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Aledmys Diaz's injury could put a damper on his great season

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Before his injury on Sunday, Aledmys Diaz was putting together a season that stacked up well with NL shortstops, NL rookies, as well as Cardinal shortstops in the modern era.

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Aledmys Diaz injured his right hand in the first inning of yesterday's game when he was hit by a pitch from Andrew Cashner. Immediate X-rays were negative and it's being called a right-hand contusion. Diaz will have further X-rays today and according to Derrick Goold he'll be out a least a few games. (If you're wondering why additional X-rays are necessary, our own Joe Schwarz explained it well in two tweets found here and here.)

Since Diaz will undoubtedly be missing time, there's no good news to be found here. If you must find the silver lining it's that Greg Garcia has hit very well in limited action this year (.297/.428/.414; 133 wRC+ in 138 plate appearances), Matt Carpenter began his rehab assignment last night in AA, and Jhonny Peralta is rehabbing in Palm Beach for his return as well. In fact, Peralta moved from third base to shortstop shortly after Diaz's exit as an assumed precautionary move. And Brandon Moss should be back soon, too.

The bad news - especially if Diaz is slated to miss an extended period of time - is that the Cardinals will be without one of their most valuable players during a playoff chase. In 394 plate appearances, Diaz has hit .312/.376/.518 with a 137 wRC+. His 2.4 fWAR ranks third on the team and only Carpenter has a better wRC+.

For a split second in May, when his OPS was nearly 450 points lower than it had been in April, the story on Diaz looked like it could mirror that of Jeremy Hazelbaker. But a strong June (.275/.385/.463) followed by a stronger July (.299/.375/.505) painted a more complete picture (at least, for now) of a guy who can hit. Take away his crazy April (1.186 OPS and 216 wRC+) and here are Diaz's stats since May 1:

PA

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

325

9.2%

15.4%

.181

.307

.284

.356

.465

117

Contrasting Diaz with other NL shortstops with at least 350 plate appearances, and again, not including his red-hot April, this is where he stacks up as ordered by wRC+:

Name

PA

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

Corey Seager

439

7.9%

18.5%

.217

.348

.310

.365

.532

141

Trevor Story

416

8.4%

31.3%

.294

.335

.267

.337

.561

119

Diaz

325

9.2%

15.4%

.181

.307

.284

.356

.465

117

Jonathan Villar

427

11.5%

26.2%

.137

.402

.296

.377

.434

116

Brandon Crawford

400

9.3%

19.3%

.159

.314

.269

.339

.428

108

Take away his best month and Diaz is still the third best run producing shortstop in the NL. Include April and Diaz's 137 wRC+ trails only Seager. He's been the hardest of the group to strikeout. Include April and his 13.5% strikeout rate dwarfs this field and ranks 15th in all of the NL.

Per the same as above, taking away Diaz's best month, here's how he compares with other rookies in the NL with at least 250 plate appearances:

Name

PA

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

Seager

439

7.9%

18.5%

.217

.348

.310

.365

.532

141

Story

416

8.4%

31.3%

.294

.335

.267

.337

.561

119

Diaz

325

9.2%

15.4%

.181

.307

.284

.356

.465

117

Trayce Thompson

262

9.9%

25.2%

.212

.255

.225

.302

.436

101

Brandon Drury

313

5.1%

20.4%

.163

.306

.262

.304

.425

87

Again, include his April and his wRC+ is second only to Seager. In a Seagerless field, Diaz would be the rightful NL ROY had the season ended today. Not bad for a guy who was designated for assignment just over a year ago and only found his way onto the field this year by way of various injuries.

And removing Diaz's April isn't really fair though. Early season stats count just like early banked wins do. It's why the Cubs still have a 6.5 7.5 game lead in the NL Central even though they are 22-26 23-25 since June 7 (EDIT: this was conditioned on the Cubs losing last night which seemed like a certainly when I typed this which was before Steve Cishek entered the game). And if you include April, Diaz is arguably having the best offensive season for any Cardinal shortstop in the modern era. Going back 50 seasons, here's a look at the top five seasons for Cardinal shortstops with at least 400 plate appearances (meaning Diaz just sneaks in) as ordered by wRC+:

Name

Year

PA

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

Diaz

2016

401

8.5%

13.5%

.207

.330

.312

.376

.518

137

Edgar Renteria

2003

663

9.8%

8.1%

.150

.343

.330

.394

.480

128

Jhonny Peralta

2014

628

9.2%

17.8%

.180

.292

.263

.336

.443

120

Ozzie Smith

1991

641

12.9%

5.6%

.082

.301

.285

.380

.367

119

Ozzie Smith

1987

706

12.6%

5.1%

.080

.320

.303

.392

.383

114

A few stray thoughts: First, we could all live one thousand years and Edgar Renteria will never get the credit he deserved mostly because he spent a bulk of his Cardinal career surrounded by titans. And second, here's how great Ozzie Smith was. For all shortstops in MLB going back 50 years (via FanGraphs Leaderboards), he had the six best walk-to-strikeout rate for a season, as well as seven of the top ten. His peak season was in 1984 when he drew 3.29 walks per strikeout.

Anyway, Diaz has an arguable advantage as his numbers above haven't had to face the scrutiny of the dog days of August just yet, and if the X-rays today bring even worse news then he might not have to. Regardless, for a season that's been hard to characterize from a team standpoint as anything other than frustrating, getting this sort of production from a rookie who was not expected to be counted on has been nothing short of remarkable. Imagining where the Cardinals would be without him is not a fun exercise and, let's hope, not the new reality.