Author Topic: Very interesting column by Tom Boswell  (Read 1631 times)

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Offline LetsGoNats

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Very interesting column by Tom Boswell
« Topic Start: August 03, 2005, 01:58:32 PM »
A's Getting Things Done With Less Talent Than Nats

 
The Nationals moan constantly about their lack of offense and act as if there is no reason that they should be expected to score more than their current pathetic average of 3.85 runs a game.

But the Nats are wrong. Oakland gives the lie to all of the Nationals' excuses. At the same time, the incredible success of the A's, who've won 32 of 39 games to take the lead over the Yankees (!!!) in the American League wild-card race, raises hopes that Washington might actually mount a credible offense in the last two months of the season.

Through Monday's games, the A's had scored 506 runs compared to 404 for the Nats. What an enormous difference of 102 runs -- almost one run a game -- between the A's, who are eighth in baseball in runs scored, and the Nationals, who are dead last.

Why, if Washington had an offense as good as Oakland's, think where it'd be? After all, the Nats' pitching is slightly better than Oakland's with only 429 runs allowed for Washington to Oakland's 451.

Here's the question: Why on earth don't the Nationals have as good as offense as the A's?

The A's have only one .300 hitter and he's a rookie who's batted only 174 times. The Nats have three .300 hitting regulars -- Nick Johnson (.319), Ryan Church (.306) and Jose Guillen (.301). The A's have no one slugging over .500. Washington has that same heart-of-the-order trio all over .500. No Oakland player has as many homers as Guillen's 19. In addition to Johnson, Guillen and Church, the Nats have three other players who would be starters for the A's in a blink: second baseman Jose Vidro, outfielder Brad Wilkerson and catcher Brian Schneider.

Given a choice between Washington's offensive talent and the A's, I'll take the Nationals' players every day. Yet Oakland's lineup works and, so far, Washington's hasn't. Part of the difference is that Oakland, playing in the American League, gets to use a designated hitter. And RFK is a terrible hitter's park. But that doesn't explain away a 102-run difference.

Altogether, let's sing a chorus of "Moneyball." Stat-worshipping general manager Billy Beane and his A's know something that the Nats clearly don't about how to build an offense. Or, perhaps, about what to avoid if you want to score runs.

Oakland's basic lineup should shame the Nats. Here's the comparison with accompanying OPS, a statistic combining slugging average and on-base percentage that the A's love. (The average major league OPS this year is .755. An OPS over .900 is great. An OPS under .600 is atrocious.)

Athletics

Jason Kendall (catcher) .678.

Mark Kotsay (center field) .716.

Bobby Crosby (shortstop) .834.

Eric Chavez (third base) .791.

Dan Johnson (first base) .895.

Jay Payton (leftfield) .799.

Scott Hatteberg (designated hitter) .731.

Nick Swisher (right field) .793.

Mark Ellis (second base) .758.

Two other A's rotate through the batting order -- infielder Marco Scutaro (.701) and outfielder Bobby Kielty (.789).

This is a lineup devoid of stars. No Athletic is on a pace to score or drive in 100 runs. Chavez and Swisher are the only players on pace to hit more than 15 homers for Oakland this year (26 and 23 respectively).

There are no trick numbers here. None of these 11 players have any secret skills. The A's have no base-stealing speed whatsoever. Their 22 stolen bases are dead last in baseball, even behind the Nats. Though plenty of the A's are decent at drawing a walk, Kielty is the team leader with just 42. The A's have little power; their 90 homers are ranked 22nd in baseball. In fact, the Nats have almost as many extra base hits as the A's, 292 to 312.

So where do those 102 extra runs come from? Look at the Nats' basic lineup, with OPS, and see what jumps out.

Brad Wilkerson (left field) .772.

Jose Vidro (second base) .787.

Jose Guillen(right field) .864.

Nick Johnson (first base) .947.

Ryan Church (center field) .869.

Vinnie Castilla (third base) .699.

Brian Schneider (catcher) .747.

Cristian Guzman (shortstop) .502.

Pitchers, about .400.

Washington also regularly uses infielder Jamie Carroll (.577), catcher Gary Bennett (.634), Carlos Baerga (.686) and, until recently, had given 157 at-bats to Marlon Byrd (.609) and even 51 to Wil Cordero (.318).

