Is Nelson Cruz Playing Hurt?

Is Nelson Cruz Playing Hurt?

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Nelson Cruz 6114Ever since former Oriole Scott Feldman nailed Nelson Cruz with a fastball in on the left wrist back on June 1, things haven’t been the same.

Cruz, whose left hand was deemed bruised following the team’s 9-4 in Houston that day, has only homered once in 15 games since. That home run, coincidentally, came just two days after the incident. In the team’s first game back following an off day, Cruz hammered a ball out beyond the left field seats in Arlington in a ballpark where he certainly has a high level of comfort.

The leading vote-getter in the Designated Hitter category over David Ortiz for the 2014 All Star Game in Minneapolis, Cruz held a spectacular batting line before being hit by this pitch:

.314/.384/.672 with 20 home runs, 52 RBIs, an unearthly .358 ISO, and a stellar .444 wOBA

While he originally shook off the initial pain and trotted down to first base, Cruz was removed from the game between innings for precautionary reasons. And since that day:

.250/.311/.321 with one home run (and only one double), just five RBIs, and a .071 ISO with a .281 wOBA

To put a bit of that in perspective, Nick Markakis’ ISO in 2013 was .085.

Cruz’s hot start definitely helped the Orioles propel themselves into a division battle with the pitching faltering early on. His contributions this month, however, have been somewhat minimal, and even in the small 15 game sample size, one can’t sit back and just assume that this is a coincidence.

The lack of power for Cruz has flown under the radar thanks in part to the hot bats of Adam Jones (184 wRC+, six HRs) and Chris Davis (five HRs) in June. David Lough and Delmon Young have each contributed two home runs a piece since that day, and even Ryan Flaherty chipped in another.

While the rest of Cruz’s walk and strikeout rates have stayed consistent as they were earlier this season, the on base percentage, and more importantly the power numbers, have gone missing.

With Matt Wieters officially sidelined for the rest of 2014, Cruz’s bat is ever so important moving forward if the Orioles have a chance to push for a playoff spot down the road.

Image Credit: Patric Schneider

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Avi Miller works at the University of Akron as part of the Athletic Communications staff, serving as the primary contact for the Division I affiliated baseball and women's soccer programs among others. A graduate of Stevenson University and member of CoSIDA, Avi aspires to one day cover the MLB beat. He has previously held positions with the Baltimore Jewish Times and Fox Sports Radio.