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Washington Nationals: Reducing the Out Rate to Score More Runs

The Washington Nationals offense has not been as potent this season as fans had hoped and expected. The offense currently ranks 9th in the National League and 16th in Major League Baseball in runs scored. One of the issues plaguing the Nats is the loss of base runners, either by pick off, failed steal attempt, failed extra base attempt, or double play. This year the Nats have even managed the offensive triple play. Outs are the only constant in baseball. You can work around anything else, but each out puts you one step closer to the end of the game. This made me wonder - the stats we see don't really account for events like Nyjer Morgan caught stealing and Pudge Rodriguez grounding into a double play. How do we show the total out rate for each player?

Out Rate

To compute the out rate for each player, I totaled all outs made through batted balls and strikeouts. I assigned two outs every time a player hit into a double play, three outs for a triple play. I thought long and hard about the triple play - it's really a combination of bad base running and bad luck. At the end of the day, it's rare, and it was easier to work the database by assigning all 3 outs to the batter. I also added outs when a player was caught stealing, was picked off, and was tagged trying to leg out an extra base on a ball in play. There are a few times each season when an offensive player causes an out by interfering with a defensive player - this was also assigned as an out to the offending player.

Based on the events MLB stores in the gameday (PitchF/X) data, I came up with the following formula:

Total Outs = Strikeouts + Groundouts + Pop Outs  + Line Outs +  Fly Outs + Bunt Outs + Fielder's Choice + (2*Double Plays) + (3*Triple Plays) + Picked Off + Caught Stealing + Tagged Out + Interference

Players received a pass for getting on base by error and for hitting a sacrifice fly/sacrifice bunt. To turn total outs into a rate, I divided the total number of outs by the total number of plate appearances:

Out Rate = Total Outs / Total Plate Appearances


MLB Out Rates

Through Sunday May 30th, the MLB out rate is 0.672. After computing the league rate, I looked at the data, limiting the output to players with a minimum 75 plate appearances.

Bottom three:
  1. Garret Anderson (Dodgers) - 81 TPA, 68 outs, for an out rate of .840. Absolutely deadly.
  2. Brandon Wood (Angels) - 128 TPA, 106 outs, for an out rate of .828.
  3. Garrett Atkins (Orioles) - 134 TPA, 104 outs, for a .776 rate.
Top three:
  1. Marcus Thames (Yankees) - 79 TPA, 41 outs, .519 out rate 
  2. Justin Morneau (Twins) - 213 TPA, 111 outs, 0.521 out rate. To me, this is the most impressive performance. 213 plate appearances, and he barely records a half out per plate appearance. 
  3. Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox) - 220 TPA, 119 outs, 0.541 out rate.
Other Players of Note:
  1. Albert Pujols (Cardinals) - 226 TPA, 137 outs, .611 out rate
  2. Ryan Braun (Brewers) - 219 TPA, 136 outs, .621 out rate
  3. Martin Prado (Braves) - 234 TPA, 145 outs, .632 out rate
  4. Derek Jeter (Yankees) - 235 TPA, 156 outs, .668 out rate

Washington Nationals

So how did the Nats perform? We know that Pudge has pounded his share of double plays this year, and Morgan has been caught on the bases more than he should. Here how it looks (dashed red line is league .672 out rate):




Josh Willingham is in MLB leader territory with an out rate of only .563. Dunn, Kennedy and Zimmerman are all below the league .672 rate. Willie Harris and Wil Nieves are killing the offense with .753 and .740 rates respectively. Put another way - if they each have 4 plate appearances in a game, they will likely be responsible for 3 outs each. Nyjer Morgan's out rate (.708) is a real disappointment. The failed bunt attempts and base running mishaps caused his out rate to skyrocket above the league average. Pudge's 10 GDPs have edged his out rate to a few points above the league average.

So what do you think? Is this a useful way to display a player's total contribution to team outs?