Off-Day Thoughts (WARNING: Small Sample Size)

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, April 23, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

After 14 games played, we're 11.57% through the baseball regular season. Let's take a look at how your Washington Nationals stack up with the rest of the National League!


Let's start with the most basic of statistics: batting average. The Nats are hitting .265 as a team, which means they get a base hit 26.5 times out of 100 plate appearances that don't end in a walk, hit batsman or sacrifice. In other words, an almost useless statistic. They rank seventh in the NL in average.

The team on base percentage is .352, good for fifth in the league. The team's OBP is bolstered by Adam Dunn's .476, Nick Johnson's .446 and Cristian Guzman's .515. Of course, Guzman's OBP is propped up by his ridiculous and unsustainable BABIP (batting average on balls in play). He hasn't walked in 34 plate appearances.

The team is slugging .393, which is 13th in the NL. Slugging Percentage, for the uninitiated, is a measure of total bases divided by at bats. It represents power. League average is .416.

OPS is on base plus slugging, giving a pretty good overall idea of how good a hitter (or team) is as it combines the on base skills plus power skills. The Nats have been quite good getting on base, but lousy driving folks in once they reached base. The combined OPS is .745, good for 11th in the league.

The lack of power drags the excellent on base numbers down to a below league average OPS.

The team has hit 12 home runs, 13th in the NL and 25 doubles, ninth in the league. They are fourth in the league in walks, but ninth in runs scored, so they aren't taking advantage of their advantage.

So for people that want to tell you that the hitting is "fine"; that the team just needs some pitching? Well, they might be getting you to buy a ticket package, as the numbers aren't quite bearing that out yet.


Again, using the most basic of fielding metrics, the Nationals fielding percentage (% of fielding plays that didn't end in an ruled error) is .974--dead last in the National League. Not surprisingly, they have the most ruled errors in the league, at 14.

They have recorded the sixth most double plays, a product of having a lot of ground ball pitchers.

They have thrown out just one of nine stolen base attempts, last in the league, and the three passed balls are most in the NL. Only one other team, Atlanta, has had more than one. Of course, the now-departed Josh Bard had two of those passed balls in one game.

UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) is a metric which evaluates a player's overall defensive performance. It take into consideration not just chances, put outs, assists and errors, but factors in range (how many balls a player gets to), arm, and other evaluations compared to the "average" player at that position.

The number arrived at is how many runs plus or minus that player is compared to the average.

The Nationals UZR as a team is -7.2, last in the NL and next to last in MLB, ahead of only the Orioles. Of players that have played more than seven games this season, only three (Elijah Dukes in CF, Ryan Zimemrman at 3B and Cristian Guzman at SS) are above the average.

Guz is only on that list because he's failed to make an error so far. His range factor is quite low, meaning he doesn't get to balls that the average shortstop does.


Ah, the team's Achilles heel (if you don't count defense, which most casual fans don't). Again, the basic: 5.36 ERA, 14th in the league. Homers allowed, 18, fourth most in the league. Walks? Fifth most with 58 free passes. Strikeouts? Next to last with just 82.

Want to know why Pittsburgh's current league-leading 3.33 ERA is unsustainable? They are the only team with fewer strikeouts than the Nats.

The Nats are second worst in the league in hit batsman, worst in wild pitches, and third worst in runners per inning.

The pitching has been as bad as advertised. But wait! The homestand prompted a momentary bout of compentence: six straight quality starts! If they can only get the bullpen straightened out...


It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a 3-11 team stinks. But a look at the stats paints a very ugly picture. What's worse is that this particularly odorous stint was at the start of the season, when you can't hide 3-11. If this two-week stretch was buried in July, casual folks wouldn't even bother to notice.

But it is at the start of the season. Starting off 0-7, then going 3-11 is a very obvious thing. It's what drives casual fans even further away from the team. Who wants to go see a lousy baseball team? They can't even spell the names on their jerseys right!

Apparently, the answer to the question is: only a couple thousand diehard want to see a lousy baseball team play in even lousier weather.

Except for opening day, there's been just as many fans of the other team in the stands as there are Nats fans. I know. I've been there. And, as Gilbert Gottfried might say: That's not good.

This post wasn't meant to depress, cause if you're reading this you're probably depressed about the Nats to begin with, one of the couple thousand. And the starting pitching performances the last couple of nights have given some hope.

Let's just hope the Nats got their worst baseball out of the way early on, and as the summer arrives the team will play better and more folks will want to come out and see the "resurgent" Washington Nationals.

And you can say, "I've been here all along, where were you in April?"