First Quarter Report Card

We're 41 games into the season, one-quarter of the way to the playoffs (ha!).  How have the Nats been doing?

Offense: C

The Nationals are 12th in the NL in runs scored per game (4.22), 8th in OPS (.749), 5th in OPS+ (99), tied for 10th in HR (36), 12th in walks (139), and 1st in CS (with 17, in spite of their only 3rd-place 29 SB).  That's pretty much league average--perhaps slightly below, but I'm in a good mood because they beat the Mets last night.

Pitching: D+

The Nationals give up the 8th-most runs per game (4.63).  They're 12th in ERA (4.47), 11th in ERA+ (95), last in K/9 (5.8, far below the next-worst team's 6.6), 11th in BB/9 (3.9), 12th in WHIP (1.446), and 10th in HR/9 (1.0).  They are 1st in saves (16) and 4th in holds (365), but that's a below-average collection of pitching by any measure.  The advanced metrics are brutal: DC is last in xFIP (4.78) and second-to-last in FIP (4.73).

Fielding: B+

The Nats are 6th in the league in Total Zone Runs, 3rd in Defensive Runs Saved, and 5th in Ultimate Zone rating.  The three major systems estimate that the Nats have been between a half-game and two games above average on defense.  That's good, but not quite elite.

Luck: C+

Their 21-20 record is still two games ahead of their expected 19-22 Pythagorean win/loss.  Team BABIP is an exactly-league-average 0.300, so the batters have been neither lucky nor unlucky as whole.  Pitcher BABIP is 0.290, while team ERA is 0.26 runs better than team FIP, and team FIP is fractionally lower than its xFIP.  These are all slightly lucky.  Washington has stranded 72.5% of baserunners so far this season, which is right around league average.

Add that all up, and what do you get?  A solid C+, and a team one game over 0.500 (an 84-win pace!).  Selected individual report cards after the jump.

(I only considered position players with 100+ PA/IP. Recall that for ERA+/OPS+, higher is better and 100 is league-average.  For UZR/150: higher is better, and 0 is league average. More than a .300 BABIP is lucky for hitters and unlucky for pitchers. More that a 72% strand rate is lucky for pitchers, as is an ERA < FIP and/or FIP < xFIP.)

A Students

Ryan Zimmerman: 160 OPS+ (322/367/994) and a +22.6 UZR/150?  Go to the head of the class!  Zimmy's worth 1.8 WAR so far this season.  That's tops among NL 3Bs, and fourth in the entire league--in spite of limited playing time!  He has a slightly inflated .333 BABIP, so don't slack off in the second half of the term.

Livan Hernandez: At a 1.62 ERA (260 ERA+) and nearly 7 IP per start, Livo sets the standard for giving your team a chance to win.  However, he's outpitching his FIP and xFIP by nearly 3.5 runs, with a .193 BABIP against and a 97.5% strand rate.  That's insanely lucky.

Matt Capps: 15 saves out of 15 tries, 2.11 ERA (201 ERA+).  He's got a high strand rate (85%), a low BABIP against (.275) and is outplaying his FIP/xFIP by about a run and a half--we probably won't see him here again next quarter.

B Students

Tyler Clippard: A team-leading 7 wins, 2.22 ERA (190 ERA+).  Work on that 5.5 BB/9 while keeping up the 10.2 K/9 if you can.  Also, allowing more than half of inherited runners (55%) to score is not cool.  With an 87% strand rate, .250 BABIP against, 3.66 FIP and 4.52 xFIP (all quite lucky), expect Clippard to fall hard in the second quarter if he can't get the walks down.

Josh Willingham: A solid 135 OPS+ (262/413/467) balances a not-too-far-below average -4.3 UZR/150.  Hammer's 1.3 WAR is 4th among NL LFs.  Keep applying yourself, young man!

