Nationals Baseball: Per Game Explosion!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Per Game Explosion!

I have nothing to say about last night other than that was fun. Some games just everything goes right and you get to enjoy the ride. As to the question whether the offense is started another 20 game run of greatness or not, we'll still don't know. We have to see over the next few games. Let's hope the Brewers pitching sparked something.

It certainly will skew any "Nats averaged X R/G since..." numbers so be aware of that. That's something that we need to understand. The Nats offense looks great in comparison to the league. The 4.45 R/G it averages is 2nd in the NL and even before last night they were in 5th. But we've all watched the team all year and we wouldn't say they have a great or even very good offense. So what gives? It's a distribution thing.

We talked about this some other year - I forget which - when the Nats never seemed to score either 3 or 4 runs in a game, I forget which. It was a weird quirk. We see something similar this year, a team that either is great or terrible.

Scoring 2 or fewer games is pretty much a losing proposition. You win about 17% of your NL games this year when you do this. The Nats have done this 25 times in 2015 tied for third most in the NL only behind Milwaukee and Philadelphia. You might have heard of them. They are the worst and 2nd worst teams in the NL, but not in that order.

On the other hand scoring 7 or more runs in a game is close to a guaranteed win this year.  NL teams win about 91% of their games when they manage this many runs.  Who is best in the NL? The Nationals of course, tied for first doing it 17 times. (The also have 2 more games than any other NL team scoring 10 or more)

For the games of 3-6 runs, the Nats are dead last in the majors only doing it 23 times. The Nats are essentially all or nothing this year, with more nothing than all. However, this type of team will always look good in R/G because you can score a lot more over the average where as you are stuck at around 3-5 runs under the average because you can't score less than zero.

 Here's their rankings of number of times they've scored this many runs in a game.
 Shutout : 15th in NL
1 run : 1st
2 runs : 2nd
3 runs : 10th
4 runs : 10th
5 runs : t10th
6 runs : 15th
7 runs : t4th
8 runs : t5th
9+ runs : 1st

What's the take-away? Runs per game is fine to get a general sense of how a team scores or allows runs but not always the best at tying that to a teams fortune. If they don't have an even distribution then it can skew away from what your expectations may be.  The Nats so far this year are that type of  expectations skewing team.


Anonymous said...

Add one caveat: We are fielding 2-3 backups every night, all season long. I think I'll take what we've gotten, offensively (sans Desmond), considering we have yet to field our entire starting line up even once.

Harper said...

Oh this certainly COULD be a very good offense - if everyone was healthy. I'm just saying the "2nd in the NL in R/G" we see now is not indicative of how the offense has performed this season on a game by game basis. They've given the team more "should lose" than "should wins" and it shows

Bote Man said...

This is clearly the fault of future-Yankee Bryce Harper. If he were still hitting 17 home runs per game this would not even be an issue. HE'S NO LOMBO!!!11!

Josh said...

My huge beef with the offense is that Bryce has either 14 or 15 solo home runs. Solo shots alone would put him in 7th in HR in the NL. I'm thrilled that Yunel and Span have such high batting averages, but how about MW puts the highest OBP guys immediately in front of Bryce, permanently? Either bat Bryce 3rd all the time (didn't hurt the Bonds-era Giants too much) or bat Span and Yunel 2nd and 3rd if you're convinced that Bryce belongs in the 4 spot (which would be totally in character for Matt "assign-innings-to-pitchers" Williams). In the latter approach, you get slightly fewer Span ABs in the course of the season, but later in games he's much more likely to be driven in by Bryce.

I'm willing to handle poor production by 5 or more players on a given night, but failing to adjust to how often Bryce leads off innings (anecdotally) is unacceptable. The combination of Bryce, Span, Yunel, and Danny is almost guaranteed to get you 4+ hits on a given night (anecdotally again). Bat those 4 guys in order with Bryce cleaning up. Best option to maximize Bryce's RBI chances, I think: Pitcher 8, Danny 9, Span 1, Yunel 2, Bryce 3. LaRussa got plenty of RBI out of his sluggers setting the lineup that way.

