Friday, June 22, 2007

Stack 'em Up

It's been about a month since we last looked at our guys and how they're doing in comparison to the other schlubs from around the league.

When we last looked at it, the Nats were woefully deficient at four lineup spots: first, short, second and left. Since then, Guzman and Young have gone on a tear, filling some of those holes. But what about the rest of the team? Where are the overall weaknesses, and where do the Nats lose ground?

Quick note on the numbers. Each player is measure just at their time at that actual position. The team total lists the overall split at that position and includes players not specifically listed; I'm only listing the top 2 or 3 performers at each position, based on ABs. The May Total column refers to the Nats totals from the last update in early May, not their performance during that month.

CATCHER             AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
Brian Schneider .240 .314 .337 .650
Jesus Flores .239 .314 .326 .640
Total .240 .314 .335 .649
May Total .254 .348 .347 .695
NL AVE .254 .312 .381 .693

Catching remains a black hole for the Nats, but it's basically a black hole for the entire league. Nats production has dropped off noticeably here because Jesus Flores has come back to earth. Some of that is because of the way Manny Acta has handled him. With a left-handed hitting starting catcher, there's plenty of opportunity to get Schneider his days of rest, yet Flores has more ABs against right-handed pitching than lefties.

FIRST BASE          AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
Dmitri Young .332 .400 .513 .913
Robert Fick .236 .323 .291 .613
Total .306 .370 .439 .809
May Total .222 .327 .373 .700
NL AVE .277 .358 .457 .814

Here you see the biggest difference in the Nats results over the last month. First base was a wasteland in the last update, and Robert Fick had actually outhit Dmitri to that point. My how things have changed. Regardless of his defense, that's a star-quality performance, and the roughly 2-run improvement in runs per game is mostly on his broad, broad shoulders.

SECOND BASE         AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
Felipe Lopez .203 .246 .343 .589
Ron Belliard .271 .307 .346 .653
Total .235 .276 .345 .621
May Total .264 .307 .368 .675
NL AVE .264 .331 .415 .745

This was a huge weakness in the last update, and Felipe Lopez has done nothing to improve the situation. Instead, continued poor performance has dragged the team down further. Lopez has to get better, doesn't he? What's happened to him? He's walking less and hitting more flyballs. But why? Just screwed up in the head? Is there an injury there? I still say he's the team's most interesting off-season decision.

THIRD BASE         AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
Ryan Zimmerman .254 .309 .447 .756
Total .260 .314 .449 .763
May Total .255 .314 .348 .661
NL AVE .269 .341 .434 .774

Here's another one of the keys to the team's mini-resurgence. Zimmerman, who has all but 5 of the team's 3B ABs, has really upped his power output. Compare his total in May. The average and OBP are basically the same, but the slugging is up about 100 points. The OBP is a bit low for my tastes, but he's getting the job done with a roughly league-average bat for 3B. Factor in the defense -- errors aside, it's his range that's the gravy on the mashed potatoes -- and he's much better than average, even if he's not Miguel Cabrera or David Wright.

SHORTSTOP          AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
Cristian Guzman .327 .382 .457 .839
Felipe Lopez .270 .331 .330 .661
Total .296 .361 .399 .760
May Total .234 .314 .284 .598
NL AVE .275 .333 .411 .744

Wow. Look at that jump from May to today. That's all Guzman, and he probably deserves as much credit as anyone for the hot stretch over the last month. Those numbers he's putting up, especially when you factor in the park, are the best of his career, and it's not even close. He's pulled shortstop up to an asset for the team, and nobody, not even Jim Bowden, thought that that was possible. The downside is that he's a pretty brutal fielder. His range has really taken a step back, and the ball seems to have a handy knack for just passing under his glove. I've noticed lately, too, that he's really been holding back on his throws. Is his shoulder bugging him? Is he just pacing himself? If the shoulder's barking again, you can expect the batting to slide back down -- which is probably reasonable to expect either way.


