Friday, December 23, 2011

Quantifying the Nats' improvement

US Presswire photo
A healthy Stephen Strasburg is the biggest reason the Nats will improve in 2012.
No matter what you think about the Gio Gonzalez trade, whether Mike Rizzo gave up too much for the left-hander or not, you have to acknowledge it makes the Nationals a better team in 2012.

How much better? Ah, glad you asked. I'm about to do something I don't often do: Delve into sabermetrics. Specifically the all-everything stat known as WAR (Wins Above Replacement).

For the uninitiated, WAR attempts to quantify how many wins a particular player can add to his team beyond what a faceless, Class AAA call-up would produce himself. It's by no means a perfect stat, because it's calculated through all kinds of secret formulas people like you and me can't figure out on our own (unlike, say, on-base percentage or ERA). There is also more than one formula for WAR: one devised by and one devised by (the latter of which gives more weight to defense).

But if nothing else, it's a fun way to try to project how much a team has or has not improved from one season to the next, so let's take a look not only at Gonzalez's impact on the Nationals but the overall impact of other expected changes from 2011 to 2012.

Surprisingly -- or perhaps not surprisingly to those who are against the trade -- Gonzalez alone shouldn't have a huge impact on the Nationals' won-loss record. He's projected to post a WAR next season of 3.1. (In other words, he'll account for roughly three more wins than a replacement-level pitcher would.)

But you also have to account for what the Nationals already received from that rotation spot this season. For these purposes, let's say Gonzalez is replacing Livan Hernandez. Livo's WAR this year was 1.9. So the net effect of Gonzalez instead of Hernandez is 1.2 wins.

It may not sound like a lot, but as you'll see, these things add up quickly when you lump a bunch of players together.

Truth be told, there are two big reasons to believe the 2012 Nationals will be significantly improved from the 2011 Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg returning to full health.

Strasburg's ability to pitch five months next year instead of only one month makes a huge difference. In only five September starts, he managed to produce a 1.1 WAR. That's pretty staggering. Extrapolate that out to the 25 or so starts he should make next season, and now Strasburg's WAR skyrockets to 5.5. Of course, he'll be replacing someone from last year's rotation (let's say Jason Marquis, who had a 1.6 WAR). Still, a net WAR of 3.9 is substantial, and the Nationals will happily take that.

Just as a healthy Strasburg will have a significant impact on the Nationals, a healthy Zimmerman for all of 2012 would pay off major dividends. After missing 2 1/2 months with an abdominal tear and then struggling to get his swing (and throwing motion) back, Zimmerman posted a disappointing 2.5 WAR in 2011, down from 7.2 the previous season. Fangraphs doesn't project Zim to get all the way back up to that level but still believes he'll produce 5.9 wins in 2012. Subtract the 0.4 WAR Jerry Hairston produced while filling in at third base, and you get a net addition of 3.0 wins next season.

(Anybody still with me here? Don't worry, we're almost done.)

There are more reasons to believe the Nationals will be better in 2012 than they were in 2011. Jayson Werth's WAR during a bad year was only 2.5; he's projected to revert to form and raise that number to 4.6 (a net gain of 2.1).

Adam LaRoche was actually worse than the mythical "Replacement Player" with a -0.2 WAR during the two months he played. If he returns to the typical form he's displayed throughout his career, he'll produce a WAR of roughly 2.3 next year. Take away the 1.0 WAR the Nationals got out of their revolving door of left fielders -- LaRoche ostensibly takes their place with Michael Morse moving from first base to left field -- and LaRoche gives the Nats a net gain of 1.5.

OK, time to add this all up. Here's the net gain the Nationals could expect simply from the addition of Gonzalez, the return to health of Strasburg, Zimmerman and LaRoche and the return to form of Werth...

Strasburg         3.9
Zimmerman         3.0
Werth             2.1
LaRoche           1.5
Gonzalez          1.2
TOTAL            11.7

So, yeah, I just tried to create a statistical argument that the Nationals will win 11.7 more games next year even if they don't make another move this winter. Obviously that sounds far-fetched, and this is purely theoretical (and also assumes that all of these players will stay healthy and that everyone else on the roster will both stay healthy and produce to the same level they did this season).

I'm a big believer in the idea that ballplayers are not computers. They're human beings, and all sorts of factors account for their performances, many of them unquantifiable.

So the point isn't to declare the Nationals are guaranteed to go 91-71 in 2012. The point is to show that this already figured to be an improved team next season, and the Gonzalez trade will help improve it slightly more.

Should Rizzo rest on his laurels and be content with the roster as it currently stands? No. There's still the issue of center field. There is still a bench to overhaul. And there's still a bullpen to sort out.

But even if you're skeptical about the Gonzalez deal, you shouldn't be too skeptical about the Nationals' ability to take another significant step forward in 2012.


Anonymous said...

There still no lead off guy!

There gonna be WAR if they don't get one. Egg war!


baseballswami said...

Next - offense! I think our offense will generally be better without making any moves. Zim, LaR and Werth have to be better and the young guys, Ramo, Desi, Espi - probably improved. Come on Nats!!!!!! Make it happen!!!!

lefty1950 said...

Where can I get playoff tickets?

