Friday, May 11, 2007

Stack 'Em Up

30+ games in, and we've finally got a big enough sample size to get a handle on some of these performances, and to see how the Nats are doing. It's a weird year and tough to assess some of these performances because offense is way down around the league.

The average team scores 4.37 runs per game. Last year, it was 4.76. So a typical night at the ballpark, and there's nearly a run per game less. Last year, the average team hit 1.09 HR per game; this year, it's just .86. So average pitchers seem better than they are because we haven't adjusted our expectations. And bad hitters seem worse than they are for the same reason.

So let's compare the Nats to their compatriots.

First, a quick note about the numbers. I like to use average, on-base and slugging as quick proxies for offense. They're simple enough, and they tell you 90% of everything you need to know about a player's offensive performance. Keep in mind, though, that these aren't adjusted for park, and RFK is the second or third toughest park for hitters, so a Nat could be worse than the average in the numbers, but really be an average or better performer. (That sentence didn't really make sense!)

CATCHER            AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
Brian Schneider .235 .330 .316 .647
Jesus Flores .350 .435 .500 .935
Total .254 .348 .347 .695
NL AVE .259 .323 .379 .702

All things considered, catching hasn't been a problem. Brian Schneider was terrible early on, but has hit well of late. And Jesus Flores' hot hitting in limited playing time has offset a lot of Schneid's suck. Throw in the very good defense by both, and catcher -- gasp! -- has been an asset for the team.

FIRST              AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
Dmitri Young .221 .322 .385 .707
Robert Fick .313 .450 .438 .888
Total .222 .327 .373 .700
NL AVE .270 .361 .437 .798

What jumps out at me about this isn't so much the Nats' weakness -- we expected that -- but how poorly NL 1B are hitting as a group. (Thanks, in part, to the slumping Pujols!) The Nats 1B have hit about as well as the average NL catcher, and they've fielded pretty poorly. Over a full season, they're losing 4 wins or so to a team with just an average 1B, and likely 6-8 wins or more compared to what Nick Johnson could've performed had he been healthy.

SECOND             AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
Ron Belliard .278 .320 .348 .667
Felipe Lopez .185 .214 .444 .659
Total .264 .307 .368 .675
NL AVE .265 .336 .417 .753

Here's another spot where the Nats are losing big, although Felipe Lopez is sure to bring this up with his OBP contributions -- the .214 represents just his performance at 2B. Defensively, the jury is still out. Belliard seemed to be decent, and was especially adept at turning the DP. Lopez has always been spotty (read: terrible) with his footwork, and he'll get an incomplete for now.

THIRD              AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
Ryan Zimmerman .255 .314 .348 .661
NL AVE .255 .335 .393 .728

If he keeps hitting the way he's been hitting over the last 20 games, we'll be fine here. Much has been made of the number of errors, and while 7 is high, remember that 2 of those have come on throws from the outfield, and one clearly should have been charged to Ron Belliard, not him.

SHORT              AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
Felipe Lopez .270 .331 .330 .661
Cristian Guzman .143 .200 .143 .343
Josh Wilson .000 .294 .000 .294
Total .234 .314 .284 .598
NL AVE .269 .333 .413 .746

No light can escape from this black hole. Just note that they're getting worse shortstop play this year than they did in '05, and that's without factoring in the defense. These guys have combined for 12 errors and a .915 fielding percentage, which probably has been unseen on a MLB level since the aughts. With Guzman manning the position for the time being, the team total will probably climb, but has NO chance of being close to league average. Let's hope he starts playing Gold Glove defense -- something he's never really done in his career.

LEFT               AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
Kory Casto .130 .167 .174 .341
Chris Snelling .200 .368 .333 .702
Mike Restovich .111 .158 .111 .269
Ryan Church .167 .375 .167 .542
Total .150 .260 .213 .473
NL AVE .284 .367 .476 .843

Just looking at this gives me an aneurysm. Words have not been invented to describe how terrible Nationals left fielders have been. That team total is so terrible, it'd be laughable were I not crying.

Using the quick and dirty Runs Created estimate, over 600 ABs, the Nats LFers would create 33 runs. The League Average LFer would create 104. That's about 7 wins below average! With Church taking over the position full time, this is a position that's sure to improve. But Church isn't going to push the Nats much above league average. He'll probably hit right around those league numbers, and should provide some plus defense, making him a slightly better-than-average player -- and about 8-9 wins better than what they're getting now.

CENTER             AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
Ryan Church .282 .388 .485 .874
Total .288 .387 .475 .861
NL AVE .258 .327 .398 .725

Even if you think he's a terrible defensive CFer -- and the only problem I've ever had with him is on liners right at him -- he's the lone bright spot in the lineup. Factoring in the tough home park, he's well above average in CF, not that the Nats will accept that; We need more Nook11!!!1!

RIGHT              AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
Austin Kearns .260 .324 .425 .749
Total .268 .331 .428 .759
NL AVE .266 .335 .407 .742

His numbers alone don't look impressive, but he's better than average, in what must be a down year for RFers. We've seen the defense -- good positioning, nice range, and a strong, accurate arm. He's a net plus for the team.

PHers              AVE    OBP    SLG    OPS
Total .071 .156 .071 .228
NL AVE .217 .313 .340 .653


  • It's easy to see where the holes are -- first, second, short, left. But it's not clear that the Nats have any sort of solution.

    First is going to continue to slog along as a net minus whether they play Fick, Young, Batista, Langerhans or Casto there. We'll just have to suck it up.

