Nationals Baseball: The BRYCE effect

Friday, November 13, 2015

The BRYCE effect

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.

11 comments:

DezoPenguin said...

Yep. Not much to say about that, because it's all true. If 2015 Bryce is him waking up and assuming his true talent level (and, well, honestly that's what everyone assumed WAS his true talent level, so there's no reason to think otherwise).

Also, yeah, 13/500. The amazing thing to realize is that's the same as Cespedes getting 6 years, as far as to what age you're paying him through. Show him the money, Rizzo!

Otherwise, yeah. In a perfect world, the Nats sign someone like Cespedes, Upton, or Heyward to man RF (I...honestly didn't realize how good Cespedes actually was at defense until reading Fangraphs' preview of the Gold Gloves, plus he comes without draft pick compensation and even if 2015 was an outlier with the bat he's really little different than Upton in that area, if a couple of years older), move Harper to CF and Taylor to the bench, then sign Zobrist to play 2B (moving Danny* to the bench and--if Turner is ready--making Escobar Mr. Sell High) and bounce around generally to give Werth, Rendon, Yuney/Turner or Zim days off when needed. Then if any two of Rendon, Zim, and Werth recapture their previous competence with the bat, we're pretty well set.

*I'd actually rather have Espinosa be the default SS, but we know Rizzo and Baker won't start him over Yuney, and Espi genuinely does better fit the skillset of "utility infielder and defensive replacement."

Francis P said...

Your analysis is consistent with Bryce's comments at the end of the season - that his team could reach its potential with another lefty hitter, and a good right-hander hitting behind him - a RZim who could play a full season. RZim's health is the most crucial lynch-pin for the 2016 season. If he can play the full season without impairment, this will be a very good, maybe great, team, with Scherzer and SS as potentially the best 1-2 in MLB, and Bryce's greatness full realized by the protection a healthy RZim provides.

ProphetNAT said...

Read today that Rizzo - when commenting that the team is not looking to bring back Span - "feels good about Michael Taylor in center and doesn't feel the need to add a new regular option there."

Well..hmmm. Blind faith in guys who can't stay healthy I guess. So no Parra. No Heyward. No CarGo. In the words of the great Ace Ventura: "Alllllllllllllrighty thennnnnnn!!"

Froggy said...

Me thinks 2016 will be Rizzo's last year if the Nats don't win the division.

Maybe the Dbacks need a director of scouting?

Harper said...

Froggy - we talk about the D-backs but they just got a new GM. If Rizzo is smart (and Rizzo is smart) he has feelers out for the White Sox. He's a Chicago guy. Hahn hasn't been all that successful.

DezoPenguin said...

@Harper: The Diamondbacks fired Stewart after only one year?

Harper said...

Dezo - I consider last year "just"

DezoPenguin said...

Harper -- Oh, okay; I thought I'd missed something.

blovy8 said...

I bet Rizzo often says stand-pat stuff like that until the stealth move happens or the Lerners spend on a guy, and he revises the act to say something like "we had an opportunity to add a great player that we felt we couldn't pass up".

What the "take the best player out exercise" tells me is a lot of very solid hitters missed games AND performed below their norms when they played (Span excepted). What it would tell me as a GM is that I need another starting outfielder since I can't carry a guy with a 70 percent contact rate like Taylor. Maybe Rizzo loves his prospects too much, but I really doubt that's acceptable to him. OTOH, if den Dekker's power surge is real, we have the makings of an actual bench don't we? The biggest issue after health then becomes the sneaky bad season Lobaton had, seemingly kept alive as Gio's preferred catcher for a lot the season.

Do you project Werth and Zim to be below average hitters because of last season, or is it more that you expect similar time missed and worse replacement numbers? Have you guys have forgotten how good a hitter Rendon can be? Steamer projections have Zim with a 110 ops, Werth at 113, Rendon as 116. Those are your guys around Harper in the lineup at the moment - all well above average. There's certainly room for a better OF than Taylor, hopefully left-handed, to replace some of Desmond's power, but at least power is something that may develop out of playing Taylor more. Perhaps we're stuck with Ramos, but I think he's got to be better than last year.

I think the defense is going to be a bigger issue again than the overall offense if Escobar is in the middle infield, Werth can't adjust to left field, and guys miss a lot of time. It's way early, but Steamer has Trea Turner in a dead heat for offense with Escobar without much information - but he surely would have much more value defensively. There's a clear opportunity to trade Escobar for a solid reliever after or along with overpaying for Zobrist so you cover all your possible dings. There would even still be room for another OF like Parra - he probably won't make more than Span did last year. I guess the question then is can they move late inning salary and still have a viable closer? The same question that's been there ever since the incident. Rizzo can say he's ok with Taylor in the OF just like he says Storen and Papelbon are still on the team.

Zimmerman11 said...

Brandon Crawford signs for 6/75M... Will Desmond really get 100M? I'm gonna really hate watching him play for the Yankees.

Jay said...

I think this also points to the fact that Desmond made his decision regarding staying in DC. He turned down 7/105 (or something close to that). He said he didn't want to affect any future SS contracts, but I think it is safe to say that 7/105 was more than fair. One of the disheartening things about this offseason is the realization that the Nats aren't keeping any of their homegrown talent. Zimmermann, Desmond, both nope. Strasburg - looking like nope. Storen, Ramos - looking like nope. Even Clippard - already nope. The only person the Nats have kept is the guy who can't stay on the field - Zimmerman. It's difficult to stay consistently competitive if you are always letting people walk. Also, if Strasburg leaves does that change the narrative of the shut down?? The Nats shut him down early for 1, maybe 2, playoff appearances. He is now able to hit the FA market and go play for another team. Pretty frustrating.