The So What? - Correa and Pineda on the Shelf (7/20/17)

By Frank Brank @realfrankbrank

Carlos Correa Slides into DL

In another head-first slide injury, Carlos Correa tore a ligament in his thumb. After undergoing successful surgery, he'll be out 6-8 weeks with the team stressing the longer side of recovery. Whether or not he is able to recover prior to that, waiting as long as possible for Correa to return seems to be the correct approach for a number of reasons. First, the Astros have a 15.5-game lead in the AL West and are easily the best team in the American League. Second, the playoffs are going to be the most important part of the Astros season. If Correa were to return in about eight weeks, in the middle of September, it should allow him some time to catch up to the speed of the game again, just in time for October. Correa has been the best shortstop in baseball this season slashing .320/.400/.556 with a 158 wRC+. With his plus defense, Correa has compiled four wins above replacement to date, eighth best in the majors according to FanGraphs.

What does it mean?
We do expect some regression for Correa going forward, but he's still very valuable to the Astros. He's expected to miss around 50 games, leaving about 15 in September to get up to speed. The result for the Astros is about two wins for the rest of the season. Given that the Astros are currently projected for over 100 wins while the next best team in the AL West, the Rangers, are projected for 82, the Astros are in no trouble here. The only issue they should be concerned about is continued injury with Correa; thus, he should be 100% healthy when he returns to action.

Michael Pineda Tears UCL
Michael Pineda was having one of the better years of his career when he popped his ulnar collateral ligament this week. This is a big blow to the Yankees who have been scuffling as of late. Pineda will now be out for the year and at least the first half of next season. The Yankees now find themselves 4.5 games back of the Red Sox, 1.5 games behind the Rays, and falling. They've gone ahead and traded for Todd Frazier and some reinforcements in the bullpen; however, the loss of Pineda is a big blow to the rotation.

What does it mean?
Luis Cessa, a replacement level starter, seems to be the fifth starter in New York at this point. Pineda will miss out on about 12 or 13 starts and cost 1.5 wins to the Yankees for the rest of the season. With the additions to the offense and bullpen, this is somewhat of a lateral move assuming Frazier continues his success as of late. The Yankees are now projected to be neck-and-neck with the Rays for the rest of the season and expected to finish around 85 wins. In a relatively weak American League, this may be enough to sneak them into the Wild Card if things start going their way. With the Red Sox surging and a 90-win expectancy, the Yankees chances of winning the A.L. East are slipping each day.

Starling Marte Returns from Suspension
Just in time for their run at the division title, Starling Marte has returned to the Pirates starting lineup and the leadoff position. Marte was made aware of his PED suspension during Spring Training and admitted his early struggles revolved around that ruling. Earlier this season, we wrote about Marte's suspension and how it would affected the Pirates going forwards. Marte struggled in his first 13 games prior to his suspension with a 74 wRC+ and 28.8% strikeout rate. Marte doesn't get a ton of his value from run production at the plate, though he is a plus hitter with a 120 wRC+, but he adds value in all other aspects like base running, speed in the outfield, and throwing runners out. In Marte's first four full seasons in the MLB, he's compiled 16.7 wins above replacement with his worst season being +3.6 fWAR. With Marte's ability to provide value in ways other than hitting, he is one of the more consistent players in the MLB in terms of value to his team.

What does it mean?
Marte is currently projected for a .288/.345./.445 triple slash and 120 wRC+. Given that we don't know what he'll be like post-PED suspension, we can let this projection stand, for now, until we get more data from this season. Given his plus defense and plus base running, we can expect Marte to add 1.8 wins in the last 66 games of the season. As of this afternoon, the Pirates swept the first place Brewers, putting the Cubs one back and themselves three back of the division lead. If the Pirates want to make a run at this division, which could turn into a four team race by the end of the season, they'll need Marte to be his usual self in all aspects of the game; though, we should acknowledge his success post-PEDs is up in the air. Before this four game run against the Brewers and Marte's return, the Pirates were projected for 79 wins as a pure .500 team. After this most recent run and Marte's return, the Pirates are expected to nearly reach 84 wins. That mark would put them in a virtual tie in expectancy with the Brewers and a handful of games behind the Cubs, who have won their first six games since the all-star break.