The season is almost at an end. 3 weeks left, 19 games remaining. This team, supposed to be among the worst in history, needs only to go 6-13 to finish with the same record as last year. Chances are, they’ll do better. Where did this all come from? Certainly not the offense. As a team, they are sad, and we know that. But just how bad are they?
#29 in the league in HRs
#30 in Runs Scored
#27 in Hits
#23 in SB
#28 in OBP
#30 in SLG
So what do all of these disappointing stats tell us? Well, first of all, as anyone who watches the Nats, then watched any other team in the league knows, they can’t score. SO where are the big problems? Well right now, at 3B and 1B they are doing well. Zimm isn’t the top of the 3B class in the NL, he’s in the middle of the pack with things like OPS and RC. That isn’t great, but at 22 years old, improvement can be expected. Additionally, he was so awful at the beginning of the year, that he has been better than average over the last few months. At 1B, Young has been better than average for sure. He is at the top in AVG, and his OPS is #6 at the position. So at corner infield they are average to slightly above average in terms of offenseive production. At corner outfield, while Kearns and Church may seem to have not contributed, they have. Sort of. Out of OFers with 300 or more PAs, Church ranks #25 in the NL and Kearns ranks #36 in the NL for OPS. Throw the AL in there too and they are at #48 and #62. Neither is particularly great, but they are servicable. Let’s say average to just below average. Wily Mo, as the seeming Ryan Church replacement, has an OPS of .759 (and falling) in under 100 PAs in the NL. This puts him just above Kearns and is generous considering how poorly he hit in Boston. If the time in DC allowed him to be in the ranking, he’d rank #34 in the NL and #58 in the whole league. Also none to impressive.
The other positions, not so good. Despite what seem at first glance to be decent numbers, Belliard is ranked #11 out of 16 for OPS of NL second baseman, and it’s not like he has a great glove to make up for it. Guzman’s .850 OPS would have put him #4 among NL shortstops, instead Lopez ranks 15 out of the 17 in the NL with 300 or more PAs, and the 2 below him are Cesar Izturis and Omar Vizquel, who are both incredible fielders. Offense from Brian Schneider is as bad as Brad Ausmus, ranking just above him to come in at #14 in OPS in the NL. And finally, at CF, Nook Logan ranks #15 out of 17 who qualify. He does rank 6th among those guys in SBs, though.
So what’s happening? They have better than average corner infielders. And while both Zimmerman and Young are better than most every other hitter in the LEAGUE, they are only slightly better than other corner infielders (it’s hard on them, as we’re comparing them to Wright, Cabrera, Chipper, Pujols, Howard, Prince, etc, etc). At corner outfield, their starters are serviceable major leaguers, not that they shouldn’t be playing, their stats landing them somewhere between a low end starter or a 4th OFer. The rest of the starters are below average at offense and despite the presence of Logan, Zimmerman and Schnieder, this team isn’t exactly built around defense. What’s happened is that their good hitters are slightly above average for the position, and there’s really only two of them. The rest of the team are average at best, but mostly are just bad hitters that are below average. Hence the crappy cumulative numbers at the top of the post.
There are a couple of rays of hope in this offense as it currently stands. First is Christian Guzman. As scary as that is to say, he is a plus defender who ranked as one of the top SS in the league, in the tier below Hanley and Reyes. If he could do that next year (and all past stats suggest he can’t, but whatever) that would be a bug plus. Secondly, Jesus Flores, at only 22 years old, has an OPS of .702 which would rank him top 10 among NL catchers. Good signs from a young player in his first major league season. The third bit of hope is the new ballpark, one where hitters can see the fences without a telescope. While it spells trouble for home run prone Matt Chico (we’ll touch on this another time, I’m depressed enough here talking about the hitters), guys like Church and Kearns bothl are significantly better players away then at home. Church’s OPS split home/away is .747/.811 and Kearns is .691/.812. NONE of the rest of the starters have drastic splits like these, you can only hope it is both the physical and mental aspects of playing in RFK canyon, problems that should disappear next season.