Mar 4, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish (11) pitches during a spring training game against the Los Angeles Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Yu Darvish is Starting the Season On the DL. What If He Lingers There?


The Texas Rangers placed Yu Darvish on the 15-day disabled list (DL) yesterday. How would the Rangers be impacted if he stayed there for longer?

Luckily, Darvish could only miss Opening Day. But Darvish’s neck stiffness isn’t new. He missed a game last week, one on March 19th and another on September 25, 2012. If the search expands to include injuries around the neck instead of just the neck itself, Darvish went on the DL in mid-July last year for tightness in his right trapezius. Since this was over the All-Star game, he only missed one start.

I am not a doctor and I will not try to diagnose him. It is entirely possible that Darvish’s issues are mild. Perhaps it is a product of his delivery or some other unavoidable, rather benign issue. That is entirely possible, and even likely.

But what if the issue is more serious?

Darvish could only miss one game with this DL stint because the Rangers can retroactively “push back” the start of the DL session so Darvish only misses 6 days, or one game. But what would happen to the Rangers if his possibly one game sting became much longer. How would that affect the Rangers?

First of all, we need to figure out how valuable Darvish is projected to be.

I retrieved all of this from Darvish’s Fangraphs page.

Season

Team

W

L

SV

G

GS

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

BABIP

LOB%

ERA

FIP

WAR

2014 Steamer

2

2

0

5

5

29.0

6.63

2.40

1.64

.289

73.7 %

4.55

4.86

0.2

2014 Oliver

4

5

15

15

88.0

7.16

2.25

1.74

.299

72.2 %

4.70

4.85

0.6

2014 ZiPS

5

4

14

14

78.0

7.50

2.54

1.62

.299

69.2 %

4.85

4.68

0.6

The most pessimistic estimate still considers him, based on fWAR, to be a top 10 pitcher. His most optimistic considers him about a top seven, and he is only .5 wins away from a top five.

In other words, Yu Darvish is a very good pitcher.

If he did miss an extended period of time, who would replace him? Says MLB.com

The Rangers have made no announcement as to who will replace Darvish on Monday when they open the season against the Phillies at Globe Life Park. Martin Perez appears to be the leading candidate, but at this point, it could be almost anybody. Right now, Perez and Tanner Scheppersare the only two pitchers with spots locked up in the rotation, although Joe Saunders is expected to get a spot. Robbie RossColby Lewis and Tommy Hanson are also still competing.

That means the Rangers’ rotation would look something like:

1. Martin Perez

2. Tanner Scheppers

3. Joe Saunders (probably)

4. Robbie Ross (excellent spring and other two haven’t showed up)

5. Colby Lewis/Tommy Hanson

 

If Darvish only misses a month of the Texas Rangers schedule, Lewis/Hanson will only have to start 4 games. Considering that Hanson has been quite bad the last

Mar 22, 2014; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers pitcher Tommy Hanson (19) pitches against the Kansas City Royals at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

two years, and considering that his stuff has decayed significantly since the last time he was good, Hanson’s spring cannot be written off as a small sample size issue like lots of other players this spring. He also gave up 7 runs three days ago. His other starts have gone fairly well, but that was against easier competition. That, and the fact he delivered his worst start against the closest thing to major-league hitting he has faced so far is troubling. The possibility that Tommy Hanson would have to be counted on for any starts shows how grave this situation could be.

Hanson’s struggles wouldn’t be so much of an issue if Colby Lewis had stepped up at all. So far, he hasn’t. Lewis hasn’t pitched since 2012, but in the three years leading up to his injury he was far and away better than Hanson. Over that time period, he delivered a cumulative 3.93 ERA, which isn’t great by any stretch but is at least serviceable. Lewis, however, has had immense difficulties this season. In three games, one was bad (2/3 inning, K, 2 hits, 2 walks, 2 ER), one was good (2 innings, K, BB, 0 ER), and one was appalling (1 2/3 innings, 0 K, 5 hits, 3 walks, 1 hit batter, 6 ER)*. He doesn’t appear to be all the way back either.

So with the two major-league options the Rangers have with them, both of them have major question marks and neither are dependable. How do we quantify that?

Here are Hanson’s projections (again, Fangraphs):

Season

Team

W

L

SV

G

GS

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

BABIP

LOB%

ERA

FIP

WAR

2014 Steamer

4

5

0

13

13

77.0

6.90

3.50

1.51

.290

70.7 %

4.99

4.97

0.6

2014 Oliver

7

8

24

23

126.0

7.92

3.43

1.36

.302

71.1 %

4.57

4.48

0.9

2014 Fans (5)

8

7

0

22

22

123.0

7.68

3.51

1.17

.305

73.4 %

4.35

4.32

1.8

2014 ZiPS

7

9

23

22

123.7

7.93

3.57

1.75

.312

70.1 %

5.31

5.09

0.7

Remember that fWAR is a counting stat. In other words, Hanson records .9 fWAR after 23 starts or 126 innings, however you like to look at it. It takes about three quarters of a season for him to be achieve the overall value of a fourth-outfielder or decent middle reliever. With a realistic amount of innings, Hanson is pretty close to replacement level.

