How many games will the injuries cost the Astros?
Here’s the quick answer: between four and five.
How did I arrive at that? The injuries I have accounted for are the ones to George Springer, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and Aledmys Diaz. They are four of the top nine contributors to the team by fWAR.
I divided each players’ fWAR so far in the season by the number of games each player played to estimate the wins each player contributed per game played. Then I multiplied that by an estimate of how many games each player will miss. I added those numbers to arrive at the lost wins.
I also found that, historically, it has taken George Springer and Carlos Correa about two weeks back in the lineup before they begin producing above replacement level. I added those games to the total of lost wins.
I did not count Jose Altuve’s estimated lost time, which is the most indeterminate anyway. Why? because when Diaz returns he will basically serve as Altuve’s replacement, displacing one of the minor league replacement players now getting playing time. Diaz has almost the same fWAR/game as Altuve (.015 compared to .018) so I am only counting the time Diaz is out in the calculations.
So here are the numbers. Springer had 2.7 fWAR in 48 games or .0526/game. I am guessing he misses 25 more games, although with a grade 2 tear of the hamstring the prognosis could be “weeks to months.” If it’s 25 games that costs the Astros 1.41 wins.
I am going to be cautious with Correa and say his fractured rib requires 45 days to heal, about 40 games. Correa had 1.8 fWAR in 50 games, or .036/game. If he misses 40 games that costs the Astros 1.62 wins.
I am going to guess that Diaz is out about 10 more games which, at .015 wins/game, costs the Astros .15 wins.
Springer’s 1.41 lost wins, + Correa’s 1.62 lost wins, + Diaz’ .15 lost wins = 3.18 wins.
But Springer and Correa have historically recovered slowly from injury. In 2015 after returning from DL, in the first two weeks Springer hit 73 wRC+. In the next two weeks it was 189. In 2017 Springer’s first two weeks back from DL produced 83 wRC+, but in the next two weeks he was back to 123.
In 2018 Springer returned from injury much better, 172 wRC+ so you might choose to be optimistic and guess he will return from IL slugging based on that, but I prefer the more cautious estimate. His time out in 2018 was not continuous. He got injured, played a few games, got injured again, played a few games, got injured again, so with intermittent playing between various minor and short term injuries perhaps he was better able to keep his timing.
In 2017 Correa came back from DL with a 45 wRC+, and in the next two weeks hit 235 wRC+. In 2018 he never recovered his stroke after returning from DL, but that was because he was still injured.
Assuming these two players, after long stints on IL, take two weeks to hit above replacement level, then for Springer that costs the team .675 wins, and for Correa .432.
Add the 3.18 wins lost due to star players out of the lineup, to the .675 and .432 due to the stars returning to form only after two weeks, and the total lost wins is 4.29.
How does this Affect the Astros’ Playoff Chances?
The Astros have played 27 games in May, going 19-8. That’s roughly the number of games, minus a few, that the Astros will be without Springer and Correa. If my 4 games lost calculation is correct, then the Astros would have been 15-12 for May without these players, and would only be 3.5 games ahead of the A’s right now. But if they can play three games above .500 in June, with a relatively easy schedule, they should be able to maintain their 7.5 game lead in the NL West. Of course that depends on everyone else maintaining their about .500 (give or take a few games) averages during this time. But the A’s of late have seemingly awakened to their 2018 level.
The four lost games also assumes that taking out players like Altuve, Correa and Springer has no effect on the rest of the lineup. But I believe that the longer the lineup, that is, the more plus hitters a pitcher has to face, the more it wears on that pitcher, and the easier it is for the hitters to remain plus hitters. Taking out 3/4’s of the Core Four has to negatively impact the rest of the lineup.
Some of these players are due for regression anyway. Michael Brantley has a .933 OPS, career average is .788. Jake Marisnick, Robinson Chirinos, Josh Reddick are all above their career averages despite, in the cases of Chirinos and Reddick, being past their prime years.
And when he returns, Springer could very well regress to career averages as well.
It’s a cliche I’ve heard numerous times, but it seems about right. That if the Astros can weather these injuries and maintain a five hundred average during their duration, they will be all right, and afterwards, resume their dominance. That seems reasonable, with two caveats. One, that the competition cooperates, and two, that just as winning can become contagious, so can losing. The Astros haven’t had a losing month since 2016. Maybe that possibility has become inconceivable, but if ever the team were susceptible to a real slump, it might be now. Luckily the month of June brings 13 games with a combination of the Mariners, Blue Jays and Orioles.
It all becomes a little more interesting if, unlikely as it may seem, the A’s can sweep the Astros this weekend, and in three days cut the Stros’ lead to 4.5 games. Then the A’s are “in the hunt,” as they say. On the other hand, the opposite could happen as well.
It’s a long season. Maybe we’ll just come to see the month of June, 2019, as the time when our guys got a needed rest. Take it easy Daniella. (Just kidding, we luv ya)