Nationals Baseball: Tiny Little Hurdles

Friday, April 01, 2011

Tiny Little Hurdles

Good Ol' Needham notes that "Hey, the offense will probably suck this year because nobody gets on base". He's right but that doesn't mean the offense can't be better. Last year the Nats offense scored 655 runs, good for 14th in the NL. However, it really wasn't significantly worse that the 11th place team (Dodgers - 667) and it was significantly better than the 15th place team (Houston - 611). Meaning what? Let's not make it out to be more than it is. The Nats weren't the worstesest but they were stuck in a glob of teams with well below average offenses.

How can the Nats get unstuck from this morass of mediocre mashers? Let's look at the OBP and SLG lines for each position from last year and think if the Nats can beat that line this year. (Yes, I should be looking at isoOBP and isoSLG but that's a lot more work for not much gain)

C: .285 / .352 - Depends on how much Ramos plays. Pudge is no better than this, probably worse. Ramos will beat that slugging given enough opportunity. The OBP maybe, but probably not by much. He was the kind of guy that would bat .310 and have an OBP of .340 in the minors. He's not batting .310 this year.

1B: .358 / .533 - I'm going to compare Dunn to Werth rather than LaRoche, because that's how I see it. Werth=Dunn, LaRoche=Willingham. Werth will have a hard time matching the slugging of Dunn, even with generally a higher average year in and year out, Jayson only hit Dunnian levels of slugging last season. He should get on base more than Dunn though, thanks to Dunn's low batting average.

2B: .312 / .350 - Espinosa is most likely a minor popper with patience who can't hit for average. He should best the SLG, but the OBP is roughly where he'll fall. It'll be with a decent amount of walks though since he'll hit like .240.

SS: .317 / . 394 - Can Desmond beat Desmond? I don't know. Everyone else who played SS last year actually raised the OBP and SLG of the position, so I'll bet on "No", but it'll be basically the same.

3B: .370 / .473 - Can Ryan beat Ryan? Last year was his best average and OBP year so far, but he's slugged better. I think he can beat that SLG number and raise the position with him. (the non-Ryans must have been terrible to bring down the numbers this far in like 15% of the at bats)

RF: .327 / .439 - I'll put Morse in here, since LaRoche is going to go up against LF. The odds are yes, he can beat both these numbers, though it probably won't be by as much as people were hoping.

CF: .310 / .303 - Ankiel and Hairston are so terrible at getting on base that they should actually get on base less than the Nyjer Morgan led CFers did last year and at times it seemed like those guys were trying NOT to get on base. Ankiel's bat should easily best the SLG, though Hairston's bat won't help much with that either.*

LF: .352 / .436 - The OBP is a little high for Adam, the slugging is a little low. He's not necessarily better than Willingham. In fact I'll just come out and say it - he's not better than Willingham, BUT he is better than 110 games of Willingham and 50 games of filler. That's the risk you take with Josh.

The end result? Just as Chris said - nobody is getting on base for the Nationals this year. They'll probably see minor gains at catcher, WerthvDunn, and "Morse-field" but that'll be offset by minor losses in the LaRoche v Willingham, et. al. battle and in center. The rest will float around the same numbers. They will see improvement though and it will be in slugging. They should see gains at catcher, second, Laroche over Willingham+, and a big gain in center. I also wouldn't be surprised if Ryan upped his slugging a bit this year. This will more than offset the loss in slugging the Nats will see moving from Dunn to Werth.

It's a better offense this year. Not much better (OBP is more impt than SLG) but maybe enough to move them to the top of the morass of mediocre mashing. That's a start, I guess.

*Can I rant again how ridiculous it is that Hairston is platooning for a major league team in center field in the year 2011? This is a guy who hasn't been a starter since 2005. Who's been good one year since 2006. Who's only played more than 22 games in center ONE SEASON in his career. And yet here he is for the 2011 Nats, primed to play about a quarter of the games in most important outfiled position. I thought the Nats topped themselves last year when they brought in Willy Taveras and didn't cut him immediately, but a platoon with Hairston? How do they beat this next year?


Donald said...

