Nationals Baseball: The offense - Part 2

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The offense - Part 2

I hate duplicating work. It's such a time waster. Turns out James O'Hara at Citizens of Natstown did an Ian analysis not to long ago (I bet other places have too, but this is what was noted to me).  So go read that

Ok for those of you too lazy to read that the gist is - as of early June Ian is swinging wildly, but is walking more and is still hitting for power. All in all he's not the elite player from the last couple of years but he's still good. Let's see how things have progressed since the article.

Ian walks more! 

BB% :  7.9% in early June -> 6.5%
Outside Zone Swing % : 33.3% -> 33.9%

Turns out that since that analysis Ian has walked one, count 'em one, time in the past 18 games. The walk rate is now more in line with this career numbers - which is a big "eh". The swing rate isn't as bad but it's trending away from the "he can really ID those pitches" area. I'm thinking that it was a nice two months of an Ian willing to take a walk, but that's it. He's back to his old self.

Ian's got pop! 

ISO : .188 -> .189

Was there a question in your mind? Shouldn't have been if there was. Ian still has good power, especially for a shortstop.

Ian is missing those pitches he does swing at!

K% : 27.4% -> 28.7%
Contact% : 71.3% -> 70.0%
Swinging Strike% : 14.1% -> 14.8%

Everything here has gone from worse to worser. He is having trouble making contact which is giving him all sorts of problems

Ian is getting a little unlucky, but also he's not hitting the ball well!

BABIP : .268 -> .298
GB/FB : 1.23 -> 1.30
LD% : 11.1% -> 13.7%
IFFB% : 16.4% -> 13.0%

Everything else here is getting better. If you look at the last set of games he's hitting a bunch more line drives and ground balls which helps with all these numbers except the last one. What helps with that is the fact he hasn't popped up in the last 18 games.

OK! So that's a lot of fancy stats! What's the take away? Well, it looks like Ian has reverted to his old ways in the fact that he is no longer even faking trying to walk off the island. Not only have his walk numbers died a quick and painful death, he's taken those crazy swing and strikeout numbers and made them even worse. BUT this wild swinging is helping Ian hit more like he used to.  He's hitting .280 and slugging .467 in the past 18 games. That's right in line with 2013.

Unfortunately that's not great news. Before, Ian could hit like he wanted to striking out a little over 20% of the time and walking rarely. Now it's drifting into a scenario where he has to strikeout almost 30% of the time and walk once a month. His OBP during the past 18 games is .286. Remember to think of OBP as "not getting out" and that getting out is literally the worst thing you can do as a batter. Ian is getting out a lot more.

Is this Ian more useful than the Ian that walked a little bit more but couldn't hit? Of course. Is this Ian more useful than 2013 Ian? Nope.

Of course it's just 18 games, perhaps once comfortable he'll start walking again. Even at a level he had the past couple years that would be something. But I'm not betting on it. That K% continuing to rise shows me a guy wanting to hit his way out of a mediocre couple months and the average and slugging numbers tells me he can do it. I'd be surprised if his K-rate drops under 25% and I'll bet his BB-rate drops under 6% before the All-Star break. Think Alfonso Soriano-lite at the plate. A few more singles, a few fewer home runs. 

OK so Ian is getting out a bunch more and Werth maybe can't hit for power anymore. Can Ramos and Bryce ride to the rescue?

Probably, but with a but.

The "but" is the fact we have no idea how long it will take them to get back into the swing of things at the major league level. LaRoche picked up where he left off. Zimm is still struggling. A few off weeks is probably the best expectation with a month or so off not being out of the question. If it takes a while this does nothing for the offense. You have to play them to get them right.

The "probably" is the fact that they weren't doing all that well before going out. Bryce was pulling a Desmond - walking at a lower rate than he ever had and striking out more. More concerning, he was hitting with far less power than he had the past two years. His ISO dropped from .286 to .133, from slugger to singles hitter. To start Bryce was walking a lot and not striking out too much, and he's just a better hitter, so even all this didn't make him a bad hitter, but it was making him a mere above average guy when the Nats are looking for a star.  Ramos is even more worrying - older, playing a tougher position, more injury prone, not as good a hitter. His ISO dropping to .109 is even more important to him because he wont' put up the average or walk as much as Bryce probably will.

