Friday, August 9, 2013

'Do I have to starting yelling at people?'

Photo by USA Today
After the Nationals were swept by the Atlanta Braves, capped by a bullpen collapse in their 6-3 loss on Wednesday, several Washington players took on a bit of a different tone in describing the team’s current situation. Jayson Werth, in particular, spoke of a broader context, of how the losses are piling up and it may be time to starting thinking about the future. 

Manager Davey Johnson was asked on Friday if there is a sense of resignation in the clubhouse, if the NL Wild Card and division are so out of reach it’s now time to look towards next season. 

He disagreed.

“There’s no resignation in that room over there, certainly not with me,” he said. “It’s probably more frustrating for me because I keep searching and thinking what I can do to make it easier for guys to perform. If I could figure out why guys, some veteran players are having subpar years for me, I would be all over it.”

He did, however, acknowledge the direction of the franchise as a whole, the central point Werth was trying to make. 

“They’re still learning, there’s still room to grow,” Johnson said. “Everybody likes where the organization is at, likes the talent pool. There’s a small margin between winning and losing. We’ve had some problems in the bullpen, guys struggling off the bench, having some other guys not getting going, all those things add up.”


Mississippi Snopes said...

In trying to look at what went wrong, I like to look at simple numbers first. If you're not a numbers person, you should stop reading now.

Here is a comparison of the career OPS (on-base plus slugging) of the Nats' regulars (through 8/7/13) and their OPS for 2013, listed in order of the difference:

Career OPS vs. 2013 OPS (as of 8/7/2013)

Jayson Werth .831/.908/+.077

Bryce Harper .843/.894/+.051

Ian Desmond .747/.789/+.042

Wilson Ramos .771/.793/+.022

Ryan Zimmerman .826/.767/-.059

Denard Span .734/.671/-.063

Adam LaRoche .813/.730/-.083

Kurt Suzuki .682/.587/-.095

Danny Espinosa .698/.465/-.233

Anthony Rendon xxx/.704/xxx

This isn't particularly revealing. I think every serious Nats fan knows that the offensive players other than Werth, Harper, Ramos, and Desmond have seriously underperformed relative to what could have been expected of them. It is worrisome that of the four Nats to outperform their expected OPS, only one (Desmond) has enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title. You have to wonder whether the relatively strong performances of Werth, Harper, and Ramos are in part a function of small sample sizes.

I also wanted to get a little context for these numbers, so I looked at the stats on the OPS for all hitters who have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title:

By position

1B - LaRoche career OPS .813 - would be 9th of 25 MLB qualifiers
- LaRoche 2013 OPS .730 - 23d of 25 MLB qualifiers

2B - Espinosa career OPS .698 - would be 14th of 17 MLB qualifiers
- Espinosa 2013 OPS .465 - would be more than 100 points behind the lowest of the 17 MLB qualifiers (Darwin Barney at .583)

- Rendon 2013 OPS .704 - would be 14th of 17 MLB qualifiers

SS - Desmond career OPS .747 - would be 5th of 19 MLB qualifiers
- Desmond 2013 OPS .789 - 3d among 19 MLB qualifiers

3B - Zimmerman career OPS .826 - would be 8th of 21 MLB qualifiers
- Zimmerman 2013 OPS .767 - 10th among 21 MBL qualifiers

C - Ramos career OPS .771 - would be 7th among 13 MLB qualifiers
- Ramos 2013 OPS .793 - would be 6th among 13 MLB qualifiers

- Suzuki career OPS .682 - would be 11th among 13 MLB qualifiers
- Suzuki 2013 OPS .587 - would be more than 50 points lower than the lowest of 13 MLB qualifiers (Arencibia at .641)

LF - Harper career OPS .843 - would be 5th among 19 MLB qualifiers
- Harper 2013 OPS .894 - would be 3d among 19 MLB qualifiers

CF - Span career OPS .734 - would be 11th among 17 MLB qualifiers
- Span 2013 OPS .671 - 17th among 17 MLB qualifiers

RF - Werth career OPS .831 - would be 6th among 18 MLB qualifiers
- Werth 2013 OPS .908 - would be 2d among 18 MLB qualifiers

No great insights from this, I guess, but laying it out this way helped me see how devastating the collective failures were. Instead of a slightly above average offense first baseman, we've gotten on of the bottom three first basemen in baseball. Instead of a weak offensive second baseman, we got a player who's a hundred points worse than Darwin Barney. Instead of a mediocre offensive center fielder, we got the worst offensive center fielder in baseball.

Now it's Rizzo's job to figure out how this happened. Could it just be bad luck, random variation from the statistical expectations? Could the Nats have drawn a disproportionate share of #1 and #2 starters? (Eyeballing the scores kind of looks like that.) Was Davey's/Eckstein's aggressive swinging strategy ill-suited to this group of players.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Good explanation, Snopes. Next time, would you mind going into a little mathematical detail to explain your feelings?

JayB said...

uh...yes need to do something different.....retire would help.

Eugene in Oregon said...


Thanks for the data and interpretation. Another approach -- which I'd like to pursue when I have some more time -- is how far off their career norms are players like Ryan Zimmerman and Denard Span. If you think in terms of standard deviations, I suspect they're within one. And that's not unusual, in baseball or anything else.

Anonymous said...

Eugene, that would definitely be interesting, but a lot of work to figure out the standard deviation. Just guessing, I'd say that Espinosa, LaRoche, and maybe Suzuki might be two standard deviations away from their career norms. In the case of Suzuki and LaRoche, that could very well be a product of age. For Espinosa, the sample size was really never that big anyway.

Unknown said...

Davey doesn't get it. If he did have a little fire in his belly (he doesn't) maybe this team wouldn't have flushed themselves down the toilet.

The Real Feel Wood. Accept no substitutes. said...

Given the amount of tobacco Davey chews, if he had fire in his belly he would explode.

Joe Seamhead said...

Chase? Your stories have a very distinctive slant that I don't like.

JaneB said...

Wow, Mississippi ! Thanks.

Chase? I like Joe, but know others of us feel differently. Keep at it.

natsfan1a said...

I think it's more the headline than the story, but that's just me.

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