Today the Astros officially announced the activation of George Springer and Collin McHugh from IL. Both are valued members of the Astros who can trace their membership on the team to the pre-2015 Dark Ages of Astros History. They have both been integral parts of the team’s championship resurgence and will be integral parts of the team’s quest for a second championship as well. Welcome back.
Just how important is George Springer to the Astros? Before his trip to IL the Astros were 35-18. Since his injury the team has limped to a 14-12 record, although injuries to Carlos Correa, Aledmys Diaz, Jose Altuve and yes, McHugh play a part in that as well.
On May 24th, the day of Springer’s injury, I ran an Astros Trending article which highlighted the season and two-week-prior hitting stats of the Astros before the injuries to Springer and Correa. It’s quite a blast from the past. What happy days they were.
Here are the main takeaways. Before the first Springer injury, the Astros were 33-17, 7.5 games ahead of second place Texas. Currently that lead sits at 6 games. They were tied for first place with Minnesota in the AL for best record. They are currently in third place, two games behind Minnesota, which has also been slumping slightly of late.
Before the injuries the Astros’ run differential was +94. Since then it has been +1. The team wRC+ was 132, 1st in the league, beyond even the 1927 Yankees stratosphere. It is still a highly respectable 120 overall, but in the last month the team has only hit 105, 8th in the AL.
Of course, the bleeding would have been even worse if not for the insertion of rookie phenom Yordan Alvarez about two weeks ago.
How much of this decline can be attributed to the loss of Springer? No doubt, with all of the other simultaneous injuries, it is impossible to quantify, even beyond the obvious problem that correlation does not prove causation.
Let’s try to answer that anyway. Sadly, Jose Altuve was slumping even before his injuries, with a relatively paltry, for him, OPS+ of 113. His fWAR was 0.7 before going down. His replacement, Aledmys Diaz, who also went down, contributed 0.5 fWAR.
Carlos Correa was a bigger contributor to the Astros’ early success, hitting at 142 wRC+, and adding 1.7 fWAR.
But clearly, the injury that hit the team the hardest, almost as much as these other three combined, was the injury to George Springer. On May 23rd, his fWAR was 2.8, just below Mike Trout. His wRC+ was 177, second behind Joey Gallo for league lead. He led the league in home runs with 17, in RBI with 42, and was second in runs scored with 41. It seemed like he was on the superhighway to the MVP.
Needless to say, the outfield replacements for Springer could not reproduce that kind of offensive output.
However, it seems the loss of Springer, and the others, had indirect effects on the team as well. Every uninjured player on the team has had a significant decrease in offensive production except Tyler White since the fall of Springer, Correa, et. al.
Astros stats before and after George Springer
|OPS before 5-24
|OPS since 5-24
|OPS before 5-24
|OPS since 5-24
The Big Brains of Baseball dispute whether or not the offensive production around hitters affects other hitters. But the Astros experiment of the last month seems to indicate that yes, a lineup full of sluggers up and down the lineup helps everyone be even more sluggerly. And I would submit, the biggest loss to the sluggerliness of the Astros lineup has been the loss of George Springer, which has had a negative ripple effect down through the lineup.
Welcome back George. No pressure or anything, but we need your smile, we need your energy, and damn how fine it will be to put your bat in the same lineup with Yordan Godzilla Alvarez.