The Nats and PECOTA Projections

February 20, 2013

Oh poor Nats… they are just not as good as we all thought. At least that might be your first reaction if you look at the playoff odds report at Baseball Prospectus. They are projected to finish 87-75 (after rounding) despite winning 98 next year. And while they are projected to win the NL East, they have the lowest playoff percentage chance of any projected division leader at 67.9%, and the lowest chance of winning the World Series of any of them as well, at 7.6%. What gives?

Ok, before you go storm the offices of Baseball Prospectus (for which, I assume, you’d need some help from ENCOM) let’s keep a few things in mind. First of all, the Nats are forecast to win the NL East, not come in second. The Braves are forecast to be the second place team at only 82-80, which would give the Nats a comfortable lead. And all of this is based on PECOTA, which has some quirks that are worth noting. That doesn’t mean PECOTA is worth ignoring, its just important to know what the issues might be.

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The Response to the Soriano Response

January 16, 2013

It’s hard not to describe the signing of Rafael Soriano as a response to the last game of the NLDS. But, much like the Adam LaRoche deal, even if you don’t like the specifics and the fallout, it’s also hard to argue that it doesn’t make the team better in 2013. My initial reaction to the deal was that while it was a strong addition to the team, it wasn’t necessarily a move I’d make.

It’s alot of money for a reliever (money that the Nats have to burn, so who cares) and it costs their first round pick. But just because I wouldn’t have necessarily made the move doesn’t mean I dislike it, and I don’t dislike it. Soriano is a big name, and so it was the biggest baseball news of the day, but we’ll get into that later.

First, My Take

With Soriano, they get a dominant reliever for 2 years. I say two years because his option kicks in only if he finished 120 games. Doing some advanced mathematical calculations, I discovered that he would have to average 60 games finished per season to do that. If there is any sharing of the closing duties with Drew Storen at all, that aint gonna happen. Since 2006, MLB has averaged 4.57 players per year that hit the 60 GF mark, and Davey has shown that he likes multiple closers. So you’re really looking at a two year deal. And what you’re getting is one of the best relievers in baseball.

In his last 7 years, he has thrown 391 IP, with 415 K to only 128 BB and a 1.031 WHIP. His ERA is 2.65, which is a 160 ERA+, and while he’s done this in some pitcher’s parks, he was also dominant last year with the Yankees in New York. New York is probably considered the ultimate test thanks to the new ballpark – it was already considered a pressure/media meat grinder, and now it’s got RF stands that snack on popups. He’s been great (that WHIP, probably more important for relievers than ERA, is historically impressive, as you’ll see later), and I am excited for what he does to this bullpen.

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Nats Get a CF and a Leadoff Hitter

November 29, 2012

Mike Rizzo struck late Thursday afternoon, pulling a big trade for a starting outfielder. No, it wasn’t Marlins-Toronto big, but it was big for this team, as they at the very least have solidified the outfield and their lineup could potentially be set for 2013. They received Twins center fielder Denard Span in exchange for their 22 year old fireballing prospect, Alex Meyer.

What They’re Getting

There is alot to like about Denard Span. He is a 28 year old center fielder, and over his last 3 seasons, he’s hit .271/.334/.376 – while it looks quite a bit lower, it’s actually pretty comparable to Michael Bourn when adjusting for league and park effects. It’s an OPS+ of 95, barely below Bourn’s OPS+ of 98 over the last three years. Of course, he’s only stolen 1/3 of the bases of Bourn, but Span is also a year younger than Bourn, and has shown more patience in the past. Between the switching leagues, moving to a better lineup and the youth, I have a feeling Span will hit better than that with the Nats (this is of course, just a feeling).

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There is… Another

November 8, 2012

The Nats are possibly without a first baseman, or, if they shift Mike Morse, are missing an outfielder. We’ve looked at the three biggest names that have been bandied about among free agent outfielders: Hamilton, Bourn and Upton. But there is another high end outfielder that is getting significantly less airtime, and that’s Nick Swisher.

Swisher is the next position player on Keith Law’s free agent list after the three named above, sitting at #10. And there is good reason to think Swisher could really help the Nats. First and foremost is his ability to get on base. Swisher has a career .361 OBP, and over the last 4 years it’s been .367. He also has a good amount of power, averaging just over 26 HRs a season over that time. In other words, in comparison to Upton and Bourn, he’s got a better OBP and more power than both of them. He doesn’t have the bat that Hamilton has, but he also hasn’t shown some of the issues Hamilton did at the end of this season, and isn’t near the injury risk he’s played 150 or more games in each of his last 7 seasons, when he only played… 148. Read the rest of this entry »


It’s All About the Hamilton, Baby

November 5, 2012

If the title of this post doesn’t mean anything to you, stop everything that you are doing and watch one of the first (and for my money, probably the best) of the SNL Digital Shorts music videos right now. I’m serious, I’ll wait. (If you’ve already seen it, then enjoy your journey back to December 2005):

I will take your word that you’ve gone and done that. Hard to believe that’s almost 7 years old. On to the actual subject of the post – the best hitting free agent this offseason, Josh Hamilton. Keith Law called him the #3 available FA, behind a pitcher (Grienke) and B.J. Upton, a younger, faster, better defensive player who can still play a premium defensive position. It can certainly be argued that Hamilton deserves to be #2 or even first, because it’s hard to argue that there is a better offensive player available than Hamilton. So let’s start by taking a look at this offensive force, first the pros and then the cons:

I Told You that I’m Crazy Bout These Cupcakes Cousin

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Big Improvements in 2012 – Part 2

