I'll do a little bit more of this later but I wanted to leave something to chew on for the weekend. Yesterday, we had a little discussion on Twitter about the Nats offense and how it had the potential to be bad. I'll admit when you look at the numbers at the end of the year it didn't seem so terrible this year, 3rd in the NL in runs and all. However I've noted that there are two really big caveats to that ranking.
The first, is that rankings can be misleading. What matters really is how far you are (relatively) from the average. The NL is much more tightly packed than in the past and being 3rd doesn't mean as much as it may have in a previous season. I'll talk about this more next week with numbers and such.
The second, is that Bryce put the team on his back and carried them to that ranking. Without Bryce the team would look at lot worse. I got some push back here when I floated "without Bryce" numbers because it was rightfully noted that it wasn't fair to compare the Nationals minus their best player to other team's full rosters. I said I'd go ahead and do a look at all the teams minus their best player then and compare. This is a taste.
In the NL East the Nationals ended up with the best offense. Here are the final rankings.
Nationals : .251 / .321 / .403 .724 OPS
Mets : .244 / .312 / .400 .712
Marlins : .260 / .310 / .384 .694
Phillies : .249 / .303 / .382 .684
Braves : .251 / .314 / .359 .674
Nats pretty good! Mets ok (certainly good post trade deadline), the rest garbage! Now let's remove the most productive offensive player over the 2015 season* from each team and see what we get.
Mets : .243 / .305 / .393 .699
Nationals : .243 / .304 / .376 .681
Marlins : .260 / .308 / .372 .680
Phillies : .247 / .300 / .375 .675
Braves : .249 / .310 / .350 .660
The Nats lose an amazing 43 points of OPS if you replace Bryce with a "team average" player. That takes the team from a step above the Mets to a step below and from clearly better than the Marlins to just barely squeaking by them. In the no BRYCE world they are closer to the last place Braves - who were terrible WITH Freeman - than they were to the Marlins in the with Bryce world. I'll note now that the Phillies, Marlins and Braves ranked 13th, 14th, and 15th in the NL in runs scored respectively.
What does this tell you? It tells you that the Nats offense around Bryce last year was awful. That group was barely better than the groups around the best player on the worst offensive teams in the league. Ok not the Braves, who were special bad, but the Phillies and Marlins. It highlights starkly how the team depended on Bryce last year and how the 2016 offense could flounder if Bryce downshifts to very very good and the rest of the team doesn't pick it up somehow. The potential is there for a struggling offense so much so that getting another reliable bat (arguably reliable bat #2 given that Werth, Zimm, and Rendon are all injury risks, Escobar is coming off a surprise year, and Robinson is a 30 yr old career minor leaguer) should be on that off-season to do list. Where? Corner OF? C? MI? 3B? That's for Rizzo to figure out.
There is good news though. The Nats do have Bryce. Maybe he can carry them again. Also 13/500 million, Unca Ted. Think about it.
*I bet you are wondering so to clarify. Bryce for the Nats (duh), Freeman for the Braves, Stanton for the Marins (despite playing only half a season - Gordon is a one trick pony and couldn't beat Stanton through average alone. Yelich might have passed Giancarlo but he missed 40 games himself), Granderson for the Mets (he had a really good year and Cespedes wasn't around long enough - another couple weeks might have done it though), and Franco for the Phillies (Herrera almost passed him). All this was verified by seeing the OPS drop with each player gone.