Reevaluating the Nationals Offense

Approaching the same issue that I covered in my last post from the opposite side, consider the Washington Nationals. Their .333 team wOBA ranks 13th in baseball. We do not have much information on their new park yet in order to adjust for it like we would like, but factoring in adjustments on all other teams bumps the Nationals up to 12th in baseball in terms of value derived from their lineup. But just as the Rangers were hurt by the American League/National League wOBA gap, so are the Nationals helped. They actually rank 4th out of 16 teams in the senior circuit in batting value according to the numbers listed here.

And once again, it is not just FanGraphs. They rank 4th in the National League, and 10th overall, at StatCorner as well. Baseball Prospectus also agrees that the Nationals are the 4th best NL hitting club, and they have them as the 8th best overall.

Nick Johnson has been healthy and producing in his usual way with 36 walks to 44 strikeouts and a .416 on base percentage. Christian Guzman continues his remarkable transformation with a .790 OPS, though his slipping strikeout to walk ratio (31-6 this season after a 57-23 last year) are cause for concern going forward. Adam Dunn is … well … Adam Dunn (at the plate, that’s a good thing). and Ryan Zimmerman, highlighted by his long hitting streak, is finally hitting like many foresaw after his debut in 2005.

It all adds up to a lineup that is one of the best in the league. Now if only they could figure out a way to get the same level of production at the plate without completely sacrificing defense in the meantime, they might be on to something for the future instead of setting up another clock in their draft room counting down until the second they get to pick Bryce Harper with the first overall selection in the 2010 draft.




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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


9 Responses to “Reevaluating the Nationals Offense”

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  1. Big Oil says:

    Scuttlebutt (and some degree of conventional wisdom) has the Natinals moving Nick the Stick and transitioning Dunn to 1B. I’m not sure this will really help the team any in the short run, as Willingham seems the most likely candidate to assume the LF position. Defensively, this posture is still pretty bad and leaves the team without a high OBP second place hitter for Zim/Dunn to drive in (unless Willie Harris suddenly finds the ability to reach around/over 40% of the time, something I’m not counting on). However, the season is practically done anyway, and depending on the return on Johnson (what would Boston pay even if they were seriously interested?), Rizzo may just say F it. In that way, even moving tradeable pieces around doesn’t appear to cure one of the two major Nationals ills (the other being forming a reliable bullpen).

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    • kris says:

      You don’t think Dukes can step in? I see no reason why he doesn’t get his OBP back to around his projected mark, if not last year’s mark.

      350 OBP? 360? It’s not Johnson’s 400, but it’s not awful..

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      • Big Oil says:

        Well, thinking about it, no real qualms. I saw it like this:

        1. Guze
        2. Willie
        3. Zim
        4. Dunn
        5. Dukes
        6. Willingham
        7. Hernandez/Belliard (platoon? would need to look at #s more)
        8. Nieves/Bard

        So you figure maybe Harris plays average offensively and is able to correct the CF defense back to his old form (-42 this year? as discussed in an earlier post, I don’t think that will hold). Dukes, batting behind Dunn, gives the team a chance to produce when Dunn registers one of his three true outcomes (the walk). Look, Willingham isn’t unbelievable protection, but it is the best they have. My person feeling was that Dukes’ value was maximized in the 5 slot vis a vis producing runs.

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    • R M says:

      There’s always Lastings Milledge…he will be back with plenty of the season left, and he would definitely be a better defensive option than Willingham in Left Field…

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  2. WallyBall says:

    I am surprised that their O is still ranked as high as it is. The last three weeks or so, they have really fallen (or so it seems). It also appears that they are seeing less pitches per at bat too, but I haven’t checked any numbers.

    I agree that Dukes is better in the 5 hole. His power potential is still developing, and his baserunning is immature, at best. Guzman really is the guy to hit there, but they just have no other lead off options. Willingham has also hit well over the last 30 games or so. I’ll bet his stats trend into the upper half of #6 hitters in the league. I doubt, however, if he or NJ will bring much in a trade. Believe it or not, I think that they are more likely to trade from their somewhat settled down bullpen, particularly Beimel and Villone.

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    • Big Oil says:

      Interestingly enough, I can buy that too — although Villone has had a couple ugly outings recently.

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    • Ken says:

      The Nats do seem to have fallen off the last few weeks, and the splits prove it. They are 5th from the bottom in the NL in wOBA for the month of June, but they really started slipping at the end of May.

      Zimmerman is a solid hitter, but was way above his head during the streak. Note he only has one HR and has seen his OPS drop over 100 points since May 22. Without him on base as much, Dunn isn’t seeing as many pitches and has seen a similar dowturn in his numbers.

      I think they have a decent lineup, but they are starting 3-4 players who might not even be rostered by another team in baseball.

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      • pm says:

        like who? I agree that Bard would not be another roster, but Wil Nives might be on another roster as a backup.

        Obviously would be taken on another team:
        Guzman
        Johnson
        Zimm
        Dunn
        Dukes
        Willingham

        Maybe:
        Anderson Hernandez
        Willie Harris
        Wil Nieves

        Wouldn’t be:
        Bard
        Kearns
        Beliiard

        Bard,Kearns, and Belliard occasionally spot start and are not really starters.

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      • Ken says:

        I’d say Hernandez, whoever they play in CF any given night, any C not named Flores, and Willingham. Not sure how Willingham makes your obvious list. The guy is at best a righty bat off the bench. He was shuffled from one awful team to another, and if it weren’t for Milledge totally crapping out he wouldn’t even be rostered by a team with 16 wins.

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