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:
Here are the stats for our players of note:
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.
|No Bryce Desmond
|No Danny Laroche
No Bryce Desmond,
and no Danny Laroche
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:
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.
One last table, like the one above. This is total team position player RAR, and offensive RAR (oRAR) with the defensive component factored out.
|Nats, no Bryce Desmond||-6.3||-8.8|
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.)