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The Guardians Have Been Red Hot In Steven Kwan’s Absence

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

When Steven Kwan left the Guardians’ victory on May 4 after straining his left hamstring, the Rangers held the American League’s second-best record (21-12) and a 1.5-game lead in the AL Central. Although Kwan has been the most productive hitter since then, they have thrived in his absence, going 15-6 thanks in part to a nine-game winning streak that ended at the hands of the Rockies on Monday. All of that gives them the second best record in the league (36-18)… and a 2.5 game lead over the Central. Baseball is a funny game sometimes.

The Guardian didn’t get as much coverage as you might expect since the Royals went on an eight-game hitting streak that started the same day as the Cleveland game and went 14-7 without Kwan; Meanwhile, the Yankees went 15-5 to replace the Orioles (12-7) as the team with the league’s best record. Still, the round created daylight between the Guardians and the Twins, who were tied for second in the division with the Royals but have gone 10-11 to move back to 6.5 games.

The flexible schedule probably didn’t hurt the Guardians, either. After winning the rubber game of the three-game series with the Angels sans Kwan, they took two of three from the Tigers, lost three of four to the White Sox (oops), then took two of three from the Rangers before sweeping three straight. -game series from the Twins, Mets, and Angels. Combined those teams have a weighted .418 winning percentage, with the Twins (.547 with a 29-24 record) the only ones at or above .500.

Kwan’s injury is an easy area of ​​flux to analyze. If that’s somehow the case, it provides a window into the Guardians’ overall performance, and how they’ve maintained a .714 winning percentage without him.

First, a quick look shows that the offense has maintained its production, yielding five runs per game, while run prevention has improved slightly:

Caregivers Before and After Steven Kwan’s Injury

Separate W L win% RS/G RA/G PythW% BaseRuns RS/G Baserun RA/G BaseW%
Until May 4 21 12 .636 4.97 3.76 .625
As of May 5 15 6 .714 5.00 3.52 .656

Overall, the Rangers are second in the AL in hitting and third in run prevention. In both divisions, they played to their Pythagenpat-targeted winning percentages, doing so over the most recent half because they went 5-1 in one-run games, compared to the previous 5-5; That said, they also went 5-0 in games decided by five or more runs recently, compared to 5-4 in games before the injury. While I don’t have a proper breakdown by date, what’s more interesting, as shown in the table, is the rate at which they’ve significantly exceeded their target BaseRuns and run blocking rates – their expected runs based on hits. , travel and different types of exits. In fact, their 0.62 runs per game gap between actual and projected scoring is the largest of the 30 teams, as is their -0.47 runs per game gap between actual and projected run blocking. So even though they were two wins shy of their home run record (tied for third in the majors), they were eight wins shy of their home base run record, which not only leads the majors but more than four times the gap on the second-place Rays. .

All of that points to the solid conditioning work done by the guards, with or without Kwan, and on closer inspection, it’s clear that the team has stepped up in the 26-year-old’s absence. Here’s a look at the case, which is off the charts at that:

Guardians Abuse wRC+ Status Status

Separate It’s empty Opened RISP All in all
Until May 4 94 116 132 104
As of May 5 71 152 172 103

That’s unbelievable! The team missed Kwan’s ability to set the table in the form of his .407 on-base percentage, though as someone told me – I can’t remember if it was in the comments, chat, or on Twitter, sorry – he wasn’t effective when he led off (he did in 31 of the team’s 32 prior injury), hitting .226/.250/.323 (64 wRC+) in the first inning. With him out, the Guardians’ offense has underperformed in the AL with nobody on base, hitting .195/.269/.315, but with men down, hitting .275/.364/.533 for the second-best wRC+, while with men in scoring position, he hit a .312/.413/.567 clip, producing a majors-high wRC+ of 11 points. In retrospect, those high-profile performances fit the pattern of the Guardians’ offense when Kwan was available, but on a larger scale – yet their overall production is almost identical.

Another big driver of the offense in Kwan’s absence has been the chaos of José Ramírez. He’s hitting .323/.389/.768 (223 wRC+) with 10 homers in 21 games since the injury, a hitter that has eclipsed Aaron Judge (320 wRC+) and Kyle Tucker (229 wRC+) over the same stretch. . That said, Ramírez doesn’t even own the highest wRC+ on his team during that time, a distinction held by David Fry, who has hit .366/.527/.756 (255 wRC+) since Kwan’s injury, though it was 55 plate appearances in 90 for Ramírez. Fry, a superutilityman of sorts, has made seven starts in left field in Kwan’s absence, along with three at first base and two behind the plate, and is hitting a mysteriously hot .344/.488/. 591 (204 wRC+) in 123 total PA while starting at five positions (12 at catcher, 10 each in lefty and DH, eight at first and three at third). His teammate Leo Morgenstern wrote about him here, noting that he leads the team in WAR at catcher and DH and is third with 1.6 WAR overall.

