Nationals Baseball: Offensive explosion

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Offensive explosion

In the 14 games without LaRoche/Zimmerman/Bryce the Nats averaged 3.42 runs a game. Extrapolated to the season as a whole that would put the Nats 15th out of 16 NL teams.

In the 13 games since LaRoche has come back (still without Zimmerman for 6 games/Bryce) the Nats have averaged 5.69 runs a game. Extrapolated to the season as a whole that would put the Nats 1st out of 16 NL teams.

In the 7 games since Zimmerman has come back (still without Bryce) the Nats have averaged 6.14 runs a game. Extrapolated to the season as a whole... you should be able to figure that out.

The Nats are red-hot. Is part of it small sample size? Definitely. The Nats aren't going to score about 6 runs a game. They aren't the 1931 Yankees (who averaged 6.88 R/G for a season - in a higher offensive scoring time of course, but the average was still 5.14 R/G.  They scored 1.7 more runs per game than averge. Amazing. Even more amazing they don't get talked about in "best all-time" team discussion because the pitching was only slightly better than average. But I digress).

Offensive runs like the one the Nats are having are usually built on unsustainable hot streaks.  Those times of year when everyone gets hot at the same time. Is that what we are seeing here? Well, here has been going on in the past two weeks.

Rendon .371/ .405 / .714
Desmond .250 / .372 / .694
LaRoche .282 / .420 / .513
Span .365 / .389 / .538
Ramos .344 / .400 / .500

Roughly - the Nats have 5 regulars hitting like Top 20 offensive players. I'd argue that alone would suffice but wait!  There's more!

Werth .349 / .364 / .442
Espinosa .306 / .375 / .417

Not quite "team-carrying" level like the other 5, but it can't be argued that they aren't hitting well.

So what you have is 7 out of 8 regular hitters hitting somewhere between very good and OMFG XOXO GOSSIP GIRL. (McLouth is also FINALLY hitting ok). I think we're safe calling this unsustainable.  (And I haven't even talked about the pitching side of this run)

But the good news is - it doesn't have to be sustainable. 62-18 in RS and RA in the past 10 games - that works out to be a .922 expected winning percentage or roughly 149-13 record for the season. Let's cool the offense way down, take 30 runs from the offense so it's averaging 3.2 runs a game. That's terrible. If the pitching still pitched this well (32-18 in RS and RA) the Nats would still be expected to win 3/4 of their games. Or let's let the pitching come back up. 48 runs or 4.8 runs a game. Not good at all. If the offense is this hot though (62-48 in RS and RA) - that's still a team you'd expect to bash their way to 100 wins.

The Nats, when healthy, could have an offense that might be the best in the NL. The Nats when healthy have a pitching staff that might be best in the NL. Healthy, a team like that can weather a slump by either side of the game and still be a winning team, and if one side is hot when the other is cold they could still be a force.

The only question for me is how much of this offense is a mirage and how much is a reality. We know they aren't "best ever". Are guys like Rendon/Ramos very good or just good on crazy hot streaks (which happen)? How long can Span/Espinosa, who aren't this good, keep something like this up?   When LaRoche cools down (and he will) how far will that cool down go? The more questions answered in the positive, the more the Nats are a team that can only be stopped by the combination of injuries, slumps and bad luck.


Jimmy said...

Good read Harper but you didn't address the elephant in the room: whether or not Stras is mentally tough enough to be elite. /sarc

Donald said...

Nice to think that we also will get Gio back which should improve the starting rotation even more. And then Harper, which should improve the offense. They obviously can't keep this up forever but I'm sure hoping they can ride it through the series with the Braves.

One thing that's interesting is that as well as they've been playing, would you pick anyone on the team to be in the All-star game? You could make an argument for one of the starting pitchers but they'd probably be behind Cueto, Kershaw, Hudson, etc. This is a very balanced team at the moment.

blovy8 said...

It's still all about health. Play well enough to get into first, stay healthy enough in the fall to have that team play.

If they give Strasburg early runs, it's not much of a mental strain. To me, the best thing is that reacting to the poor plays behind him is something he can eventually learn to deal with, which means he can get better.

I agree that Strasburg could be the only guy who goes right now. LaRoche hasn't played enough to amass the counting stats, but Rendon maybe could get hot and sneak in at third I suppose. Right now he'd be the only position player with a reasonable case as Arenado will probably be voted in and unless someone feels like rewarding Wright for sticking around NY, his competition would be Carpenter and Frazier, unless they only look at homer totals.