Soul Possession, PFB Sofa said...

dfh, you know, if somebody DOES egg his house, you're going to be getting some uniformed visitors. And they won't be Nats uniforms. Just sayin.

Cassandra said...

I know a bit about WAR myself -- okay, it was the Trojan War, but who's counting -- and I've just got to remind you all that it isn't 'if someone gets hurt' it's 'when' someone goes down. I kept telling my dad that he needed some extra oomph on our side, but did he listen? When Paris didn't perform as expected and Hector went down (and I truly mean down -- across the Styx and all the way to Hades), what did we have left? We needed that one additional big, solid hero -- regardless of the price and length of the contract -- and we just didn't have him. So my advice to King Lerner and his Chief Counselor Rizzo is to add one more Prince to the Nats army. And I don't think you have to be a seer to figure out which Prince I'm talking about. Of course, you don't have to listen to me. Priam sure didn't.

natsfan1a said...

WAR, what is it good for? (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) I actually followed the whole thing without my eyes glazing over, so thanks for laying it out so clearly, Mark. :-)

Now, where did I put that Kool-Aid? (glug glug) Who else wants some? It's on me. Really, I just spilled it. All over my keyboard, too. Dang.

natsfan1a said...

Yeah, he'll totally be left with egg all over his face on that one. Not to egg you on or anything.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

dfh, you know, if somebody DOES egg his house, you're going to be getting some uniformed visitors. And they won't be Nats uniforms. Just sayin.
December 23, 2011 1:24 PM

natsfan1a said...

And quit horsing around, Cassandra. (Yeah, maybe I should ease back on the coffee and Christmas cookies a bit.)

MicheleS said...

Mark..once Pitchers and Catchers report, we need the count down clock to Opening day!

Well, if we add 11 wins, we are in the Wild Card hunt!. I think our new Top 3 Can match up to the Braves and Almost to the Phillies top 4. Plus the Phillies top 2 (of 3) are aging, so I think I will take ours over the next 4 years.

MicheleS said...

1A.. I am always willing to take a big swig of the KoolAid..(as well as the bourbon and maalox

Boz posted a new article.. looks like he is eating a little crow in the article so that's good.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to add WAR for our June call up - Bryce Harper! I am thinking he is an 11.

natsfan1a said...

Thanks for the heads up on the Boz piece, Michele.

joemktg said...

Fielder's WAR: 5.2. 95-96 wins?

Nattydread said...

How many WAR would Prince add?

(Mark Z rolls eyes)

joemktg said...

Tom in AR is RIGHT! Add another 4-5 WAR from Harper + 5.5 from Fielder: 100 wins!! DONE! The Nats win! Thaaaaaah Nats win!

Bartender: another round of KoolAid for me and my friends.

Anonymous said...

No. There's still the issue of center field.

My gosh what does it take? Werth is the starting CF and he has at least 3 reserve backups by my count? And two are lefties and that's without bringing back Ankiel (Which I don't believe will happen because of Ankiel)

You block Harper if you sign a CF. They aren't going to block Harper since Johnson wants him in right field? And look at Morse's WAR and stats last year? Are you seriously saying you would risk losing that? Without at least signing someone like Fielder? La Roche is no Morse offensively that seems very clear. But he does have a left-handed bat.

It seems pretty clear: Werth in CF with a reasonable chance of Fielder joining the fold.

So, let's see you were wrong about the CF as the highest priority? It was a left-handed top-of-the-rotation starter all along? Now wasn't it? Starting with Buehrle.

And Mark you are going to be wrong about the CF.

Brian R. said...

I'm gonna go against the grain and say, I'm really really glad somebody did this. I was thinking about doing the math myself if nobody else would. My own WAR guesstimate would also include a slight edge of regression from a couple of guys - Espinosa and Morse, for instance, seem like candidates for a tiny step back. But an additional 10 wins makes sense.

Last year, David Huzzard did all this math (and more, even more complex stuff) over at Federal Baseball, and he said that the math suggested 80-81 wins. He then qualified it with "Of course that's not likely to really happen..."

Anonymous said...

Cassandra - thanks for the academic humor. You just never know what you are going to read here.

Anonymous said...

This is a great, thought-provoking article, thanks. I've been thinking about this (minus the WAR) as well. I do not believe the starting point is the 80 wins from last year for two reasons:
-> arguably, the Nats over achieved in 2011. Given Zim/Laroche injuries and terrible year from Werth, we easily could have been 72-89 rather than 80-81.
-> the division got better this offseason, so wins will be harder to come by in 2012.
I could say also that the prospect of now having Maya as one of the primary fallbacks in case of SP injury is not ideal, but I won't go there.
In my judgement, as things stand today, I believe we are in the neighbourhood of a 85-77 season dor 2012. It is still an improvement on last year.

Anonymous said...

Boz posted a new article.. looks like he is eating a little crow in the article so that's good.

He's taking credit and he may be right. If anyone is going to be in love with a farm system that has gone from near 0 to the top 5 it would be ownership. That kind of 'building' falls in with the Lerner's paradigm of how to win and grow. It works the same way in their business empire surely? It would be hard for them to see how this trade would be beneficial both in the near-term and long-term as Rizzo likes to say.

