Point-CounterPoint – The Nats Offensive Woes
It does not take any analytics to conclude that the Nats gave up too many runs and did not score nearly enough runs in 2022, or for that matter in 2021 also.
So I decided to look at the stats to drill down on the why of the Nationals offensive woes as a complement of the what. I come at this from the perspective of someone who spent his career as what is now called a Data Scientist. I had the benefit of working for really smart statisticians when I graduated from college (way back in the mid 70s) and they impressed quite a few points on me, most notably:
- Be skeptical of everything.
- Never, ever, ever, ever focus on the numbers. Focus on what they mean (i.e., the why that explains the what) as that is how you figure out what to do and what they mean.
- Always, always, always look for other factors that could have influenced the observed outcomes.
Steve: So where do you want to start.
Don: The Nationals were awful against the NL East. So I came up with a hypothesis that perhaps the reason was that the NL East in 2022 had quite a few elite pitchers. Could it be that played a factor? To research that I used the GameDay data from the 2022 season. But any data scientist worth his salt will tell you that drawing conclusions from observational data (i.e., the MLB Game Day data) as observational data almost always has inherent biases that you have to deal with/remove. See point 3 above.
So I decided to look at how the Nationals did scoring wise vs. the rest of the NL East and compare that to how the rest of MLB did against those same four teams. And to help quantify that, how did the rest of MLB do against the rest of MLB.
This table provides a summary.
|Nationals||Rest NL East||76||246||3.24||57||0.75|
|Rest MLB||Rest MLB||3,620||15.526||4.29||3,869||1.07|
|Rest MLB||Rest NL East||344||1,376||4.00||332||0.97|
|Rest NL East||Rest NL East||228||954||4.18||251||1.10|
Clearly the Nationals had a problem with the pitching in the NL East. But so did the rest of the league – but not to the same extent. So perhaps the number of elite starting pitchers in the NL East is part of the Nationals overall offensive woes along with those team’s familiarity with the Nationals hitters.
Steve: Wow. Almost 1 run less per game than against the rest of the league. Given that in 2023 the Nationals will have 24 fewer games against the NL East and 24 more against the rest of the league. That, along with the shift rule changes might mean a few more runs and thus wins even if the Nats did nothing this offseason.
Don: Lots of folks have been talking about the Nats lack of HRs and the Nationals rate of HRs against NL teams was about 20% less than the rest of MLB. So I updated the table to include the number of runs from Home Runs. The last two columns are the total number of runs from Home Runs and the average number of such runs per game.
|Nationals||Rest NL East||76||246||3.24||57||0.75||82||1.08|
|Rest MLB||Rest MLB||3,620||15,526||4.29||3,869||1.07||6,202||1.71|
|Rest MLB||Rest NL East||344||1,376||4.00||332||0.97||519||1.51|
|Rest NL East||Rest NL East||228||954||4.18||251||1.10||386||1.69|
Steve: They were simply horrible against the NL East. We did know that and it was clear from the final W/L of 17-59 in their 76 head-to-head games against the four NL East opponents in 2022. That’s hard to believe but yet there it is. The Nats went 38-48 against the rest of the teams which was a .442 winning percentage and gives you 72 wins in a full season. Home runs were obviously a part of the issues.
Don: The HR scoring numbers got me wondering if there is more to the HR issue than how many there were and how that compares to the rest of MLB. The following table shows each team and what part of each team’s scoring is due to HRs.
|Runs||HRs||HR Runs||HR Runs %||Runs per HR|
Steve: To say I am not surprised that the Nationals were at the bottom of MLB certainly shows the failure to score runs at 26th overall. They went on that hot streak for a while when Joey Meneses came up but after Keibert Ruiz got injured it was as if the team fell apart again. The final three weeks of baseball was tough to watch.
Don: Neither was I. But that is where point #2 comes into play for me. So I decided to look at the number of Home Runs that were solo HRs vs. HRs with men on base.
|Total||Solo||2 Run||3 Run||Grand Slam|
Don: These results shocked me. The Nationals were close to dead last in the total number of Home Runs. In spite of that, they were #2 in the number of solo Home Runs.
I can see Brad Pitt playing Bill Beane in the movie Moneyball answering the question
Why do you want this guy?
Because he gets on base!
Steve: Classic line from the movie! Too many solo home runs is a problem, but not enough home runs and runs scored is what loses games for you. One name: Nelson Cruz
Rizzo counted on Cruz and he was a total disappointment. I’m not sure where this team will be in power in 2023, but it could be worse or we could be pleasantly surprised.
Lane Thomas will get his home runs and Meneses also, but then you are depending on Dominic Smith and Jeimer Candelario for most of the power with the rest coming from Ruiz and Luis Garcia and maybe some more power from the LF/DH spot that Meneses isn’t playing. Maybe that’s Matt Adams if you’re looking for additional power, but he lost his power two years ago with Colorado and that’s a concern. Maybe it is Michael Chavis. Not sure what you get there until we know the player that fills the last spot in the lineup.
Don: All great points. But I have to add the obvious point, , that a HR with a guy on base produces the same number of runs as two solo HRs. There is a reason to like guys who get on base.
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