the Twins keep him on the field and off the injured list?

    Tone It Down
    Some of Buxton's previous injuries included smashing into the wall or making diving grabs. His all-or-nothing approach in the outfield is one of the reasons he is considered one of baseball's best defenders. Previously, he and the Twins have worked on him toning down his defensive style, but this isn't an easy feat. When Buxton hears the crack of the bat, his natural instincts are to go and track down the ball. 

    Taking a toned-down approach may help Buxton as he ages and starts to lose a step. For now, the Twins can try a few other methods to keep him on the field. 

    Jumping at the Wall
    Another well-reported strategy was the Twins coaching staff working with Buxton on his jumping at the wall. Buxton's all-out approach usually saw him jumping off one leg and crashing violently into the wall. His new approach was to work on jumping off two legs, which puts him in more control of his body at the wall. In theory, this sounds great, but sometimes the results aren't perfect. 

    However, the two-legged approach also slows down his momentum, and this may cause him to miss catches he made in the past. This approach gives him more control at the wall, however, which can keep him healthy. 

    Outfield Positioning
    Buxton's positioning in the outfield is another area that has changed significantly throughout his big-league career. From 2016-2018, Buxton's average depth from home plate was 314 feet. He has moved further away from home plate in each of the last three seasons, including last season where his average depth was 331 feet. Being deeper means Buxton has less time to build up momentum as he heads toward the wall to make a catch. He also has the speed to come up and make catches in front of him.

    Last season, Buxton's average outfield depth was the highest in baseball among outfielders with at least 2,000 defensive plate appearances in center field. Boston's Enrique Hernandez was the next closest center fielder, and he averaged three feet closer than Buxton. 

    Regular Rest
    Since taking over as manager, Rocco Baldelli has stressed the importance of rest and recovery for his players. He revamped the team's spring training regimen to give players the time they need to prepare. Heck, the Twins even built a nap room to keep Nelson Cruz prepared to mash baseballs. Giving Buxton more regular days off can be something the team considers, but none of his injuries seem tied to his body wearing down on him. 

    Baldelli saw his career shortened by injuries, and he empathized with Buxton after breaking his hand last season. He said, "I think the number of traumas, physically, that he's had to deal with, and because of that, emotionally, when you have to deal with that many types of things, difficult things, it's hard on you."

    Maybe it's a lost cause, and injuries are always going to find a way to impact Buxton. However, utilizing various strategies may keep him in the line-up on a more regular basis or at least minimize his time on the injured list. 

    Which of these strategies is going to keep Buxton on the field? Any other ideas? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    Get him to stop jumping from 10 feet away and landing on first with his full weight driving his nearly full body weight onto his hip. That hip injury last year looked super preventable. I know his speed and beating out infield hits is a huge part of his game, but it hurt me just watching him jump and land on the base over and over. Of course that wore on his hip.

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    39 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

    Get him to stop jumping from 10 feet away and landing on first with his full weight driving his nearly full body weight onto his hip. That hip injury last year looked super preventable. I know his speed and beating out infield hits is a huge part of his game, but it hurt me just watching him jump and land on the base over and over. Of course that wore on his hip.

    It also explains the sliding, wrist injuries of the past. 

    He has had some bad luck injuries but a ton of them seem to be preventable with better technique and measured aggression.

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    Get him some batting armor that he will wear. He was hit by pitch more last year than any other year. While only 6 times,  of course one broke his hand. He was out 2 months with that. When he first came back from the broken hand he had a large batting mitt but soon threw it away. Later he had a much smaller wrist cover. In September alone he was hit an additional 3 times as pitchers tried to keep him off the plate. The more hitting success he has, the bigger target he will become.

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    1 hour ago, gman said:

    Get him some batting armor that he will wear. He was hit by pitch more last year than any other year. While only 6 times,  of course one broke his hand. He was out 2 months with that. When he first came back from the broken hand he had a large batting mitt but soon threw it away. Later he had a much smaller wrist cover. In September alone he was hit an additional 3 times as pitchers tried to keep him off the plate. The more hitting success he has, the bigger target he will become.

