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  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly with Byron Buxton’s Health


    Cody Christie

    Byron Buxton’s biggest goal for the season was to avoid a trip to the IL, but he wound up being unavailable at the season’s most critical juncture. Does that mean the Byron Buxton health plan failed?

    Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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    Minnesota knew what it was getting into when they signed Byron Buxton to a long-term deal. His injury history is well documented, but his positive impact on the Twins roster is undeniable. He will make $9.1 million this season, and FanGraphs pegs his total value at nearly $32 million this season. The Twins utilized multiple strategies to try and keep Buxton healthy, but injuries impacted him throughout different parts of the season. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly with Buxton’s health this season. 

    The Good
    Buxton played in over 90 games for only the third time in his career, which helped him amass 4.0 WAR, which ranks second on the team. In two months during the season, he posted a slugging percentage north of .710 with an OPS of over 1.060. This performance helped him earn the starting center field position for the American League during the All-Star Game, and he helped the team by hitting a home run. It was one of the best portions of the season because the Twins were in first place, and they looked to be heading for the team’s third division title in four seasons. 

    The Bad
    Mixed in with the good were some sub-par performances as Buxton attempted to play through injury. His offensive production was a roller coaster ride as he’d be an otherworldly hitter for a stretch and then slump. From May 7-June 2, Buxton went 9-for-71 (.127 BA) in 19 games. This slump also included a career-worst 30 consecutive at-bats without a hit. He became a more patient hitter during the stretch as he drew eight walks compared to 16 strikeouts.  

    At the end of June, he had a 15-game stretch that saw him go 6-for-58 (.103 BA), but four of his six hits were home runs. In the season’s second half, it became evident that Buxton was struggling through injury to the point where the team needed to put him on the IL, and that’s when things turned ugly for the Twins.  

    The Ugly
    The Twins spent 108 days in first place in the AL Central, but the month of September has been brutal. Now, Minnesota is set to finish in third place in the division with hopes of ending with a .500 record. Buxton hasn’t been in the line-up since August 22, and the Twins have gone 11-17 during that stretch, which translates to a 0.392 winning percentage. Over the course of 162-games, that translates to a 98-loss season. Minnesota has been playing some of its most important games in September without Buxton in the line-up, and the team can feel his loss. He brings an energy to the roster that has been lacking over the last. 

    Wins in April and May can be as important as wins in September, but the stakes are much higher in the season’s final weeks. Buxton clearly helped the Twins out of the gate to establish themselves at the top of the division, but the team’s plan to keep him on the field didn’t work. Extra off days and time at designated hitter helped Buxton provide value in just over 90 games. Buxton is Minnesota’s best player, and the club’s success is tied to him being on the field for the team’s critical moments.   

    Should Buxton have gone on the IL earlier in the season? Would he have been available later in the season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

     

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    A few comments. In the Byron Buxton era, the Twins have always had a significantly worse record when he wasn’t playing. What makes this run worse is that half the team (or more) are on the IL. 
     

    I lack awareness of the extent of Buxton’s early season knee injury. If he would have been 100% with a month on the IL, then he should have been on the IL. 
    https://www.mlb.com/news/byron-buxton-exits-with-injury-after-slide

    There have been a number of players injured sliding into bases. With investment that teams have in these players, developing more forgiving bases seems like a good idea. 

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    Tough to say, we don't have all the information the training staff and front office had concerning his health. Is it possible they were trying to avoid the IL for optics with his injury history and 100 game comment? I hope not. Was Buxton really being honest in how much the injuries were bothering him? Could be that Buck didn't want to let anyone down with the contract he signed and wanted to prove he could be available all season. 

    Buxton is a difference maker, just like a number one starter. I hope we get the opportunity to see him realize his potential. Could be fun to watch if we can ever get everyone healthy. 

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    IMO their plan was a failure, that Buxton played hurt & was well below 100% too much of the time. If he plays well below 100% he doesn't impact the team. It'd have been better for the team  & Buxton if he was put on the IL more often & have him closer to 100% when he did play.