LEFT FIELD         AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
Ryan Church .262 .347 .431 .778
Kory Casto .130 .167 .174 .341
Chris Snelling .200 .368 .333 .702
Total .216 .312 .348 .661
May Total .150 .260 .213 .473
NL AVE .282 .360 .475 .835

Ouch. Another position that we're losing badly on. It's probably best to compare Ryan Church's line directly to the NL Average, since the team total was really killed by those playing in left early in the year while Church was in center.

If you do that, it's still not pretty. You can factor in the park, and smush his numbers up to roughly league average, but you'd really have to stretch it. Defensively, he's been a bit of a mess lately, missing some balls that it seems like he should've gotten to and making a few errors on some plays that looked pretty bad. He's an asset that he's giving you near-league-average performance at a tough position for basically the minimum salary. So Boswell is right, in a sense. He IS a fourth outfielder if you consider him as a left fielder only. He'd be a good stopgap in center, but the team has given up on that. So we're left with a so-so bat at a premium position and a player who really doesn't have any long-term value with the way he's being used now.

In fairness, his overall numbers are basically the league average on the dot. And he's far from the team's biggest problem. It just does us no good to pretend that he's the answer, either.

CENTER FIELD       AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
Ryan Church .282 .388 .485 .874
Nook Logan .200 .238 .250 .488
Ryan Langerhans .208 .323 .283 .606
Total .239 .327 .358 .685
May Total .288 .387 .475 .861
NL AVE .263 .324 .406 .730

This position has fallen off the table. Basically, the Nats switched their problems from April in left with problems in June in center. Center is going to be a problem now and forever for the Nats, and it seems like this is as certain to be the team's downfall as they continue to shuffle non-solutions into and out of the lineup for 2-week auditions. That, as much as anything, is as good an excuse as they need to overpay for one of the FA center fielders this offseason. They'll then be able to turn their attention to shuffling non-answers in and out of the lineup in left or at second. (Yes, Bernie Castro's ears are perking up)


RIGHT FIELD        AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
Austin Kearns .257 .325 .396 .722
Total .263 .330 .409 .739
May Total .268 .331 .428 .759
NL AVE .261 .327 .414 .740

It seems like Austin Kearns is one giant streak. Sometimes hot. Often cold. And it seems like he should be doing better than he is. But when you look at hi in context of his peers, he's producing what the average NL RFer is. And then you factor in his defense -- even if you're one of those crazies that doesn't think he has much range, you've gotta love his arm -- and he's a net plus. Sure, we'd like all our right fielders to hit 30 homers and drive in 120 runs, but that's not going to happen in this park.

Just accept him for what he is: a player who in what seems like a down year, is better than the average NL right fielder. Just imagine what'll happen when he stops slumping and hits in the new park?

  • Pinch Hitter Batting Averages:
    Tony Batista: .222
    Ron Belliard: .143
    Robert Fick: .000
    Jesus Flores: .000
    Ryan Langerhans: .500
    Nook Logan: .250
    TEAM: .154
    May Total: .071
    League average: .213

    Better. But then they almost had to be.

  • Overall, you can see what makes this a terrible offense. There's only one position that's a net plus. A few -- catcher, second, left, center -- that are below average. And a whole other bunch at which the Nats just tread water with the rest of the league.

    For the Nats to take the next step, they need to turn some of those water-treaders into assets, and find league-average gravel to fill those potholes.

    Take a look at the Brewers for example. Use the OPS+ total (last column) as a proxy for offensive quality. They're well above average at every position, save for 3B (which Ryan Braun has taken over nicely).

    Compare that starting lineup with the OPS+ totals of the Nats. It's not even close. That's the difference between being third in the league in runs scored and last.

    There's a lot of work to be done, huh?
  • 24 Comments:

    • I think your conclusion on Church is just a little bit unfair. If you consider his season stats instead of just his slumping stats from the past month, he's pretty close to a league average left fielder without factoring in the park. His stats for the 2007 season are much more in line with his career stats than his LF stats you cited.