Here are Lewis’s projections (guess who):

Season

Team

W

L

SV

G

GS

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

BABIP

LOB%

ERA

FIP

WAR

2014 Steamer

2

2

0

5

5

29.0

6.63

2.40

1.64

.289

73.7 %

4.55

4.86

0.2

2014 Oliver

4

5

15

15

88.0

7.16

2.25

1.74

.299

72.2 %

4.70

4.85

0.6

2014 ZiPS

5

4

14

14

78.0

7.50

2.54

1.62

.299

69.2 %

4.85

4.68

0.6

In about two-thirds as many innings, Lewis is projected for either the same fWAR or two-thirds as much. In the same amount of innings, Lewis is either roughly equivalent to or slightly better than Hanson, though neither project to be particularly good.

 

So how long is “extended”? That really depends. Missing a month of Darvish is annoying, but bearable. 4 starts of close to replacement-level play are survivable. Where the issue really arises is if Darvish misses more than four starts. Say he misses 12? That would be about 2 and a half months, or about mid-June.

Arbitrarily, I am going to use ZIPS. It passes the “sniff test” with the highest marks. Hanson, in 12 games, would deliver .38 fWAR, and Lewis would deliver .51 fWAR. Darvish would deliver 1.97.

So the Rangers would lose out on 1.59 fWAR if Hanson pitched and 1.46 fWAR if Lewis pitched.

That doesn’t sound like a lot, but that is actually a huge blow. That’s because one WAR, no matter the type, is worth different amounts to different teams. That may seem confusing, but it’s actually intuitive.

Mar 15, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Colby Lewis (48) pitches in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Say you own a racing team, and a third party has developed a special part for your car that cuts down on lap times by 1.5 seconds per lap. Also assume that the racing division has 50 teams and is loosely regulated, so some teams are really slow, most are in the middle, and a few at the top just dominate. If your team was the worst, and was 10 seconds slower on every lap than all of the other teams, that 1.5 seconds wouldn’t do much. If your team was the fastest, it would solidify excellence but probably wouldn’t boost your standings much. After all, your team is already the best, so you would pull away from everyone else, but you were already ahead to begin with, so the outcome on the standings is pretty much nil. The 1.5 seconds would be icing but certainly isn’t critical.

If you were a team around competing for the podium every week but not necessarily winning each and every time, that 1.5 seconds would be enormous, as it could be the difference between a top ten finish and a top three or even a victory. This jump would lead to vastly more money, and so this 1.5 seconds matters more to your team than almost any other.

The Rangers find themselves in a similar situation.

The Tigers will no doubt make the playoffs. The Red Sox probably will too. Then there is the AL West spot, and then two wild card teams. The Rangers have already two win-and-you’re-in games, the wild card in 2012 and game 163 last season. They know all too well about the randomness of a one game playoff.

The Rangers are essentially competing for three spots. They compete with the Athletics for the AL West, and the Rays, Indians, Angels (rebound candidate), Yankees (stretch), and Royals (stretch) for the wild card. The Athletics are the better team and will probably win the AL West. The Rangers are fighting for 2 spots with 2-5 other teams.

The Rangers are most certainly on the bubble. Which is why losing even 1.5 fWAR kills. The Rangers are expected to win 84 games in 2014, tied with the Athletics and one behind the Angels. The Fangraphs projections are also incredibly pessimistic–only one team is projected to win 90+. Still, the Rangers are 5th/6th in the AL and are either the last in or the first out among the wild card contenders.

That makes the 1.5 wins such a problem. Subtracting that from their projected record, the Rangers become either the 9th best team in the AL (using 82.5 wins) or tied for 5th best with a three-way fight for the last spot.

Even if you say those standings are too bunched together (they are), taking 1.5 wins off of a 89 win team is still devastating. That is the difference between a shot at the AL West or another play-in game.

If Darvish missed a lesser-extended period, like 8 games, the issue is mitigated somewhat, but the point is that every win is extremely important because of where the Rangers figure to be in the rankings, and missing Darvish for more than about 6-7 games could still damage their chances at the wild card.

Luckily, other players can emerge and beat their projections and make up for the games Darvish misses. Or the team can come close to estimations and either squeak in or miss out of the playoffs.

Should Yu Darvish miss an extended period of time, it is probably the second.

*

Sorry for the lack of links. There is a weird issue in Workpress that won’t let me highlight. Here are the sources below:

Colby Lewis’ projections

http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=1259&position=P

Fangraph Projections

http://www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=Standings

Also, I had to reformat some of the tables, so I took out all of the information that ZiPS wouldn’t project for, like xFIP.

**

Lastly, here is the methodology I used. “ZIPS” means ZIPS-projected:

(12*ZiPS innings/ZiPS games) [To get how many innings ZiPS projected per game]* (ZiPS fWAR/ZiPS innings)

Yes, I know the innings cancel out.

 

Tags: Projections Yu Darvish