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Spring injuries that most affect playoff races

Giants, D-backs, Cards already dealing with health issues
March 25, 2018

Every team leaves Spring Training in Florida and Arizona to start the regular season with an identical 0-0 record. However, despite having the same clean slate with a full year ahead, it's still possible to suffer serious losses during the spring. Just ask the 2017 Cardinals how it felt to

Every team leaves Spring Training in Florida and Arizona to start the regular season with an identical 0-0 record. However, despite having the same clean slate with a full year ahead, it's still possible to suffer serious losses during the spring. Just ask the 2017 Cardinals how it felt to lose Alex Reyes, or the Tigers to lose J.D. Martinez, or the same for the teams depending on Sonny Gray, David Price, Ian Desmond, Didi Gregorius and plenty of other contributors who went down before Opening Day.
The point is tha injuries are pretty much the only thing that matter coming out of spring, because we know the stat lines largely do not, and even then, not all injuries matter the same. Some teams have a reliable backup ready to step in; some teams weren't likely to be playoff contenders that year anyway.
With another Spring Training mostly in the books, we've seen another round of sprains, tears and breaks over the past month-plus. Which ones will actually impact playoff races the most? Let's rank the notable ones, from most to least, based on how much of an effect they will will have on postseason races. (We're just looking at injuries suffered during Spring Training, not issues from before that which are still a concern, like Daniel Murphy's right knee, Jimmy Nelson's right shoulder and Zach Britton's right Achilles -- and we don't yet know enough about Greg Bird's right foot to comment.)
1. Madison Bumgarner, Giants (broken left hand)

  1. Jeff Samardzija, Giants (strained right pectoral muscle)
    Obviously. The Giants reasonably figured they were better than their 98-loss debacle last year, as pretty much everything that could have gone wrong did, and so they went out and added Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen and Tony Watson to a decent returning core, putting them right into the National League Wild Card race with about a half-dozen other teams. They just needed a little more to go right than it did in 2017.

It's only March 26, yet it's safe to say they are not off to a good start. Bumgarner broke his finger on a comebacker, likely putting him out until May or June. Samardzija injured his pectoral and could miss all of April. In terms of projected victories, that knocks them down by approximately three wins, as a rotation that was already short on depth will now have to rely on unexpected innings from Derek Holland and Tyler Beede, and that matters -- they're now projected to be a .500 team.
But the real impact might be worse than that. Ten of the Giants' first 28 games are against the Dodgers, the clear favorite in the NL West, and six more are against Arizona. Plus, with two days off in the first eight days of the season -- and four in the first 29 days -- Bumgarner likely would have started more than once every five games in that crucial stretch. You don't want to say this is enough to end their year before it starts, but it's a tremendous blow to a team that already had little margin for error.
3. Stephen Souza, Jr., D-backs (strained right pectoral muscle)
Souza was acquired from Tampa Bay on Feb. 20 in part to offset the loss of Martinez, but now he won't debut for his new team until May, after injuring himself diving for a ball last week. That might only cost the D-backs a win -- Souza's a good player, not a star, and he'll be replaced by a competent Major Leaguer, not you -- but in the ultra-competitive NL Wild Card race that likely also includes the Cardinals, Rockies, Mets, Giants, Brewers and Phillies, every win matters.
Fortunately for the D-backs, they're better prepared for this than they were when outfield injuries struck two years ago, decimating the roster. While it won't be Rey Fuentes, who fractured his hand, or Yasmany Tomas, who was optioned to Triple-A, they did add veteran Jarrod Dyson, who isn't the hitter that Souza is, but is a stronger defender. The addition of infielder Deven Marrero could also free up the flexible Chris Owings to contribute, too. Still, losing Souza hurts.
4. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals (left hamstring strain)

  1. Luke Gregerson, Cardinals (left hamstring strain)
    Both veteran St. Louis pitchers injured their left hamstrings over the weekend, and both will start the year on the disabled list because of it. That's a problem, because this is yet another team in the NL Wild Card race, and because three of the five pitchers who made at least 20 starts for last year's Cardinals (Wainwright, Mike Leake and Lance Lynn) are no longer currently in the rotation.

It's problematic for the bullpen as well, as any Cards fan who is angsting over the team's reluctance to do whatever it takes to bring in free agent Greg Holland will tell you.
Any loss of depth for a pitching staff that already had concerns is bad. And yet… this doesn't have to be a disaster. For all of Wainwright's heroics, he wasn't very good last year (5.11 ERA), and his replacement, young Jack Flaherty, is projected for the same 2018 performance as Wainwright is. Gregerson was projected to be the team's closer, yet no one expected him to last that long there, and 2017 breakout pitchers Tyler Lyons and Dominic Leone -- plus camp sensationMike Mayers -- shouldn't be a step down at all.
We'll call this costing St. Louis a win, because depth matters, and the Cardinals are going to be in a tight race all year long. (For what it's worth, the Cards are still dealing with the effects of last year's injury, as Reyes won't be back until May, and in a likely limited capacity.) This may just sound worse than it is.
6. Justin Turner, Dodgers (fractured left wrist)
The amazing thing about this one is that despite losing one of the most dominant hitters in baseball -- on a rate basis, only six hitters were better than Turner last year -- Turner's broken wrist doesn't really change all that much for the Dodgers. That's partially because they're the five-time defending NL West champs, and they look well-positioned to win the division again, but also because their seemingly neverending depth makes it easy to fill in for Turner.

They'll do that by shifting second basemanJohn Forsythe to third, and think about the dominos that follow that. The opening at second base means more time for valuable Enrique Hernandez, who famously had a three-homer game last October and has crushed the ball (.340/.446/.745) so far this spring. Turner's roster spot could go to James Farmer, who hit .317/.375/.476 at two levels of the Minors last year, and taking Hernandez out of the outfield mix means more time for either Alvin Toles or Joc Pederson.
This probably costs the Dodgers a win or so. They're still projected to win the West by a dozen games. They'll be fine.
The rest
The closest name to making the list was probably Philadelphia's Jerad Eickhoff, who will be out until May with a strained right lat. That hurts, though the Phillies have several young pitchers like the impressive Ben Lively ready to step in.
Luiz Gohara's left ankle, Carlos Rodon's left shoulder and Dinelson Lamet's sore right elbow could be problems for three talented young pitchers, but none are likely to have serious impacts on the likelihood of Atlanta, Chicago or San Diego playing in October.
We know that the A's had high hopes for Jharel Cotton before his Tommy John surgery, yet Cotton had a 5.58 ERA last year, so it's not like he was irreplaceable. You might say the same for Baltimore's Mark Trumbo (right quad strain), as it ought to be easy enough to replace him for the first few weeks.
On the other hand, Yuli Gurriel's left hand and Danny Salazar's right shoulder probably don't have a huge impact on the massive advantages Houston and Cleveland are likely to have in their own divisions.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for and the host of the Statcast podcast.