    If I didn't want to begrudge Buxton & his family of their All-Star experience, I'd consider having him have the surgery sooner. Because recovery time is said to have take 6-8 weeks. He will have missed 6 wks to the end of the season + the All star break + the days off & well below par days when he was really hurting. We'd be better off if they did it much earlier.

     

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    Nothing ever changes with Buxton.  Year in and year out we talk about him and his injuries ad nauseum.  I've always wanted to see him during a full season.  We only see glimpses of him and at points during those glimpses he looks awesome.  At other points he looks like an average major league player.  The rather dubious Fangraphs listing his value at 32 million this year is both ridiculous and stunning.  It is unlikely Buxton will ever play a full season whether due to injuries or managements ever cautious  use of his playing time.  His fleecing of a 100 million contract for playing about 55% of the games over 8 years now, is shear genius on his part.

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    I have a lot of thoughts about Buxton. I don't think they fit in categories very well. First, what I want to see (and hope is possible) is 120+ games of 2021 Byron Buxton. He won games with his glove, arm, legs and bat. He was a force on the base paths, even though he wasn't among the league SB leaders, he was elite in center field and he had an OPS over 1.000 with a batting average above .300. Buxton put up a higher WAR than this year in about 40 fewer games. 

    Secondly, my observation beginning in April of 2022 was that Buxton wasn't fully healthy beginning with the ill-fated slide in Boston on the first road trip. I am not sure that the proper path was to try to manage the injury from that point, but it was the course chosen by the Twins. In the end, it didn't work. In the end, using Buxton with frequent days off got him into more games, but made him less valuable. 

    Thirdly, my hope for Buxton's future is that none of the injuries he has suffered will limit him going forward. The knee will be scoped and I would expect that he can get back close to 100% from that. I am not as sure about the hip injury. If he can rehab from that to some semblance of what he has been, he should be good to go in 2023 and his contract may yet be a bargain. 

    Every season that Buxton is dogged by injury is another piece of reality that he will never be the superstar that he might have been. By all appearances, he works hard and does all that he can to get and stay on the field. He just hasn't been able to hold it together and sadly, may never get to play a full season with good health.

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    Every time Buxton runs the bases, slides, or goes after a fly ball I cringe, expecting another injury. He is clearly a difference maker when in the lineup but he can’t be counted on. Having him DH to prevent more injuries would help, but he might need a designated runner like in senior softball to prevent pulled a calf or hamstring. 

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    9 minutes ago, Whitey333 said:

    Nothing ever changes with Buxton.  Year in and year out we talk about him and his injuries ad nauseum.  I've always wanted to see him during a full season.  We only see glimpses of him and at points during those glimpses he looks awesome.  At other points he looks like an average major league player.  The rather dubious Fangraphs listing his value at 32 million this year is both ridiculous and stunning.  It is unlikely Buxton will ever play a full season whether due to injuries or managements ever cautious  use of his playing time.  His fleecing of a 100 million contract for playing about 55% of the games over 8 years now, is shear genius on his part.

    I think "fleecing" is not the correct term.  That implies that Buxton mislead or deceived the Twins.  I'm pretty confident that he fully hoped/intended to play 150 games.

    But on another note, I think the entire plan of scheduled "rest" days is a failure.  I can almost accept four or five a season, but these players are supposed to be trained athletes, not beer league softball players.  Cal Ripken didn't take a rest day for over 13 years!  Twins' players can't make it a full week?  And, despite all the rest days, they still had 37 guys on the IL and finished the season with no life or energy.  It sure looks like scheduled rest days did not do any good.

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    Buxton is so valuable when healthy which is why he got the contract he did. He has to play CF. He covers so much ground, making our pitchers look so much better than with any other CF out there. Some people complain that he batted like Sano this year but he was playing hurt. If the Twins ever get a season where Buxton plays 120 games fairly healthy (a stretch, I know), they will be World Series contenders. And he will be in the MVP running if that happens.

