Nationals Baseball: Don't end, May!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Don't end, May!

On May 9th (Hey!) Bryce completed his 6 homers in 3 games streak. He bumped his season total from 5 to 11 and was technically on a pace then for 57-58 homers. Ha ha. 58 homers! What is this, the roid era? He'll hit a bunch, sure, but it'll slow down.

In his next 16 games he has hit 7 more home runs, increasing his pace to 62 homers for the season.

OK Hmmm. Hmmm. I was totally wrong on this. We could very well be witnessing some history in the making here.

Let's have some fun with pacing.
  • If he hits HRs like he has the season so far (18HR/47g pace) he'll hit 62.
  • If he hits HRs like he has since that little barrage ended (7HR/16g) he'll hit 68
  • If he hits HRs like he has since that little barrage started (13HR/19g, hey - I said we're having fun) - he'll hit 97
Dammit not 100. He'll have to pick up the pace to do that.

Remember the Bryce/Trout post from a couple weeks ago? Two of those goals I put out there were monthly goals. Ten homers? Bryce has busted way past that with 13. .500 OBP? Bryce is on that now, with the opportunity to pass with three hot games.

How good exactly has his month been?  I checked to see how many times in baseball history someone posted a OPS of 1.400 or higher in a month (while playing at least 22 games - I don't know why 22, seemed right, this is all arbitrary anyway).  How many times? 53. You might think that's alot. Then you realize each player has 6 months that they can play around 22 games. The Nats in 2015 alone would account for say 40 chances at least. Then expand it to all 30 teams. Then expand it to 100 something years. That's a lot of potential months that haven't been this good.

To be even fairer to Bryce we can sort by sOPS which is basically saying "ok but how's he doing relative to everyone else". Offenses change and a Sosa month in 2001 isn't the same as Bryce's month now.  Bryce's month sits at 22nd best.  Who's ahead? Bonds' run. Babe Ruth, Ted Williams. Arguably Hank Greenberg's best month, Frank Thomas' best month, Rogers Hornsby's best month. A couple flukes of playing time (like Josh Phelps in 2007 playing in 24 games and hitting .516 / .579 / 1.065 but in only 38 PAs) The "worst" players ahead of Bryce (right now) are Tony Perez and Harry Heilmann, both Hall of Famers.  There are others just below Bryce that aren't Hall guys but are very good and dammit you get the point*

Bryce has 18 HRs, 41 runs, 43 RBI, and 42 BBs right now. I don't have to tell you where those rank in the majors (first or tied for). He'd rank 4th, t6th, 6th, and 6th on last years team. That was a decent offense for a team that won 96 games. Right now if he stopped he'd already lead the 2008 team in home runs. By four.

If he played the rest of this season like last year - which he hit .273 and had his worst power numbers of his career he would end the season hitting .290 with 33 homers.

This is a fun. Bryce is fun.


*There are a few "that guy?" names on the list but generally they have half a month of PAs or less. Basically it's a hot two weeks and if I looked at it that way I bet we'd find a ton of guys with two weeks just as good. There is only one guy on the list with a full month of at bats you'd blink an eye at. Richard Hidalgo had a MONSTER end to the 2000 season.

30 comments:

cass said...

So it would be fair to say that if Bryce Harper does not make the Hall, this May will go down as the greatest offensive month by a non-Hall-of-Famer in the history of baseball?

Can we just hand Boras a blank check and sign Bryce for the rest of his career?

Harper said...

Depends on how the next three games go. Months are short so that's about 10% of his at bats for the month. A bad run could easily drop him down past Hidalgo

WiredHK said...

I find his plate discipline to be the single biggest factor behind his rise this year. The numbers show this, but just watching him work at the plate and no longer dive outside for the slop from lefties or "swing so hard his hat falls off" at pitches kinda near the zone is, for me, what has elevated his game. He is comfy taking a walk and waiting for a pitch he can do something with. If guys don't give it to him, he trots to 1B. It really is the recipe Bonds used (albeit mixed with some substances that help your mis-hits fly farther) to become unmatched. Huge props to him for maturing like this, it's seriously can't miss TV when he is up.

Eric said...

Agreed, Wired. Lester threw two NASTY change ups in a row to Harper last night that really highlighted the point, imo. The first probably started at his knees and dropped pretty low. Harper flinched a bit, but didn't really wasn't fooled at all. The second one started maybe at middle thigh level, but ended just below the knees (maybe even AT the knees, and Harp got lucky). Again, he wasn't really fooled.

In my mind he swung hard right over the top of both pitches.

Impressive stuff.

JE34 said...

Amen. My boys and I are watching a wife-annoying amount of baseball because it's so compelling. Bryce's batting eye is so good that he's right when he argues bad calls. And he can hit the other way so opponents can't overshift him too much.

One similar stretch like this that I can remember (aside from Bonds/McGwire/Sosa) was 1985 Pedro Guerrero, when he hit 15 homers in June of that year for the Dodgers. He didn't K much, but he didn't walk much either. He was just seeing everything huge and smashing the ball all over the place.