As Boz infers it can't be the last move if the Nats truly are trying to step up to the plate and become contenders?

The next move is Prince Fielder not a CF. The Nats do not have the prospect haul to get A. McCuthen from Pittsburgh and as a small market team its what they likely would want more of. Not Lannan, not Morse, not Desmond.

The CF is going to come from within. Its going to be one of Corey Brown, Brian Goodwin, Michael Taylor, or Eury Perez. Depending on their performances in 2012.

Wally said...

Mark - nice article. What is interesting is that most of it comes without the need to do anything, something that either I didn't realize, or buy into, since I have been impatient to add pieces this offseason. You should probably measure the improvements off their pythagorean record though, which was around 77 wins, if I remember correctly. And at least consider whether there is some regression elsewhere (Morse or Espy?).

But I agree with your general conclusion that the Nats, as currently constructed, look like an 85-90 win team and the biggest key is a full, healthy year from Stras. Add the Prince o' DC, and I bump that to 88-95 range.

I wish someone could come up with a watchability index. The Nats would have improved off-the-charts over even two years ago. I probably channel surfed through half their line up, and 60% of the rotation. Now, as things currently stand, I'll probably only surf through the Cameron/Bernadina spot, and maybe Ian if he is in one of his Sahara-like slumps, plus Lannan's start. That is pretty good.

jcj5y said...

The question of what Harper would be worth is an interesting one. It seems very likely to me that he's going to play a prominent role in the lineup this season, even if he isn't there on Opening Day.

I also don't think the Nats are done making changes yet. Either Lannan or Detwiler has to start the year in the 'pen or the minors (and only Lannan has options left). The bench still needs another bat (Ankiel seems highly likely to me). But at bottom, I agree that a full year of Zim and 5 months of Stras equals a significantly better team.

Anonymous said...

I am not worried about the authorities coming to get me for egging Rizzo's house.

First, I think that Rizzo is going to get the lead off guy. The club sets up so well if they have someone who can perform well at the top. Two years and $15M to Juan Pierre to play LF? That would not be the worst money they ever spent.

Second, even if he does not, the cops may be heaving the breakfast balls right there with me.


Section 222 said...

I starting writing this comment on the last post about the Gio trade, then got distracted by work, and was about to "publish" it when I saw that a new post was up. But hey, can't let all the work go to waste, and it's kind of relevant to this post as well:

Some great comments today, and I'm glad that Steve M. and Joe Seamhead have slept off their initial anger about the trade. This really is a day to enjoy visions of the Nats making the playoffs this year and for years to come. Glad to see so many commenters on the Prince bandwagon too. Of course, we all know that it's unlikely we'll get him even if Rizzo makes a serious offer. Let's not forget our unsuccesful efforts to land Texiera and Buerhle. But we can enjoy the fantasy anyway, and I truly do think we'd be the team to beat in the NL East if we can get him.

A few thoughts -- 1. Harper is not going to be on the OD roster, nor should he be. It's one thing to pay him more as a Super 2 by bringing him up "too early", it's quite another to lose him a year early to free agency which is what happens if he's on the roster on Opening Day. No way that happens, regardless of how well he hits in Spring Training.

2. I'm guessing that one of Gorzo, Lannan, or Detwiler is traded by Opening Day. There just isn't room in the rotation/bullpen for all three. Hopefully someone will trade us a decent bench player for one of them, or an upgrade for our CF/leadoff spot for one of them plus Bernadina and/or Flores. I don't really care which two of the three remains though I can't imagine that Gorzo would be more appealing to a potential trade partner than either Lannan or Detwiler.

All in all, this is a good day in Nats Town, as Mark's calculation of an 11 win improvement makes clear. With only 58 days till pitchers and catchers report, we won't have to wait too long to see how things play out.

LoveDaNats said...

After recovering from the Gio news last night and realizing it's not the end of the world and is probably even a great deal, thanks for laying out the stats, Mark. I am so optimistic about this team next year! If everyone can produce as predicted, I'm thinking wild card. (Burp! Sorry..dang kool-aid).

Anonymous said...

First, I think that Rizzo is going to get the lead off guy. The club sets up so well if they have someone who can perform well at the top. Two years and $15M to Juan Pierre to play LF? That would not be the worst money they ever spent.

So, now you're going to put Juan Pierre in LF?? Instead of trying Desmond and Lombardozzi? And then there's the problem of Harper, Morse, LaRoche and ???

Someone really SHOULD egg your house and roll it with toilet paper!

Jayson Werth is far better offensively than Juan Pierre? What planet are you from again?

LoveDaNats said...

I just read Boz's new article where he states that a pitcher coming from the American league to the National league can lower his ERA 30 points. Can someone explain the rationale there?

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that one of Gorzo, Lannan, or Detwiler is traded by Opening Day. There just isn't room in the rotation/bullpen for all three.

Not happening in this universe. All three are lefties. Gorzo and Detwiler are power pitchers still under 30. Lannan will likely be optioned to AAA to provide the depth there that Milone would have as both Gorzelanny and Detwiler can pitch in the relief role. More flexibility. As it is the Nats bullpen has just one left specialist and that is Burnett. They may keep Severino and that would provide them with another.