WiredHK said...

Josh - there is no way I'm not having Rendon in front of Bryce, given what he did last year and given how good and disciplined he is at the plate. I'm totally comfortable with Span/Rendon/Escobar in front of Bryce right now. Heck even with Rendon's slow-ish start back from injury, his Batting Avg is equal to Danny (.267) and his OBP is higher. Those three hitting in front of Bryce is a good move if we want to get him ABs with ducks on the pond.

Anthony Rendon said...

Last night was fun. We saw a backup put one in a catwalk, Bryce being Bryce, and Ramos pad his stats. Fum game.

Yes, we are a streaky team but when healthy we could be a top offense. (assuming Zimm and Werth hit like their past has been)

I like Josh's lineup but Matt will never do it.

Anonymous said...

WiredHK - I would have to disagree. I'm with Josh on this. Since Bryce is mountains ahead of anyone else in terms of OBP, wouldn't you want to have a decent hitter behind him to drive in runs? This season, after Bryce - has been a black hole. I would go for Span, Escobar, Bryce, Rendon, etc. You can't deny that Harper leads of an inning far too often, and is the least likely hitter of the 4 I mentioned to end an inning. Batting Taylor 9th behind the pitcher gives you a 2nd lead of man anyway, but that is not as paramount as the order I just mentioned.

Harper said...

About Byrce and solo shots - it's 15. He has more PAs with men on than with no one on actually. That leads me to believe they probably challenge him less with men on (31 BB to 23 BB with no one on) - so fewer balls to drive. So if you put guys with OBP before him you probably drive DOWN his HR rate (but Nats probably score a few more runs) It's all a rich tapestry.

WiredHK said...

It may have been how emphatic Josh was in his statement that troubled me more than anything else.

I don't have the stats around how much Bryce leads off an inning, but with those three guys operating at current or expected levels, I generally prefer them in front of him if the goal is getting him ABs with men on base - I feel very good about one or two of those three guys getting on to set the table. If I had to sacrifice someone, though, I guess I'd push Yunel behind Bryce.

Either way, none of this seems like too big of a deal. Put some good hitters in front of Bryce, (2 or 3), and move on (whereas Josh said this is his "huge" beef with the offense - really? it's not Desi Fail Sauce? it's not Zim greatly diminished or playing on a peg-leg? Or Werth and Rendon missing tons of time, etc, etc).

The minor (and debatable) order adjustments seem like small potatoes vs "huge beef" material, is all I really meant.

Chaz R said...

That's a very simple, yet revealing analysis Harper. I think it does shoe what we have all felt about the offense. It's puzzling as to what's the underlying causes for tee inconsistent offense? I suspect it's a complicated mix of who's hot and who's not, but certainly has to include missing Werth and Zim. It seems like Robinson and Rendon are starting to hit. Ramos is still seeking some consistency, but if Danny, Yunel, Denard, and Bryce can keep it up, even with Desi continuing to struggle, it could be a good offense. It will be interesting to see how the next week goes.

Anonymous said...

I might be making this up, but I think remember that the Nats, as a team, are ranked fairly low when it comes to pitches per PA. It seems logical to me that an impatient team is also a highly variable team. If everyone clicks on offense and/or the opposing pitcher has an off night, you can score a lot of runs in a hurry. But when the opposing pitcher is good to great, patience is needed to manufacture runs. Harper, is there any link between P/PA and the type of scoring distribution we are seeing from the Nats?

Anonymous said...

Do stats like this tell us anything about luck and/or sustsinability? That is, because we've had so few 3-6 run games, can we expect things to even out and have more of them in our future?

Or is it as much of a comment on the pitching performances we've faced?

Josh said...

