Monday, December 10, 2007

Lastings, 'Lijah and Kearns, Oh My!

Warning: Non-rigorous pseudo-statistics lay (not lie!) ahead.

So our new outfield... what's it mean? Is it improved, and is it going to lead to more wins? Damned if I know, but let's make some rough estimates.

Our friends at fangraphs.com have shared the Bill James 2008 projections with us for our quartet.

Milledge: .286/ .350/ .463
Kearns: .272/ .368/ .457
Dukes: .253/ .351/ .459
Pena: .277/ .335/ .495

You can see that they're all basically the same player. Kearns gets on base a little more, but slugs less. Pena slugs more, but doesn't get on base much. They have slightly different skill sets, but their overall net offense is close enough that they're interchangeable (ignoring defense, of course).

To measure offense, as you've seen, I like to use runs created. It's great about measuring the net effect of differences in percentage stats above, letting you know their impact on the team's bottom line: runs. Now, there are about 1,001 different ways of calculating RC with various flavors of complication. I'm throwing that all out the window and going with something simple cause I don't care about 3 standard digits of precision. I want to see broad outlines, not the cellular level.

The easy-ass formula I'm using is AB * OBP * SLG. That's it. Just to show you that it's closer to the complicated formula, let's sample a few players.

Nook Logan RC, 34. Short formula, 34.1. Brian Schneider RC, 45. Short Formula, 44.6. Austin Kearns RC, 88. Short Formula, 85.6. Close enough!

So the trick, you see, is figuring out how much playing time the guys get.

Nationals OFers combined for 1787 ABs last season. We know that a certain percentage of those ABs are going to be taken by 5th outfielders for rust reasons or because of injuries. So let's make an arbitrary decision to assign 87 of those ABs to the pure backups, giving us 1700 to divvy up. And, hey, for the hell of it, let's assume that Dukes doesn't knock up one of the Lerner granddaughters and stays healthy, and the ABs are divided pretty evenly, leaving 425 a piece. (You'll see that it doesn't much matter in that if Dukes does go down, as long as the other big 3 are upright, they'd be able to pick up his level of production without a dropoff)

Here are the RC projections using the short formula:
Kearns: 71
Pena: 70
Milledge: 69
Dukes: 68
TOTAL: 279 RC

How does that compare?

As it stands, the top 5 outfielders from last year (Kearns, Church, Logan, Langerhans and Pena) combine for a total of 1677 ABs, again, close enough for this purpose. Using the same short form RC total, that produces a total of 237 runs created. 279-237 gives us an approximate improvement of 42 runs. Every 10 runs or so is a win, so that's a total improvement of about 4 wins on offense. (Now, of course, this isn't factoring in defense, and I've read enough scouting reports on most of these guys to know that nobody has a farkin' clue. They'll either be great or terrible -- how's that for a prediction!)

Now, of course, this could blow up in the team's face. These are, afterall, only on-paper predictions. But that's where the beauty of this also comes in. Two of the four are truly young. And none of them are really old. Because of that, it's not inconceivable for one of them to have a truly breakout season. And if that does, they'll way overshoot that RC estimate. There are a lot of unknowns, of course, and the randomness of life has a funny way of making fools of us all, but at least for now, on paper, last week's shuffle and re-signings greatly improved the team. (But still, lock up your daughters!)

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