      AVG .266 OBP .360 SLG .446 OPS .801
      vs. NL Average LF
      AVG .282 OBP .360 SLG .475 OPS .835

      By Anonymous steve, at 6/22/2007 12:42 PM  

    • I made that exact point in the section on him.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 6/22/2007 12:44 PM  

    • instead of overpaying for a CF, can we overpay for a power hitting LF and put church back in CF? i refuse to believe he can't be an asset to this team, especially in light of his salary, production, and all the other sub-league avg positions we have to deal with next yr (c, 2b, SS, LF). unfortunately, now that i think about it, our 2008 "answers" for c and ss are currently playing those same positions. what a shame!

      By Blogger Bill, at 6/22/2007 1:37 PM  

    • I know you noted it. I simply disagree with your emphasis and conclusion. I believe there is a lot of value in a young and cheap league average left fielder. The fact that he is league average for starting left fielders should conclusively establish that he is more than a 4th outfielder. He's not replacement level. He's average. Most teams pay a lot of money these days for average.

      By Anonymous steve, at 6/22/2007 1:50 PM  

    • That's fine. My conclusion was that he's a good stopgap solution. I'll stick by that.

      While he's cheap and in the prime of his career (age 27-30 or so), he's good enough.

      But if you're in the prime of your career and you're only league average, that's not a building block.

      For now, he's ok. Like I said, he's far from a problem now.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 6/22/2007 1:54 PM  

    • We're agreed then!

      On a completely seperate topic. If Andruw Jones keeps tanking do you think we might be able to afford him this winter? possibly even with a new humility and willingness to take walks?

      By Anonymous steve, at 6/22/2007 2:00 PM  

    • Hugs all around! Big, strong, manly hugs!

      His agent's Boras. No chance he comes more cheaply. ;)

      I still think that Soriano's contract is the opening bid.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 6/22/2007 2:01 PM  

    • Chris,

      Ever get the feeling some of our Nat Fans think that if you spend less you get a credit in the standings? I guess it helps them rationalize the fact that we can not compete.....yet (until we do spend some cash)?

      By Blogger JayB, at 6/22/2007 2:14 PM  

    • C'mon Jim -- more trades! Trade trade trade.

      Church -- love him. Trade now.
      Cordero -- fine, fine. Trade him after his next 1-2-3 inning.
      Rauch -- go back to the offseason and trade the hell out of him.
      Schneider -- trade him two times.

      I'm just repeating myself from another time and another place, but why wouldn't be trading all these pretty good guys to get some numbers in our minors and try and luck into a difference maker or two.

      This really should have been done this offseason when you already took the PR hit of giving up on this year. It's hard to trade Schneider now when there's the notion that the team isn't "that bad" and "might be closer than we thought."

      When Nick Johnson, my favorite National for three years, shows he's healthy, trade him too.

      By Blogger Sam, at 6/22/2007 2:59 PM  

    • Trade 'em all; let God sort them out. It's all fine and good to say we should get rid of these guys and restock the farm, but two quick questions: To whom? and For What?

      Sam identified four arguably movable pieces in Church, Cordero, Rauch and Schneider. But I'm no fan of moving guys just for the sake of having no one over the age of 26 on the roster. After all someone needs to catch, play left and pitch the mop-up innings.

      By Blogger Nate, at 6/22/2007 3:10 PM  

    • Well sure, only trade 'em if you can get useful pieces in return. My view is trade for as many mid and lower-level prospects as you can get and hope that your much-hyped SuperRizzo scouting system can find high ceiling/underappreciated players languishing away in other team's systems. I think you cannot expect to get much major-league ready talent for anyone on our roster, including Young. The market just hasn't been working that way.

      Jesus Flores and Robert Fick can catch; Brandon Watson can play left. There's plenty of somebodies to get you through a season.

      To my mind, the most important thing the Nationals need to do is increase their odds of lucking into a difference making player -- signing as many of their draft picks is part of increasing those odds, bringing in prospects in volume is another.

