Washington Nationals Stats Shot: A tale of two two-man offenses

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond are two of the hottest hitters on the team, while Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa are two of the coldest. Each duo recently combined to score all the team's run(s) in one of the Washington Nationals' games. Just how hot/cold are they?

As a team, the Nats are currently hitting .229/.291/.378, with 28 HRs. Overall, that's an 83 wRC+, which is the worst offense in the NL, except for the Marlins. While watching a game the other day, Bob or FP compared the offensive stats of the Nats without Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond to those two by themselves. I recall it being a pretty spectacular split. I believe that was during the May 1 win over Atlanta, where Bryce Desmond scored and drove in all the runs in Jordan Zimmermann's 8 innings of shutout ball. I decided to pull the string a little farther on this.

Now, it's a little unfair to compare the offense of Bryce Desmond to "the rest of the Nats," because "Nats without Bryce Desmond" includes pitcher ABs, some poor pinch hitting (I'm looking at you, Roger Bernadina), and the spectacularly unproductive (so far) Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa. Instead, I decided to use the only the starting position players as my baseline: LaRoche, Espinosa, Desmond, Zimmerman, Werth, Span, Harper, Suzuki, and Ramos. I added Lombardozzi, too, since he picked up a lot of plate appearances while Zim was out. I also pulled out the stats for "Danny LaRoche, " who scored and drove in the Nats' only run in Friday's loss to the Pirates. The "starter-only" offense looks like this:

Player wRC+ AVG/OBP/SLG HR K% BB%
Nats Starters 98 .246/.309/.413 27 19.7 8.1

Here are the stats for our players of note:

Player
wRC+
AVG/OBP/SLG
HR
K%
BB%
Bryce Harper
192
.320/.412/.660
9
15.1
13.4
Ian Desmond
128
.296/.311/.530
4
25.2
2.5
Adam LaRoche
42
.154/.238/.275
3
31.7
9.9
Danny Espinosa
44
.176/.213/.329
2
22.5
3.4

Well, these players are drastically different, aren't they? Harper's stats might be described as "cartoonish" (as a Cubs blogger who wrote us asking about the Nats put it), while Desi is solid, especially for a SS, and ALR and Espy are downright bad. It's interesting to note that Desi and Danny both strike out and walk about the same amount (too much and not enough, respectively). However, Desi has made a lot of hard contact, while Danny... not so much. Harper's nearly 1-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is a pretty good indicator of his excellent batting eye and the healthy respect he's seeing from opposing pitchers. ALR isn't doing so well so far, but at least he's walking some.

Now, let's take a look at our two composite players "Bryce Desmond" and "Danny LaRoche," as well as how the Nats' starters look without them.

Player
wRC+
AVG/OBP/SLG
HR
K%
BB%
Bryce Desmond
160
.307/.361/.592
13
20.2
8.0
Danny LaRoche
43
.165/.226/.301
5
27.4
6.8
All Starters
98 .246/.309/.413 27 19.7 8.1
No Bryce Desmond
75
.223/.289/.346 14
18.5
8.1
No Danny Laroche
113
.269/.331/.445
22
22.5
3.4

No Bryce Desmond,

and no Danny Laroche

88
.248/.316/.366
9
16.2
8.6

Now, on some level this is a big "duh" moment. A team will look worse without its best two players, and better without its worst two players. Without Danny LaRoche, the starters have 15% more offense production, and without Bryce Desmond, the starters have 23% less production. What I thought was interesting was the last line: how does the team look without it's two best and two worst players? Overall, offensive production is down 10%, in spite of a slight improvements in AVG, OBP, K% and BB%. The big hurt is power: SLG drops by almost 50 points without Bryce Desmond, in spite of removing the punchless Danny LaRoche (or another way to look it is that Danny LaRoche has pretty good SLG for someone with such a low average...). In other words, Harper and Desmond are propping up the Nats' offensive more than LaRoche and Espinosa are weighing it down.

Here's overall value in terms of runs above replacement (RAR). I use RAR, which is WAR converted to runs, because it's a bit more fine-grained. Divide by 9 or so to convert to WAR. I also put the stats for overall RAR, including defense, and RAR without defense (oRAR, which includes baserunning). These are adjusted for position, so Danny and Desi get a bump for playing MI, while Bryce and ALR get dinged for playing a corner:

Player RAR oRAR
Nats Starters 28.1 24.0
Bryce Desmond 22.5 23.5
Danny LaRoche -4.1 -7.9

Well, that puts it rather starkly, doesn't it? Harper and Desmond have effectively generated all of the Nat's offense in excess of what a AAA team could muster, with the rest of the starters average out at AAA-level. Also, they've helped the Nats about 3 times more than the Espinosa and LaRoche have hurt.

Bottom Line

One last table, like the one above. This is total team position player RAR, and offensive RAR (oRAR) with the defensive component factored out.

Player RAR oRAR
Nats 16.2 14.7
Nats, no Bryce Desmond -6.3 -8.8
Marlins -21.2 -8.5

Right now, the Marlins are only NL team the Nats are beating offensively. Pretty much the entire difference between the Marlins and the Nats is the production of Bryce Desmond.

(All stats courtesy Fangraphs, data as of games of 5/3/13.)

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Federal Baseball

You must be a member of Federal Baseball to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Federal Baseball. You should read them.

Join Federal Baseball

You must be a member of Federal Baseball to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Federal Baseball. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker