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Which Catchers Might Be The Most Banged Up?

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By Jon Becker

Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli suffered his sixth known concussion at the Major League level earlier this season. A report from Pittsburgh last week said that Cervelli's catching days might be over. Cervelli later disputed what was initially reported, saying he hopes to return to catching—if his health will permit it.

Regardless of Cervelli’s future behind the dish, that got us thinking: which players have sustained the most head-related injury events while catching? Since we began tracking injury events in 2015, Cervelli’s taken a foul tip or backswing to the head 54 times, which puts him at 19th amongst the 180 catchers in that timeframe. Here’s the top 11 (all numbers entering this week).

Catcher Current Team Hits to the Head
Yasmani Grandal Brewers 80
Yadier Molina Cardinals 75
Salvador Perez Royals 75
Russell Martin Dodgers 73
Martin Maldonado Cubs 71
Wilson Ramos Mets 69
Matt Wieters Cardinals 65
Sandy Leon Red Sox 64
Robinson Chirinos Astros 62
Mike Zunino Rays 60
Jason Castro Twins 60

Hits to the head are probably the most severe and disturbing injury events that can happen to catchers; a concussion led to the end of Jason LaRue’s career, Joe Mauer’s move to first base, and perhaps Cervelli’s move to another position. But it’s not the only place that catchers can get banged up; here’s the top 10 in all injury events while catching since 2015.

Catcher Current Team Games Injury Events
Yadier Molina Cardinals 603 204
Salvador Perez Royals 478 199
Francisco Cervelli Pirates 427 182
Wilson Ramos Mets 482 154
Russell Martin Dodgers 436 147
Yasmani Grandal Brewers 554 147
Martin Maldonado Cubs 469 143
Robinson Chirinos Astros 396 139
Kurt Suzuki Nationals 445 136
J.T. Realmuto Phillies 565 129

The first table related to hits to the head only includes a single type of injury event: “Struck By Batted Ball or Bat”. By comparison, the second table includes the following seven different types of injury events:

  • Throwing a Pitch (this would never happen to a catcher)
  • Struck by Batted Ball or Bat (foul tips, backswings, etc.)
  • Collision with Player (e.g. home plate collision)
  • Collision with Wall (less likely for a catcher but they could collide with the backstop, dugout, etc.)
  • Fielding a Batted/Thrown Ball (e.g. pulling a muscle reaching for a bunt)
  • Throwing
  • Other (anything not covered by the above, such as dirt in eye, fatigue, blister, etc.)

The potential injuries catchers take on—Cervelli’s averaging one injury event for about every 2.5 games—are considerable, and the data definitely showed more injury events than might be expected. For perspective, if we open up the injury event totals to all injuries for all positions, the first non-catcher on the list for most injury events in the field is Stephen Strasburg… in 97th place! 

Note: The article refers to “injury events” as opposed to “injuries.”

“Injury” implies a certain level of severity that would likely require the player to leave the game and/or be placed on the Injured List, whereas injury events are simply events that might, but don’t necessarily, affect the physical well-being of a player.

Many of these injury events don’t even elicit a reaction of any kind from a player, or a visit from the trainer, etc.

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