Johnson himself has said time-and-again he needs and wants moar lefties but he didn't seem really keen on Lannan ... not the way Riggleman was.

Harper is not going to be on the OD roster, nor should he be. It's one thing to pay him more as a Super 2 by bringing him up "too early", it's quite another to lose him a year early to free agency which is what happens if he's on the roster on Opening Day. No way that happens, regardless of how well he hits in Spring Training.

Both Rizzo AND Johnson have publicly stated that he will be in ST competing for a job. What you are saying is that even if he wins the job he still gets sent back to the minors? Johnson won't do it and neither will Rizzo. If the Lerners want to make that move they can but those two would almost assuredly wash their hands of it.

Farid @ Idaho said...

So let's assume that Bryce Harper makes the team on opening day and plays the full season in Washington.

What would his stats look like?

My Guess:

1st half: .240-7-30
2nd half: .280-10-45
Total: .260-17-75

Or something like that. In 2013, he'd probably jump to .290-25-100'ish and then become a slugging machine from there on in.

For comparison, Ken Griffey Jr.:
First Year @ 19: .264-16-61
Second Year @ 20: .300-22-80

Next 10 Years: .300-47-131 (based on 162-game ave.)

I see the comparison.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain the rationale there?

No DH. Not all pitchers can hit like JZimnn, Livo, and Tommy Milone.

Section 222 said...

There are too many rosy scenarios in this calculation to make me comfortable predicting an 11 win improvement if we stand pat from now until OD. While it seems reasonable to expect the predicted improvement from a full season of Zim and 3/4 of a season from Strasburg, the assumptions that Werth and LaRoche will return to their career norms are awfully optimistic.
Also, is it right to to subtract Marquis's WAR from what we expect from Gio and Strasburg. There was no chance he'd be on the team. Shouldn't it be the expected WAR of whoever they bump from the rotation (Livo and either Lannan or Detwiler I suppose), and shouldn't it be Livo's predicted WAR this year, which has to be lower? Finally what about a full season of JZimm. Has to be worth almost another win, no?

sjm308 said...

Not a stats geek but just the fact that there is no DH for the majority of games makes a huge difference. Also the AL does not sacrifice nearly as much giving the pitcher that extra out. A top team will have 9 good to decent hitters in the AL but a top team in the NL might only have 7.

Farid @ Idaho said...

For those anonymous posters who think John Lannan will be sent down to Triple-A to give the team "pitching depth" there, respectfully, there is no way that is going to happen.

In his three full seasons (2008,'09 & '11), Lannan averaged 9.3 wins for a team that averaged just 66 wins. His ERA was 3.81 and averaged 190 innings.

For just about any team, Lannan would be a good number-four pitcher and a great number-five.

The Yankee's number-four in their rotation last year was Bartolo Colon who won 8 games with an ERA of 4.00. Lannan won 10 games with an ERA of 3.70.

Think the Yankees would have jumped at the chance to have him in their rotation last year?

If he doesn't stay in Washington, he will bring two good prospects, a notch above the Livan Hernandez deal that brought Garrett Mock & Matt Chico.

Will said...

You're only focusing on the areas where the Nats will improve, while neglecting the areas for potential regression.

Mike Morse has never put up a season like last year. If you use his stats from 2005-2010 (career without 2011), his stats look like .291/.353/.456, which are very good, but not even close to his 2011 slash (.303/.360/.550). We cannot simply expect Morse to replicate his best season (and best by a mile) next year. A more reasonable expectation would be his career prior to 2011, which appears to be an outlier. In this case, coupled with the fact that Morse will play most of his time in LF, where he's been rated a poor defender (career -15 UZR in the OF corners), then you're looking at a significant drop off.
His 3.4 WAR becomes 1.5-2.0 WAR, or a 1.5 WAR drop.

Wilson Ramos outplayed just about everyone's expectations last season. His BB% skyrocketed. His career BB% was 5.5%. In the majors, it suddenly became 8.7%. His power also jumped from an ISO of .146 in his career in the minors, to .177 in his rookie season. Factor in natural regression, and his 3.1 WAR season becomes 2.0 WAR next year.

Danny Espinosa regressed HARD after June. He continues to struggle into 2012, and posts a stat line similar to his 2nd half (.227/.310/.352), but for all of 2012. His 3.5 WAR drops to 2.0.

Tyler Clippard had an unsustainably low BABIP of .197 (really, that's outrageous. The average is ~.300). His left of base percentage was also insanely high (95.6%). Suddenly, due to the nature of averages, 10% more balls are falling for hits. As a result, he's stranding substantially fewer runners, and his ERA balloons to about 4.00. His 2011 WAR of 1.2 becomes 0.2.

John Lannan experiences serious shoulder pain and is shut down in early May for the season, and Jordan Zimmermann tweaks his knee, fielding a groundball, missing the month of July. Lannan's starts are replaced by a mixture of Ross Detwiler (1.3 WAR to ~0.8 WAR). Jordan Zimmermann's July starts are replaced by Yunesky Maya, due to a sudden shortage of decent minor league help, and Maya puts up a 6.00 ERA. Maya's 5 starts were worth -0.4 WAR, while the loss of Zimmermann's starts is worth 0.8 WAR.

