According to a team press release, Matt Holliday is scheduled to under an appendectomy procedure that will sideline him anywhere from 2-6 weeks. As a frame of reference, though, Matt Cassel underwent a similar procedure and returned in 11 days, and Andres Torres did the same and returned in 12 days. Let’s be cautiously optimistic and say that Holliday will be out 15 days.
Now, the obvious candidate to replace him is Allen Craig, who has done nothing but mash in the minor leagues. Jon Jay may find some playing time as well, but since the Cardinals seem to be going for an offense-first approach this season, let’s assume that Craig gets the bulk of the playing time. The obvious question is: What is the marginal downgrade from Holliday to Craig, and what does it do for our playoff chances?
Let’s assume a couple of things:
- Matt Holliday is a 6.0 WAR player over 162 games
- Allen Craig is a 2.5 WAR player over the same amount of games and plate appearances
- Holliday will only be out about 15 days
If these assumptions hold true, then Holliday is worth about .56 WAR over 15 games, while Craig is worth about .23 WAR. According to Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections, the Cardinals are an 86 win-team (which would lead the National League Central). If this injury bumps the Cardinals from an 86 win team to an 85.75 win team, then according to danmerqury at Athletics Nation, that would change the playoff probability (this is without context and empirical; an 86 win team in the NL Central in 2011 is much, much more likely to make the playoffs than his prediction accounts for. BP’s contextual playoff odds are here) from about 16.8% to 15.4%. For comparison, the Brewers are projected for 85 wins, which would have a 12% chance of making the playoffs, and the Reds are projected for 82 wins, which has a 4% chance of making the playoffs.
No matter what, this injury (assuming it’s not worse than it is. Which, given past Cardinals injuries, might be a stretch) has a marginal effect on our playoff odds, and given the high variance associated with 15 game sample sizes, might even improve our playoff odds. It does make the margins slimmer and more uncomfortable; having 86 wins compared to the Brewers’ 85 are a lot more comfortable to 85.75. Ultimately, though, the margins are the only thing that changes; we are still the favorites to win the NL Central