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    50 minutes ago, Whitey333 said:

    His fleecing of a 100 million contract for playing about 55% of the games over 8 years now, is shear genius on his part.

    He's paid what he's worth. If he could play healthy every day he'd be worth $300M. He can't so the Twins get a discount.

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    I don't think the teams "100 game plan" worked at all for either Buxton or the team. I understand the reasoning for wanting him on the field, but did team or player benefit from it? That being said, I don't know how bad the knee injury was initially, but I think a 10 or 15 day IL trip could have been warranted at the time (he only played 3 games over the next 10 days). I also think the injury could have been avoided had he hustled out of the batters box and made second standing up instead of sliding awkwardly.

    Playing with the ailing knee eventually led to the PRP injection and the hip injury, so he literally played almost his whole season on one leg. Buxton is also on record as saying he has hard time staying involved in the game when DHing.

    Putting up 4.0 WAR and the team being 48-42 in games he played in is a testament to his ability, but how much better could this team have been if he didn't flail at bad pitches or had to put a lesser player in CF due to him literally having only one leg to stand on. 

    Hopefully the surgery goes as planned (a scope and clean up, not full-on reconstruction) and he his able to start his off-season program around Thanksgiving and is ready to go in spring training.  

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    This is no longer a Buxton issue.  This should not have contributed to the collapse.  It’s been long enough where everyone knows the situation.  I’m getting so tired of hearing about “bad luck,” when joe blow average sports fans can read these situations better than the front office.

    He more than earned his salary this year.  When he plays, he’s electric.  But, the FO needs to adjust and treat his presence in the lineup late in the year as a bonus.  It’s nothing short of incompetent that they didn’t have an adequate back up plan.  Attempting to spin it in any other way (not saying that’s what’s done here, but there’s about 50 articles in the last two weeks) is bordering on propaganda.

    Yes.  The situation we’re in is the front office’s fault.  I repeat.  It is their fault.

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    1 hour ago, Whitey333 said:

    Nothing ever changes with Buxton.  Year in and year out we talk about him and his injuries ad nauseum.  I've always wanted to see him during a full season.  We only see glimpses of him and at points during those glimpses he looks awesome.  At other points he looks like an average major league player.  The rather dubious Fangraphs listing his value at 32 million this year is both ridiculous and stunning.  It is unlikely Buxton will ever play a full season whether due to injuries or managements ever cautious  use of his playing time.  His fleecing of a 100 million contract for playing about 55% of the games over 8 years now, is shear genius on his part.

    Bad take.  Blame the FO for not learning from the historical precedent and planning accordingly (aka, doing their job).

    His production when on the field this year was more than worth his salary.

    The one problem with Buxton this year, IMO, is he played just enough to give people false hope of a competitor.  If this FO hadn’t of inherited this incredible talent it would’ve been a throw away season from day 1.  The stadium would’ve been even emptier than it has been (which they deserve).  The homers and propagandists wouldn’t be throwing the issues at the feet of injured players.  We wouldn’t be seeing all of the sob stories on behalf of the FO’s annual “bad luck.”  People would be facing the reality that luck is a product of preparation.  There may be enough of a ground swell to drive ownership to action and get something done.

    As much as I love Buxton, he’s probably more valuable in regard to getting this team back to relevance if he just spent the whole year on the IL and let the team really tank.

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    Recommend you all read today's Strib which has a good piece about Buxton and his injury.

    First, it actually began bothering him in 2021.  Everything seemed to be good in the spring, until that slide at Boston in mid-April.  The article points out that Buxton arrived at the ballpark 4.5 hours earlier than others for every game when he and the trainers worked to get him ready to play.  What made that difficult is that no one knew on nearly a daily basis whether or not he would be able to play come game time.  

    He is having surgery on Tuesday.  It will be a non-invasive procedure that is intended to clean up the patellar tendon which is the source of his problem.  The recovery is 4-8 weeks, so he should be 100% by Thanksgiving, giving him the winter to prepare for spring training.