Still I like Bryce to get his act together at some point this year and Ramos isn't going to be worse than your average back-up catcher. By August at the latest we'd expect them to help the offense. Is that soon enough to avoid a major playoff missing let down? This year, in this division, probably so. Will they add enough to make the Nats a playoff favorite like we would have thought a healthy Nats team would be? We'll have to see.

Stats in order of use 
BB% : walks per PA, Outside Swing % : how often you swing at pitches that are outside the strike zone, ISO : same as isoSLG, SLG taking away your singles to see "true power", K% : strikeouts per PA, Contact% : how often you make contact when you swing, Swinging Strike % : How often a pitch to you is a swing and miss, BABIP : you know this, GB/FB : groundball to flyball ratio, LD% : percent of your balls in play that are line drives. IFFB% : how many of your FBs are pop-ups.


blovy8 said...

I don't usually like the linenup protection theory, but I have to believe he may as well be the 8th guy in the lineup since Espinosa and Lobaton are doing nothing to scare pitchers. Why would you throw this guy a strike when he's going to swing and they're not going to hit? He's looked really bad against breaking stuff away, so he's easy to set up. I still believe with his power to the middle of the field, he conceivably could adjust some. too. If the lineup changes everyone wants were to happen, Span could actually be decent protection for the guy and maybe he can lay off the curveball six inches off the plate.

Donald said...

While I understand the caution in counting on too much of an impact from their return, Ramos and Harper are middle of the order bats on a 1st place team. If you took any 2 guys like that away from other teams, you'd expect the team to suffer in a big way, and adding them back to be huge.

For example, what would you expect if we were talking about 2 out of Stanton, McGehee, Jones, Ozuna from the Marlins or 2 out of Freeman, Gattis, Heyward, J.Upton from the Braves?

Chaz R said...

I have no fancy stats to back it up, but I just *feel* like Bryce and the Buffalo are going to come back and start producing almost right away. Alright, maybe it's more of a *hope* :-)

Clip&Store said...

I think Harper was a product of small sample size, at least partially

Kenny B. said...

So, does it count as 4 runs in a single game if the game was 16 innings long?

Froggy said...

Some things that my seat mates and I have been musing besides the Adam Dunn-esque way Ian has been striking out it seems, are some hypotheticals...

Do you want Zimmerman or Morse in LF? I mean, I love the Zimmster, but Hey-zues christos, our guy has no arm for the outfield at all.

and, do we miss Suzuki right about now or what.

BooyahSuckah! said...

Well now it's just getting silly. Two weeks ago when the Nats took 3 of 4 from San Fran in their park, ESPN posted this piece of garbage (which I linked in the comments):

Now, two days after the Nats beat the Brewers 2 of 3 in their park, ESPN posts this:

It's like the easiest way for a team to get some national press is to get the best record in baseball, invite the Nats over, and get spanked. Instant headlines! Meanwhile, all they wants to discuss about the Nats is how terrible Strasburg is and how he'll never amount to anything because of the Coddling Shutdown of 2K12.

John C. said...

I'd rather have Zimmerman than Morse in LF, and it's not close. Morse is a freaking statue in the OF, and if he's moving, chances are he started by moving in the wrong direction. I've been impressed by Zim's reads and reaction times in the OF - he's already better than Morse, and he's only played a handful of games and is still showing improvement. First mission of the OF is to catch the ball.

On throwing Zim is at least quick and accurate with the throws, even though they are weak. And it's not like Morse has a gun out there.

JWLumley said...

@Froggy I love Morse, but I'd take Zim, not even close. Morse was/is a statue in LF and can't stay healthy.

That being said, holy crap do they miss Suzuki.

Froggy said...

As much as I like Morse (and disagree with the statue label), I know it is heresy to say anything bad about Zim. He definitely is a smarter player, is learning to read the sound of the bat and take better lines to the ball, he simply has a weak arm for an OF. Could be because he has a bigger shoulder injury than believed, or due to not ever developing an OF arm. Regardless, teams are starting to run on him. All more reasons why his final destination is at 1B.