According to my calculations that's -7.0 WAR, and I'm not even talking about worst case scenarios! These are merely regressions to the mean for players that have outperformed the laws of averages. Losing one SP for a whole season isn't too far-fetched either (see: Marquis, Strasburg, Zimmermann, and even earlier- Shawn Hill, John Patterson, Scott Olsen, and that's just off the top of my head!)

You can't expect to have a team where every starter stays healthy and outperforms their previous season. With the progression comes regression, and there's a few Nationals that appear particularly prone to it.

Sunderland said...

LoveDaNats said...
I just read Boz's new article where he states that a pitcher coming from the American league to the National league can lower his ERA 30 points. Can someone explain the rationale there?

December 23, 2011 2:44 PM

AL teams in 2011 scored an average of 723 runs each.
NL teams in 2011 scored an average of 668 runs each.

Top scoring team in the NL in 2011, STL with 762 runs.
That would have placed 5th in the AL.

Mark'd said...

Good followup from some of the astute comments of improvement right now. If everyone stays healthy and goes as planned PLAYOFFS. I pause. I think. That still takes 2nd place and probably the first Wild Card. Prince F'Bomb gives the Nats much more than his own WAR, he will raise everyone else in the lineup. 94+ wins with Prince F'Bomb.

Will said...

Section 222, JZimm was worth 3.4 WAR through 160 IP. If you assume a full 200 IP season, and the exact same stats as last year, just with 40 more IP, he'd be worth 4.25 WAR, or 0.825 more WAR.

And I agree, it's incredibly optimistic to assume anything from LaRoche, and an improvement from Werth. There was little evidence to support it just being a down year. In fact, he was remarkably consistent last season. Besides May (his best month which his OPS was .820, still below career averages), he never surpassed .750 in any month, and had two full months when his OPS was below .675.

He wasn't like Pujols last year, who just started realllly slow, and so by the end of the year his numbers couldn't catch up. Werth just never got going.

Matthew J said...

Serious question: If everyone on a team had a WAR of 0.0, what would the team's record be? 81-81? Or something much lower?

Section 222 said...

Anon 2:48 -- I'll bet you a beer (of course, you'll have to identify yourself if you want to collect) that Harper will not be on the OD roster. (I'd bet you $10K, but unlike Mitt Romney, I don't have that kind of money to risk, regardless of how certain I am.) Regardless of what DJ and Rizzo say about Harper competing for a roster spot, neither of them are stupid enough to insist on burning a year of team control in his prime for a month of a 19 year old's first taste of the majors.

I'll bet you another beer that one of the three aforementioned leftie sometime starters is not here come OD. We're not going to have more than seven in the pen and with Storen, Clip, HRod, and Burnett being guaranteed spots, that leaves only three. Do you really think two of those spots will taken by LH long relievers? Not every lineup we face is as leftie dominated as Philly's.

The competition for the 4 and 5 spots in our rotation between Wang, Lannan, and Detwiler (and maybe Gorzo) should be a good spring training side story. I sure hope whoever loses out is as valuable as you think and can bring something in a trade. Lannan, by the way, doesn't have any options left. No way he gets through waivers, so his AAA days are behind him.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Matthew J: Much lower than 81-81. Much, much lower. In theory, a team full of replacement-level players would produce a collective 0.0 WAR. So how many games would a team made up entirely of Class AAA players win? I don't know the exact number, but I would guess it would be somewhere between 35-45 games. In other words, the worst team in MLB history.

Anonymous said...

Little nasty there Anon 2:41, no? Happy holidays to you too.

Listen, Desmond cannot hit lead off. It's a loser of an idea. Unless Desmond is traded or gets hurt, Lombo does not play, so though he may be a candidate to lead off, I am guessing the club is sticking with Desi -- so he is not an option right now. Werth is not leading off either and he plays RF, though in my scenario with Pierre he plays CF with Morse in RF. The club may wish to keep Harper from Super 2, and given the big tarde yesterday that interest may be higher now, and Pierre's presence would only "block" Harper for half a serason. In 2013 LaRoche is gone and Morse goes to 1B.

That's the planet I am posting from, is it such a crazy place?


Exposremains said...

First of all, Lannan is not going to AAA. You don't put in AAA a reliable 4 or 5th starter probably making 5M making after arbitration. I could see them trade him if they make an expensive free agent acquisition.

Detwiler is cheaper. I don't see how Det, Lannan and Gorz can all be on same roster. I don't think they want Det as a mop-up. Trade him or he's in the rotation.
These decisions could be only settled in ST.

Mark'd said...

Mark, you could be describing the 2012 Houston Astros

jcj5y said...

I think it's more realistic to expect progression, not regression, from Espinosa and Ramos. They are both still climbing the curve toward who they will ultimately be as big-leaguers. Reasonable to expect some regression from Morse and Clippard. And of course, injuries will happen. But overall, I wouldnt be overly pessimistic about regression. Rizzo needs to make contingency plans, but I'm OK being optimistic for now.

Anonymous said...

Will - you have effectively thrown me into a depression with your worst case scenario. I know things happen but that was a train wreck.