    Have to wonder if he had the surgery say mid-May, would he have been back sometime in August, back at 100%?  Eight weeks recovery with a 20 day rehab assignment would put him on the field around the second week of August.  But isn't hindsight always 20-20?

     

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    1 hour ago, terrydactyls said:

    I think "fleecing" is not the correct term.  That implies that Buxton mislead or deceived the Twins.  I'm pretty confident that he fully hoped/intended to play 150 games.

    But on another note, I think the entire plan of scheduled "rest" days is a failure.  I can almost accept four or five a season, but these players are supposed to be trained athletes, not beer league softball players.  Cal Ripken didn't take a rest day for over 13 years!  Twins' players can't make it a full week?  And, despite all the rest days, they still had 37 guys on the IL and finished the season with no life or energy.  It sure looks like scheduled rest days did not do any good.

    Comparing anyone to Cal “Iron Man and MLB record holder” Ripken is not fair.

    Agreed, fleecing is just as nonsensical as Iron Man.

    Injuries are going to happen, it’s the nature of the game. I think it makes sense to experiment with different tactics to try to improve player availability. One season with Buxton does not a trend make. I hope the FO continues to try, and hopefully succeed to a greater extent next year.

    If they don’t, the apparent market inefficiency they think they found, will sure be their demise.

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    17 minutes ago, roger said:

    Recommend you all read today's Strib which has a good piece about Buxton and his injury.

    First, it actually began bothering him in 2021.  Everything seemed to be good in the spring, until that slide at Boston in mid-April.  The article points out that Buxton arrived at the ballpark 4.5 hours earlier than others for every game when he and the trainers worked to get him ready to play.  What made that difficult is that no one knew on nearly a daily basis whether or not he would be able to play come game time.  

    He is having surgery on Tuesday.  It will be a non-invasive procedure that is intended to clean up the patellar tendon which is the source of his problem.  The recovery is 4-8 weeks, so he should be 100% by Thanksgiving, giving him the winter to prepare for spring training.

    Have to wonder if he had the surgery say mid-May, would he have been back sometime in August, back at 100%?  Eight weeks recovery with a 20 day rehab assignment would put him on the field around the second week of August.  But isn't hindsight always 20-20?

     

     

    5 minutes ago, Richie the Rally Goat said:

    Comparing anyone to Cal “Iron Man and MLB record holder” Ripken is not fair.

    "The recovery is 4-8 weeks, so he should be 100% by Thanksgiving, giving him the winter to prepare for spring training. "

    Just in time to go on the DL with with his next injury.

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    Happily Buxton did sign an incentive-laden contract. What the Twins have to hope is that they can get production out of him for the entire contract, and that he can also remain a marketable "Face for the Twins."

    But like Joe Mauer as a catcher, part of the greater worth of the contract is having Buxton in centerfield, not at DH (or right or left field). Certainly we didn't expect him to play the entire contract in center, although it would be a good dream come true if it happened.

    If we want to applaud him for hitting home runs, then we have to say that he is little better than Miguel Sano at his best. One is hoping for a bit more consistency on getting on base, being a better guy taking the extra base, and not striking out so much. If he basically is a low-average power-hitter, fulfilling the role of designated hitter for parts of a season, well.....

    We got Byron. The Twins do have to make hard decisions about how to play around him. Who is the centerfielder if Buxton is only part-time? Royce Lewis a better choice than Gilberto Celestino? Austin Martin any possibility? And if Byron stays somewhere in the outfield, the Twins have to make hard decisions on Celestino, Kepler, Larnach, Kirlloff and Wallner for starters.

    I hope Byron gets better and can be the fulltime centerfielder. I don't want him to become the new Miguel Sano, a guy that you need to find a place for him to play, but can't make longterm decisions because you don't know when he will play and have questions on consistency of play.

