The St. Louis Cardinals should only be without their starting shortstop for a couple of months, most likely having him back well before the All-Star Break. However, is there more concern regarding his injury?
As I sat down and began to write this post, I initially planned to simply view the case of the other thumb injury that the St. Louis Cardinals have dealt with in the past, and that is with Yadier Molina. However, as I did some research, I found the tear of the UCL (Ulnar Collataral Ligament) to be a fairly common injury among baseball players.
So, I dug a little deeper to find more players who have dealt with this injury and to see how they recovered.
When looking at the case of Yadier Molina, one is pressed with a pretty panicky situation, as Molina had been pretty promising at the plate and had an increase in power before the thumb injury. After said injury, Molina’s power all but disappeared.
This has been the concern moving forward with Jhonny Peralta, as Peralta is a power hitting shortstop, who has been one of the Cardinals’ best hitters the past two seasons. However, let’s look around the league and see how this injury has impacted other players.
Dee Gordon 2012
The first “important” injury that I was able to find, was Dee Gordon’s 2012 ligament tear that happened in July of 2012. The injury made him a non factor for the Dodgers in the last month of the sesaon. Gordon showed in 2013 that he was not ready for the majors at this point, as he spent the majority of the season with the Dodgers’ AAA affiliate.
However in 2013, Gordon hit .297 with 17 doubles and a 111 wRC+ that season in AAA, showing that he rebounded quite well a year after the thumb injury/surgery. Gordon has also gone on to become a pretty prodigious hitter.
There was a scare this past season with Gordon, as many thought he had injured his other thumb the same way he did the first time, but the injury was not as severe, and Gordon went on to put up a pretty incredible season for the Miami Marlins in 2015.
Hanley Ramirez 2013
Here we have another Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shortstop who suffered a torn thumb ligament. Much like Peralta, Hanley suffered his injury in March (playing in the World Baseball Classic), as he went down with his thumb injury in March of 2013.
The most intriguing part of Ramirez’ injury is that he was able to come back from his thumb injury as quick as April 29th, ultimately winding back on the DL less than a week later, with a hamstring injury.
Detroit Jock City
The hamstring injury afforded him an extra month to recover from the thumb injury, but before that Ramirez homered and doubled in just his second game back with the Dodgers. Ramirez returned on June 4th, playing a total of 82 games from that point forward hitting .345/.402/.638, with 20 homers and 25 doubles during that time.
Ramirez’ power was at an all-time height this season, as he had an absurd ISO number of .293, and wRC+ of .191.
So, to state that the injury didn’t bother Hanley Ramirez at the plate is an understatement.
Dustin Pedroia 2013
Let’s get something straight here. Dustin Pedroia is more of a man than most of us and he is one of the most impressive players in MLB. As we move on here, we have another case of a star middle infielder with pop who suffered a thumb ligament tear.
Dustin Pedroia injured his thumb on a slide into first base on Opening Day for the Red Sox in 2013 (if this doesn’t tell you first base slides are stupid, I don’t know what will).
However, instead of opting to have surgery on the thumb right away, Dustin Pedroia decided he was going to play through the injury anyways. Seems like a bold strategy, but the Red Sox trusted him and he went and played all but two games that season (crazy, I know).
However, that’s not it. That season, Pedroia put up a combined 53 extra base-hits (42 doubles, 9 homers, 2 triples), while slashing .301/.372/.415, with a 114 wRC+.
If that’s not enough for you, Pedroia then went on to play in 16 playoff games for the Red Sox that season, where he had 15 hits in the team’s 16 games, with a .238 average (not the best average, but he still had a complete tear of his thumb ligament).
Once he had won another World Series with the Red Sox (I know, somebody clearly should have taken some steps to remove his thumb) he decided to then have surgery on the thumb.
After the surgery, Pedroia put up another stellar season in 2014, that saw him only play 135 games (not thumb related). That season Pedroia still managed to put up seven homers and 33 doubles, while hitting .278/.337/.376.
