Brian Roberts Might Be Out For A While

Brian Roberts missed a good deal of time during Spring Training with a back injury, only managing to play a few games at the end before the season began. Brian played in each of the first four games to start the year for the Orioles, but was placed on the disabled list recently due to an abdominal strain. How did that happen, you might ask…

In the first two games of the season Roberts was held hitless. In game three he drew a third inning walk, and I noted that he was likely to attempt a steal of second. He did – and was safe. In game four he led off the game with a walk, and immediately stole second again. It was that slide into the bag that resulted in the abdominal strain, as well as apparently the recurrence of his back injury. Roberts was taken out of the game after scoring a run that inning, and it now sounds like he’ll not only be out for the minimum length of the DL stint but potentially a fair bit longer:

“The Orioles officially placed second baseman Brian Roberts on the 15-day disabled list Monday afternoon with a strained abdomen muscle. But he could be out much longer than that given that Roberts also received an epidural in his back and will have to rest for at least 4-5 days before resuming any baseball-related activities.

Roberts underwent an MRI on Monday afternoon and the test revealed there was no further structural damage than the team originally thought. However, Dave Trembley readdressed the media and said that team doctors believe Roberts re-irritated his back with his slide into second.”

The point I made after the slide/injury: “Because when you’re recovering from a back injury, nothing is smarter than trying to steal second base in the first inning.”

The stolen base ended up being completely useless to the team, as Jones got hit by a pitch and Markakis walked following him. The steal was worth – according to FanGraphs – +0.019 wins (via WPA). That is, it increased the Orioles’ chances of winning the game by a whopping 2%. For that, the O’s lose Roberts from the line-up for at least two to three weeks.

Let’s assume that Brian would have had just as good a season stealing bases in 2010 as he did in 2009. According the Baseball Prospectus, that would net the team a little over 2 runs. That’s not nothing, but it’s surely not much.

I checked out how well various replacements would fill in for Roberts were he to miss time previously, and over the course of 25 games you’re looking at anywhere from a 2 to 4 run drop in production. I think it would have made sense to put on the red light, in the hopes of keeping Brian healthy. The injury risk just didn’t seem nearly worthwhile given the paltry gains to be had.