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    On a team that's already loaded with stars, Buxton's 50 percent availability works out just fine. I loves me some Buxton, but trade him to the Yanks or Dodgers. Then he can heal up right, because he doesn't have to carry the team.

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    3 minutes ago, jimbo92107 said:

    On a team that's already loaded with stars, Buxton's 50 percent availability works out just fine. I loves me some Buxton, but trade him to the Yanks or Dodgers. Then he can heal up right, because he doesn't have to carry the team.

    Gordon's emergence as a "Super-sub" type player may make Buxton's absences more tolerable - if Larnach, Kirilloff and Kepler manage to come back healthy and productive next season and Wallner is able to continue his progression - and the absences aren't too long or too often.

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    I think the contract worked. They paid for games played and impact. By Fangraphs, at least, they got a bargain. The plan itself failed though. Celestino cannot cover for Buxton and Lewis got hurt when tried to. Without a good backup CF, preferably with a solid to good RH bat, having Buxton leaves the team scrambling to cover for a key bat and glove far too frequently. 

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    4 hours ago, Eris said:

    A few comments. In the Byron Buxton era, the Twins have always had a significantly worse record when he wasn’t playing.

    Just some data from Buxton's b-r.com game log this year, Twins W-L record respectively:

    Buxton did not appear: 26-34

    Buxton had 3 or fewer PA: 3-10

    Buxton had 4 or more PA: 45-34

    The "3 or fewer" instances involve something presumably weird regarding Buxton, either not starting the game or else not finishing.  So, I'd say, the strong correlation of winning has continued in this season.

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    Injuries accumulate and reduce the overall health of the individual.  The cumulative damage to knees and the rest of his body increases arthritis and makes the dream of seeing him come off the operating table and being a regular  seems more and more unlikely.  

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    In early May, 2018, I suggested a Buxton trade based on apparent chronic health issues, HR or bust results, lack of stolen bases, etc. Unfortunately, WAR doesn't take into consideration whether a home run was in the 1st inning or the 9th, and how it affected game outcome. Very few of Buxton's were hit in high -pressure situations/game-changers. Also, his non-HR stats weren't pretty either. In over 300 non-HR at bats, he had something like a .181 average and less than 10 total RBI (I kept track but deleted my excel file). So, in short, we get a top-of-the-league defender 50% of the time who could've added significant value by stealing 40ish bases per season (vs 9-10) if he walked/hit more and wasn't injury prone, whose batting extremes are Death Valley/Antarctica, and a guy who isn't great at timing fence/wall catches- as we've seen, only takes one to land one on the DL. The annual contract value is about right for the risk here, but ultimately will not lift the Twins to the next level.

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    2 hours ago, Beast said:

    Blame the FO for not learning from their mistakes or efforts 

     

     We wouldn’t be seeing all of the sob stories on behalf of the FO’s annual “bad luck.”  People would be facing the reality that luck is a product of preparation.  

    There is enough of a ground swell to drive ownership into action and get something done.

     

    FO can be blamed for roster  and the plan ,,,

    I like the logic on luck being a preparation  ,,, 

    Ownership doing anything to step in I don't know , has media done any interviews with JP lately to know his thoughts on 2022 ...

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    35 minutes ago, Dennesey55347 said:

    Very few of Buxton's were hit in high -pressure situations/game-changers. Also, his non-HR stats weren't pretty either. 

    He is near the top of all of the offensive players on the team in Win Probability Added, which does take into account game situation. You can complain about being injured too much but arguing he does not impact games is just silly.

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    "The Plan" didn't work.   

    IMO, the only "Plan" which has any chance of working is Buxton figuring out what it is about his body which makes him so fragile & fix it.

    I know, some of the injuries are absolute flukey stuff which no one could guard against, but . . . I can't help believe there's something about his conditioning plan, etc. which renders him vulnerable, whether it's stretching, muscular imbalance, whatever.

    I'm sure the Twins & Buck are as frustrated as all of us fans are, and want to figure it out more than we hope it will happen.  Just wish it would.

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