What about these bench players?

February 26, 2013

Tyler Moore is a great player for the Nats to have. He is a bench player who had a .840 OPS with 10 HR in only 171 PAs last season. PECOTA actually predicts him to have 13 HRs next year in 251 PAs, which is a lower rate, but still works out pretty good for the playing time.

His projected numbers for 2013 don’t look bad, unless you compare them to his 2012 numbers. But I don’t think the projections of .248/.298/.477 is that crazy for him, considering what he did in the minors. Even if he’s slightly better than that, he’s not a starting caliber 1B or LF (unless you really believe in the 2012 #s), so he’s essentially a strong bench player.

Having a strong bench is important, especially in the face of injuries, but the question is how important. If the Yankees, after the injury to Granderson, panicked and offered Michael Pineda for Tyler Moore, would you take it? Obviously, the Yankees aren’t going to do that, I’m just using them as an example.

I want to reiterate – I don’t think Pineda for Tyler Moore or Michael Morse would ever happen. But the injury got the wheels turning. At what point does the strong bench give way to something better?

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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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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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What Does One Game Mean?

August 14, 2012

Its amazing what one night can do for a team. The 14-2 win might not end up meaning much in the grand scheme of things, there are, after all, 161 other games to be played. And the games versus Atlanta might be more important just because of what it does to the NL East standings. But still, a drubbing like that… alot of things happened in one night that are simultaneously completely meaningless and totally consequential, depending on how you look at the world. But it certainly showed that the Nats, a team built on pitching and known mostly for it, can score with the best of them.

The Offense 

This team, the Washington Nationals, have scored the most runs since the All Star break. Think about that for a minute. This is a team that was winning thanks almost entirely to their pitching staff early in the season, with late game heroics allowing them to take 2-1 leads in the 8th, and plenty of anectodal stories just like that. But here they are, scoring the most runs in baseball since mid-July. And take a gander on the right side of the screen. That’s right, they’re now 6th in the NL in runs per game. Murderer’s Row it aint, but that’s till a pretty good place to be. And keep in mind that offensive explosion was at one of the best, if not the best, pitcher’s park in baseball.

The Cy Young Race

That they did it against Ryan Vogelsong was also significant. Going in to the game, he might not have been the leading Cy Young candidate, but he was certainly leading the NL in ERA. Now if you look at that list, you see Jordan Zimmermann right at the top. Now Vogelsong has one more win that JZimm, but the same number of Ks and a half a run more on the ERA. Is Jordan the leader for the award? Probably not – voters are still hung up on wins, and he doesn’t strike a ton of guys out. Dickey’s got the Ks, the ERA and the Ws, as does Cueto (who gets bonus points for pitching in a hitter’s park), but that is probably you’re top 3 right now. So Zimmermann certainly has a chance, and the Nats knocking the guy who’s season who most like his down on the ERA list helped his case quite a bit.

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Nats Get a SS, Bat Not Included

August 6, 2012

The Nats picked up a backup SS today, Cesar Izturis, off of waivers. At least the thought is that he’d be a backup, because he certainly doesn’t hit like a starter. Although he did start for the Orioles in 2010 and for the Brewers this year, he is your traditional, old timey all-glove no-bat shortstop. And when I say no bat, I mean no bat.

His career line of .255/.294/.323 tantalizes you with hints of his lack of power and ability to get on base, but if we dig deeper, we can see it’s even worse than it looks. In his three seasons as Baltimore’s SS, he managed to slug .292, with an OBP of .283, in what is considered one of the best hitter’s parks in the league. And if you go back to 2008, he’s batting a “how-is-he-still-in-the-majors?” .246/.290/.302, with 6 HRs and 77 BBs in 1,581 PAs. But there is a reason he’s still in the majors, and that’s his defense.

Looking at his WARP (Baseball Prospectus’ Wins Above Replacement) he’s sitting at 0.1 for his career. That is with a career VORP (we’re talking only hitting with this) of -27.0 factored in. I’m actually surprised he’s offense value is considered that high (or that low negative), but it still highlights how much his defense adds to his value. His only years of positive offense where he had more than 207 PAs were in 2008 with St Louis and 2004 with LA. That’s it. So looking at WARP, we can see that this guy’s value is exclusively tied to his glove – it’s just barely positive despite having very bad hitting.

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Your Backup Middle Infielders

July 31, 2012

With no move by the Nationals at the trade deadline to find some middle infield help, they are left with Danny Espinosa at SS and Steve Lombardozzi at 2B. They can back each other up if one gets hurt, with Mark DeRosa playing 2B in that case. But Ian Desmond’s oblique injury is expected to sideline him until the end of August, although it’s one of those things that wouldn’t surprise me if it lasted longer (not knowing much about it, of course). But DeRosa hasn’t played much 2B recently, and I’m not sure how comfortable the Nats would really be with him penciled in that spot for more than a day or two. So who in the minors might fill in if they need someone longer term?

In Syracuse

Jim Negrych (2B, 27 years old) is small and, according to Baseball Prospectus, unathletic. But he’s lead the AAA Chiefs in time served at 2B, and in that time he’s hit pretty well. In fact, he’s known as a hitter more than a fielder – that is to say, he’s not a great 2B, but his bat wouldn’t sustain him at an easier position. Still, his .271/.353/.413 at Syracuse seems good enough, although at 27 anything less than that would probably cause major red flags. He’s certainly an option, if they’re willing to sacrifice defense, and don’t need a SS.

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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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