Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Making friends and playing well with others

This morning over breakfast, I strolled by Baseball Direct, in order to get a lay of the National League land and where the Nationals fit in that topography, so to speak. The following observations are not necessarily significant or even newsworthy, but they are noteworthy.

Today, offense:

---> RFK: where pelotas go to muerte.

Big surprise, I know.

To begin, let's note that, compared to the league average, slugging percentage is the only way in which the Nats are unique (or, in an unadjusted sense, inferior):

NL . . .263/.332/.416
Nats. . 262/.332/.403

The Nats are, as you might expect, less potent than the league average at home; it has not been as widely published, though, that the Nats are more potent than the league average on the road. It's true. But it's also interesting how the team's offensive shape shifts at home and on the road (at least so far).

In home games, the average NL team has the following "Isolated Patience" (OBP-AVG) and "Isolated Power" (SLG-AVG) numbers:

IsoPat . . . IsoPow
.072 . . . . . . .162

And here's the corresponding figures for the average NL team in away games:

IsoPat . . . IsoPow
.065 . . . . . . .143

And now let's take a look at Washington's numbers, with home figures followed by away:

IsoPat . . . IsoPow
.081 . . . . . . .141
.060 . . . . . . .141

And, for one more comparison, let's take a sneak peak at the pitching numbers and see what the opposition is doing, on the average, at RFK Stadium:

IsoPat . . . IsoPow
.074 . . . . . . .091

So, to bring it all back home (no pun intended, I swear), let's make some tentative conclusions:

1. The Nats are a high-average, fairly impatient team offensively on the road, where their .012 better-than-league-average slugging average is entirely the product of the high average.

2. Their offensive profile changes drastically at home, to more of a beer-swillin', take-'n-rake, '99 A's kind of club. (Okay, maybe not that far!) RFK is suppressing everyone's batting average, and it certainly suppresses extra base hits, too. (See next point for more.) But the Nats compensate for those factors to a great extent by exhibiting better-than-average patience (unlike on the road) and squeezing what power they can out of the ballpark.

3. So far, the Nats' opponents haven't really adapted to RFK, and as a result, every home game is a feast day for the Good Guys. Opponents are slightly less patient than the Nats at RFK, but their batting average is way down and their isolated power is half-a-man short.

To reinforce the point one last time, let's see the side-by-side comparison of RFK-based figures, with Washington's listed first:

IsoPat . . . IsoPow
.081 . . . . . . .141
.074 . . . . . . .091

In short, this is a tremendous home field advantage for the Nats; thus, it of course comes as no surprise that Washington's 27-10 at home with a 2.86 staff ERA.


A couple of other observations of a more situationally-based nature:

---> Thus far, the Nats are substandard in "scoring position, two out" situations: .210/.334/.329 versus a league average of .236/.344/.379. These figures are both approximately 300 at-bat samples.

---> On the other hand, despite having no grand slams, the Nats are reaping a harvest with the bases loaded: .355/.385/.516 versus a league average of .266/.288/.406. Both figures are of approximately 60 at-bats, so the normal caveats apply.

---> Finally, the Nats are still world-beater from the seventh inning onward, though likely not to the extent they were early in the season: .272/.356/.428 versus .259/.336/.402.

Suffice it to say, the figures above represent both the Nats' home and away games.

Tomorrow: the pitching.

It's my impression that the Nats hitters don't want to face reality. They assume they are a doubles team at home because they play to the stadium, when the truth is they really just are a doubles team. There a doubles team in RFK, in the BOB, in Pac Bell, hell, in Minute Maid probably. When they get on the road they think "OK, now we'll start hitting homers" but they can't, they get excited and swing early, then frustrated and swing early.

It's like they are an old jalopy running fine at 40 MPH on back roads, but the owner is sure if he got it going on the interstate he could be hitting 80 no problem. Then he gets on the interstate and the car bursts into flames at 75 and he dies.

Ok the analogy loses something toward the end.
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