Bryan said...

I'm not surprised. Looking at this roster you can totally see this type of production, over the short term, least. Almost everyone has a high ceiling for production. When they all hit it together, its lights out.

The "best ever" discussion is irrelevant because, as you note, they don't have to be. If the hitting falls back to somewhere between 2-5 in the NL, and the pitching falls back to somewhere like that as well, they should still take the East. After that, well, its a crap shoot, isn't it?

Its all about health now. Stay healthy, and this is a "team to beat" type team.

Bryan said...

Also, its interesting to note, that if these Nats could beat the friggin Braves over the last two years, we would feel drastically different about them.

blovy8 said...

Well, crap, I guess Wright is in first now, and Arenado is injured, but in essence, he has the same shot then. But the powers that be will probably end up ignoring the guy unless he gets his average up to .300.

cass said...

Strasburg gave up a run last night. Good pitchers don't do that.

Look at Zimmermann - he didn't give up any runs and pitched a whole nine innings. That's what a real pitcher looks like. That's the kind of guy who wins ballgames.

Strasburg's overrated and needs to be traded ASAP!


(Seriously - I know someone who asked me what was wrong with Strasburg because he gave up a two-run homer in an 8-2 game. This after complaining Strasburg wasn't pitching well enough to win in all those games where he gave up just a couple runs and didn't get a pitcher win. Some people...)

blovy8 said...

Well, in fairness to that guy's attitude, Stras is amassing an impressive amount of unearned runs, so to the less statistically inclined, he's a LOSER for giving up so many since he's supposed to have Koufax's curveball, Nolan Ryan's fastball, and Pedro's change up and everything.

Wally said...

Harper - Whoa, dude, you are back on the meds. Way to go. :)

The Nats of the recent past (2012+) have always struck me as a highly bi-polar team: when they look good, they look unbelievably good (and because they have been young too, it gets projected as a dynasty). When they look bad, they look abysmal. This is true of every team to a degree, but these guys more than most. There rarely seems to be a middle ground.

It makes it hard to figure out what they really are, maybe even to themselves. I am going with really good when healthy, but short of elite. So barring injury, I am feeling good.

I do not think that they are at the top in either pitching or hitting. Closer in pitching, certainly, but I would like to see the SP hold form for a longer period to throw away the 'above average but not elite' results of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, and the bullpen has been so good that it just feels like it has been a stretch of over performance.

But I am not going to splash cold water on Harper's sunny day. Go Nats!

Unknown said...
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Anonymous said...

Great to wake up to a 9-2 win this morning. I share others' concern about Straus' mental toughness but his last couples times out there seems to be a change about him. No doubt the run support helps. Will be interesting to see if it continues. Also, what I liked best about last nights game was no one went yard, though at least 2 balls got close. It's good that they are proving they don't have to live and die by the HR. If everyone just does their part, this can be an easy game.

Anonymous said...

For those of you on twitter, the @MASNCommenter feed is a treasure trove of commentary the likes of what Cass is quoting.

JWLumley said...

So I'm one of those people who has wondered out loud about Strasburg's mental toughness, but I've wondered a lot of things out loud to try to explain why the guy with the absolute best stuff in baseball doesn't pitch like it, or rather why he hasn't reached his potential. I realize this is a slippery slope, but I'm fascinated by it. Anyway, new working theory about Strasburg: fastball command and predictability. Watching NN on Sunday was about as good as you'll ever see with fastball command. He might as well have had a brush in his hand, watching Stars even when he pitches well like last night he still leaves a lot of balls over the heart of the plate. He also falls into predictable patterns with his pitches. Like I say, working theory. I love Strasburg and am fascinated by him and while it's said tongue in cheek he does have Koufax - esque stuff.

Chas R said...

Thank goodness they all got hot now during one of the most challenging stretches in this season's schedule. I am anxious to see how long they can sustain it against good pitching. As long as our pitching stays good, we will at least always be in games.

Nattydread said...

Funny that the national baseball media still hasn't noticed the upturn

Chas R said...

@JW- Sometimes (maybe more recently) I think some of us (me included) are too hard on Stras. I suspect we want him to be a historically elite pitcher, when in fact he is just a very good pitcher. No question, Stras is an Ace, #1 pitcher, on most any team. Fangraphs has him currently as the 3rd best pitcher in 2014 MLB:

Is he a Koufax? Clemens? Maddux? Etc Etc? I haven't looked at the "fancy stats" but I suspect his K/9 numbers will compare favorably. He also has a long way to go yet.