I can't have huge beef with Desmond performing poorly. MW has tried moving him around and giving him rest (or benching, less kindly) to fix him. And I like Danny at first and leaving Desmond at SS better than putting the corpse of Tyler Moore at first and playing Danny or Yunel at short. Since April is over, Desi is a solid defensive option, which really can't be said for T-Mo. Likewise, I can't have beef with people being hurt (or else I'm saying things like "Darn you, Jayson! How dare you get hit by a pitch just as you were starting to warm up at the plate! And you, Zim! How could you play 50 games on a bum foot and then go to the DL!?!"). That's irrational.

I'm not sure how useful it is to bat the highest OBP guy at the very end of the short stretch of competent hitters, so that he gets on (possibly driving in one or more of Span, Rendon, Yunel), only to be stranded by the black hole that is Moore/Robinson, Desmond, Ramos, Taylor, and the pitcher. Rendon ought to have some power as he gets back into his groove, so put him after Bryce, to improve the team's ability to string runs together.

I didn't realize Bryce has had so many RBI chances, so I stand corrected. Thanks for that insight, Harper.

SM said...

I'm not Harper. (Not sure I'd want to be, either. All that blog love would be too overwhelming.) But the P/PA issue isn't cut and dried.

Being patient at the plate doesn't necessarily translate into more runs. It's what a batter does when he swings. Patience is useless to a hitter who squeezes out a full count, then pulls an outside pitch and grounds into a double play.

Buster Posey and Ian Desmond--I'm not picking on him, okay?--are both averaging 3.57 P/PA.
Posey's batting 70 points higher, with twice as many RBIs; nearly twice the HRs; and a slugging and OB% each nearly 100 points higher.

Each has scored 29 times, and Desmond has nearly twice as many doubles (17 vs 10).

Walks, the supposed hallmark of patience? Posey: 26 Desmond: 13 Strikeouts? About what you'd fear: Posey 23 and Desmond 78.

So, how are MLB's most patient teams doing? So far this year, the team drawing the most walks is Cleveland. Then the Dodgers. Then Oakland. Then Boston.

What's this mean?

I'll let Harper answer.

Harper said...

P/PA doesn't tend to lead to an increase in scoring*. The thought is - oh you see more pitches you burn through the pitcher faster and get to the soft middle of the pen - but really you have to turn those extra pitches into getting on base. The difference between a poor P/PA team and a good one might only be .25 P per PA. That's only 6-7 pitches over the course of 3 times through a lineup. Maybe a batter or two. Basically team patience stretches the starter as much as one hit or one walk.

Walking DOES matter, but it's secondary to hitting. The idea that a walk is as good as a hit is nonsense. A hit is better than a walk. BUT not getting out is way way way better than getting an out. So if you can't hit, walking is a way to keep the offense moving. So there is some benefit but it can't overcome a team that can't hit. Boston doesn't hit so it's walks are band-aids on a bigger problem. (If they didn't walk they'd have a terrible offense). Royals hit so the fact they don't walk doesn't keep the team from scoring (but if they did walk their offense could be special). Also this early in the season RISP type flukes can still matter. So it's better to look at whole season's passed.

*Well that's a little bit short of the truth. For 95% of teams there's virtually no correlation between the two. For extreme P/PA outlier teams there is some benefit but the Nats are never going to get there.

WiredHK said...

Josh - ok, I should clarify - I'm not suggesting you should have a "huge beef" with injuries (but, clearly those injuries and things like Desi's black hole are the reason the offense has been poor in so many games, not a minor lineup tweak of questionable value).

I'm more suggesting that having a "huge beef" with Bryce hitting 3rd or 4th seemed a tick irrational to me (and certainly something I find debatable in a fun way).

Things like batting Desi 2nd in the order was more where I had a huge beef - that was batsh@# insane by MW. :)

JE34 said...

ahhh, thank you once again, Harper... for the interesting post and the explanation on P/PA.

