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So, Are the Nats Better Off?

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Follwing up on the previous post about the Washington Nationals being named the off-season's biggest losers, and the repsonse thereto, I thought a look at the numbers instead of assuming the Nats were better off now than they were at the end of last season was in order.

The question is simply this: If they don't make another major league acquisition, did the Nats make themselves better over the off-season? Looking at the numbers, it's hard to argue that the Nats upgraded over the winter with their three acquisitions.

Josh Willingham essentially returns Willie Harris to a utility role. Looking simply at hitting, the Hammer outpaces Wee Willie in OPS+ 118 to 98. That's significant. But if you factor in defense, at least one publication had Harris ranked as high as the sixth most valuable left fielder last season. In that same analysis, Willingham was 16th. As a side note, this guy was ranked as the worst left fielder in all of baseball in this analysis.

Daniel "Wild Thing" Cabrera essentialy replaces Tim Redding. Cabrera is two years younger than Redding, but that's where the positives end. If you want a full analysis of Cabrera, click here. His K/9, K/BB, quality starts, WHIP and ERA are all going in the wrong direction, as is his velocity.

Redding is no "ace", but at least his skill set is defined. Cabrera was always lousy and now he's getting worse, either from injury or simple attrition. He'll get some benefit from facing a pitcher twice a start, but I'd also be ready for many more walks to pitchers keeping an inning going.

Which brings us to Scott Olsen, who replaces Odalis Perez (if the Nats still don't re-sign him). There's widely differing views on the young left-hander. What we know, baseball wise, is that he's averaged 185 innings per year in his three big league seasons to a roughly NL-average ERA. His 2007 ERA was inflated, perhaps due to injury and/or off-field issues, but he rebounded last season and shaved 1.6 runs off his earned run average. And he won't be 25 until June.

What we also know is that Olsen's BABIP (Batting Average Against on Balls In Play) was an unsustainable .266 last season (league average around .295), which surpressed his actual ERA significantly. If you look at some of the other metrics, Olsen ranked in the list comperable to candidates already in uniform here.

Looking just at these acquisitions, and not even contemplating the moves the Nats didn't make, or haven't yet made, it's hard to argue that they are better than they were last year.

But considering the Nats had 102 losses and a run differential of minus-184 last season, it would be awfully tough to be any worse.