Before the start of 2018, Kris Bryant had essentially played three full seasons in Major League Baseball and each one was uniquely wonderful. Sure, some years he was a better base runner than others, and sometimes his defense shined brighter than before, but through everything, his offense turned him into one of the best players in the game.
But here’s the thing, 2018 might’ve been his best season yet … in some other, brighter timeline.
Through May 25th (~200 plate appearances), Kris Bryant was putting together the best offensive season of his extremely impressive big league career: .301/.419/.564. That slash line was good for a 161 wRC+, which was, itself, far better than anything Bryant had posted to date.
But then the power started mysteriously vanishing and the reports of a sore shoulder began to surface. After missing a handful of games at the end of June, the Cubs finally placed him on the disabled list and that was that … or so we thought.
Bryant returned from the DL on July 11th, and, for a brief moment, we thought everything was going to be okay (he even hit a towering home run in his first game back!). But after missing a couple games after the break, the Cubs placed Bryant back on the disabled list and this time, you started to wonder about offseason surgeries and ended seasons and other very scary things, threatening to dislodge the Cubs 2018 World Series dreams.
No one can completely squash those things for you today, but the updates from the man himself sound mostly good.
Kris Bryant spoke to the media earlier today, and the results of that conversation should help put your mind at least a little bit at ease. In no particular order …
- Kris Bryant suggested that the second MRI he received re-confirmed that there was no structural damage in his shoulder (Muskat). This is – by far – the biggest and best news of the day. Had there been structural damage, the Cubs would’ve probably had to act – either now or in the offseason – and surgery is just never the answer if you want if can avoid it. Bryant did receive another (oh, another) cortisone shot to help relieve the pain and inflammation, and is not doing any baseball activity yet, but as far as a medical update goes: two thumbs up.
- As for returning this season, Bryant apparently claimed to be “1,000 percent” sure he’ll be back before the end of the regular season, but added that he won’t let his shoulder get to the point where offseason surgery is necessary (Gonzales). It’s good to know that he’s being conscious of the future while optimistic about the present. I want Bryant back as soon as possible, but only if he’s going to be himself and if that doesn’t hurt his future.
- As for when he’ll return this season, Bryant could not produce a timetable, but remained confident that he won’t be sidelined for very long (Davis). And perhaps more importantly, he seems to believe he’ll be even more productive when he returns that he was when he left (Wittenmyer). I’m not sure I’ll hold him to that – everybody wants to be optimistic – I’ll just be happy if he comes back and *feels* 100%.
- But let’s take his bait for just a second. Because I gotta know, why does he think he’ll be better? Well (aside from presumably expecting to play pain free), Bryant apparently has no plans to change his swing (Wittenmyer). The only game plan, it seems, is to “tone it down” when it comes to his daily swings in the cage and in batting practice – for those of you who don’t know, Bryant is famous for his extremely determined work in the cages. We’ve seen comments that he works harder on his swing than almost anyone – given how good of a hitter he is that’s not much of a surprise. Whatever works for him, you know?
I suppose we can pretend that less work in the cages for the next couple months could make Bryant a worse hitter. But he’s already a good hitter, his extra practice – at this point in his career – is probably not as critical as it may have been earlier in his career.
And remember, he was in the middle of his BEST offensive season, before his shoulder started acting up. If the shot and rest really do get him back to 100%, there’s at least some reason to believe he really can be better than he was when this issue began.
I don’t want to mislead here: this could still be a sizable absence. But today’s news is about as good as you could hope, given the circumstances.