Shane said...

Harper:
From ESPN – "After starting 7-13, the Nationals have gone 21-6. That stretch started with what Nationals fans will refer to as "The Uggla Game," the dramatic 13-12 win over the Braves. In this 27-game stretch, the Nationals lead the majors in runs per game and are eighth in runs allowed per game. It's also right about the time Harper heated up."

From You - "Wins like last night are tough on us soulless automatons because I know what's coming the minute the last out is made. Stories and tweets and comments about how this is a season-changing event, about how the Nats are going to turn around the year because of the magic of a game like last night. In other words classic narratives that are at best unprovable and at worst complete malarkey."

What do you think now? Maybe legit? Maybe . . .

Harper said...

JE34 : Looked it up - for 54 games in 1985 (June 1st - August 12th - about double Bryce's May) Guerrero hit .388 / .487 / .846 with 24 homers, 52 RBI and 60 runs. Now that's an extended hot streak.

E/WHK - I agree which is why I think Kilgore's opinion that Bryce would have been this good two years ago if he didn't run into the wall is wrong. He needed time to id the pitches he would see. Just by having playing time he could have busted out sooner and sure the injuries didn't help in general but I still see him having good but not WOW season at least through mid 2014.

Harper said...

Shane - maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe but in a way that can never be proven and I will never believe. I did a little exercize in the comments in one post where I found hot Nats' streaks before and looked at the games right before them. And I found "season changing" games and looked at streaks after them. There is no correlation. You're going to win great games and lose tough ones. You are going to have extended hot streaks and extended bad ones. Occasionally they'll line up and that's what we remember. Not the other 9 out of 10 times where they don't.

cass said...

I don't think there's any doubt that the increased plate discipline has changed everything, though a large factor in his improved discipline is his new and simplified stance with very little head movement and violence. Smooth and powerful.

I am watching far more baseball than in a normal year just to see what Bryce will do each night. Probably the greatest hitter to play for a Washington team since Josh Gibson. Sorry Hondo.

Just looked it up and Hondo's best season involved 48 home runs and an OPS of 178. That seems doable.

Negro Leagues stats are maddening, but Gibson's career OPS is listed at 1.026. His best season is listed at 1.365, but that's only for 95 PA's. His true peak is somewhere between those two numbers, likely enough. Translating that to today's numbers is impossible. In that 1939 season, Gibson had 10 home runs and 20 walks in 95 PA's. That's pretty much exactly Bryce's pace so far this year - double all of those numbers and you have Harper's stats with a similar OPS.

Nattydread said...

Max Scherzer and Bryce Harper lights out simultaneously! What an awesome ride. Boswell fantasy stuff. Amazing how fast Harper shed "the Most Over-Rated Player in Baseball" status.

Eric said...

On a "side" note, how about Scherzer last night? I can't get enough of watching this guy hurtle baseballs down tortuous paths right past some of the best hitters in the MLB. Did any of you catch the post-game mash up of swinging third strikes last night? Just stunning.

mwyche said...

Harper, long time reader. Wondering what are your favorite site's to run queries like you just ran to see how many times in history a certain event occurred(i.e. the Harper query you mention in this post)?

Anonymous said...

Bryce is a cyborg. He only walks 20% of the time to give the pitchers a sporting chance.

Eric said...

Oh yeah, one other thing about Scherzer. During one at bat, I believe against Rizzo, he threw a change up and then immediately followed up with what I believe was a 2 seamer. Incredibly, both pitches looked *** exactly *** the same. Started and ended in the same place, seemed to break at the exact same point in the path to the mitt, etc. The only difference was not readily observable with the naked eye: the 2 seamer was 11 mph faster than the change up. Blew me away (Rizzo, too!)

a m s said...

Harper - In watching Strasburg over the years I've seen a lot of examples where his pitch location and selection while ahead in counts is questionable at best. Do you see anything in stats that confirms or disproves this take?

Miles Treacy said...

suggestion for future post. Trade ZNN or no?

espn just ran an article where ZNN is quoted as loving the midwest and everything we've heard before so like we've been saying it's inevitable that he's most likely leaving. if by allstar break the east is pretty much in hand, do you trade? if season ended today you obviously can't really trust gio or stras to be that lockdown guy in the postseason. fister hopefully comes back healthy and max seems to be max.

Anonymous said...

Hard to see a situation where trading ZNN makes sense now. If he pitches well, the Nats need him... if he pitches poorly he has no value to teams that are in the market for a rental.

If the super-destructo-maximo-rotation was doing its scorched earth routine the situation would be different, but the offens... I mean the cyborg, has really been carrying the team.

On a related note:

Keep Calm And Hand Stras The Ball

Harper said...

cass - let's just agree to have Bryce have a 1.400 OPS for the season and let it not be a question.

ND - don't worry, Haters already have the "it was just a hot month" takes all lined up if June is cool for Bryce.