Anonymous said...

Davey Johnson really wants Rizzo to get him a centerfielder. Obviously.

Feel Wood said...

Lannan, by the way, doesn't have any options left. No way he gets through waivers, so his AAA days are behind him.

A player gets three option years, right? Lannan was brought up in 2007 midseason, so they would have burned one option not putting him on the 25-man roster at the start of the 2007 season if he was on the 40-man at that time. They also burned an option on him sending him down to Harrisburg in 2010. Other than that, when could they have burned his last option? He would have had to have been on the 40-man roster going into the 2006 season, and I doubt that he was.

The Fox said...

Mathew J:

Mark is correct, Here is a blurb and a link to one of the many explanations of WAR where it makes the distinction of replacement player and league average players.

"The reason that replacement players are used in these value calculations is that we have a fixed baseline for exactly how much these players are worth--and that is the MLB minimum ($400,000), the lowest possible cost to replace a major league player. From my marginal payroll/marginal wins column, we know that a team full of replacement players (25 active, 3 DL) will cost $11,200,000 and will win 30% (or 48.6) of their games. In other words, a team full of replacement players will be horrible. Meanwhile, a team comprised of league-average players would win 81 games. Replacement players (see Quintanilla, Omar) suck at the major league level and replacing each one with league-average players is worth about two wins to a team."

WAR is an easy tool that can be used to help decide a players worth. It is just a tool and like any tool it can be used incorrectly.

sjm308 said...

Once again the stats all prove that LannEn is not worthy of being even a #5 pitcher but I still go to that most important stat. He Wins Games!!
I think it has already been said but for the last 3 years as this team struggled, he was one of the constants in that he would win 9 or 10 games a year.Yes, he walks people, yes he has ups and downs but he somehow manages to defy all the sabermetrics. I am wondering if there is anyone else out there like him?

That being said, I think Davey really liked what Detwiler did at the end of the year. My problem is that those good performances came with lots and lots of rest. I wish I could be sure what we saw in Sept is what we will get this year. If it is then its a win/win because both LannEn and Detwiler are major league ready. We honestly are not completely sure of Wang so I don't think Rizzo or Davey will be in any hurry to move any of our starting pitchers until we see what spring training looks like. You can bet that this site will be full of conjecture about who is being moved and where.

If it were me, I would leave LannEn at #5 and move Detwiler to the bullpen as a spot starter and relief. I would also keep Gorzo and Burnett so I realize that leave lots of lefties out there. It also gives me just 3 or 4 more RP depending on how Davey wants his bench. I want 4 because you have to have Storen, Clipp, HRod and Mattheus in my opinion and I hate to send Stammen down but I think he has options. Man this is tough work.

Also still risking eggs because I along with maybe a few others think Desmond can lead off.

NationalsFanatic said...

Happy Holidays to all! Here are a few thoughts to ponder, especially if Rizzo really does land Prince (the one who makes a beautiful sound with his bat, instead of the one who makes a beautiful sound with his guitar). I am also taking Davy and Rizzo at their publicly stated words when they said that they're bringing the best 25 north after ST and if that includes Harper, he's on the opening day roster.

So if Fielder is at first, Harper in RF, Morse in LF, and Werth plays CF (as both Rizzo and Davey have intimated he might be); the opening day roster could look like this:

1. Desmond - SS
2. Zimmerman - 3B
3. Morse - LF
4. Fielder - 1B
5. Werth - CF
6. Harper - RF
7. Espinosa - 2B
8. Ramos - C

Starting Rotation: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmmermann, Wang and either Detwiler or Lannan

Bullpen (remember that Davey said that he prefers a 6 man bullpen with a bigger bench): Storen, Clippard, Rodríguez, Stammen (RH long reliever), Detwiler or Gorzelanny (LH long reliever) and either Burnett, Mattheus, Perry or Severino.

Two final thoughts: by the all star break, Davey moves Werth back to RF and puts Harper in CF (does make Matt Kemp ring a bell?) and the September call ups with feature Rendon (starting 2B in 2013, with Espi at SS) and Purke (part of the starting rotation 2013).

Mick said...

So let's say our itching staff is solid, giving up 2 or less runs a game and the bullpen is solid as well You still must have an offense: Where did the Nats imrove offensively??

Are we counting on Desmond, Ramos and Espinoza to hit better with men on base and are we counting on Werth to hit period, lol?

Mick said...

I've said this before as an old timer, I remember the 71 Nats pitcher Dick Bosman lost 5 1-0 games because his offense sucked.

NatStat said...

Thanks Mark!

And thanks to all the other commenters, particularly those with a sense of humor.

Espi, Desi, and Ramo getting better, will presumably raise their own offensive and defensive WARs which will interact with the WARs of other players--including the pitchers.

Good players raise the game of other players, even those named Nyjer Morgan.

Gonat said...

Mark Zuckerman, can you clear that up on whether or not Lannan has options? I am fairly certain you said Lannan and Detwiler can't be sent back to the Minors without getting them through waivers which we know won't happen.

Stammen has 1 option left, correct?

Soul Possession, PFB Sofa said...

