Anthony Rendon, is now down with an oblique strain. What does that mean? What does THAT mean? What does that MEAN?
What does THAT mean is that he hurt the muscles on the side of his abs. Much like the non-tear knee injury, there isn't an operation for it - you just wait it out for however long it takes. The mildest cases can take about a week or two, but they can linger and take 6 weeks or longer. Escobar had this kind of strain in the Spring. He was fine in his allotted time (as were Ellsbury and Pillar off the top of my head), but we don't know yet what level of strain Rendon has or if it's an interior or exterior muscle or I assume other things, I'm no doctor.
If you're looking for the straight "most likely scenario" Give him about 4 weeks (from the last game played) to heal, another week to build up to playing again, and then at least a week of minor league play. That would give Rendon a ETA of June 12th, or about 60 games in.
What does that mean is that Rendon is going to miss at least 40% of the season, if things go about typical from here on out and for Rendon "typical" might be optimistic. This means more Danny, Ian and Yuney line-ups. Losing Rendon is going to cost the Nats something - he was probably their most valuable player last year. But how much?
Danny and Yuney have both been surprisingly decent this year. If the season ended today Yunel Escobar would have his best year since 2011 and Danny his best year ever. That alone should tell you this is probably unsustainable. (probably - Span managed to keep up his "best in years" season last year). What do the fancy stats say?
What's propelling Danny is a radical drop in strikeout rate from 33.5% last year to 13.5% this year. His walk rate has also changed dramatically from 4.9% to 10.8%. The walk rate is less of a surprise. Danny has had a good eye in the past having a walk rate around 8.0% in the upper minors and first couple years in the majors. So a monthly jump to 10.8% is perfectly reasonable. That strike out rate though is worth investigating. He has NEVER struck out at such a low rate. Not in his best year, not in the lowest minor league levels. A strikeout is an automatic out. You have fewer of those you put more balls in play you get more hits. The average goes up, which we've seen.
Is he swinging less at bad pitches? Yes. His O-Swing% (swings at pitches outside the zone) is down to 32.1% from a high of 42.7% in 2013. However that's about how much he was swinging at these pitches in his first couple seasons and he struck out a lot more. So it's not just that. Is he making more contact? Yes. His O-Contact% (you're smart. you can figure that out) and Z-Contact% (in the zone) are both up from recent years. The Z-Contact% especially would be the best of his career. We see the expected corresponding drop in SwingingStrike% down to 10.6% - again lowest of his career. Is he sacrificing power to make this happen? My guess is yes, (power is down from his peak year) but really it's too early to tell. It's not down from his 2nd best year but an errant HR could bump a monthly SLG up.We'll know better by the end of May.
What about Yunel? He is seeing some luck - his .333 BABIP isn't a crazy number but it would be the highest he's seen for a full season (he had a .364 for half a year back when he was a 24 year old). So the expectation would be a bit of a drop in BABIP and in corresponding batting average. But it may not be as much as you think it could be. His flyball rate has dropped like a rock, under 18% down from the 25-30%. It hasn't gone into line drives, which would be the best thing, it's all gone into ground balls (up to 62.5% from around 50-55%) but when you don't have HR power GBs are better than FBs. Everything else is basically on line. That's a bit surprising, given the batted ball change. I wouldn't be shocked if his power drops a bit by the end of the year. Also his walk-rate keeps dropping but if he can keep the average up it's not too much of an issue.
Given what I've seen now, Yunel should see a bit of an average drop maybe ending up in the .285 average with little patience or power, but that should be ok. Right around average offensive production which isn't great but fine enough given the gamble the Nats took on his injury causing long term issues. Danny? I don't know. If this is real he's a different and more useful player. But it's only been a month and he hasn't started everyday so the sample is small. I really don't know what to think, it's that dramatic a change. Getting back to the question at hand, they'll lose something with Rendon out but if Danny is NEW DANNY then it will only be a couple of games, rather than a handful. The talent this year can handle either, but obviously you'd rather it be fewer games than more.
What does that oblique injury for Rendon MEAN though, in the long term view? It means that one of the Nats keys players looking beyond 2016 is now a terrible injury risk. Highest level risk type, in my opinion. Here's his history:
2009: Ankle injury
2010: Ankle injury (same ankle)
2011: Minor Shoulder/Back injury
2012: Ankle injury (other ankle)
2015: Knee injury
2015: Oblique injury
That's two seasons of healthy play in seven years. Yes, not all the injuries are comparable, but all the injuries are injuries. They happened. And even if you don't believe those early breaks will matter for future injury (I think they are "non-ignorable") these latter ones, muscle strains in his mid 20s, should concern you. It's nice that Danny and Yunel might be able to compensate for Rendon in 2015, but they aren't keys to keeping the Nats winning later in this decade. Rendon is. This takes away one thing you thought you might be sure about for those years.