Pitcher injuries are always a frequent topic and 2023 is no different with Robbie Ray, Germán Márquez, and Drew Rasmussen all out with significant elbow injuries. Ray and Marquez will miss the season after Tommy John surgery. Rasmussen is out for multiple months with a strained tendon in his elbow.
But there’s a different type of pitcher injury that’s worth noting, too.
An abundance of pitchers have been hit by line drives early this season relative to the last few years.
Most recently Royals pitcher Ryan Yarbrough and Rockies pitcher Ryan Feltner were hit in the head by line drives. Yarbrough suffered facial fractures. Feltner suffered a skull fracture and a concussion. Both will be out for an extended period of time.
Sports Info Solutions tracks injury events in all the sports it covers. We document everything, even foul balls off a catcher’s mask or off a batter’s foot. Every injury event receives a grade ranging from 1 (least severe) to 5 (most severe).
Injury events graded ‘4’ and ‘5’ are generally significant. A 4 grade is for an injury with a trainer’s visit, where the player is shaken up and needs time to recover and move around on his own power. A 5 grade is an injury that requires an immediate visit, in which the player may be immobile and/or bleeding. Severities are based on what happens immediately following the injury, not knowing what the diagnosis or prognosis is
There have been 10 instances of a pitcher being hit by a ground ball or line drive this season and receiving a 4 or 5 injury grade from our Video Scouts. In addition to Yarbrough and Feltner, Josh Fleming (Rays), Casey Legumina (Reds), Kyle Bradish (Orioles), Luis Castillo (Mariners), Stephen Nogosek (Mets), Gus Varland (Brewers), Cal Quantrill (Guardians), and Kenta Maeda (Twins) got drilled by hard-hit batted balls.
Castillo, who got hit above the back of the shoulder by a 96 MPH line drive on Opening Day, was the only one of these 10 pitchers to stay in the game (after getting hit in the 3rd inning, he pitched three more innings).
Besides Yarbrough and Feltner, Legumina is also out with an ankle injury, Nogosek (bone bruise in elbow) missed a week earlier this season, Varland (injury to chin and arm) missed a week-and-a-half, and Bradish (foot) missed a week-and-a-half.
That there have been 10 of these incidents already is notable in this regard: There were only 8 instances of a pitcher getting a 4’ or 5 injury grade on a comebacker all of last season and only 6 such instances in 2021.
We’ve tracked injury events back to 2015. Here are the year-by-year totals for these types of injuries.
Pitcher Injured Being Hit By Line Drive or Ground Ball
Received Injury Grade of ‘4’ or ‘5’
* Shortened season
** Through games of May 17
In total, there have been 48 injury events for pitchers on comebackers this season (with the others receiving a grade from 1 to 3). In 2021 there were 163, in 2022 there were 171.
The 48 is a near-match for the 50 in the shortened 60-game 2020 season (most teams in 2023 just passed the 40-game mark).
The 2023 number is definitely concerning. It’s one worth keeping an eye on, while crossing our fingers that no one else suffers injuries like Feltner and Yarbrough did.