October 17, 2012

Yesterday, we took at look at some of the things that were the biggest steps forward in 2012 for the pitching staff. I’m trying to concentrate on things that were both new and sustainable. Sustainability is subjective, but we’ll look at the stats enough to make at least me feel comfortable that the stuff highlighted here isn’t temporary. We’re looking at the position players here, so why not start with the most controversial one:

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Nats Win Their First Playoff Game Ever

October 7, 2012

It seems like every day, history is being made for this team. A win in the postseason was a pretty good way for the franchise to introduce itself, and the game was an exciting one. Here are the biggest plays for the Nats from their first playoff win ever. I’ve included the Fangraphs stat Win Probability Added, WPA, and I’ve made them all in positive numbers, the only plays we’re concerned about here are ones that add to the Nats probability. But as you can see, I didn’t just rank em by WPA, because as you’ll notice, that just won’t work. Starting with the first run in Nats postseason history:

5. Kurt Suzuki knocks 1 in (WPA 10.2%)

It became the story of the night it seemed – men on first and third, one out, and someone strikes out. This time it was Danny Espinosa, who had a rough rough night at the bat (3 Ks and a strange bunt that magically ended up doing something good) who struck out, and it was up to the #8 hitter Kurt Suzuki. With the pitcher up next, he might not have thought he’d get much to hit, but that early in the game, Wainwright probably was hoping to start the 3rd by pitching to Gio. So Suzuki did end up with something to hit, and he ripped a ball through the hole on the left side, getting an RBI and putting the Nats up for the moment.

4. Jayson Werth robs Daniel Descalso (WPA 2.5%)

This is one of those plays that doesn’t really show up in things like changes in win probability. And it seems like the same thing in the box score – just a flyout to the right fielder. But Jayson Werth caught that ball with his glove over the fence – if he doesn’t haul it in, it’s a homer, it’s 3-1 and who knows how things unfold from there. I can promise you if he DOESN’T catch, the WPA is significantly different. Read the rest of this entry »


Feast or Famine? Blame the OBP

August 30, 2012

We have seen this season that the Nats offense has its moments, and then has games where it doesn’t really show up at all. Or in the case of the recent road trip, 5 days in a row where it doesn’t show up at all. This feast or famine aspect of the offense is frustrating, but it doesn’t mean they can’t score. They’re ranked 7th in the league in runs scored, so they aren’t slouches. But their OBP is ranked 10th, and some of that is buoyed by guys who haven’t been starters all year, which may go a long way to explaining why it seems like when they’re not scoring, they’re really not scoring.

There are 222 players in MLB this year with 300 or more plate appearances. Ranking by OBP, the Nats highest ranking player on that list is Ryan Zimmerman, who ranks 63rd with a .349 mark. The next guy is Adam LaRoche, who’s .333 ranks him 109th, just above the halfway mark. It looks worse as you keep going, here are the rest of the guy’s who qualify:

These aren’t horrible numbers, but there’s nobody great at getting on base this year on the list, including the guys mentioned up top. And while nobody’s in that bottom quartile, 5 of the 7 guys with enough PAs are in the bottom half. That goes a long way to explaining why this team is so feast or famine.

And this may be an indicator of what they need to look for in the offseason. The talk that you usually hear about this team is that they’re missing a true CF and a true leadoff man, and they could probably get one guy to fill both roles. If that is the case, they better get a guy with a high OBP, and avoid the talented but OBP-free BJ Upton’s of the world.

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Nationals Have alot of Options at the Deadline

July 18, 2012

Yesterday, I made the case for the Nats holding on to their stock of players, rather than trying to cash in this season. No major trade for another top line starter (if they even have the prospects to do that) and keep with Strasburg‘s innings limit. So that’s that, right? Well, not really, there are other options that people might be interested in going after.

What about other positions the team may need help with? Maybe you don’t like the idea of Danny Espinosa as a starter on a championship caliber team. Myself, I think his .262/.324/.442 since May 4 (when he hit his low water OPS mark), or 72% of his PAs this year, is plenty from him.

What about CF? Do you like Bryce Harper there? Because Jayson Werth is supposedly coming back in less than a month, and whether you like Werth or not, he’s probably going to RF. So CF is where Bryce would presumably go. Maybe you’d like to trade Adam LaRoche, move Mike Morse (or Werth) over to first, or play Tyler Moore full time, and not have Harper in a corner spot.

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The Outfield Shuffle

April 30, 2012

When Bryce Harper was promoted from AAA this weekend, many people were surprised. After all, he had struggled to put up anything close to good numbers so far, and there were other players in Syracuse that were playing better. But after two games, he’s comported himself quite well, and while the numbers after two games should be irrelevent, his actions aren’t. He’s hit the ball hard and hasn’t looked anything like a 19 year old at the plate, while showing off a cannon for an arm. But before Harper’s recall, many thought that Tyler Moore, who’s already hit 7 HRs in AAA, was the one that would come up.

And so he did, a day later, when Mark DeRosa was sent to the DL. Moore is a 1B with little actual pro playing time anywhere else. And when I say little, that might insult the word little. In 436 minor league games, he’s played OF three times. I was doubtful that someone who scouts describe as unathletic could jump into LF immediately – not because I didn’t think he’d be ok there, but because he’s had no time there. But Amanda Comak assures us he’s practiced there plenty, so let’s assume he’s fine there. (Really, I’m ok with doing this). So the question that arises, now, is what is going to happen in the OF? Is Rick Ankiel consigned to a bench role? I don’t think so.

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