Evan Longoria Down, Rays Out?

Evan Longoria has a partially torn hamstring. He’ll miss at least four weeks and as many as eight while he rehabs the injury. His team is left with a slim four-and-a-half game lead on last-place Boston and two months without their star. Their internal options may not seem scintillating, but they could do just enough… provided Longoria can return healthy.

First, let’s set the time frame involved. If we assume the hamstring is not completely torn and it’s not a grade three hamstring situation, we can use eight weeks as a worst-case scenario. If we remove tears and surgeries from the database and average up the 186 mentions of ‘hamstring strain’ and ‘thigh strain’ since 2002 from Jeff Zimmerman‘s database, we get an average of 28 days missed. That includes all grades of non-completely-torn hamstring-type injuries, and this one seems somewhat severe. Let’s use four weeks as the best-case scenario.

ZiPs has Longoria worth another 6.7 wins this season. Take one month away, and the Rays could still get 5.4 wins from their third baseman. Two months, and that number goes down to around four wins. So that’s somewhere between 1.3 and 2.6 wins lost to this injury.

But of course, there will be a few in-house solutions, and they could provide some work above replacement of their own. Tuesday night, it was switch-hitting Elliot Johnson. Move Ben Zobrist to second base full-time, and the right-handed hitting Jeff Keppinger is available for help at third base. The role of backup second baseman will be played by all five-foot-nine, 155-pounds of lefty-hitting Will Rhymes, who was called up Tuesday night. For the purposes of discussion, let’s give Rhymes’ Johnson’s plate appearances per month, and then split Longoria’s work between Keppinger and Johnson.

Johnson got 28 plate appearances in the first month, to the tune of a .293 wOBA, with minus defense at different spots around the infield. Rhymes will only be asked to work at second, most likely, where he’s also been a slight minus by most numbers but was thought of as scratch on the way up. ZiPs has him projected for a .285 wOBA, but MARCEL thinks he could manage a .317. It won’t come the same way as Johnson’s work did, but Rhymes can probably fake it without much of a dropoff.

So we’re left with some sort of Keppinger/Johnson split. Keppinger has been playing mostly against left-handers, so let’s give him that portion of the work. He’s managed a .291 wOBA so far, and ZiPs doesn’t expect him to do much better than .297 going forward. But in 681 PAs against left-handers in his career, Keppinger has shown a .372 wOBA. But we have to regress that split against 2200 plate appearances, meaning that even if he’s held just to left-handers, the reasonable expectation for his rest-of-season wOBA is closer to a .316 wOBA in what we’ll call a quarter of the remaining at-bats. ZiPs has Johnson going for a .283 wOBA over the rest of the season, and the switch-hitters’ splits have come in 115 PAs against righties, so we’ll take ZiPs word for it. The average wOBA this year is .312, so with 1/4 Keppinger and 3/4 Johnson, the new Rays third baseman would lose 1.8 runs per 100 PAs below replacement at the plate while Longo was out, added to the lost Longoria work.

That’s not even a fifth of a win, and there are mitigating circumstances. Keppinger and Johnson, though not known for their defense, are both shortstops to some extent. Let’s call them, combined, scratch shortstops — Keppinger has been worse than scratch recently, but Johnson’s work is in such a small sample that it’s irrelevant, and he’s younger and closer to being a regular shortstop. If they are scratch shortstops, they would be worth as much as five runs per 600 PAs at third base. So their gloves might earn back .8 runs per 100 PAs, in other words.

That’s a lot of work to discover that Longoria’s injury will cost the team just short of a win and a half per month he’s out.

By CAIRO projections, a two-win loss drops the Rays one game out of the postseason. Jason Brannon at SBNation compiled the best projection systems and had the Rays tied with the Angels for the second wild card spot before this injury.

The picture gets worse when you consider the fact that hamstring injuries can linger. 35 of the aforementioned 186 hamstring strains since 2002 were from the same player in the same year — often the injury comes back and causes more missed time later. As much as it will hurt Longoria to watch his team play without him, it will be important for him to make sure he’s fully healthy before he returns.

The Rays’ postseason chances took a hit when Longoria grabbed his hamstring. Their in-house options may be able to replace his defense, but missing his bat may cost them as much as two precious wins. One month, and the team should still be within spitting distance of the postseason in late summer. Two months, though, and the picture gets much cloudier.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


36 Responses to “Evan Longoria Down, Rays Out?”

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  1. Eminor3rd says:

    Zobrist to 2B, Scott of OF full-time, Matsui to DH? That’s how I’d do it in a video game anyway.

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  2. Dan Out West says:

    I’m not a Rays aficionado so forgive me for asking, but does Zobrist have the arm for 3B? He’s only played in 4 games there since 2008, but for the most part Longoria has been healthy and Z didn’t need to fill in there. If he does, just move him to 3B full-time, let Rodriguez/Rhymes/Johnson/Brignac (if he’s called back up)/Keppinger fit for the time at 2B & SS, with Rodriguez shifting over occasionally to 3B to spell Zobrist and/or to let Zobrist spell someone else. That way you’re not playing Johnson or Keppinger there (and neither one should be playing there, IMO).

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    • cobradc23 says:

      This was my thought exactly. I think Zobrist has plenty enough arm strength to handle 3B until Longo returns.

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    • Ian says:

      Don’t forget he plays half his games in RF. I assume if they trust his arm out there they’ll trust him at third.