It looks to me like 2007 and 2010 are the only years they used an option on Lannan, and he does not yet have 5 years of MLB service time, he should still have an option year. I think.

Section 222 said...

FeelWood- You may be right. I had forgotten how quickly he came to the bigs and stayed -- like you, I doubt that he was on the 40 man in 2006. (Anyone know of a source for this info? Baseball Reference and Fangraphs don't have it.) Presumably he was on the 40 man in 2007 before he came up, but maybe not if they moved him right to the 25 man. (Not sure if this is possible.) They definitely used up an option in 2010. According to Baseball Reference, he has only 4.011 service years. At five years, he'd have to give his consent to an assignment to a minor league team. So maybe he's the odd man out since Detwiler and Gorzo can't be sent down. That would be ironic, wouldn't it? Still, I expect that all three are trade bait.

Joe Seamhead said...

Hey,Mick. Walter Johnson pitched 64 games with 1-0 scores, losing 26 off them, winning 38!

Soul Possession, PFB Sofa said...

222, he didn't appear in any games in 2006 for the Nationals, at least.

Gonat said...

Sheinin on getting Prince F'Bomb:

The other Boswell, not the one from yesterday:

NatsLady said...

ehay2k said...
That means I will renew my ST shares this year. (Oh, and we are looking for one more to make it 9 shares - behind home dugout, Sec 129 lower level - if anyone wants to chat about it.)

Can't come in your group for several reasons, but would be glad to buy a ticket when you have one to spare.

Soul Possession, PFB Sofa said...

I've said this before as an old timer, I remember the '71 Nats pitcher Dick Bosman lost 5 1-0 games because his offense sucked.

Not that his offense didn't suck, but he lost one game 1-0. He lost 4 games total that year where the Senators were shut out.

Just sayin' said...

While I had some doubts even after the Pujols and Wilson signings, now I know for sure that the Angels are serious about making a serious run in 2012...

Angels have signed outfielder Ryan Langerhans... (from MLBTR)

Avar said...

Not to toot my own horn but I did this about a week ago, before Gio trade. I had them improving 12 wins before Gio. I actually think Gio adds more wins than Mark says because I think Strasburg takes Livo's innings. I said Wang would take Marquis' innings now I think Giomtakes those and Wang takes Gorzellany's.

I posted my analysis on Federal Baseball if you want to see the whole thing/verify I'm not making it up. I couldn't post a link but the name of the post is "2012 WAR Projection - 90 Wins???".

Agar said...

Matthew J - I posted that question on Fangraphs and they said a team with a combined WAR of zero would project to 42 wins so That agrees with Mark.

Anonymous8 said...

Sec 3, Jordan Zimmermann can commisurate and so can a few others on the offense (lack of).

Jordan Zimmermann was let down by the weather too (sun in Bernadina's eyes) and let down from the umpires who blew some calls Reed Johnson in Chicago and Burroughs in Washington.

The better teams get more respect. I have seen that with the Yankees and the Cardinals especially since I see a lot of their games. The net effect of getting a Prince Fielder will help the team immensely. Some blow out wins would be nice. I really want to see how Stras and Jordan Z. pitch with big leads.

Nothing was more frustrating then the time Livan had that huge lead just to blow it (I think it was the Cubs). The Nats relievers would look much better in the fan's eyes if they had large leads. They harshly got tagged w/ the most blown save moniker because yes, holding 1 run leads in the 7th inning is tough to hang on to!

Bottomline: 5 year deal with Prince Fielder at stupid silly money and his entire salary will be paid with the post-season money and the daily sell-outs!

Sunderland said...

Off topic, but of general interest.
There was discussion the other day about whether Jordan Zimmermann qualified for the ERA title. He only pitched 161.1 innings, and normally 1 inning per game, or 162 innings is needed to qualify.
However, the Nats only played 161 games in 2011, not making up a late season rain out with the Dodgers.
MLB rules of official scoring are pretty clear that the qualification of 1 inning per game is per scheduled game, not played game.
So the minimum requirement is 162 innings, and Jordan Zimmermann did not qualify.
Scroll down to 10.22b

Ken said...

WAR, while a very telling stat isn't perfect. That said if we look at the team WAR over the past several years the Nats haven't once been among the majors top 10 in WAR be it hitting or pitching. In fact, the last time the franchise (yes, we have to go back that far) was in the top 10 in WAR offensively, was 1994, when they were 5th in the majors. The Nats haven't had top 10 WAR on the pitching side since the 90s, including 1994.

Looking back at all the WAR numbers over the years, teams among the top 10 in WAR, either offensively or pitching have had the greatest chance of making the post-season. Those times when teams weren't in the top 10, be it in pitching or offense, they had a dominant WAR in other category, and very often in the top 3. So that lends itself well to the argument that WAR is a very telling stat.

Thing is, even if Zimm, Werth, LaRoche all have good years, and the other players stay the same or improve, the Nats will still be stuck in the middle of the pack in WAR, at least if the team stays as is with the offensive players they currently have. With the pitching they should have in 2012, I expect they will be somewhere between that magic top 10 elite group and the middle of the pack. That means, that unless suddenly dominate offensively, and at least get into the top 5 in WAR, the odds of them making a playoff spot is greatly lessened.