While the numbers did take a hit, it is more evident of the 135 games than of a problem with the surgically repaired thumb.
Josh Hamilton 2014
You can say all you want about Josh Hamilton and his lack of living up to his opportunities and you would be right, but Josh Hamilton is just a small example of the pressure to perform put on young players. If you don’t know his story, I highly suggest you read it, hear it, etc. It is a small miracle that this man is even alive today.
However, let’s get back on topic here. In April of 2014, Mr. Hamilton decided it would be smart to slide head first into first base (players really are that dumb), the result was a tear of his UCL (big time shocker).
Hamilton’s injury occured on April 11, and he was back with the team on June 3rd. That is a pretty quick turn around. His numbers aren’t very impressive, as he slashed .263/.331/.414 with 31 extra base-hits (21 doubles, 10 homers). However, Hamilton struggled with more than the thumb injury in 2014, and still put up decent numbers.
So, the thumb didn’t bother Hamilton either.
Brandon Phillips 2014
Yet another middle infielder on this list. In July of 2014, Brandon Phillips tore this thumb ligament in a much less stupid way — trying to make a defensive stop. Before the injury, Phillips had 19 doubles, seven homers, and a slash of 272/.308/.392.
After returning from injury, Phillips did struggle a bit, as he hit .250/.299/.320 with just six doubles and one homer in 35 games. While this may be a bit worrisome for the Cardinals and Peralta, it was just 35 games.
Phillips rebounded in a big way last sesaon, hitting .294/.328/.395, with 12 homers and 19 doubles. Phillips was back to his old self last season, and even evolved his game by becoming a base stealer and providing some real value for the abysmal Reds (unfortunately for Jocketty, he’s happy in Cinicinnati).
Bryce Harper 2014
Here we have a case for our most impressive thumb injury rebound. Bryce Harper proved last season that he was a man amongst boys with his stellar MVP seasson. However, in 2014 the thumb injury moster struck again, taking out one of baseball’s brightest stars in Bryce Harper. The injury struck Harper on April 25, and Harper did not return to the Nationals until June 30th.
Before the injury, the powerful Harper had just one homer and four doubles. After the injury, Harper played in 78 games for the Nationals and hit .268/.342/.424, hitting just 12 homers and six doubles. So, for Harper it seems as if the injury did sap some of his power and hitting ability.
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However last season, this didn’t phase him one bit, as he hit .330/.460/.649, with 42 homers and 38 doubles, while putting up a ridiculous 197 wRC+ on his way to the NL MVP.
Adrian Beltre 2015
The beat goes on, with yet another star player suffering this injury. Last season, the Texas Rangers’ third baseman injured his thumb in early June. The team did not disclose what the severity of the injury was until after the season. It was reported at the end of the season that Beltre did in fact tear his UCL. However, the difference here is that Beltre did not have his surgically repaired.
He like Pedroia before him, played through the season with a torn thumb ligament, and like Pedroia he excelled at it. He hit .305/.357/.479 with 23 doubles and 12 homers last season. While these weren’t “Beltre like” numbers, they are still pretty dang good considering the torn thumb ligament that he played through.
Beltre did have surgery on the thumb in the offseason, so he will be a player to watch for this season, as a comparison to what we can expect from Peralta.
What about Peralta?
I have heard many unfairly compare the Peralta situation to the Molina situation in expectation that he will not be a factor offensively when he returns (resulting in all of the chicken littles complaining about the team’s lack of power yet again), but these other players show that it is possible to have a successful return from the surgery.
I would expect the Cardinals’ front office to take this into account as they prepare to figure out whether or not a deal needs to be made for a shortstop or not. Peralta should be back within the two-three month timetable and should be able to make a successful comeback.
The team will be fine with the in house options. Diaz is ready to hit major league pitching and will have a fine season as either a starter or a backup. The Cardinals are lucky that this happened at a time when they have so much depth. It is nice to see these young players get the opportunity to step up and fill a role that is needed.