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        This could definitely happen. From a wins/replacement angle, though, it’s almost irrelevant (same players replacing same player), unless it improves Kepp/Johnson D and makes them more likely to be replacement than one run below.

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  3. Big Jgke says:

    I love that by naming them shortstops we can change how valuable their defense is.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      There’s just too much of a sample issue to use the numbers. I saw some Keppinger at shortstop in SF and it was aight. Maybe a little less than scratch. Johnson is getting time at shortstop now, but again, sample. I think the point was more that they could play close to replacement while he’s gone.

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  4. Choo says:

    The Mariners could “accidentally” leave Figgins behind . . .

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    • joser says:

      He’s kind of cute, in a hircine way, and he doesn’t eat very much. Please Mr Maddon, can you keep him?

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  5. steve-o says:

    Paging Sam Fuld, Paging Sam Fuld please report to the emergency room ; )

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  6. AndyS says:

    ” His team is left with a slim four-and-a-half game lead on last-place Boston”

    How did this sentence make sense when writing it to you, when the magnitude of the rest of the article is and order of 1-2 wins?

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Because of the ‘last place’ and ‘boston’ parts more than the ‘four and a half wins’ part.

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    • steve-o says:

      “How did this sentence make sense when writing it to you, when the magnitude of the rest of the article is and order of 1-2 wins?”

      Did it how, Master Yoda?

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    • Tom says:

      Seemed to make sense to me.

      If they are 4.5 games ahead of the last place team it means the entire division is bunched up and 1-1.5 wins (or 2-3 if he is out 8 weeks) could be huge.

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  7. adohaj says:

    Take one month away, and the Rays could still get 5.4 wins from their third baseman. Two months, and that number goes down to around four wins. So that’s somewhere between 1.3 and 2.6 wins lost to this injury.

    Why do you assume he will produce at the same level after coming back? How can it be asserted that post-injury production = pre-injury production. How have other players with the same injury performed after coming back? I would bet the data shows players returning from a hamstring tear don’t accrue the same WAR/game as players that didn’t suffer an injury.

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    • wespom9 says:

      We have to assume that upon his return he is 100% healthy and therefore capable of the production we expect from him, though it does require optimism

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  8. Sandy Kazmir says:

    If you thought the Rays were a 94 win team coming into the year then you would now think they’re a 96 win team due to their two banked win thanks to the hot start. This injury hurts badly, but it really just guves those two wins right back leaving the Rays still on a 94 win pace that should be good for one of the wild cards (fingers crawwwwwssssed). Fyi, if you thought Boston was a 94 win team then you would now think they would win 91.6. April doesn’t mean any more or less than the rest of the season, but it does matter.

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  9. I am a Red Sux Fan says:

    In theory if you looked at the Red Sox DL with Ellsbury and Crawford, the Sox are giving away at least as much WAR as Tampa.

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    • joser says:

      But if Boston isn’t the only non-Yankees team in the AL East you have to worry about. And if the discussion is actually about the second wild card spot, it’s not just about the AL East either. The Angels may have broken their Pujols, but they could unbreak it at any time, and if everybody does badly enough it’s possible a fluke second team will emerge from the miasma of the Central.

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      • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

        Agreed, it’s wide open. I only bring up the Red Sox because he brought them up in the article. Toronto, Anaheim yes. I have a hard time seeing anyone coming out of that mess that is the AL Central though.

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      • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

        Correction- I could see the White Sox if they play to their talent level coming out of the Central in addittion to the Tigers of course.

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  10. everdiso says:

    I know it’s sacrilege on this kind of website, but I might buy that there might be more of a negative effect to losing their best player (and the only guy with a guaranteed place in the batting order, at #3, which under maddon’s mad scientist lineup decisions gives a whole new meaning to the words “anchoring the lineup”) then his simple individual WAR numbers.

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    • mph says:

      You might want to update your stats. Longo’s batted #4 over a third of the games in 2012. (Apparently there are no sacred cows this year.)

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  11. wespom9 says:

    Assuming that this means Zobrist will stick at 2 and have a Johnson/Kepp situation at 3, one good thing I see about this is that Matt Joyce should be guaranteed of everday at bats, unless they spell it with Rhymes at 2bag with Zobrist in RF. This is your chance to prove you hit LHP my friend.

    By this comment I mean that I don’t see Zobrist playing 3rd

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  12. I am a Red Sux Fan says:

    Or they could just call up Tim Beckham. Oh wait no they can’t.

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  13. Polka says:

    Hey if Cabby can play 3rd for Detroit the Rays have to have someone with a heartbeat to stand there? I figured Zobrist would be a logicla choice just because of his bat? for a stap gap filL in? K

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  14. ODawg says:

    I hope I remember to check the standings when Longo comes back. I love the research on FanGraphs. I have a very tough time accepting the conclusion that Longoria being out for a month will have little-to-no effect on the Rays season. We’ll see.

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    • Zeke says:

      As the author pointed out, two wins is a pretty big effect when you’re fighting for a wild card spot.

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  15. Ricky says:

    Are you insane? We are still winning and are 32-13 when evan isn’t playing and or injured to write us off is a little retarded and proving a lack of intelligence. We are in first and are pulling away ever so slightly the yanks are now in 4th and the sox in last. Forgive me while i laugh at this. I guess its a slow news day or something because every time something happens its like a new reason to right us off. We have the best pitching staff in the AL Lol.

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