Thursday, July 12, 2007

What'll It Take

One of the arguments some have made for keeping Dmitri Young is that he could be an important part of "The PLAN!" in that he'd push the team closer to competition in the short term. And since Kasten has repeatedly talked about how much closer he thinks this team is, that could be important.

Fine, I guess. But how close IS this team? Let's good off with numbers. (I can hear you sighing... more numbers. Sorry)

I've used the Pythagorean Theorem a number of times before. Basically, it's a formula that fairly accurately projects team records based on runs scored and allowed. The vast majority of teams are within a few games of the expected record the formula spits out.

So if we make some assumptions about the quality of the team, could we figure out how much they'll have to improve?

Specifically, I'm more interested in how much the offense would need to improve. It's clearly the weakness of the team, and it's the area with the most potential.

So let's start with runs allowed. The Nats have given up 434 runs in 88 games played; they're on pace for 799 this year. For the hell of it, let's lop 50 runs off that total to account for a healthier front half of the rotation and the banishment of messers Williams and Patterson. If you don't think that's a lot, lopping off a prorated amount of runs for their performance so far this year would take .3 runs off their ERA and put them in the top 5 in the league. It's a substantial total.

For the sake of argument, let's say that we're trying to win 90 games next year. That's a .555 winning percentage. If we plug that and our 750 runs allowed total into the pythag forum, we can figure out how many runs the team would need to score.

[crunches numbers]

The Nats would have to score 840 runs to be on a 90-win pace.

So how are they doing? Carry the one, take the remainder, uncover the third-order derivative, and... 326 runs in 88 games yields [gasp] 600 runs.

Yes, this team, even assuming a 50-run improvement in pitching would roughly need to score TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY MORE RUNS.

Sounds imposing, huh?

Let's chip away...

If Zimmerman just does what he does in '06 (101 runs created), there's 15 runs there (on pace for 86).

If Kearns does what he did for the Nats in '06, that's about 20 runs. If Lopez does the same, it's another 20 or so. '05 Schneider would be another 10 or so.

Hmmm... what's that make? 15, 20, 20, 10... we're at 65, only another 180 more runs or so to go!

Getting the feeling that it's not going to be easy? Even if they add one of the big Free Agent sluggers, it's going to just caulk up the hole, not patch it. Andruw Jones, in his average year, creates around 100 runs. Torii Hunter gives about 90.

Even Albert Pujols, probably the consensus best hitter in baseball, 'only' creates about 150-160 runs.

If the team's going to plug that gap, it's going to take breakout performances from a few of their hitters, some smart trades to address some of those weaknesses, and likely, more improvement from the pitching staff.

We're supposed to believe that re-signing Dmitri Young is going to make a difference on the team's chances of competitiveness over the next few years?

I know numbers can be hocus pocus, and that pythag isn't a perfect measure of a team's record, but whether it's 240 runs or 200, the key is the magnitude. The Nats have a HUGE hill to climb up to get to the cusp of playoff contention either way. Keeping Dmitri Young around, when he could net a prospect or two, under the guise of short-term competition just doesn't make sense. Especially when there's a 'healthy' Nick Johnson back next year, and there are hundreds of other rocks that Jim Bowden can turn over to find his next Dmitri or Carrasco or Colome or Baerga or...


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