Tweak the Offense

May 10, 2012

The Nationals’ offense is horrible, we all know that. But is the lineup? We all think we know what needs to be done to fix everything. But is there much that can or should actually be changed? Let’s take a look at the lineup, starting with the guys who are either hitting just fine already, or are set to improve

Ryan Zimmerman – Zim has hit only .224/.312/.343, truly appalling numbers. But he is streaky and was hurt, so basically they missed his offense when he went on the DL, and they missed it before. There is little doubt this will improve.

Adam LaRoche – He’s hitting .316/.406/.537, and he’ll likely regress. But there isn’t any reason to suspect even with a regression he’s better than any alternatives.

Bryce Harper – Another case for regression, if Harper kept up his .265/.381/.441 line all year, it would be incredible. But the OBP will probably slide, although he has a few homers in him, too. Either way, they’re fine with this, wherever he plays in the outfield.

Wilson Ramos – Hitting .260/.348/.364 so far, he’s basically been Wilson Ramos from last year without the power. This should appear at some point, as he’s shown decent power throughout his pro career, although the OBP may be a little high. Still, at only 24 he’s already a pretty good hitter for a catcher.

Alright so we’ve already gone through half the lineup, and are relatively satisified. This is good, this list includes 3 middle of the lineup types who are supposed to provide power. So if we just had some table setters, this team would be projected to score some runs. Speaking of table setters…

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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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Plugging the Leaking LF Hole

April 26, 2012

As mentioned I mentioned in the last post, the Nationals are hitting .103/.218/.132 out of the left field position in this young season. It’s bad when you’re LF OPS is just under your OPS from your pitchers. While I made the case that this offense is not as bad as people think and will get better anyway, LF is something that should be addressed while waiting for the return of Mike Morse.

Tyler Moore

The talk is that Tyler Moore will be the guy to take the position. I don’t disagree that he has the best bat for the job in AAA (he’s hitting .299/.360/.597 at the moment) but he’s played LF all of 2 games in his pro career, having always been a 1B. I think he will get an opportunity this season, but I’m not sure if it’s going to happen in the next 2 weeks or so, given Rizzo’s commitment to defense. As reader @Sultan_of_Stat pointed out over Twitter, it’s not like the Nats have had good defensive left fielders the last few years, although I’d caution relying on UZR/150 in such short timeframes. So if Moore is ambulatory in LF at all, yes, he’ll probably get called up to do it at some point. But Moore has still only played 2 games in his entire pro career out there, so I have a hard time believing Rizzo thinks he’s ready to do it just yet.

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Don’t Get Too Down on the Offense

April 26, 2012

Over and Ovi again, we have been hearing about the problems with the Nationals’ offense. And it’s justified in many ways. Their two best hitters are sitting on the bench right now, with Ryan Zimmerman possibly joining Mike Morse on the DL soon. Even when Zim was in, he wasn’t hitting like Zim. And that production out of LF has been a complete black hole – the team is hitting .103/.218/.132 from that position. Danny Espinosa isn’t hitting at 2B yet either, and although Ian Desmond has done well, he’s down to .280/.321/.413 from his super hot start. These are still very good numbers for a SS, but it’s not enough to carry Espinosa.

But all is not despair in the batters box for this team. They are, in fact, ranked 9th in the NL in runs scored per game with 3.78, the first team under the league average of 3.96. Combined with the best pitching staff in the league right now, it has allowed them to win quite a few games so far. But even if the pitching drops off a bit, they’d still have a positive run differential. They’re pitching has allowed 2.67 R/G (against very poor competition) which means they could allow another entire run per game and still be on the winning side of the math with runs.

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10 Days Worth of Hitting

April 16, 2012

The Nats are sitting pretty at the top of the division after 10 games this season, at a very nice 7-3. And while you may think they’ve had some close games (and you’d be right) their run differential is the best in the division, and their Pythagorean W-L also puts them at 7-3. So they’re right where they should be. As far as stats go, in such a small sample it is still way too early to worry about specific numbers per se. Suffice it to say, we know Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond are hitting the cover off the ball. But there are a couple of other hitters that are doing things you might not have noticed, so let’s start with the good

Jayson Werth

A few games into the season, Werth looks very comfortable. He’s already got two doubles and a triple, which is good to see. In case you remembered him starting out strong last year as well, you are correct. But last year’s strong start only lasted 4 games before he had issues. A slight mid-May surge brought him back up to an .800 OPS, but an awful 2 month stint from the end of May through the beginning of July did him in. To add some perspective on how easily these numbers can change, he’s hitting .350/.447/.450 right now. If he goes 0 for 5 tonight, he’ll be hitting .311/.404/.400, a .093 OPS drop in one night. Then again, if he goes 2 for 5 with a HR, he’s hitting .356/.462/.511, a .076 rise. So let’s take all these numbers with a grain of salt…

Steve Lombardozzi

…except for when we talk about Steve Lombardozzi. Not because I think his .286/.500/.286 will hold up, I certainly don’t expect that OBP to finish even in  that vicinity. But, for a guy who has no power, a couple of singles early on in the year is a good sign, and a couple of walks from major league pitching shows that he hasn’t lost his patience. I think, though, his 10 PAs is a troubling number. I know Davey likes him and wants to use him, but if he’s getting the equivalent of a start per week, he needs to be sent back down to the minors. At 23 years old, daily ABs are the most important thing, and he’s clearly not getting them. Either Davey’s use of him needs to change, or they need to demote him.

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Friday Links to Finish Up March

March 30, 2012
A few links for your Friday

2012 NL East Rankings Part 1: Position Players

March 27, 2012

It’s time for the annual rankings of the NL East, position by position! This is the very same method to determine playoff odds that some analytic website uses in an alternative universe. The rules: If a team has the #1 player at a position, they get 5 points for it. If they have the worst, they get 1 point. At some point I have to make judgments about who is there (for example, with the Nats 1B/OF), so I used the roster I expect to see for at least the early part of the season, on top of assessing their abilities.

Starting with the position players, aided and abetted by Britpop and post-Britpop (in links only slightly hidden in the paragraphs), because nothing says “baseball” like British rock:

CATCHER (The Libertines)

1. Braves – Brian McCann
2. Nationals – Wilson Ramos
3. Phillies – Carlos Ruiz
4. Mets – Josh Thole
5. Marlins – John Buck

McCann is just a great player and showed it again last year – his second year in a row with a 124 OPS+ makes him one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. Ramos surprised many last year not just with his ability to hit, but to take a walk once in a while as well, and displayed serious power potential and strong defense for a 23 year old. Ruiz, now 32, gets his offensive value from a great eye, and despite dwindling power numbers, he could bring more with the bat than Ramos. Thole also gets on base, but has little to no power. John Buck is Miami’s starter and he has some pop, although his AVG is so low that you wouldn’t know just by looking at his SLG. He has had the occasional strong season though, and another one of those could push him Up the Bracket on this list.

SCORE: ATL (5), DC (4), PHI (3), NYM (2), MIA (1)

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