At seven spots in the batting order, the Nationals ought to be roughly as good an offensive team as Oakland, if not slightly better. What stands out is that the A's don't have a single truly bad offensive player who is allowed to set foot on the field and contaminate the offensive proceedings. Nobody's great. But nobody is an instant rally killer either. Kendall, who has no homers but a solid .353 on-base percentage, is the weakest A's OPS player.

No simple fix would make the Nationals a good hitting team, especially not with the anchor of 81 games in RFK with its ludicrous 395-foot power allies. However, the Nats may have made one very large mistake that the stat-conscious A's obviously avoided. Washington has allowed several of its worst offensive players to get a large number of at bats. Guzman, Carroll and Byrd -- each with an OPS far worse than any Oakland player -- have 667 at-bats this season. That's about as many at bats as Johnson, Vidro and Church combined (671).

So, the worst neutralize the best.

Given this analysis, what would it take for the Nats' offense to start resembling Oakland's, minus the DH factor?

First, it would help if the Nationals had normal health for the rest of the season. One reason that Carroll, Byrd, Baerga and Cordero played so much was because Johnson, Vidro and Church were all hurt for one-to-two month periods.

Second, Guzman and Carroll need to return to their career-long offensive levels. Carroll entered the year with a .720 career OPS. While others have praised his grittiness, he's been annoyed for weeks at what he considers a very poor offensive year. Guzman, of course, is a mystery for the ages. On Sunday, he had two hits and two walks -- on base four-for-four. The earth did not stop rotating on its axis. But seismologists and astronomers are keeping close watch if there's a repeat performance.

Despite everything -- injuries, RFK power allies and the Curse of Cristian -- the Nationals' offense should be better than it is. Scoring less than four runs a game when the first seven hitters in your batting order are better than the first seven in the Oakland attack is just -- as Frank Robinson says -- "unacceptable."

If Oakland can score 4.82 runs a game with the mishmash mess it puts on the field every night, how can the Nats pass the buck and the blame for scoring 3.85 when the top seven guys in their order have, at the least, average big-league offensive talent?

If the Nats, from Robinson on down, continue to moan and groan about what a lousy limited offense they have, then it will probably become a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the next two months may be quite forgettable.

However, the Nats of the first half of the season, like the currently scalding hot A's, did not think that way. They believed that with proper execution and determined confidence, they had just enough ability to score enough runs to get the job done.

This season, baseball may see a truly remarkable underdog make the playoffs. But, right now, it looks like that team may be the Oakland A's -- a club that, top to bottom, has no more talent than the Nats.

Offline tomterp

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Very interesting column by Tom Boswell
« Reply #1: August 03, 2005, 02:40:41 PM »
I think there's another clue he doesn't mention.

Would appreciate if someone can find this stat, I was not able to decipher the MLB stats definitions/data to answer this, but I bet that the Nationals have a LOT more sacrifices than the A's do.  

Sacrifices basically give away outs, truncating any chance at a big inning.

We have a very high number of 1-run innings vs. >1 run, compared to other teams, and my belief is that our insistance on trying to sacrifice runners over is a primary culprit.

Of course, we have pitchers hitting while the A's don't, but it's just stupid to have say Vidro try to bunt the leadoff hitter over.

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Very interesting column by Tom Boswell
« Reply #2: August 03, 2005, 02:58:22 PM »
Quote from: "tomterp"
I think there's another clue he doesn't mention.

Would appreciate if someone can find this stat, I was not able to decipher the MLB stats definitions/data to answer this, but I bet that the Nationals have a LOT more sacrifices than the A's do.  


I believe I've heard that the Nationals lead the majors in sacrifices.

Offline tomterp

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Very interesting column by Tom Boswell
« Reply #3: August 03, 2005, 03:03:52 PM »
1st in sacrifices
Last in scoring.

hmmmmmmm...

mar (AKA pasqual AKA JMG)

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Very interesting column by Tom Boswell
« Reply #4: August 03, 2005, 03:17:30 PM »
Quote from: "tomterp"
1st in sacrifices
Last in scoring.

hmmmmmmm...


Anybody who watched Frank with the expos eventually got to the point you just scream: "Can't he just let somebody try to hit the damn ball!"