      If you think I can actually identify trade partner teams or prospects to target, you way underestimate the extent to which I am full of shit.

      By Blogger Sam, at 6/22/2007 3:30 PM  

    • Ah, my favorite time of year! The time when people on crappy teams go all wacky and think that the crap that's leading them to a 95-loss pace is JUST what a team on a 95-win pace needs to push them over the hump! ;)

      It reminds me of Al Bundy's theory about garage sales. The stuff is so horrible and tacky, yet it seemingly gets bought and resold at a later date. He figured that somewhere, there's a place that's at the very bottom, featuring the worst of the worst that anybody ever bought. And there, everything at that sale would go unsold.

      We're a level or two above that, I think!

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 6/22/2007 3:33 PM  

    • Now hold on a minute -- I'm talking about finding a market for our good players (other than Zimmerman and Kearns, and I'd accept a trade of Kearns too, but I'd rather not trade low) and only for non-ML ready talent. That strikes me as something that would be possible to do.

      It's the Dodger fans who want to trade Juan Pierre and Nomar for Joel Zumaya that make we want to rend my garments.

      By Blogger Sam, at 6/22/2007 3:38 PM  

    • Sam, what kind of blogger/internet arguer would I be if I didn't take your point, stretch it out to within an inch of its life then argue against it because you're just a stupid poopypants who stinks?

      Where was I?

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 6/22/2007 3:53 PM  

    • I think you were arguing that it's time to trade Nook Logan and the Strength and Conditioning Guy for Tim Lincecum.

      By Blogger Sam, at 6/22/2007 3:55 PM  

    • Only if they throw in Pedro Feliz.

      Dude can rake!

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 6/22/2007 3:56 PM  

    • 98 ribbies!

      Ninety eight!

      Nine. Eight.

      Almost a hundred.

      One Hundred.

      Feliz is a 100 RBI Man!

      By Anonymous Basil, at 6/22/2007 4:04 PM  

    • Good point.

      I'm loath to give up Cordero, but if that's what it takes... Maybe we could get that Vizquel dude too.

      Dude can pick it.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 6/22/2007 4:05 PM  

    • What I don't like about these threads is that when you guys leave work for the weekend, there's no more postings til the next Monday.

      Do you guys do any work?

      By Anonymous JohnR (VA), at 6/22/2007 4:10 PM  

    • Blame Kasten. If the dude gave me a team I could care about, I might write on the weekends! ;)

      I used to do more game-blogging, focusing on what happened during each individual game. I just can't bring myself to do that this year, so you get warmed-over statistical recaps and semi-amusing cheapshots at the CHEEEEEP!!!11! owners. :)

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 6/22/2007 4:12 PM  

    • Nuff' said, Chris. You and I are on the same page.

      By Anonymous JohnR (VA), at 6/23/2007 6:45 AM  

    • Of course, when they trade the competent players for prospects in July, they'll lower the ticket prices since we'll be seeing lower quality players than before the trades, right? Just like they lowered prices this year since they traded/lost Soriano and some others, right? How come I don't hear anyone else saying "Right!"??

      By Anonymous Barry, at 6/23/2007 1:48 PM  

    • Because most of us understand that the correlation of ticket prices is not with payroll or quality of team, but with supply and demand. ;)

      That's why there are so many $5 seats. And even then, they're mostly unused.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 6/23/2007 6:37 PM  

    • And when 960 actual people show up for a real stinker of a game in August or September (NOT the reported attendance which includes season tickets) where is the demand? There will be plenty of supply, but the $25 tickets will not go to $10. They'd rather get nothing than $10. I know I'm tilting at windmills, but I can't imagine buying a poorer computer than the one I have now for more money than I paid before for the promise that next year's computer will be better (and will cost more). That's the analogy with this year's team and higher ticket prices than last year. And higher next year...

      By Anonymous Barry, at 6/23/2007 9:24 PM  

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