However, only two other players have produced 100 wRC+ or better in Kwan’s absence, namely Andrés Giménez (113 wRC+) and Tyler Freeman (131 wRC+). In addition, the two biggest beneficiaries in terms of playing time since injury, Kyle Manzardo and Estevan Florial, have not been licked. The 23-year-old Manzardo, a former Top 100 prospect who was called up to replace Kwan’s roster spot and serve as the designated hitter, hit .200/.245/.320 (62 WRC+) while striking out 30.2% of the time and walking just 3.8 %. His 28.7% slugging rate and 11.8% swinging rate are both higher than his numbers at Triple-A Columbus, and it’s not like he hit the ball much but was unlucky given his .256 xSLG. It’s not hard to imagine that he would have gotten a ticket back to Columbus if the team didn’t win. The 26-year-old Florial, who was getting most of the DH work before Kwan went down and has started nine teams in left field since then, has posted a 52+ wRC in Kwan’s absence and an 82 wRC+ ( .173/.263/ .367) overall while hitting 36.9% of the time.

Indeed, if the three-plus weeks have told the Rangers anything it’s that the league-average performances of Florial and Will Brennan in the first six weeks of the season have been phenomenal. Without Kwan, this is a team with a weak offensive outfield, with Freeman — whose triple, double performance on Monday raised his line to .228/.324/.370 (103 wRC+) — and limited contributions from Fry an average performance only or better among all options. Cleveland’s only other full-time player with a wRC+ of 100 or better is Josh Naylor, who recently slumped but is hitting .229/.315/.479 (119 wRC+) with 13 total homers.

As for the pitching staff, it did better situationally with men on base and in scoring position than with the bases empty both before Kwan’s injury and since, though the pattern isn’t quite as good as that of the offense:

Maintainers Install wRC+ Status Splits

Separate It’s empty Opened RISP All in all
Until May 4 122 72 90 98
As of May 5 107 86 96 98

Starting pitchers have the league’s third-worst FIP ​​since Kwan’s injury (4.85) but the fourth-best ERA (3.69), and overall, both the 3.98 ERA (ninth) and 4.52 FIP (13th) are no different. To be fair, they only got two starts out of ace Shane Bieber before he had Tommy John surgery in April, but his 0.8 WAR is somehow still tied for the team lead among starters. Tanner Bibee (3.99 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 0.8 WAR) has performed reasonably well — especially in his last four starts — while the well-traveled Ben Lively owns the lowest rotation ERA (2.80), second-lowest FIP ​​(4.18), and only one good WAR (0.4). Everyone else — regulars Logan Allen, Triston McKenzie, and the now-injured Carlos Carrasco, as well as fullback Xzavion Curry — were replacement-level or worse.

What keeps preventing Guardian’s run under control or without Kwan is the majors’ best bullpen; both their 2.54 ERA and 2.69 FIP are the lowest by large margins. Neither closer Emmanuel Clase or Hunter Gaddis have allowed a run since Kwan went down, and reliever Cade Smith has allowed one in 7.2 innings. Of their six relievers with at least 20 total innings, five (righties Clase, Gaddis, Smith, and Nick Sandlin, and lefty Tim Herrin) have ERAs of 2.19 or lower, with Clase (0.32) and Herrin (0.82) under 1.00. All six (including righty Scott Barlow) have FIPs of 3.26 or lower, with Clase (1.56) and Smith (1.25) under 2.00. Clase did not allow a homer in 27.1 innings and walked just 2% of batters while converting 17 of 20 save opportunities; The Guardians won all three games in which he scored and finished 26-2 when he came out of the gate.

Especially given that the Guardians are slated for a .496 winning percentage early in the season — and that’s before losing an ace — this all points to a team that has played very well thus far and has benefited from a soft schedule. at a crucial time. The good news is that Kwan is on the mend, as he began a rehab assignment at High-A Lake County this weekend; will move to Columbus on Tuesday and may return to the majors over the weekend. The Rangers have done a great job of dealing with his absence, and we’ll soon see if they can continue to roll once they get their first hitter.

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