Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

If only we had a healthy lineup… Nationals runs Scored analysis and what-if


Here’s a fun little statistical exercise.  What would the Nats record be right now if it actually had all its guys healthy at the same time?

Lets use a short hand stat (OPS+) to take a quick look, and then make some runs scored analysis adjustments to see some expected W/L records.  Assuming both Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos were healthy and continued to hit at their current OPS+ rates once they return (which frankly is a rather conservative statement; Harper was hitting far above his seasonal OPS+ rate before he started running into walls at the end of April),  here’s what our lineup could look like:

Lineup # Naem Bats Pos OPS+ as of 6/28/13
1 Denard Span L CF 82
2 Anthony Rendon R 2B 134
3 Bryce Harper L LF 166
4 Ryan Zimmerman R 3B 125
5 Adam LaRoche L 1B 118
6 Ian Desmond R SS 117
7 Jayson Werth R RF 104
8 Wilson Ramos R C 105
9 Pitcher

That’s nearly an entire lineup of guys above 100 OPS+ (which indicates league average production) and from 2-6 are significantly above 100.  I dare say, this lineup of guys, with an average OPS+ of 118, should produce runs at about 18% above the league average.  Now, the pitcher spot and our crummy bench production will drag this team number down; lets say for sake of argument that this lineup will produce at an average of a 110 OPS+ when they’re all present and accounted for.

What does that mean?   Through 6/28/13’s games, the league team average of Runs Scored is 330.    The Nats have scored, to date, 275 runs, which ranks them 29th in the league and only above the AAA team the Miami Marlins are running out every night.  Lets look at two scenarios for our offense from a Pythagorean Record perspective to show where this team could have been with a league average offense and with the above described 10% above league average offense:

First, where are we right now:

6/28/13 actual
Actual Wins 39
Actual Losses 39
Actual W/L Record 39-39
Games played 78
Actual W/L percentage 0.500
Runs Scored 275
Runs Allowed 303
Pythagorean W/L percentage 0.456
Pythagorean wins 36
Pythagorean losses 42
Pythagorean W/L Record 36-42

We’ve scored 275, allowed 303 and are playing 3 games above our Pythagorean record.  Mostly because of a handful of specific blowouts (15-0 loss to Cincy the first week, a 9-0 loss in Atlanta, 10-1 loss in New York, back to back 13-4 and 8-0 beatings in San Diego and San Francisco), this team is playing a few games better than its expected record based purely on RS/RA.  We don’t have enough reverse-blowouts where the Nats have won by a large score to really counter balance it.

(Fun fact: did you know the Nats have only scored 8 or more runs in a game 3 times in their first 78 games?  The Red Sox have scored in double figures 9 times already including one 17 run outburst a few weeks back.  It seemingly takes the Nats a WEEK to score 17 runs.  I digress).

How about if the Nats just had a league average Offense right now, scoring 330 runs instead of 275?

thru 78 games with MLB avg runs scored
Actual Wins 39
Actual Losses 39
Actual W/L Record 39-39
Games played 78
Actual W/L percentage 0.500
Runs Scored 330
Runs Allowed 303
Pythagorean W/L percentage 0.539
Pythagorean wins 42
Pythagorean losses 36
Pythagorean W/L Record 42-36

We’d be at a Pythagorean record of 42-36 but (for reasons listed above) they’d likely have a record of 45-33.   45-33 would have us essentially tied for the divisional lead right now.

Last scenario; what if we were scoring at 10% above the league average, inline with the production of the 2012 offense and in line with the assumptions made on the OPS+ analysis above?

thru 78 games at 10% above league avg runs
Actual Wins 39
Actual Losses 39
Actual W/L Record 39-39
Games played 78
Actual W/L percentage 0.500
Runs Scored 363
Runs Allowed 303
Pythagorean W/L percentage 0.582
Pythagorean wins 45
Pythagorean losses 33
Pythagorean W/L Record 45-33

Pythagorean record of 45-33, likely actual record three games better at 48-30, which would have us tied with St. Louis and Pittsburgh for the best record in the game.  Right back where the team was last year in terms of league-wide record.


Conclusion: its all about the offense.  Maybe my own personal doom and gloom can get turned around if we get our guys back healthy, start hitting, continue pitching as well as we have, and get this turned around.


Written by Todd Boss

June 28th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

4 Responses to 'If only we had a healthy lineup… Nationals runs Scored analysis and what-if'

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  1. Interesting post. It is kind of hard to translate this to wins and losses, because to be fair, you probably need to also correct opponents for their injuries too, and then the data pool becomes pretty complicated.

    But, following up on the last post’s commentary, here is a less analytical way to look at the impact of all these guys getting hurt: the cumulative value provided by all players not expected to be a starter coming into the season (position players only) is -3.7 WAR. The main culprits are Moore (-1.3 WAR in 108 PAs), Lombo (-.9 WAR in 182 PAs) and Chad Tracey (-.7 WAR in 76 PAs). Those are shockingly high negative WARs for such few plate appearances. So we have not only lost good players to injury, they have been replaced by guys who are having historically bad seasons. Kind of a double-suck whammy. The only bench player who has been above replacement level this year has been the Shark, who, in what is a compelling argument against WAR, has a +.1 WAR while maintaining a 47 wRC+, OPS = .537 (take your pick of offensive stats).

    So yeah, getting Harper is going to help. A lot. Kind of get why Davey said ‘I’ll take him as soon as I can’.


    28 Jun 13 at 3:43 pm

  2. The problem with this analysis is that it conflates two points
    1) The Nats have been injured and
    2) The Nats have hit poorly with men on base.

    I remember seeing an article in Frangraphs a few weeks back (which I’m too lazy to find + link to) which showed that the Nats were among the worst performers with runners on base, and that if they had the same stats with men on base as off base you’d expect them to have scored significantly more runs (although still not league average), even accounting for the realized distributions of playing time.


    28 Jun 13 at 5:24 pm

  3. True; it is a “what if” kind of post that assumes everyone is healthy. The larger points were these: this team isn’t that bad, and if they just had a league average offense to this point they’d be in first place. The team is (as we speak) getting ready to get Harper back and Ramos is out on rehab, so it isn’t too long before they’ll have the all 100+ OPS+ lineup.

    “Hit poorly with men on base” sounds kind of like “clutch hitting” to me, which as any sabrematrician will tell you, doesn’t exist. You can either hit your you cannot; the fact that there may be runners on base is coincidental. But here’s the bright side; if the team has underperformed in this realm so far (as the Fangraphs article suggested), then it implies that some regression back to the mean is in order and we’ll start to suddenly see the team over-producing with men on base. Law of averages. Maybe last night’s Zimmerman bases-clearing double is the start of it.

    Maybe this team does have a 20-8 month in them after all; combine 20-8 with the current .500 form of the Braves and we’ll be right back in it.

    Todd Boss

    29 Jun 13 at 11:03 am

  4. After I wrote this I thought to myself, “I should have used wRC+.” Its just that I find baseball-reference so much easier to navigate that sometimes i “forget” to look at fangraphs.

    Todd Boss

    29 Jun 13 at 11:04 am

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