    Second and short are basically spoken for, though both are sure to improve relative to what the league has done. The same goes for left.

    This is a team that's getting substandard production out of four of the eight lineup spots, and there's little change for significant improvement. The bright side is that some of these performances have been so bad so far -- left field11?!?! -- that ANYTHING we get out of there is going to provide a ton of offense comparatively.

    With Schneider and Zimmerman coming on and improved production at 2B and LF, maybe this offense is about to snap out of its long, cold, dormant, deathly slumber?

    • With Schneider and Zimmerman coming on and improved production at 2B and LF, maybe this offense is about to snap out of its long, cold, dormant, deathly slumber?

      Probably not. Zimmerman's slumber only mirrors the slumber of many of the NL's 3rd baseman (Rolen, Wright, Atkins, Ensburg, Encarncaion, Helms) he should get better but not really effect the Nats production in comparison to the league. Church in LF will help but Nook in CF will pretty much nullify that. Guzman is a hole, Schnieder is catcher-average, neither will awaken this team from a slumber.

      Basically for the Nats offense to start gaining on the league is all up to Felipe Lopez becoming a star. However, we have to get better on the bench right? That should get the Nats a couple timely hits and a couple more wins...right?

      By Blogger Harper, at 5/11/2007 10:55 AM  

    • This isn't specifically pertaining to the Nationals and their awful offensive performance, but is there really any doubt left at this point that the years from (approximately) 1997-2005 are going to be permanently remembered by future baseball historians as the Steroids Years?

      I expect that I might not see leaguewide offensive production get back up to those levels again in my lifetime.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/11/2007 11:07 AM  

    • I'd say there's still some doubt, Anonymous. The drops in leaguewide offense are interesting, but we'll see if they're sustained over the entire season and thereafter. Offense dropped some in 2005, then shot back up last season (not to 1999-2000 levels, but closer than it's been since).

      I'd like to see scoring drop into, say, 1975-92 levels. That's a comfortable balance of offense and defense, IMO. But we'll see if it happens.

      By Anonymous Basil, at 5/11/2007 11:18 AM  

    • Chris, thanks for the depressing analysis. It's one thing to realize your team sucks, its another to see the statistical evidence prove it out. So many things have to go right for this team to make any improvement this year.

      By Anonymous nosniv, at 5/11/2007 11:46 AM  

    • I'd be curious if the regression offensively would be more attributed to the banning of amphetamines. Players over a 162 game season without the artificial bump in energy would seem to suffer from the wear-down effect

      By Blogger Brian, at 5/11/2007 11:46 AM  

    • One other thing, with regard to the plan. How can we judge the success of the plan this year? Is it just seeing how many draft picks are signed? Is there any other tangible way to say the team will improve over the next couple of years? Anything to provide a ray of hope.

      By Anonymous nosniv, at 5/11/2007 11:47 AM  

    • Brian -- They were tested last year. I don't think that would explain it. I think it's just cold weather -- bad weather in general -- and perhaps a rigged ball? ;)

      Offense was way down in '05 before jumping back up last year. We're not way out of line with '05's levels of offense.

      Anonymous -- There's no real single identifyer. You just have to look at the quality of prospects and their performances, but even that's going to take 2-3 years before there's enough data to get a handle on.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/11/2007 11:49 AM  

    • I could've sworn it said anonymous! I'm going senile

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/11/2007 11:50 AM  

    • Good analysis Chris. One thing, do runs go up during the summer months? Can you compare the first 30+ games this year to the first 30+ games last year (as opposed to the whole season)?

      By Blogger Dan, at 5/11/2007 12:24 PM  

    • Runs are sure to go up a bit, but I'm not going to do that sort of analysis.

      The league average stats I used are from this year. So the weather would (hypothetically) affect all teams equally. It's as close to apples to apples as you can get without crunching more numbers than I care to. :)

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/11/2007 12:27 PM  

    • hmm, that didn't come out the way I wanted. I meant to say would you know what the rpg was in early in the year or say April, not do any more analysis.

      By Blogger Dan, at 5/11/2007 12:42 PM  

    • Here's this April:
      .258 .332 .400 .732

      Here's last April:
      .260 .336 .425 .760

      It's the slugging -- the HRs are way down -- that's creating all that difference.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/11/2007 12:45 PM  

    • You can judge the success of the plan on the field this year based on how many of our young players increase their value to the club through success on the field. Church, Snelling, Bergman, Hill, Flores, whether we keep them or trade them have increased their value to the club. This also goes for journeymen like Young and Belliard who we gave up nothing but cash to get. If we manage to trade them for prospects, it's a net gain. Contrast this with the 2005 plan that chased middling veterans like Guillen, Guzman, Castilla and Preston Wilson. Those veterans, as a group, declined in value while playing for us and kept young players like Church out of the lineup.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/11/2007 1:09 PM  

    • Ye gods. What's the prognosis on Nick, anyway? He'd fix up 1B in a hurry, but I haven't heard anything about when he's coming back, which can't be a good sign.

      By Blogger Carl the Big Fool, at 5/11/2007 1:17 PM  

    • Yes, Schneider has a few hits lately but most of them are weak hits to the opposite field. He no longer hits with any authority and his power is gone. Flores needs to play more.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/11/2007 2:26 PM  

    • Chris, thank you SO much for these posts!

      By Anonymous JohnR (VA), at 5/11/2007 4:25 PM  

    • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/26/2009 10:00 PM  

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