Ain;t gonna change. The sacrifice is to frank what the 3 run HR was to Earl Weaver: his signature move based on an unshakable faith that the percentages are in his favor.

While I grant that FR has forgotten more about baseball than I ever knew, doesn't it seem like when everybody on the field (and in the stands) know's its coming (frequently bunting with 2 strikes) it becomes so predictable it takes something away from the strategy?

Certainly times when you want to sacrifice but seems to me you'd be happier being around the league average for sacrifices and might actually score a few more runs.

Its always like Frank is saying: "None of you guys are good enough to get a hit so I'm gonna make you sacrifice." Guess since Frank was asked to bunt something like 17 times in his career, he feels none of the Nats lineup measures up to his standard.

Offline Kenz aFan

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Very interesting column by Tom Boswell
« Reply #5: August 03, 2005, 03:34:49 PM »
I think Tom Boswell shoots himself in the foot with his numbers. The Washington Nationals are dead last in the major league with their team OPS of .708. What's even more embarrassing than that, is the fact that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have a team OPS above the league average. To add insult to injury, those same Devil Rays are also scoring more than 3/4 of a run per game more than the Nats are.

Saying Carroll and Guzman need to find their games is easy, and a cop out and its as much as saying they are responsible for the Nats lack of runs, when that's not the case. The reason the Nats aren't scoring runs, is they simply don't know how. Castilla and Wilson last year (and this for Wilson) had the help of a lineup tailored for Coors Field, Guillen had Guerrero, Anderson and company, Wilkerson, Church and Vidro had a better park to hit in...

These players don't know how to score runs without help... Is it next year yet?

Offline JMW IV

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Very interesting column by Tom Boswell
« Reply #6: August 03, 2005, 03:37:30 PM »
The Primary Reason why the Nationals are dead last in runs scored, is because the team does not hit well with RISP.

I can't for the life of me understand why this is so difficult for people to see.

Offline Kenz aFan

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Very interesting column by Tom Boswell
« Reply #7: August 03, 2005, 03:51:03 PM »
Quote from: "tomterp"
I think there's another clue he doesn't mention.

Would appreciate if someone can find this stat, I was not able to decipher the MLB stats definitions/data to answer this, but I bet that the Nationals have a LOT more sacrifices than the A's do.  

Sacrifices basically give away outs, truncating any chance at a big inning.


The Nats are second to the Florida Marlins in all the majors in sacrifices so far this season. The A's have 41 to the Nats 94

Offline Kenz aFan

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Very interesting column by Tom Boswell
« Reply #8: August 03, 2005, 03:52:23 PM »
Quote from: "JMadisonIV"
The Primary Reason why the Nationals are dead last in runs scored, is because the team does not hit well with RISP.

You can say that again

Offline Dave B

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Very interesting column by Tom Boswell
« Reply #9: August 03, 2005, 05:00:17 PM »
i cant say i've seen vidro bunting a whole lot. although i did miss all last weeks games.  aside from our pitchers, i'd say 90% of our bunts have come from guzman and carroll.  guzman is understandable,  carroll could be allowed to hit a little more

Offline LetsGoNats

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Very interesting column by Tom Boswell
« Reply #10: August 03, 2005, 05:26:26 PM »
Quote from: "Kenz aFan"
I think Tom Boswell shoots himself in the foot with his numbers. The Washington Nationals are dead last in the major league with their team OPS of .708.


Of course, the team OPS is dragged down by dead weight like Guzman and Carroll, which is the entire point of his column.  If you exclude Guz and Carroll, the Nats OPS jumps to .736, which is obviously not great, but would tie for 11th in NL with Dodgers.

mar (AKA pasqual AKA JMG)

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Very interesting column by Tom Boswell
« Reply #11: August 03, 2005, 07:02:25 PM »
Quote from: "Kenz aFan"
...
These players don't know how to score runs without help... Is it next year yet?


Not quite at that point (tho I am interested in the possibilities for next season).

My guess is Nats will recover and likely even make another run at first place.

Lot of things will have to go right in the division for anything to result.

I'm kinda back to my original pre-season prediction: Nats will be in WC contention til pretty much the end (contention defined as within 5 games). Can't say its impossible they get it, but it will take a pretty sustained stretch of .550 or so ball to make it likely and its got to start right about now.