Nationals Baseball: Substitute Features

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Substitute Features

Here's something that might surprise you.  The Nats offensive starters have this line :

.253 / .311 / .408

That batting average is league average. That OBP is a little below league average.  That SLG is a little bit above league average.

But the Nats haven't produced like an average offense. They've been better than that.  They've been good.  How is that?

It's because, for one reason or another, the Nats hitters are great when they don't start the game.

One thing we can look at is pinch hitting.  The Nats have a line of .315 / .409 / .473 when pinch hitting this year.  That's good enough to be head and shoulders above the rest of the National League.

But it goes beyond that because being a substitute isn't just being a pinch hitter.  All those at bats after that count too. And nearly every National that could come off the bench in this role has hit better as a substitute than when they start.

Starting : .283 / .360 / .388
Subbing : .395 / .490 / .488

Starting : .219 / .265 / .438
Subbing : .323 / .405 / .548

Starting : .274 / .317 / .355
Subbing : .357 / .438 / .429

Starting : .277 / .342 / .505
Subbing : .310 / .375 / .517

Starting :  .085 / .214 / .085
Subbing : .316 / .458 / .526

Starting :  .226 / .275 / .376
Subbing :  .240 / .321 / .600

Starting : .131 / .180 / .190
Subbing : .278 / .350 / .667

Their sub line is .319 /.415 / .486. The next best in the NL is the Mets with a .262 / .344 / .440 line. Is it Davey making the right moves? Is it Rizzo putting together a decent bench? Is it just dumb luck?

I don't want to dismiss the other two but it's a lot of #3. Generally, your at bats as a sub are going to be limited so you are going to see a lot of variation compared to your stats as a starter (pure pinch hitters like Chad Tracy excluded). Some people should find themselves doing worse, some should find themselves doing better.  And it can be radically so, averages closing in on .500 or well below .100.  What we see here with the Nats, with everyone improving when they aren't starting, is really very fluky.

As for the first two parts, I'm not sure. The Davey role is something that would need more investigation.  He can't place the guys in situations so that they'd perform this well (remember too that this includes post PH at bats that Davey has less control over). However, he could have a history of having most of his guys do slightly better at PH than expected.  I'm not going to discount that out of hand.  The Rizzo role, well... I have a hard time saying that DeRosa and Nady constituted a good bench. You see what they've done when they've started. Their sub success is the most flukiest. You may not have expected the other guys to do this well but there are decent players among the rest. Bernie can spot start. Lombo can get a single. Moore has legit major league power. You kept Ankiel in part because he might blast one. Tracy was brought in to pinch hit and he has. Maybe Rizzo didn't personally set out to get all these guys on the Nats (Bernie has been the 4th OF for what? 18 years now? Moore forced the issue through his play and injuries forced the move) but in the end he's responsible for who's out there, so he gets the credit if they do well.

Can the Nats keep this up? Sure, why not. It's just a few at bats. A better showing from the guys that start the game would be nice though. 


blovy8 said...

Who kept Tracy on to pinch hit? Who got Bernadina to hit .300? Who turned a guy pretty much everyone thought was an empty .260 hitter to be a productive utility guy hitting much higher? Who turned a guy who can't even play first very well into a viable bench bat who can play left?

blovy8 said...

When enough things improve more than you expect, who do you give credit to?

blovy8 said...

I think what we understand it that Davey can manage talent, and if he doesn't have enough, he asks for more.

Harper said...

blovy8 - Who knows? Look at your questions. Rizzo gets Tracy. Bernie and Lombo could be the hitting coach. Then again Bernie is a lot of luck (BABIP at .390), and lombo feels like he's doing well but in reality he's all singles so does that deserve credit? Moore would have to be someone in the minors.

The organization looks strong in this, that's all I can say for sure and even then I would take a wait till next year approach, even with the multiple player improvement.

DezoPenguin said...

How about the hitting of the pitchers when compared to the rest of the NL? Most nights, the Nats basically run Nick Punto out there instead of an automatic out machine, and that's got to count for something, but are we legitimately ahead of most of the league?

Donald said...

I don't think there's just one factor, but Davey does deserve some credit. He changed Desmond and Espinosa's approach around at the plate, so he probably had a hand in Bernadina at least. I think Rizzo gets most of the credit for Tracy, but I think Davey has set the atmosphere correctly to get people to play up to their top potential.

Also, my guess is that most of the substitute at bats are the first pinch hit one, and for that, Davey gets a lot of credit for putting the right person in the right situation.

Any predictions for the next two games besides a Strasburg win tonight? How about scores, or Detwiler's start?

blovy8 said...

Bernadina's hitting more line drives and has more infield hits. I would guess his babip should be about .350, so .390 isn't as crazy. His homers per flyball are a bit down, I'd say he's a .280 hitter if he keeps most of the improved approach.

Anonymous said...

Harper, please tell me Davey is at least considering starting RB over Bryce. Please!!!! Bryce is plain awful right now.

Anonymous said...

You're right that dumb luck is the answer. And so I don't think there's any reason to worry about this split. The Nats are (all told) a slightly above average offense and this starter/sub phenomenon is just small sample size noise. To appreciate this, consider the aggregate triple slash line difference between the starters and the whole team (starters + subs):

Starters: 254/311/408.
Starters + Subs: 257/317/413.

Other ways of sorting ABs will make it seem like the Nats are especially good in certain circumstances. For example:

On Mondays the Nats hit 304/368/451.
On turf they hit 306/339/583 (in 108 ABs).

These splits should not make us worry about what will happen if the Nats stop hitting so well on Mondays or on turf.


P.S. I don't mean this to be argumentative. You don't say we should worry about what will happen when the subs come back to earth. I just want to explicitly close off this implication.