    If I were a manager w/o scruples I'd tell my pitchers to pitch Buxton hard and inside. If they miss him odds are they jam him if they hit him better yet. Because if Buxton is in the game odds are I lose if they take him out odds are w/ Cave (or others) I win, a no brainer. I think getting a decent back up could help our odds when Buck's out. Thus removing less temptation of hitting Buck.

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    23 minutes ago, Doctor Gast said:

    If I were a manager w/o scruples I'd tell my pitchers to pitch Buxton hard and inside. If they miss him odds are they jam him if they hit him better yet. Because if Buxton is in the game odds are I lose if they take him out odds are w/ Cave (or others) I win, a no brainer. I think getting a decent back up could help our odds when Buck's out. Thus removing less temptation of hitting Buck.

    Sign Marcus Foligno to a journeyman contract. Anyone who pitches Buxton hard and inside should brace for getting their ass kicked.

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    I think the 2 foot jumping and playing deeper are smart and have already paid dividends in regard to his health and well being. The only "problem" with him playing deeper is the potential for banging his noggin diving for a great catch. You can never fully take the competitive instinct out of him. But he can learn and adjust to a certain degree where he slides under better control, or just let's up once in a while and let a singlr be a single. His value on the field and at the plate is more important than making every highlight catch he can.

    He's built his body up through weight training and the such. But I wonder if something like yoga or pilates could help his finely tuned body be a bit more flexible to avoid certain pulls and strains.

    Just a couple thoughts. 

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    Will Buck be turned loose to steal bases? There is a threat of injury here. But he can ruin a pitcher's day when he is on first base. Will Buck be encouraged to bunt if the shift is put on him?  That is almost like giving him a double. Also if Buck  is encouraged to steal when when he gets on first base, it may cut down on Buck being thrown at by opposing pitchers.  I'd encourage Buck to steal 2B almost every time he gets hit by a pitch. Who will bat behind Buck? He needs someone to take pitches to allow him to steal (Arraez or Polanco or  Kirilloff ?) and someone to make contact (Arraez? ), who can hit .300 (Arraez/Polanco).  Would the opposition walk Buck to get him on first base with Arraez next up?  Or would Buck be told not to steal bases? If a high strikeout hitter bats behind Buck you are not optimizing Buck's speed. on base.  

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    15 hours ago, chpettit19 said:

    Get him to stop jumping from 10 feet away and landing on first with his full weight driving his nearly full body weight onto his hip. That hip injury last year looked super preventable. I know his speed and beating out infield hits is a huge part of his game, but it hurt me just watching him jump and land on the base over and over. Of course that wore on his hip.

    With such a long stride, trying to add another step in there probably adds its own set of potential issues.  Kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario.  You have a valid point though, that can't be good on that hip.

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    9 hours ago, tarheeltwinsfan said:

    Will Buck be turned loose to steal bases? There is a threat of injury here. But he can ruin a pitcher's day when he is on first base. Will Buck be encouraged to bunt if the shift is put on him?  That is almost like giving him a double. Also if Buck  is encouraged to steal when when he gets on first base, it may cut down on Buck being thrown at by opposing pitchers.  I'd encourage Buck to steal 2B almost every time he gets hit by a pitch. Who will bat behind Buck? He needs someone to take pitches to allow him to steal (Arraez or Polanco or  Kirilloff ?) and someone to make contact (Arraez? ), who can hit .300 (Arraez/Polanco).  Would the opposition walk Buck to get him on first base with Arraez next up?  Or would Buck be told not to steal bases? If a high strikeout hitter bats behind Buck you are not optimizing Buck's speed. on base.  

    With Arreaz hitting behind Buxton, he could probably get close to 100 RBI's a year, since Buxton could score from second on any ground ball single.

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    1 hour ago, twinfan said:

    Make him the DH so he won't get hurt in the field

     

    That would negate a good chunk of the value Buxton brings as an elite center fielder. As much as we can be in awe of what he can do on offense, it's shocking how big of a difference having Buxton in center field makes on defense.  (Even down to pitching strategy.)

