The So What? Carrasco, Tanaka and Herrera (6/20/18)

By Mark Dankenbring @MarkDank

MLB So What? Carrasco, Tanaka, and Herrera

We're coming at you from a few different angles this week, with two starting pitcher injuries to assess along with the movement of an elite bullpen arm. Carlos Carrasco and Masahiro Tanaka both hit the DL last week for the division leading Indians and Yankees. Carrasco took a line drive off his right pitching elbow, and while scans came back negative, he'll likely miss several weeks with swelling and tightness in that elbow. Tanaka suffered an unfortunate injury as well, experiencing tightness and pain in both of his hamstrings while running the bases during the Subway Series, causing him to be pulled after five strong innings. The severity of his injury remains up in the air, with manager Aaron Boone stating he might not make it back before the All-Star Game in mid-July. The third player we'll look into this week is former Royals' closer Kelvin Herrera. The Nationals swooped in over five weeks before the trade deadline to make this transaction, allowing Herrera to have more of an impact on a club looking to win its third consecutive division title. Let's start off by assessing the impact Carrasco and Tanaka's absences should have on their respective clubs.

Cleveland Indians

Without Carrasco next 8 weeks - 88.5 wins, 87.9% win Division, 0.2% Wild Card, 5.2% World Series
Without Carrasco at all - 87.2 wins, 84.4% win Division, 0.2% Wild Card, 4.0% World Series
With Carrasco rest of season - 89.3 wins, 91.2% win Division, 0.1% Wild Card, 5.5% World Series

There are a few things we can note right away when looking at these numbers. Cleveland is still the dominant favorite to win the AL Central even if Carrasco were to miss the remainder of the season. Their odds drop 3.3% with him out for the next 8 weeks, but an 88% chance is still a great spot to land with a top end pitcher missing approximately 10 starts. Carrasco is worth 0.8 wins over those eight weeks, and causes their World Series expectations to drop by 0.3%. The biggest take away here for the Indians should be to give Carrasco more than enough time to heal and come back 100%, as his long-term health is much more important to their World Series chances. If he were to suffer a setback and miss the rest of the season, Cleveland's chances to win it all would drop by 1.5%. For a team that was just outs away from a World Series victory two years ago, they'll likely take the conservative approach and make sure Carrasco is healthy for the post All-Star stretch and playoff run.

New York Yankees

Without Tanaka next 8 weeks - 103.7 wins, 69.8% win Division, 30.1% Wild Card, 17.9% World Series
Without Tanaka at all - 103.3 wins, 66.5% win Division, 33.4% Wild Card, 17.4% World Series
With Tanaka rest of season - 104.1 wins, 71.1% win Division, 28.3% Wild Card, 17.9% World Series

The Yankees are in a similar scenario to Cleveland, with their playoff chances sitting at 99.9% regardless of Tanaka's health this season. The difference lies in their division battle, as the Red Sox are a much more formidable opponent than the Twins or Tigers, and the Yankees certainly want to do everything possible to avoid a one-game, winner-take-all scenario that determines their playoff lives. Our projections indicate that an 8-week absence for Tanaka would cost New York 0.4 wins and 1.3% on their division title chances. Their World Series chances don't budge at all, so the Yankees could very well take a similar approach to hold Tanaka out until he's absolutely 100% healthy. Tanaka's value is higher down the stretch and especially in the playoffs, as the club's World Series chances fall by 0.5% with him absent on the postseason roster. Overall, the Yankees should be focused on maximizing their World Series chances and make sure he's ready for the end of the season, as they are nearly guaranteed a spot in the playoffs with or without the 29-year old starter.

Kelvin Herrera finds himself on a new club after spending his first six and a half years coming out of the Royals' bullpen. The 28-year old right hander had been a setup man for his first four seasons before transitioning into the closer role halfway through the 2016 season. Herrera is having his best season to date in 2018, posting a 1.01 ERA and 2.65 FIP through 26.2 innings (already pitched one scoreless with Washington). The newly minted National is throwing his slider more than ever this season, approaching a 20% usage rate after spending his previous two around 16%. Herrera's secret to success this season has been a career-best walk rate, currently boasting a 0.68 BB/9 after posting a 3.00 BB/9 or higher in four of his six full seasons. With experience as both a setup man and closer, Herrera is in line to fill the 8th-inning role considering Sean Doolittle has saved 19 of his 20 opportunities while posting an 12.22 K/9 alongside a 0.85 BB/9. Let's take a look at what he means to the Nationals moving forward.

Washington Nationals

Without Herrera - 88.5 wins, 44.2% win Division, 25.4% win Wild Card, 5.0% win World Series
With Herrera - 89.6 wins, 50.0% win Division, 28.6% win Wild Card, 6.0% win World Series

This is exactly what the Nationals were hoping for when acquiring Herrera. He adds 1.1 wins to their season total and gives them an even 50/50 chance to win the division. Overall, his addition results in a 9% increase in their playoff chances and adds a full percent to their likelihood of winning the World Series. Bullpens have seemingly become more and more important in the postseason, so adding an arm with both setup and closing experience should directly benefit Dave Martinez and his club. The Nationals are going for the crown this season with Bryce Harper's future with the club up in the air, and GM Mike Rizzo is hoping Herrera puts them one step closer to their goal of winning it all.

Just for fun, let's take a look at how Herrera's departure affects the Royals' success this season.

Kansas City Royals

Without Herrera - 59.2 wins, 0% everything
With Herrera - 60.0 wins, 0% everything

The Royals were never going anywhere this season, but dropping another 0.8 wins makes them even more likely to rack up a 100-loss season, which would be their first since losing 100 in three consecutive seasons from 2004-2006.