Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Don't fall apart on me tonight

Did you hear the joke about the priest, the rabbi, and the Nationals losing another one-run game?

I know---so tired, so very tired. What was once, in the very recent past, a point of pride for Nats' fans is now a significant sore spot in our psyche. Verily I say that I'm not going to talk this latest one-run defeat. Why bother?

Instead, I'm going to talk about tonight's more troubling development: the way the Dodgers hit the living tar out of the pelota, smacking four homers. Plug in the Jose Guillen RFK Conversion Factor, and the Dodgers hit 1,193 dingers this evening.

As I see it, the Nats need two things to occur in order to remain in contention for the postseason:

1. vastly improved offense; and,
2. continued power prevention at RFK.

There's a third key---injecting Cristian Guzman with the Ebola virus---but the CDC is stonewalling on that one. What a pity.

Anyway, back in June (before I knew how to do a table in Blogger, if you'll recall), I composed a distinctively poorly-formatted post outlining how the Nats had used RFK Stadium to their extreme advantage. One point gleaned from that post was that the Nats' pitching staff was cutting down the opposition's secondary offensive skills, particularly power, at the home ballpark. (The pitchers were also doing really well cutting down on opposition batting average, a primary skill, too.)

This advantage, to my way of thinking, most reasonably explained why the Nats were so nearly invulnerable at home back then; well, it was a much more reasonable explanation than bunting and scrappiness or being motivated by actually having a home park. Maybe this excellent pitching was a product of luck, and maybe it was a product of a sage approach. But it was a tangible advantage---and a significant one, at that.

Here's an update, thanks to Baseball Direct, of the Nats' pitching at home as compared to the National League home pitching average. The numbers are current through yesterday's games:

Who    AVG  OBP  SLG  ISOPow
Nats .243 .313 .337 .074
NL .260 .326 .412 .152

"ISOPow," of course, stands for Isolated Power, which is simply slugging percentage minus batting average.

Take a look at that chart for a moment. The Nats' pitching has a .017 advantage on the rest of the league in opposition batting average in home games, which is certainly nice; the staff actually gives back a little bit of that advantage by issuing slightly more walks than normal at home. However, take another look at the "ISOPow" category. The Washington pitching staff has surrendered, in home games, less than half the Isolated Power the average NL pitching staff does at home. Now, that's a home field advantage.

Ah, but does this apply when the Nats are at bat at home, too? In other words, is it just an RFK thang? Not really:

Who    AVG  OBP  SLG  ISOPow
Nats .247 .327 .375 .128

To sum it up, the Nats have (prior to tonight) enjoyed a better than fifty point Isolated Power advantage in home games. No wonder they were 32-18 at home, before tonight's loss. Simply stated, the Nats have to continue deriving this home park benefit; the pitchers must continue to use RFK's spaciousness to their advantage.

The bright line between success and failure, simply stated, is too thin not to. To that end, tonight was not encouraging, to say the least.


According to Rocket Bill, the Nats are considering signing ex-Mariners, ex-Twins second baseman Bret Boone:

With second baseman Jose Vidro battling knee and quadriceps injuries and Junior Spivey on the disabled list because of a fractured right radius, the Nationals have expressed interest in Bret Boone, who was released by the Twins on Monday. Boone batted .170 (9-for-53) with three RBIs in 14 games with the Twins, who acquired him from the Mariners in a trade on July 11. Overall, he was hitting .221 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs. The Nationals are willing to pick up Boone on one condition . . .

. . . He must spend the night in a haunted mansion.

Just kidding. Jim Bowden wants Boone to go to the minor leagues first.

Boone offers that special blend of over-the-hill player (.221/.290/.350 for the season) PLUS
nepotism (pop Bob is, of course, employed by Bodes as a special assistant/Eric Milton stalker). If only Bret were a toolsy outfielder, eh?

What's my take on Boone the Younger? (Boone the Older?--in light of Aaron? Boone the Middle?---but what about Ray? Boone the Second out of Four?) My take is that he stinks. He's got as much business being a major league player as Byron Allen has being a late-night talk show host. Considering Allen's show was canceled thirteen years ago, this is not a ringing endorsement.


Bret Boone is a former Red. That's damn hard for Bowden to pass up.
That's the other "PLUS" I was going to put in there! I knew the equation looked incomplete but, like Rod Flanders, I decided to go with it.
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