Was His Hamate Bone Injury Holding Francisco Cervelli Back?
Overall, Pirates’ catcher Francisco Cervelli has not hit as well in 2016 as he did in 2015. However, his broken hamate bone may prove to be an explanation for this.
Francisco Cervelli had a very successful first season as a Pittsburgh Pirate in 2015. During the 2015 season Cervelli slashed .295/.370/.401/.771, he posted a .341 wOBA, a 119 wRC+, and he had a 9.0 percent walk rate. Furthermore, Cervelli was among the best defensive catchers in baseball leading the league in pitch framing and posting a 9.3 dWAR. Also, Francisco Cervelli’s 3.8 WAR was the second highest among all Major League catchers in 2015.
As a result of his strong 2015 campaign, infectious personality, and the way he plays the game, Francisco Cervelli quickly became a Pirate fan favorite. He was also rewarded with a new three-year contract extension in May. However, Cervelli’s overall offensive numbers have slipped in 2015. Personally, I think his broken hamate bone is to blame.
So far this season Francisco Cervelli owns a .276/.380/.318/.698 slash line, a .318 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 100. Despite not hitting for power at all this season, Cervelli has a career best 13.6 percent walk rate which has resulted in a career best .380 on-base percentage.
Furthermore, Cervelli has remained stellar defensively this season. Currently, Francisco Cervelli has a 3.9 dWAR. This comes as a result of Cervelli having two defensive runs saved, ranking third in the Major Leagues in pitch framing, and having a 19.3 caught stealing percentage this season.
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On June 10th, Francisco Cervelli was removed from a game against the St. Louis Cardinals after injuring his hand on a swing. The next day he would be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a broken hamate bone. This broken hamate bone required surgery, and cost Cervelli a little over a month of his season.
When Francisco Cervelli was placed on the disabled list he owned a slash line of .257/.373/.293/.666, a .309 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 94. Furthermore, he had just five extra base hits and an ISO of .036. So, clearly, something was bothering Cervelli. I truly believe that something was his hamate bone.
Hamate bone injuries are notorious for having a negative affect on hitters. They are especially known for limiting a hitters power. Francisco Cervelli has never been known for his power, either. So, it is reasonable to believe a hamate bone injury would really cause his power to plummet.
Odds are, Cervelli’s hamate bone had been bothering him for a few weeks prior to it breaking. I truly believe that his injury is the main reason why he struggled as much as he did offensively through June 10th. And when you look at Cervelli’s stats since coming off the disabled list, this becomes even more plausible.
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Francisco Cervelli returned from the disabled list on July 19th. Since then, he has accumulated 57 plate appearances. In these 57 plate appearances, he has looked much more like the player we saw last season.
Since returning from the disabled list Francisco Cervelli has posted a .340/.404/.404/.808 slash line. This slash line is accompanied by a .351 wOBA, 122 wRC+, and an 8.8 percent walk rate. Even though Cervelli’s walk rate has dropped since his return, his hard contact rate has improved. In turn, so has his power and batting average.
As I said above, Cervelli has never hit for much power. Cervelli’s true value comes from his plus defense and ability to get on-base. However, there is no reason his slugging percentage should be below .400. It is a good sign to see it back over .400 since his return from the disabled list.
Was Francisco Cervelli being held back by his hamate bone injury? Ultimately, I guess we will never truly know. However, it is not a far fetched theory to believe. The fact Francisco Cervelli has hit much better since returning from the disabled list just adds fuel to this fire, too.