Not that I'm suggesting this, but I would not be surprised if Rizzo deals LaRoche since he is in the last year of a two year deal.

John C. said...

Adam LaRoche has been the best hitter on the team this season pretty much from the get-go. .897 OPS, 149 OPS+, next best is Rendon at .806/121.

Let's see; the team is having trouble scoring runs - I know! Let's trade the best hitter on the team!

Yeah, no, not going to happen. Not unless the Nats throw in the towel on the season.

Kenny B. said...

Keep Zim in LF for now. You don't want to do anything to LaRoche for fear of jumpstarting a cold spell. Unless LaRoche needs rest, then Zim at 1B is fine.

I love LaRoche, but it's getting to the point where dealing him might not be a bad move to some contending team in need of a 1B that has any useful pieces for the Nats. He's going to go cold soon, and you'd be dealing him at peak value. Zim replaces him leaving space for Harper in LF.

Maybe you can deal LaRoche for a decent hitting/fielding 2B somewhere? Maybe a solid catcher with starting potential along with some future pieces?

It would be a gutsy move and I probably wouldn't do it. I'd be shocked if Rizzo does it. But I can see a pretty solid argument to sell on LaRoche while his value is peaked, especially when the Nats' biggest holes are middle IF, C, and bench bats.

Bjd1207 said...

@Froggy & Kenny B -

Sorry but you don't trade away the best hitter (currently) on a team that's headed to the post season (currently)

We would have Rizzo's head on a stick if he traded him away and our bats went cold and kept us out of the playoffs. Or lost the series 5-2, 3-1, 4-1 or something similar.

If you're going to the post season, you only add pieces. Don't take them away

Kenny B. said...

"We would have Rizzo's head on a stick if he traded him away and our bats went cold and kept us out of the playoffs."

I agree, but LaRoche is not this good. Hopefully he keeps it up all/most of the season and you can sell high at the end of the season. Just positing in the meantime, in the absence of much else to talk about, that it would be a gutsy gambler's move, not necessarily a bad one. I'm not advocating it, just blathering aloud into the Internet because work is slow.

Froggy said...

@Bjd1207,Kenny B., et al,
I'm NOT advocating trading ALR, just saying that with Harper coming back this week you start musing on how to make all the pieces fit, and Zim is a long-term fixture for the future of the Nats and Harper would likely move back to LF. Or, I guess you could platoon Harper and give Span, Werth, Zim and LaRoche rotating days off with Harper filling in.

All that said, LaRoche walks at the end of the season and then you get zip for him as compensation, no?

Why not deal him to a playoff contender to get that true lead-off guy or back up catcher we need?

Bjd1207 said...

@Froggy & KennyB

Sorry if any of that came off harsher than I intended. Don't ever mean to squelch speculation during (our) slow work days

To Kenny:

"why not deal him to a playoff contender"

We ARE the playoff contender, that's my point. We're buyers right now, not sellers.

"true leadoff or backup catcher"

Again I'd want his head on a stick if we just got a backup catcher out of the trade, or even that and some prospects. Think any playoff contenders are willing to part with their leadoff hitter midseason? That'd be crazier than trading ALR

Ryan said...

The only player it would make sense to trade Adam LaRoche for would just be a younger version of Adam LaRoche who can play reasonable well in the outfield. So maybe Seth Smith? Actually, the ideal target would probably be Michael Morse, but that is obviously not going to happen. Basically, we all know Adam LaRoche isn't this good, but even if he only plays 75% as well for the second half of the season, he would still be valuable: he is currently sporting the second-highest wRC+ by a first basemen, ahead of guys like Abreu, Goldschmidt, Freeman, and somebody named Miguel Cabrera. As long as he does not get injured *knocks on wood*, his performance would have to drop off almost impossibly far to not still be an extremely valuable part of the lineup. (I picked the 75% number at random, but a wRC+ of 118 would be better than every Nat except Rendon.)

Anonymous said...

What the hell is up with Boz? I can't read him anymore.