You can rant about centerfield, but just for this year. Change is coming. I'll bet big dollars that we don't go into next year with Ankiel and Hairston. In fact, I'd bet better than even money we don't end the season with them. Not sure, but here are my guesses for that position in order of likelihood:
1) Morse doesn't impress in left. Werth takes left, Harper (no the other Harper) takes right, and we trade for a CF unless Brown or Perez is killing it in the minors.
2) Morse has a solid season and we end up with Harper/Werth in CF/RF -- not sure who's where. Espinosa bats leadoff.
3) For lack of a real leadoff hitter, Rizzo makes getting a speedy, toolsy CF one of his top priorities and makes a big trade.

Hoo said...

The yawning pit in CF is a bitter source of amusement for anyone who has followed this team (not sure anything can top Nook on opening day 2007) and these opening day sentences from the Post of same year "And so, barring an unexpected setback in the next 72 hours, Logan will be the Nationals' Opening Day center fielder and No. 8 hitter on Monday afternoon at RFK Stadium against the Florida Marlins, with rookie Kory Casto sent down to Class AAA Columbus to play every day and remain on call as the first outfielder summoned in the event of an injury in Washington.". Logan beats out Casto for CF! We've come a long way to Ankiel or at least a short bus ride.

On a more serious note, this makes Rizzo 2/2 when coming out of spring training fans are making like Bill Murray in Ghostbusters "That was your plan?"

Cutting Dukes and trading Morgan weren't spur of the moment decisions. Instead, the off-season weight was towards letting them go unless they dazzled. When they didn't dazzle, the Nats got rid of them with no fallback plan other than hoping Roger Bernadina gets really good quick.

Hoo said...

Not a commentary on Logan in '07's ability but the fact he injured himself in the first few innings of opening day as his foot got stuck in a wall. What a wonderful season to forget.

Harper said...

Donald - I think you'd be better off hoping for a minor leaguer to take the spot than getting one in a trade. Who exactly is out there? LaRussa doesn't like Rasmus supposedly but he's years from free agency and would cost the Nats dearly if the Cards GM is any good. I guess you could go after Chris Young or Guitierrez if they have disappointing seasons, but do you want to be oweing 3 years of biggish money to guys coming off 2 bad years?

(Bryce in center... I don't see it. Werth could work in a pinch but like I said earlier - if he was playing center now you'd probably be eyeing his replacement)

Hoo - I think Rizzo is fooloishly trying to build a "character first" team but not letting a truly talented guy that might not fit that bill slip away. If he doesn't like Dukes, Morgan, Gonzalez, etc. that's fine. But except you're dealing from a point of weakness, get them out and move on. Don't try to wait to see if they come around, or if you can get something better. He isn't fooling anyone and only ending up with these terrible plan Qs.

Donald said...

Where do Werth and Harper end up? Do you think one of them moves to left? That's possible, though a waste of a good arm, but only if Morse is just okay. If he has a break-out season, where does that leave things? I think this may be part of what Rizzo is dealing with, though I'd hope he'd have been thinking about this before spending that much on Werth. Maybe you should run a pool on next year's starting lineup.

In terms of a trade, I don't really know who that would be, but it probably would be an elite prospect rather than an established CF given the cost and options available.

Wally said...

Amen on the Hairston rant. I never did get it. It also makes for sort of a bizarre offseason plan ' sign Werth for a bazillion dollars, and go with Rick Ankiel and Hairston in CF'. My gut says Bernie comes up by May, and Stairs gets waived. And then Brown sometime in August. I just see a revolving door all year. I can't imagine Hairston gets more than 25 starts in CF. Right? Right?

I also thought the plan at 2B was risky. I have no problem giving Espy a try, and i am definitely pulling for him, but i thought that we should have a better fallback plan. he was never a slam dunk prospect, and then he had the hamate problem. Oh right, there is Happy Hairston.

Anonymous said...

I guess no one wants to know that Lastings went 1 for 1 with a double and a run scored(and I almost fell out of my chair when he hustled to 2nd).

Nattydread said...

Suddenly FJB is back with 2-3 quick posts, all stat-based doom and gloom.

Capitol Punishment: expect the worst...

Too early to judge. The team is much better than last year's. In my view quite clearly.

It's also a bit raw -- especially putting guys like Broderick on the mound against the Braves line-up. It definitely ain't spring training any more.

Ankiel showed why he's an improvement over Morgan. Espinosa is going to make mistakes. Lead-off: big problem right now...