How much have the injuries cost the Cubs, and projecting Doug Davis

Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner were placed on the DL following their first start of the season. Each is currently rehabbing in Arizona and just began facing live batters this week. Wells is a bit ahead of Cashner, but neither pitcher is probably going to be back with the big league club by the end of the month. Wells pitched a couple innings in game in Arizona yesterday while Cashner threw a bullpen session. (click the link below to read more)

Next Tuesday each will pitch again. No word yet on whether or not Cashner will pitch in a game, but Wells should be able to extend the 2 inning and 40-pitch outing yesterday to around 60 pitches. It’s possible Wells could be sent out for only one rehab start on Sunday, May 22, but it’s likely he’ll need two rehab starts. If we say he throw 75 or so pitches on the 22nd, he’d be ready to throw into the 90s on the 27th and would be able to return somewhere on or shortly after June 1st. He’d still be on a pitch limit at that time, but should be able to provide a solid 5 to 6 innings.

Depending on what they do next with Cashner, he could then be back around the 6th of June. I’d guess they hold him back even more and we don’t see him until mid-June. If Wells returns on or around June 1st, that’s right in line with what we (not the Cubs) should have expected from the start. The Cubs said 4 weeks, but even they didn’t really believe. When you then say neither will touch a baseball for 2 weeks, the idea of either returning in just 4 weeks is crazy. Plus, it’s not like these were minor injuries. A forearm injury has sometimes been a sign of a torn ulnar collateral ligament, which is something that requires surgery (Tommy John surgery).

felt pain in his right shoulder and had a small tear in his rotator cuff. Cashner would seem to be a bit behind what we could reasonably expect as a timetable, but that’s either because the Cubs are being cautious or Cashner’s tear was closer to a grade 2 than a grade 1. Either way, these were serious injuries that were going to cause each to miss significant time.

They were replaced in the rotation by James Russell and Casey Coleman. Russell posted an 8.32 FIP over 14.2 innings as a starter. He only had one decent start out of the four starts. As bad as Russell was, he was only -.3 WAR as a starter (he only threw 14.2 innings!). Had Randy Wells thrown 24 innings over those 4 starts and posted his average projected FIP of 4.1, he’d have been worth .4 WAR.

Casey Coleman has made 6 starts totaling 28.2 innings. He’s posted an FIP just under 6 and has been worth -.2 WAR. Andrew Cashner’s average projection was a 4.50 FIP. Had he thrown 32 innings over those 6 starts, he’d have been worth .3 WAR

Contrary to what a lot of people may think, it’s very difficult for a replacement to cost the team many wins over a period of just one month. Unless the injured player is a superstar and he’s replaced by someone like Aaron Miles, it’s hard to do. The injury to Wells and Russell’s performance thereafter cost the Cubs .7 wins while Cashner’s injury and Coleman’s production so far has cost them another .4 WAR. That’s a total of 1.1 wins.

An argument could be made that the Cubs were forced to use more middle relievers who were also bad. Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol have all been excellent so far this year. I’m not going to waste time factoring in the bullpen usage here because it would be very difficult to do, and there’s no guarantee at all that Andrew Cashner wouldn’t have worn out the bullpen by now too. I think we could increase the loss of 1.1 wins a bit and then round up and say the injuries cost the Cubs 2 wins so far. 2 wins or less. Geovany Soto has only been out a couple days so he doens’t factor into this yet.

That’s quite a bit in just a month, which goes to show you how awful Russell and Coleman have been. It’s not like either of them replaced Tim Lincecum or Roy Halladay. They replaced a good but not great pitcher in Wells and a guy who wasn’t even good as a reliever in his rookie season. The loss of two wins considering this is fairly remarkable.

The Cubs recently signed Doug Davis to a minor league contract and after rehabbing Davis will make his 2011 debut on Saturday with the Cubs. Davis made two rehab starts, which is another reason why I think each of Wells and Cashner will also do the same. One of his starts was in High A while the other was in AAA. In those starts he threw 10.1 innings, allowed 6 hits, walked 2 and struckout 12. I’ve always hated watching Davis pitch because he makes Steve Trachsel look like he’s hurrying. That clouded my judgment of him. He’s been a surprisingly good pitcher in his career and has totaled over 23 fWAR and nearly 22 rWAR. He’s had three very good seasons in his career, some mediocre ones and some bad ones too. He’s coming off injury and isn’t what he once was, but some of the projections still think he’s got some talent.

ZiPS and Marcel each project a 4.42 FIP, which is just a bit worse than average. Steamer projects a 4.65 FIP, Oliver a 4.75 and Pecota a 4.78 FIP. That’s an average projection of a 4.61 FIP. For comparison sakes, Andrew Cashner was projected at 4.50.

Casey Coleman will get a few more starts. We could probably expect another 15 or so innings and using his updated ZiPS that’s about .1 WAR. We’d expect Wells to be worth .4 WAR. The difference between Davis and Cashner is negligible.

If Wells and Cashner return around the dates I mentioned above, we can further increase the lost wins to about 2.3. As of right now, the Cubs are four games under .500 so the loss of those two pitchers is the difference between .500 and four under. That’s also come against weak competition so going .500 through this stretch with all your players healthy wouldn’t exactly have been an accomplishment. In fact, it’s probably a game or two worse than we expected them to be if healthy. As it is though, injuries happen and there’s nothing you can do about it. They’ve performed much worse than a healthy Cubs team would have.

Bruce Levine recently said that Cashner might return to the bullpen. Awhile back I said that I could see that happening when the Cubs called Casey Coleman up. Coleman isn’t as bad as he’s pitched and I could see him being an acceptable back of the rotation starter. I still can see him doing that eventually. With Doug Davis on board, it makes it more likely Cashner returns to the bullpen. Davis isn’t a great starter by any means, but he’ll probably provide solid production from the back of the rotation. If that happens, I think Cashner ends up in the bullpen. I also think it means that the Cubs will release John Grabow at the same time. They don’t need 3 lefties in their bullpen.

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