Scott Olsen: A decent 3.15 ERA (134 ERA+), roughly in line with his 3.02 FIP but better than his 3.80 xFIP.  His .311 BABIP against is slightly unlucky, while his 74.5% strand rate is slightly lucky.  Scotty is having a good season, but not a luck-driven one.

Adam Dunn: After a sluggish start, a sluggy finish to the quarter: 146 OPS+ (256/385/549).  His fielding at 1B is below average (but not too much below) at -5.6 UZR/150. Dunn's 1.1 WAR is 5th among NL 1Bs.

Sean Burnett: Allowing only a third of inherited runners to score, Burnett has racked up a 3.09 ERA (139 ERA+) with a roughly league-average strand rate and BABIP against, and a thoroughly respectable 3.6ish FIP and xFIP.  We see good things for you in the coming year, young man!  Now, fix your cap.

Ian Desmond: A decent enough start with the bat and glove: 100 OPS+ (272/324/432) and +14.4 UZR/150.  His 1.0 WAR is 4th among NL shortstops, but I want to see more hitting before you get to clean the erasers.

C Students

Ivan Rodriguez: Don't skate on a hot start and HoF potential, young man!  A recent slump has Pudge at a 104 OPS+ (322/344/426) as his BABIP descends to a more-realistic-but-still-lucky .356.  The league-leading 10 GDPs doesn't help.

Luis Atilano: Your 3-0 record isn't fooling anyone, buddy.  The 108 ERA+ and 3.90 ERA don't quite tell the story either, given that they derive from a .273 BABIP, 80% strand rate, and a FIP and xFIP over 5.  The less than one K/BB is even more painful that the 5+ BB/9--not even Livan throws that much junk!  Find the strike zone if you want a B.

Cristian Guzman: The 107 OPS+ is nice (328/351/430), and a roughly-league-average +2.4 UZR/150 at 2B is nice, too.  Now take some more pitches and you might work up to a B next term.

Tyler Walker: Ironically, Walker has only 0.9 BB/9, and 10 K/BB!  He gets hit around enough to only manage a 93 ERA+ (4.58 ERA), but the 4.01 FIP and 2.96 xFIP hint at some good potential. Keep throwing strikes, and the outs will come.

Adam Kennedy: The 88 OPS+ (255/328/377) isn't great, but the above-average defense with a +7.2 UZR/150 at 2B is good.  The glove and some heads-up playing, like the foul-bunted pitchout from last night, saves AK from a worse grade.

Craig Stammen: A bit of a disappointment, with a 72 ERA+ (5.86 ERA).  The 2.5 K/BB and 5.2 K/9 is a nice start, and the 3.9ish FIP/xFIP is promising.  The 55% strand rate and .322 BABIP hint at some bad luck, and the good peripherals are enough to (barely) keep you from a D.

D Students

Nyjer Morgan: We're disappointed in you, young man.  Your 88 OPS+ (253/337/367) is sub-par, and the 50% CS rate (8 SB, 8 CS) is unacceptable.  Even worse, your defense has not lived up to your potential: a solidly below-average -14.3 UZR/150.  You are below replacement level right now (-0.1 WAR), mister, so you'd better straighten up and fly right.  Less flash, more focus on the basics--your defense has been improving from its early-season bottom, so keep it up.

John Lannan: You know it pains me to give you this grade.  The 70 ERA+ (6.02 ERA) is not what we expect from--you should be beating your 5.6 FIP/xFIP!  The 4.78 BB/9 and only 3.12 K/9 almost got you a failing grade; past good will can only last so long.

F Students

Miguel Batista:  70 ERA+, 6.4 BB/9, 4.8 K/9.  Your 6.00 ERA is actually lucky compared to your 7.35 FIP. Needs improvement.

Brian Bruney: 10.2 BB/9, 2.321 WHIP, 7.64 ERA (56 ERA+).  He is unlucky, more that 2 runs worse than his FIP, with a 58% strand rate and .372 BABIP against.  But still, more than a walk per inning, including a walk-off walk? FAIL!

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