MLB - The So What (6/15/17)

By Frank Brank @realfrankbrank

Chris Davis heads to the 10-day DL.

Chris Davis hasn't had his best start to this season, but he's still a critical player to the Orioles' offense going forward. After having one of his worst seasons last year triple slashing .221/.332/.459, Davis has started this season .226/.320/.461 with a 104 wRC+. Though he hasn't seen much of a drop off in home runs, already belting fourteen, he's striking out at a 38% clip.

Nonetheless, Chris Davis was still worth 2.7 wins above replacement last year and would be on a similar pace this season. The troubling aspect is the reason for the DL stint, an oblique injury. Oblique injuries are difficult to come back from for baseball players as the game, in nature, functions around twisting motions. The Orioles have expressed the grade of the injury isn't severe and expect him back in ten or fifteen days.

What does it mean?
Considering the injury doesn't seem serious, Davis' absence shouldn't have much impact, if any, to the Orioles. Trey Mancini has been filling in for Davis in the meantime and has smoked the ball thus far slashing .299/.346/.539 with a 131 wRC+. Mancini likely won't continue that pace, as his success is somewhat contributed to a .364 average on balls in play which we'd expect to drop a quite a bit going forward. However, the rookie gives the Orioles a chance to move on from Davis if his struggles continue.

Chris Davis is signed through the 2022 season for $23 million each season with a limited no-trade clause. A wealthy contender may take a risk on Davis considering his power output. Comparatively, Mancini will play for the league minimum for the next three seasons and is owned by Baltimore for the next six. This could be Mancini's try out to earn himself a spot for the next few seasons.

The Astros' Staff Gets Hit
The Astros' starting staff has ran into injuries to their two top starters, Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers. The good news is they are non-traditional pitcher injuries with neck and back issues, respectively. The other good news is the Astros have a division lead of eleven games coming into today. The obvious bad news is no team can sustain injuries to their top two starters, particularly the Astros. They'll go with Mike Fiers and four unknowns: David Paulino, Joe Musgrove, Brad Peacock, and Francis Martes.

Fiers has experience as an MLB starter for the better part of four to five seasons, but has been underwhelming over the last year or so, supporting a 4.48 ERA, 4.43 FIP last season and 4.29 ERA, 6.10 FIP this year. The rest of the rotation, for now, will be huge question marks.

Keuchel has gotten back to his usual self after a strange down year last season. He's thrown to a 1.67 ERA, 3.09 FIP with an insane 67.4% ground ball rate. According to fWAR, he's already acquired nearly two full wins in his favor this season after totaling 2.7 wins above replacement last year.

McCullers has shown continued dominance, as well. Over his first 283 major league innings, McCullers has earned a 3.05 ERA, 3.09 FIP. The biggest difference in McCullers game this year is his ground ball rate boost at 63%. For a guy who throws breaking balls as almost a primary pitch, McCullers' back injury is a little bit of a blessing over an elbow injury.

What does it mean?
Astros' general manager, Jeff Lunhow, has expressed there is no timetable for Keuchel's or McCullers' return, though neither injury seems to be severe. Keuchel and McCullers have each been worth about two wins this year and project on about the same path given their expected time missed for each injury. Throughout the rest of the season, they would each be worth about two wins, four total for the Astros.

The time missed likely doesn't mean much as we'd expect the Astros to still win the AL West by much more than four games. The issue comes about in extended injuries or any injury resurfacing. The Astros may find it difficult to win in October if their starting arm is Mike Fiers. The good news is their built-up lead allows each guy the luxury not to rush back and ensure they are healthy with a few rehab starts.