Maybe we can engineer a new metric, in order to add the situational aspect of taking pitches: GRISP... Grit with Runners In Scoring Position. Working the count in run scoring situations, putting more pressure on the pitcher in tough spots. We need GRISPy hitters. The first-pitch gentle roller to short with two outs and ducks on the pond (yes, you, Ramos)... that's not GRISPy at all.

John C. said...

I think Wilson Ramos has been fairly GRISPy, actually.

His split with RISP: .308/.304/.404 (that's not a typo: 1 BB, 3 SF create the weird BA/OBP split)
RISP, 2 outs: .323/.344/.419

With the usual caveat that pretty much all "situational" splits at this point are SSS. But it does at least suggest that we always remember Ramos's rollovers to SS but immediately forget when he succeeds.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of how many P/PA a batter sees, swinging at the first pitch in your first at bat is almost insane. I agree it is what you do with pitches, rather than taking them. But a guy like Desmond, who pops up a first pitch down-the-middle fastball in his 1st at-bat, then grounds out a first pitch high fastball in his second at bat serves him - nor his teammates - zero purpose. In that scenario, when he comes up for the 3rd time, its the 6th inning or later and he has seen all of 2! pitches (both fastballs). Bryce's approach of taking a lot of pitches (strikes or balls) allows him to get a good idea of how the ball comes out of the pitchers hand, gets his timing down, and allows him to dial in on "his pitch."

A Hall of Famer, I forget who (perhaps Ted Williams) said that almost every at-bat (unless the pitcher is uncharacteristically wild) a hitter gets at least 1 pitch that they can drive. When you get it, recognize it, barrel it up, and good things happen. I don't think Desmond is even aware of this. You foul off a coc*-shot fastball and you might not get another one.

John C. said...

The run breakdown is a little hard to figure, because the Nats apparently often only score 1 (1st) or 2 (2nd) runs but are rarely shut out (15th). Stipulated that the weird run explosions every other week or so skew the overall rankings in favor of the Nats, it would be interesting to see how they rank in the "three or less" versus "more than three" runs scored rankings in the NL.

Anonymous said...

To add to that point, at about the 6th inning, team up 10-1 - every hitter in the lineup had either gotten a hit (or multiple hits) or at least walked. Desmond struck out twice and grounded into a double play.

I hate piling on a guy - because it must suck to be where he is right now. But good grief, on a night where EVERYONE is having success, you still can't find a way on base. He did end up with two hits eventually, but still.

Kenny B. said...

This is completely unrelated to this thread, but I just want to register how happy I am that an investigation is busting up all the sanctimonious "Cardinal way" organizational BS we have to endure every year. Because we are all Nats fans who should hate the Cardinals and be happy that the organization's reputation is being dragged through the mud.

Gr8day4Bsbll said...

Couldn't have said it better myself, Kenny. My first reaction when I saw it on the news was a certain amount of glee, because I just know that all those self-righteous Cardinal fans (and over-egoed players) just got a bit of egg on their faces. Someone else said it, but I'll steal it -- my favorite kind of freude is schaden...

Anonymous said...

Looks like Rendon is finding his timing and batter eye if the last 7 games with a hit and walk in each game is an indication. Playing off an earlier post, why not make a Bryce sandwich at the 4th spot with Yunel and Tony?

A lineup of Span, Danny, Yuni, BRYCE, Rendon, Ramos, LF, Desi, Pitcher should give Bryce some protection with pop behind him. Walk Bryce? Tony might hit that double and RBI. Yuni puts balls in play all night, which we all know is problematic to defenders if Span or Danny get on base. Speed + contact is a good combo.

Just a couple cents from a fan of the blog and Nats.

Anonymous said...

Obviously not the subject of this thread, but when we stink it up like we are tonight I can't help but feel the only reason this season isn't a repeat of 2013(...or 2011 for that matter) is because of Harper and Scherzer.

Other than Storen our bullpen is borderline terrible!