A Rundown of What Albert Pujols's Wrist Injury Means to the St. Louis Cardinals in the Near- and Long-Term

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 19: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals follows through on a solo home run against the Kansas City Royals at Busch Stadium on June 19, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

When Wilson Betemit and Albert Pujols's glove hand collided on Sunday it is very likely that St. Louis Cardinals fans the nation over gave an audible gasp at their television set or radio just as those in Busch Stadium proper did. A silence fraught with tension followed as worries, one by one, began to develop in our minds.

The first wave centered on the injury itself and Pujols's reaction to it. How bad is the wrist injury? All things considered, it could have been a heck of a lot worse. A non-displaced fracture of his left radius--what is now being labeled a broken forearm as opposed to wrist--is probably something approaching a best-case scenario for both the player and the legions of Cardinal faithful. The comments section from yesterday's main post does an absolutely wonderful job of breaking down the broken forearm (complete with diagrama and photoshopped Hugh Grant pictures) and I want to pluck a few of the comments out of the nearly 1,000-strong thread for our focus.

oldomination explains a "non-displaced" fracture:

Nondisplaced...[m]eans the orthopod doesn’t need to realign ("set") the bones before casting. Displaced fractures are the ones that often don’t heal in the expected time period because the fracture hasn’t closed (non-union)—in those cases, the cast often needs to come off to re-set the bones and try again in a cast.

Assuming it’s straight across the short axis of the bone and doesn’t go near the wrist joint, it should be a routine recovery (in the hands of most every other MLB medical staffs).

 scoot also provides some useful insight:

That the fracture is the radius is a good thing, as has already been stated. The radius does make up a part of the wrist, as the picture Paulspike posted shows. If Pujols’ fracture is like the one shown, that is a good thing because it just involves the bone and doesn’t get into the joint. If the fracture is further toward the hand, it could be just about as bad as the small carpal bones.

Non-displaced is a good thing too as this means that the bone fragments have remained in line and will not require surgical re-alignment. It’s just going to require time to heal. Albert is a fast healer, so I’m going to put him back closer to the four weeks than the six.

FWIW, typical radius fractures that happen at this location are common called Colles (Dinner fork) fractures or Smiths (Reverse dinner fork) fractures and typically occur from falling on an outstretched hand (FOOSH). These often require surgical re-alignment and can be tricky. I’ve seen several people who have been permanently maimed by orthopods putting them in poorly stabilized external fixators, but I digress.

And, for those of you worried about the numerous blanket statements being made in the media and the comparisons being drawn to sluggers suffering wrist injuries in the past (e.g., Al Hrabosky dredging up the example of Cliff Floyd), tom s. gives us some perspective:

the word "wrist is being thrown around a bit.

The injuries that screw people up (hamate bones, e.g., derosa, mather) are injuries in the carpals, because they are these round, pebble-like bones that all roll against each other and have nerves running through their middles.

Pujols has a radius fx, which is a long, straight bone. Very different from a hamate fracture.

The next question in a lot of folks' minds, I suspect, was how will losing Pujols for six weeks affect the team's chances on the field. mystrui was kind enought to calculate this out for us in the intangible-free WAR sense:

Let's say Pujols was a 5.5 WAR player this year

Let’s say Jay is a 2.5 WAR player full-time

Let’s say Pujols is going to miss 25 games

.85 WAR – .39 WAR = .46 WAR

Also, Matthew Leach tweeted and reported an important piece of information later yesterday, as the smoke from the initial announcement began to clear, that Pujols will be in a split for four weeks and likely out for at least six weeks:

For now, one main point: AP will be in a splint for 4 weeks.
Lastly, the Hot Stove gossip mongers are already circling, suggesting just how the injury will affect Pujols's free agent haul. Patrick Rishe addresses this issue in a piece for Forbes, summing up nicely the catch-22 for the Cardinals:

If Albert picks up where he left off and returns to historical norms during the closing stretch of the season while leading the Cardinals towards the post-season, I’ll stick to my assertion that he’ll fetch between $25-30 M annually for a 6-8 year contract.

But if Albert struggles down the stretch and shows diminished bat speed and less power upon his return, speculation will run rampant that his long-term productivity may be permanently diminished.

If that were to happen, not only will his market value drop into the $22-24 M range annually, but it will be highly unlikely that he’ll command anything more than a 4-5 year contract due to the perceived greater risks involved.

All told, Albert could see the total value of his contract fall by $30-50 million unless he shows upon his return that his fractured arm was a mere minor setback rather than a career-altering occurrence.

As of this writing, the club has not announced the roster move that will correspond with Pujols being placed on the disabled list, or, which Memphis Redibrd will be plucked out of the visitors' clubhouse in Des Moines and loaded onto the Memphis shuttle en route to St. Louis. John Mozeliak and Tony La Russa are weighing their options:
Even the first step, the corresponding move to placing Pujols on the disabled list, remained unannounced as of late Monday afternoon. The Cards could call up first baseman Mark Hamilton to take Pujols' roster spot. But they might not. They could call up an outfielder or another infielder. Hamilton is eligible to be recalled, even though he hasn't been down for 10 days, because he would be taking the place of an injured player.

"We need to call up somebody that fits in to the most needs that one guy can fit in," La Russa said, "and deserves a promotion."

**UPDATE**

It looks like Mark Hamilton will be taking Albert Pujols's roster spot. Confirming a Post-Dispatch report, the Memphis Redbirds official Twitter feed has congratulated Hamilton on being called up. Hamilton has just 27 big-league plate appearances this season, but has hit very well in his 117 PA with Memphis in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Hamilton has put up excellent numbers:

.385 BA / .504 OBP / .538 SLG / 1.043 OPS / .466 wOBA

**END OF UPDATE**

Lastly, DanUp has a great post over at the greater St. Louis SBN blog, "Five Albert Pujols Grieving Lessons from the Movie-Old Testament," that is a fun read.

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