That screams that the Nats need another solid bat in their lineup, be it a quality leadoff hitter, or a big middle of the order bat, because without either one, the Nats will be at best, in the middle of pack in WAR. Translation: no playoff spot in 2012.

The Rotation looks to be strong, the bullpen as good as almost any in baseball, so pitching is more than fine. Offensively, there's still a need, and unless one of those needs is met, I hold little hope of the Nats playing in the post-season. They may come close, but in the end, they'll miss out.

Rizzo needs to do one of two things (besides strengthening the bench, which will likely get done regardless) and they are: Sign or acquire a big middle of the order bat.....or find that (seeming elusive) top of the order hitter they still so desperately need.

If Rizzo isn't able to pull off either of those, even though we'll enjoy 2012 more than we did 2011 and see the Nats play over .500 for the first time, in the end, Nats fans will once again be saying, "Next year". Rizzo had and still has the opportunity to lift the Nats into a contending team, the question is, "Is he able, and are the Lerners willing to go along?" I suspect that while the answer for Rizzo might be, yes, the same can’t be said of the Lerners.

UNTERP said...

Listen if they sign Fielder they don't need a lead-off. Just bat 2 through 9. Desmond can just take a time-out...

sdingledine said...

Does Davey Johnson get a WAR rating? Organizing the bench to emphasize offense, being a player's coach, and his experience and drive must count for something.

Anonymous said...

WAR SCHMAR, its numerology. Players do not contribute wins, they make or don't make plays. They get lucky or unlucky too. The official scorers award doubles and errors when maybe they shouldn't. The umpires make bad calls. The stat heads figuring UZR miss what zone the ball was hit and how hard. Players are in better or worse lineups with guys who may or may not be nursing injury, the weather is crazy, guys face completely different sets of opponents and in different game isutations and form differnt lineup spots, and what have you. That runners stumble and get thrown out when they shoudld have been safe, etc. The game is so very random. The idea that you can boil a guy's contribution down into ONE stat is just not realisitic.


NatsLady said...

So, the question would be, was the Dodger game "scheduled"? My understanding is that by agreement of the teams and MLB, that was not a scheduled game.

Anonymous said...

Just so Mark and eveyone else has a chance to possibly (for some perhaps unlikely) what the Nats FO might see in Gio Gonzalez a left-handed power starter:

He started with this franchise in Montreal who is this pitcher?

At age 25: 96 walks
At age 26: 120 walks
At age 27: 152 walks
At age 28: 144 walks
At age 29: 99 walks

GIve up?

Its lefty Randy Johnson the Big Unit.

Wily Mo Petersen said...

The Nats can only sign a centerfielder or a first baseman, otherwise Harper is blocked. I just couldnt justify signing Fielder for more than 4 seasons, he be a DH in 2. So I say take a chance on Cepedes, he is younger, cheaper, therefore less risky but with a higher upside. Also Morse is a really bad left fielder but a pretty decent first baseman and with less wear and tear on your body he could be a productive 1b for 5 or 6 seasons.

By the end of the season:


Anonymous said...

Once Randy started taking steroids, he really figured out his game. Go figure. If EVER there was a stupid body change in baseball that was drug induced it was the 6'10" guy adding 50 pounds at age 32.

Anonymous said...

Does Davey Johnson get a WAR rating? Organizing the bench to emphasize offense, being a player's coach, and his experience and drive must count for something.

Gets reflected in the players' WAR where it belongs.

NatsLady said...

The reason I say that is the wording at the time was the game was rained out and "will not be re-scheduled."

Feel Wood said...

The reason I say that is the wording at the time was the game was rained out and "will not be re-scheduled."

It can't be re-scheduled unless it was a scheduled game in the first place.

Get over it, guys. Here's another reason Zimmermann didn't qualify for the ERA title: his ERA wasn't low enough.

Anonymous said...

If EVER there was a stupid body change in baseball that was drug induced it was the 6'10" guy adding 50 pounds at age 32.

Dunno about that. I know lots of guys who start packing on the pounds at that age. Hell, I was one of them. Didn't change a thing, either. Kept eating like I always had, kept working out just as much. It happens.

gonatsgo said...

He might not have qualified for the ERA title - in 2011 - but he was pretty darn good in his first season fully back from tommy john. His era has to be low with the run support he gets ( doesn't get is more like it). Maybe next year he won't have to pitch most of his innings under so much stress. JZ is a great asset to our team, qualify, shmalify or not.

natsfan1a said...

I can also personally vouch for the fact that metabolism changes happen.

Anonymous said...

If EVER there was a stupid body change in baseball that was drug induced it was the 6'10" guy adding 50 pounds at age 32.

Dunno about that. I know lots of guys who start packing on the pounds at that age. Hell, I was one of them. Didn't change a thing, either. Kept eating like I always had, kept working out just as much. It happens.
December 23, 2011 7:24 PM

R. Johnson said...

If EVER there was a stupid body change in baseball that was drug induced it was the 6'10" guy adding 50 pounds at age 32.

You want to step over here by this pile of snowballs and say that?

Sunderland said...

NatsLady, the way the rule is written, since the league plays a 162 game schedule, then 162 innings is the minimum.

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