Here’s a Solid Guess at Play That Caused Kris Bryant’s Shoulder Injury

“About a month ago on a headfirst slide, [the shoulder] kinda flared up a little bit, but I didn’t really think anything of it,” Kris Bryant said Tuesday in LA as The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney looked on. “And maybe I might’ve just tried to play through it and come back too quick.

“It got better, it wasn’t like anything debilitating, but swinging more and stuff like that is more likely to flare up. It hurt when I first complained about it, like pretty bad, but now it’s just kinda sore.”

I can’t say for certain exactly which play he’s talking about and I’ve got neither the time nor ability to search through everything from the last 3-5 weeks. But there was one slide that comes up easily in a search and that statistics support as the likely culprit for the injury. Back in their May 19 loss in the first game of a double-header in Cincy, Bryant slid headfirst into second to steal the base in the 11th inning.

He doesn’t rub the shoulder or lie on the ground in immediate pain or anything, though he does appear to be wincing a little bit while squatting on the bag awaiting a possible review. That could just be from the effort itself or from realizing that the Cubs still had a whole ‘nother game to play that evening.

Bryant was in the lineup for the second game of that twin bill, but was absent from the lineup in the Sunday series finale, a common Joe Maddon ploy to give guys more rest prior to a scheduled off-day. There might have been more to it than that, though, especially when we look at his performance before and after this particular play.

In 95 plate appearances between returning from being hit in the head by a German Marquez fastball (a play many were erroneously questioning as the potential cause of Bryant’s recent offensive slump) and this slide, the former MVP slashed .293/.389/.622 with a .422 wOBA and a very strong wRC+ of 168. In 126 plate appearance since, however, he’s got a line of .248/.317/.345 with a .287 wOBA and an anemic 78 wRC+.

To put that into context for those of you not familiar with wRC+, this means Bryant went from being 68 percent better than the average MLB hitter to being 22 percent worse. And while you could go through just about any hitter’s season and arbitrarily select date ranges to capture surges and slumps, the circumstantial evidence I’ve compiled here is relatively compelling.

Of course, none of it really matters since who cares what play actually caused the bum shoulder. The important thing is that Bryant takes the necessary time to heal up and get right for the second half of the season.

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