Shoulder Injury Leaves Tatis, Padres Hoping For the Best by Dan Szymborski April 6, 2021 The Padres used this past offseason to gear up in order to face the Dodgers on equal terms and end Los Angeles’ streak of division titles at eight. One key element in that plan is the presence of Fernando Tatis Jr., the team’s superstar shortstop, who the team recently inked to one of the richest deals in sports history — a 14-year, $340 million pact. But as the poet Robert Burns once wrote, the best-laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry; in this instance, a mighty swing through an Anthony DeSclafani knuckle-curve on Monday night, resulted in Tatis doubled over in pain on home plate. Though there’s currently no word how much time Tatis may miss, any absence would be a blow to the Padres and to baseball, too, as he’s one of the sport’s brightest, most marketable young stars. It’s no fun for the owner of the troublesome left shoulder, either, particularly given how Padres manager Jayce Tingler described the injury after his team’s 3–2 loss to the Giants: [It] comes out, comes back in, and so he’s been dealing with that, and obviously tonight, it was the first time we’ve kind of seen it in game action from swinging or anything like that. So, we’ll see how it goes tomorrow, but he’s going to get more tests tomorrow. Tatis’ shoulder was acting up during the spring, so it would be hard to describe this as a completely isolated incident, though this is almost certainly the worst one. The injury has been diagnosed as a subluxation, which is a partial dislocation of the shoulder. The pain itself was clearly bad enough, but the larger problem is that the type of injury has a high rate of reoccurrence. While this condition isn’t necessarily traumatic or painful — one of my closest friends had a similar hip condition in high school, and it was only occasionally excruciating — it’s a bit of a problem for someone who makes his living swinging very hard at baseballs. Some experts in the field have already discussed, from afar, the possibility of surgery, which could endanger Tatis’ 2021 return. And while the prognosis is less bleak for hitters than it is for pitchers, shoulder injuries can be problematic long-term. UPDATE: Padres general manager A.J. Preller announced before Tuesday’s game that Tatis would be placed on the injured list, but that surgery would not be required. Per The Athletic’s Dennis Lin, Preller said that Tatis has a slight labrum tear but that his physical exam was “pretty uneventful,” and that the team will go the “rest-and-rehab route” with the hope that Tatis is ready to return in 10 days. The resulting consequences of Tatis’ injury are largely unknown at this point, as this happened just last night. But we can probably put some kind of bounds on it: He certainly won’t be in the game on Tuesday, nor did DeSclafani’s pitch literally retire him. Let’s first run some projections for the Padres, based on games through Monday evening, on the NL West both without the injury and in the worst-case scenario that Tatis misses the rest of the season. ZiPS Projected Standings – NL West Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win% #1 Pick Los Angeles Dodgers 99 63 — .611 56.9% 40.9% 97.8% 14.8% 0.0% San Diego Padres 98 64 1 .605 43.1% 53.0% 96.1% 12.3% 0.0% San Francisco Giants 75 87 24 .463 0.0% 2.4% 2.4% 0.1% 0.5% Arizona Diamondbacks 69 93 30 .426 0.0% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0% 5.9% Colorado Rockies 63 99 36 .389 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 28.2% The healthy projections are still quite close to the ones to begin the season. While a lot can happen in a week, both of the NL West front-runners have played solid but not spectacular baseball against the division’s lesser lights. The Dodgers have a slightly better position, but ZiPS already expected them to have a slightly better record, given that they opened the season with a four-game set against the Rockies, the computer’s pick for the worst team in the majors. ZiPS Projected Standings – NL West (Tatis Out for Year) Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win% #1 Pick Avg Draft Pos Los Angeles Dodgers 100 62 — .617 71.5% 26.6% 98.1% 16.5% 0.0% 28.3 San Diego Padres 95 67 5 .586 28.5% 61.6% 90.1% 8.9% 0.0% 26.0 San Francisco Giants 76 86 24 .469 0.0% 2.8% 2.8% 0.1% 0.4% 10.8 Arizona Diamondbacks 69 93 31 .426 0.0% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0% 5.4% 6.4 Colorado Rockies 63 99 37 .389 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 27.8% 3.4 Losing about 15% of your division-winning scenarios is a significant setback, but Tatis is a terrific player, so this is to be expected. However, a projected worst-case scenario still leaves San Diego at 95 wins, the second-highest total in baseball. They’d win five of baseball’s six divisions with that total. Unfortunately, the division they play in is that sixth one. I’m not sure it could be classified as good news, but San Diego’s depth mitigates the effect of the Tatis injury. The team has Jake Cronenworth, Ha-seong Kim, and Jurickson Profar available to cover the middle infield, a situation that many teams would be happy with as the Plan A. Imagine if the Padres had instead made no plans this offseason at shortstop, and the team was forced to go with replacement-level talent at the position. ZiPS Projected Standings – NL West (0-WAR Padres Shortstop) Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win% #1 Pick Los Angeles Dodgers 100 62 — .617 83.1% 15.4% 98.6% 17.9% 0.0% San Diego Padres 92 70 8 .568 16.8% 62.5% 79.3% 6.1% 0.0% San Francisco Giants 76 86 24 .469 0.1% 3.4% 3.5% 0.1% 0.4% Arizona Diamondbacks 70 92 30 .432 0.0% 0.2% 0.2% 0.0% 5.2% Colorado Rockies 63 99 37 .389 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 25.3% A much worse plan B is enough to send the Padres down into the thick of the wild card race, to the extent that they’d have to fight with the Braves (at least in the projections) to get a guaranteed game at home in the playoffs. It’s even enough to get San Francisco’s divisional odds to round up to a non-zero number! Other effects, such as loss of performance due to the shoulder problem, are a bit speculative at this stage. An injury like this is always unwelcome, but this is survivable for the Padres. But the best thing for San Diego and fans of baseball as a whole is for Tatis to return, swinging hard, and challenging for the NL MVP title. Even for Dodgers fans, wouldn’t it be more fun to beat your rivals when they’re at their best?