HItting and pitching dominate the Wins Above Replacement (W.A.R.) projections that I'm putting together with your help. However, fielding and baserunning make important contributions, too. Check out how Your 2009 Nationals are projected to fare in the field (and on the basepaths) after the jump, then weigh in with your opinions. Do I still seriously believe we might get 75 wins this season?
Bonus W.A.R. pitching update, too!
Okay, fielding is actually kind of a big deal. It's the sort of the thing that makes a Big Ole Slugger like Adam "Bigger Wilkerson" Dunn no better than The Amazing Willie Harris once you add the time they spend in field to the time they spend at the plate. I'll admit right now that I have a pretty hazy grasp of defensive statistics, especially the way you go from the fairly arcane stats to a number of runs saved/lost over a season. So to conserve my limited brain power, I'm going to take the number of runs saved/lost directly from the CHONE fielding projections for 2009. These projections are runs saved/lost over the course of a full season. Every 10 runs added is another win. Here's how they stack up for our projected lineup:
That's right, CHONE projects our favorite backstops to be a bit sub-par defensively. By comparison, former Nat Brian Schneider comes in at +2. Meanwhile, noodle-armed Paul LoDuca manages a -2...
1B 2B 3B SS
Belliard: +1 -6 -6 -11
Gonzalez: +4 +5 +2
Harris: +4 +4 +2
Hernandez: +3 -9
This is about what I'd figure. Our veterans (Belliard and Guzman) are definitely losing a step or two of range, while the rest of the diamond is fairly solid--anchored by the Z-Man's defensive heroics on the hot corner, which add a full win over the course of a season. I had to put in a guess for Willingham at first, since he only has OF defense projections.
Dukes: +2 -8
Kearns: +7 0
Harris: +14 +9
Milledge: 0 -10
Willingham: -8 -21
Think about all those highlight reels of TAWH making diving, fully-sprawled-out snares of sinking liners from last season--that's what +14 in the corners and +9 in center looks like. AK, for all his struggles with the bat, is a solid fielder with a terrific arm. Frankly, I'm glad Lasto didn't come out worse, considering his many cringe-inducing adventures in CF last year. I would have thought Dukes would have done a bit better, given his speed and arm, but he did have a lot of errors in 2008. Hammer... well... he's a decent hitter.
Yeah, but what's it mean?
First, we plug all of these numbers into the magic WAR spreadsheet (as always, click the "WAS" tab on the bottom to see our stats). The spreadsheet calculates everything in "wins" instead of runs, so we divide all the numbers by ten, then the spreadsheet adds up the playing time. Overall, our defense costs us 0.3 wins. Stellar fielding from TAWH, Zimmy, AK, and NJ gets canceled out by less-stellar performance from Hammer, Guz, Lasto/Dooks in CF, and behind the dish.
Here's another fun area for subtle analysis: how well do players go first-to-third, or stretch a single to a double, or beat out a DP... you're not going to get that from me. All I'm going to look at are SB and CS, because I understand them. Roughly speaking, one CS cancels out two SB. It takes 6 SB to score an extra run. You can see right away that it's tough to add more wins just from stealing bases! It's no wonder Manny doesn't like to send runners.
To get a rough estimate, I looked at baserunning from 2008. I took everyone who had at least 1 SB/CS per 100 PA (the minimum you'd need to gain an extra run over the course of a season) and at least 100 PA. I added up the SB, subtracted twice the amount of CS, divided by six, scaled up their playing time to 700 PA, and took everyone who had an answer of 1 or more:
Now, I had been saying anyone who was close to 2 (almost a quarter of a win) was "fast," and I gave them +0.25 wins in the spreadsheet. I'm thinking now that this might be a bit homerish of me. I can't quite make myself take away the speed entirely, so I'm going to give TAWH, SooperDooks and Lasto all +0.1 WAR for basestealing.
So, all this got us what, exactly?
Well, not very much. Over a season, the net base stealing out of our speedy outfielders should get us about two extra runs, which is about 0.2 extra wins. I like math.
Pitching! Pitching! Pitching!
Okay, I promised an update on the rotation and bullpen, which I admitted was my thundering weak point. I've since gotten a bit of input from Ed and LOU, plus I've cribbed from Steven at Fire Jim Bowden.
No major changes at the top: so far, everyone figures Lannan, Olsen, Cabrera and Balester throwing the majority of the starts, with some combination of Bergmann, Hill, Zimmermann, and Martis picking up spot starts, or auditioning through the #5 spot.
Here's the revised rotation (the WAR spreadsheet assumes starters throw 940 innings over a season):
The biggest change from the previous guess is that the top four eat more innings, especially Cabrera, while the audtions/spot starts in the 5 spot are briefer (and Hill gets injured again...).
We still have "Wild" Joel Hanrahan closing, with "Reliable" Saul Rivera setting up. However, there are a number of new names from Rule 5 who'll have to be up there throwing: Terrell Young and Gary Glover to name two. Here's what I'm thinking for the relief corps:
Joel Hanrahan (CL) 70
Saul Rivera (SU) 70
Steven Shell 60
Garret Mock 40
Jason Bergmann 30
Mike Hinckley 40
Marco Estrada 30
Jesus Colomoe (Mop) 50
Gary Glover 30
Terrell Young 40
Wil Ledezma 45
Not much change here, other than adding more names and splitting up the time more ways (relievers throw 540 in the WAR spreadsheet). Here are the CHONE projected ERAs for the new arms:
Gary Glover 4.09
Terrell Young 6.58
Wil Ledezma 3.49
Young has "upside," maybe? I freely admit to having never heard of these guys.
And this means HOW many wins?
This passel of hurlers gives us to 9.3 wins above replacement. Added to the 0.2 for baserunning, the -0.3 for fielding, and the 19.2 for hitting, we're up to 76.9 wins! (A "replacement-level" team will win 48.5 games in the NL.) This lineup should win 71 or more games 80% of the time, and even manage to get to 0.500 24% of the time! Yes, I think that my next task is going to be to inject a tad more pessimism into the analysis. But I'm still staying we're a lock for 70. Got any rain for my W.A.R. parade? Put it in the comments. I welcome all suggestions for getting a better estimates of PA, IP, stats... whatever you think I might have gotten wrong or could get better.