Eric - he's really really good. My issue with Sherzer is I think he'll breakdown (or at least be less likely than ZNN to not provide a full good season) in a couple years. But hey Win a World Series and who cares.

mwyche - almost everything comes from baseball-reference. A couple things I think are easier on fangraphs and I think even something is better on mlb.com but I don't remember what these things are until I dig in. I suppose what I should really do is just download the data and program what I want but I know I'll make mistakes.

a m s - there was something like that last year? The year before? That played out in the first half of the year. I don't think it continued... Of course I think another issue was A pitch in location A is really only bad if you didn't want it there. Target data last I checked is unavailable so really I don't know what we can prove without that.

Miles - ONLY way you do that is if everyone else pitches great from here till trade deadline. Max has taken the ace role and run with it but ZNN is clearly your second best guy. You need two guys.

Kenny B. said...

Coincidence: Nats heat up following a miraculous Uggla-powered win over Atlanta
Not Coincidence: "BRYCE" is an anagram of "CYBER"

Wake up, sheeple!

John C. said...

There is no. foofnarfeling. way. that the Nationals trade Zimmermann or Strasburg this season. Or even Desmond. No one is going to make an offer for a rental player that is going to be worth as much to the Nationals as having the player in a season where the goal is to win the WS. Just not going to happen.

Eric said...

Werth's wrist is broken after all:
http://natsinsider.com/2015/05/28/source-werth-has-2-fractures-in-hand-out-til-august/

Anonymous said...

I fear broken wrist means good werth is out for the year...

Eric said...

He was pretty great the last time he came back from a break to the same wrist that was much, much worse. Granted, he had almost no power, but if he hits .303 or whatever he managed in 2012, that'd be fine by me!

Bjd1207 said...

Shocker, you mean the Nats training staff and Matt Williams underreported an injury? That "back in a few days after the swelling goes down" really means out for 6 months?

Color me surprised...

DezoPenguin said...

Nats are officially the Patriots of MLB, injury-report-wise. (Hopefully they can follow suit in winning a championship, albeit without deflating anything but sportswriters' egos along the way.)

Hopefully this means MW commits to Taylor full-time. Robinson is a nice story, but not a regular, and Moore is Moore, but Taylor is supposed to be our full-time CF next season. Werth's injury gives us the perfect opportunity to give him regular reps and, frankly, see if we do or don't need to think hard about resigning (or extending) Span. By the time Werth comes back, we'll know if we're ready to give Taylor the CF spot. If he can't hack it and Werth's recovery is delayed, well, we can start thinking about deadline moves for another OF. Given Werth's contract, a rental-type move might be the best thought, costing less to obtain than someone on a longer deal (I mean, if Milwaukee starts asking us to take Carlos Gomez for, say, Goodwin and Jordan we obviously say yes before their GM sobers up, but let's be realistic).

As for pitching, yeah, trading Znn in-season is ridiculous. We're in this to win now and he's clearly the second-best starting pitcher on the team. Fister being injured doesn't help, either, and you don't trade *away* a rental when you're trying to win the Series, anyway. Strasburg would have been the perfect candidate to trade in the offseason (two years of control, not long enough to be counted on for the long-term but attractive to a buyer), but he's sunk that for the present due to his awful performance (and if he straightens it out enough to rebuild his value, well, again, we'd probably need him more than what he can bring back).

Here's hoping Roark pitches like last year, now that he's getting an extended opportunity, and forces his way into staying in the rotation through sheer quality.

mwyche said...

Harper: Thanks for the feedback interested in getting into sports analytics. Fixing the mistakes when you program is fun and frustrating so you'd have that to look forward to. I'm a a Java guy but picking up Python this summer.

Miles Treacy said...

I forgot my disclaimer!!! I am in no way in support of trading ZNN given how everyone not named Max is pitching. I just thought it'd be an interesting debate if say, everyone else was pitching up to the historic predictions everyone was making when Max was signed.

J. Henry Waugh said...

Excellent post, Mr. Gordek! Is our bet still on? I believe I agreed to the terms but you did not respond, although you did indicate your willingness to engage in the wager.

Zimmerman11 said...

So Harper, what tools and sites are you using to mine the data? I know, stand back, you're a professional... just curious.

Harper said...

JHW - I didn't agree to those terms because I'm not even sure what a "gushy emotional think piece" would be - so I'm not sure you'd even want me attempting that. Right now I'm not high on taking the bet (50? He might get that before August!) but since I was before in the interest of fairness I'll still do it, but come up with something a bit more tangible for stakes.

Z11 - I use baseball reference a lot. I'm very familiar with what I can find there and what I can't. For more specific pitching info I'll use Brooks Baseball mostly. I'll use Fangraphs, and Texas Leguers Pitch F/X as well. This is all just using the tools on their site.

If I get very interested in something I'll download raw data (usually from Sean Lahman's site but I've used Retrosheet too - depends on what I'm looking for) convert the data into SAS and write a SAS program to get what I want. There are some things I can't find - raw stats in a single download for 2015, catcher target data which are probably out there but I don't need to use them enough to go find where I can pay for it.