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    I won't blame anyone for getting hit on the hand and fracturing a bone; what are you going to do. But, it's not like that was his first injury either. Here is his breakdown (pun intended):

    2015 - played in 46 games and sprained his thumb

    2016 - played in 92 games and bruised his knee and had back spasms

    2017 - Although he played 140 games, missed time for groin and migraine headaches

    2018 - Played just 28 games and had migraines, broken toe and sprained wrist

    2019 - Played in 87 games and suffered bruised wrist, concussion, shoulder issue

    2020 - Played 39 games (shortened season anyway just 60 games) but missed with an ankle contusion (a bruised ankle). He only missed 21 games that season but, that was still 35% of the season.

    2021 - played 61 games, missed 40 games with a tight hip and the rest because a broken bone in his hand he got just a few games after his return.

    Again, not all of these are his fault, but where do you draw the line? Apparently the Twins look at a player who played just 493 games out of 1032 total games in his career, (just 48% of the games) and draw the line at $100mm guaranteed (with incentives grows to $180-190mm). This is Joe Mauer all over again. The team will not be able to bring players in because we are cash strapped to Buxton for the next seven years.

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    3 minutes ago, Kipp35 said:

    I won't blame anyone for getting hit on the hand and fracturing a bone; what are you going to do. But, it's not like that was his first injury either. Here is his breakdown (pun intended):

    2015 - played in 46 games and sprained his thumb

    2016 - played in 92 games and bruised his knee and had back spasms

    2017 - Although he played 140 games, missed time for groin and migraine headaches

    2018 - Played just 28 games and had migraines, broken toe and sprained wrist

    2019 - Played in 87 games and suffered bruised wrist, concussion, shoulder issue

    2020 - Played 39 games (shortened season anyway just 60 games) but missed with an ankle contusion (a bruised ankle). He only missed 21 games that season but, that was still 35% of the season.

    2021 - played 61 games, missed 40 games with a tight hip and the rest because a broken bone in his hand he got just a few games after his return.

    Again, not all of these are his fault, but where do you draw the line? Apparently the Twins look at a player who played just 493 games out of 1032 total games in his career, (just 48% of the games) and draw the line at $100mm guaranteed (with incentives grows to $180-190mm). This is Joe Mauer all over again. The team will not be able to bring players in because we are cash strapped to Buxton for the next seven years.

    Great first post! Welcome toTD!

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    5 minutes ago, Kipp35 said:

    I won't blame anyone for getting hit on the hand and fracturing a bone; what are you going to do. But, it's not like that was his first injury either. Here is his breakdown (pun intended):

    2015 - played in 46 games and sprained his thumb

    2016 - played in 92 games and bruised his knee and had back spasms

    2017 - Although he played 140 games, missed time for groin and migraine headaches

    2018 - Played just 28 games and had migraines, broken toe and sprained wrist

    2019 - Played in 87 games and suffered bruised wrist, concussion, shoulder issue

    2020 - Played 39 games (shortened season anyway just 60 games) but missed with an ankle contusion (a bruised ankle). He only missed 21 games that season but, that was still 35% of the season.

    2021 - played 61 games, missed 40 games with a tight hip and the rest because a broken bone in his hand he got just a few games after his return.

    Again, not all of these are his fault, but where do you draw the line? Apparently the Twins look at a player who played just 493 games out of 1032 total games in his career, (just 48% of the games) and draw the line at $100mm guaranteed (with incentives grows to $180-190mm). This is Joe Mauer all over again. The team will not be able to bring players in because we are cash strapped to Buxton for the next seven years.

    You're injury prone, until you aren't. While there are no guarantees he'll get more healthy, there are no guarantees he won't either.

    History might be the best predictor of the future, but it is far from accurate.

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    Byron Buxton needs a crash course on risk assessment. The risk to take in a close game should be much different than if having a lopsided score. 
     

    I can’t remember if it was 2019 or 2020, but Buxton hurt himself running full speed into the wall vs the White Sox in a game the Twins were up by a lot. 

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