The So What? - Ray, Russell, Perez Hit the DL (8/10/17)

By Ryan Fowler

Robbie Ray on the DL (concussion)

Did you know only the late, great Jose Fernandez finished with a better K/9 rate than Robbie Ray in 2016? The Diamondbacks starter punched out 11.25 batters per nine innings pitched in 2016. You could argue Ray didn't earn the headlines of a Clayton Kershaw or Noah Syndergaard because of geography and market size or it could have been because of the ugly 4.90 ERA he posted after 32 starts.
Despite the blemish, his 3.45 xFIP at the end of last season provided some sense of the improvement that was possible in 2017. Through his first 20 starts, Ray's K/9 rate improved to 11.45 and his ERA dipped to 3.11 – eighth-best in all of MLB. Granted, he's also playing with fire. Ray's 4.40 BB/9 and 83% left-on-base rate are both third-highest in the league. So, he's been a little lucky, too.

What Does It Mean?
Regardless of how you chop up the stats, the Diamondbacks lost their second-best pitcher when Ray took a liner off his head on July 28. He's scheduled to miss his second start on August 10 and a few more thereafter as he continues to work through the concussion protocol. Although his replacement, Anthony Banda, pitched well in his absence the first time (6 IP, 1 ER w/ 7 K), Ray is worth one win the rest of the season. In other words, the Diamondbacks lose 0.12 wins every time Ray misses a start. That small number carries huge ramifications as Arizona and Colorado are in a virtual tie (as of press time) for the top National League Wild Card slot.

Addison Russell on the DL (foot strain)
Although he's only 23 years old and has time to improve at the dish, Addison Russell has been a .240 hitter over his first two-and-a-half seasons in the bigs. Good thing for the Cubs his talents aren't limited to inside the box. Russell is currently ranked outside the top 15 shortstops in fielding percentage, but Fangraphs' advanced fielding metrics rank him the eighth-best at his position (8.6 DEF).
That glove has been missed the past week as Russell recovers from a right foot strain. He is scheduled to return on Saturday as soon as his 10-day DL stint expires.

What Does It Mean?
Javier Baez has slid in at short in Russell's absence with Albert Almora and Tommy La Stella available for defensive musical chairs should Joe Maddon feel so inclined. Russell is worth 0.75 wins the rest of the season, while Baez carries a 1.3 WAR and La Stella/Almora are replacement level players. The Cubs are 2-5 since Russell hit the DL and only three games separate first and fourth place in the National League Central.

Salvador Perez out 2-3 weeks (oblique)
The Royals are 3.5 games behind the Indians in the American League Central and 0.5 games out of the AL Wild Card. For an offense that ranks 23rd in runs scored per game (4.35), the loss of Sal Perez - their everyday catcher and one of their best bats - is a crushing blow. Perez hit the disabled list tied for the league-lead in homers among catchers (21) with Wilson Contreras. He's also one dinger away from matching a career high, which he set last year. Considering he's always had pop in his bat, the most remarkable thing about Perez's impact this season is that he's hitting above league average for the first time since 2013. His .278 batting average is 31 points higher than where he finished in 2016.

What Does It Mean?
Ten teams are within 6.5 games of earning a Wild Card bid in the American League. This loss hurts a lot. Perez is worth one win the rest of the season. His top replacement Drew Butera owns a WAR below 0.5 and Cam Gallagher is getting his first cup o' coffee in the big leagues. The rest of the Royals lineup – namely Alex Gordon (sub-.200 BA) – is going to need to provide run support for a middle-of-the-pack starting rotation with a 4.48 ERA.