Strasburger said...

Yeah - first of all, I love Anon's analysis of Strasburg. I've been following the advanced stats on Stephen all year, and he really is killing it. His k/9 number is outrageous. Like I said at the beginning of the year to the haters, Straburg is our best pitcher BY FAR. and he has 3-4 years of his prime starting right about now. I suggest you watch every game he starts.

Harper last year before the season you said this could be the pitching staff that comes close to the '95 Braves. I think this will be the staff to get close. I really believe we could end up with a staff ERA below 2.8 (which would guarentee a win most nights).

As always, I agree with you on the offense; this explosion isn't sustainable. However, I do think danny can linger around 230, and span around .260 which would be fine with me. Everyone is talking about Bryce, but sometimes I forget he is even on the team. If he comes back in out of the gate 2013 form though, look out MLB.

I stand behind my belief that this pitching staff is going to turn heads this year. I just hope throwing Gio back in won't ruin this newfound equilibrium.

It's good to be on this blog and know that the other people writing on it are as fired up seeing us play like this as you are.

I also sincerely enjoy the bi-polar nature of your writing Harper, because as DC fans that's exactly how we feel after a hot streak or a string of losses. It also reflects the nature of this team - insanely high ceiling but miniscule room for error/injury

Anonymous said...

What a great game! Also super pumped that Papa John's is 50% off today- use code NATS50

Donald said...

I suspect some of folks concerns about Strasburg getting rattled too easily are a bit unfair. I think he developed that as a reputation and now anytime he lets in an unearned run, people jump on him. Yes, he's given up more unearned runs than most so there may be a kernal of truth, but if Znn gives up hits after an error no one remembers it and if he gets outs instead, it's talked about as part of his bulldog mentality. With Stras, no one remembers when he gets outs after an error. They just talk about the hits.

For the heck of it, I went back and looked at Znn and Strasburg's outings this year to see how they each did after errors. Strasburg has pitched through 8 errors. In 4 cases runs subsequently scored but in the other 4 he worked out of the jam including a lead-off error putting a runner on 3rd with no outs. In the 4 cases he gave up runs, it's possible he was rattled, but it's also possible that it was just luck of the draw. On 4/5 he gave up a run scoring single to Tehran after an error and on 5/2 he gave up a homer to Marlon Byrd after a Werth error. His other 2 times letting in runs were after his own errors. I would also add that the Nats won 3 out of the 4 games in which Stras gave up runs after an error, so if he was rattled, it didn't last more than the one inning.

Znn on the other hand only had 3 errors while he's been pitching. On 4/19 he gave up 3 runs after a Rendon error. On 5/23 he got out of the inning with no runs after a Desmond error. On 5/28 a run scored on the error itself, but the batter was out advancing so it doesn't really count. Ignoring that one, Znn is also at the same % or rattling as Strasburg. He just has had much more solid defense behind him.

Chas R said...

@Donald- good analysis, thanks for that. Harper may have to start paying you.

Kenny B. said...

Has Donald discovered a true formula for xGRIT? I'm only partly joking.

I'm trying not to fly too high, because I agree with so many of the other commenters about the bipolarness of the team. It really feels like feast or famine the last few years. I'm fine with that, provided the feasts come at the right time and the pitching can be consistent enough to survive the famine. But I worry that at any moment, the deep freeze could strike. Of course, with the current lineup, another total deep freeze seems less likely than with the bench guys playing every day.

As to all stars, agree that Rendon and LaRoche are about the only two position players I feel good about voting for. Zimmerman is doing great, but hasn't played much.

As to the pitchers, Strasburg definitely deserves to go. Zimmermann could go on the "what have you done for me lately" theory. Fister has looked like an all star in all but one outing (his first back from injury), and even Roark would be deserving of a nod. Hell, Treinen has built a decent little MLB resume, despite the limited number of starts. Gio is pretty much the only one I don't think has earned a nod, and he's hurt.

All that is to say, I think if the Nats only get one rep in the ASG, it should be a pitcher. If they get two, they should probably both be pitchers.

Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

^and if they get three, it should be.......hmmm

KW said...

More great news this morning. About 95% of me is thrilled, with 5% regretting that we've missed probably their two best games this year with the late starts.

LOVE Stras's quote about how Fister is becoming their leader. The young arms have needed a vet who can show them the way, and it's hard to think of a better role model. That can contribute more than anything else right now to the elusive "next step" for Stras.