Nats Offense - Player Performance Reviews

This post is nothing complicated. All I have done is put together a little write up for every position player on the Nationals roster with over 30 plate appearances and attempted to show off what each does well or poorly. I don't try to be terribly predictive, merely to praise the accomplishments of each and pull into daylight some of the quirks each player has. I don't try to address how any player compares to others at his position in the majors, though that may be worth discussing. For those that are scared by statistics, I tried to be nice and descriptive and keep things (relatively) simple. Try to enjoy what you can and learn something about your favorite player :)

Here are some of the stats you will run into below:
OBP - on base percentage (the ability to get on base) - .318 is the NL average
SLG - slugging percentage (hit the ball hard!) - .398 is the NL average
BABIP - batting average on balls in play (the luck part that happens after bat meets ball) - .299 is NL average
BB% and K% - walks and strikeouts per plate appearance - 8.2 BB% and 20.2 K% are NL average
NL average for line drives is 20.7%, for ground balls is 45.9% and for fly balls is 33.4%
The average NL player swings at 45.6% of pitches.
The average NL player hits 79.6% of pitches he swings at.
RE24 - runs above average by the 24 base/outs states - it's the difference in run expectancy that a player provides in each at bat added/subracted together
wRC+ - weighted runs created now with frosting - complicated but inclusive measure of offensive production - 100 is average
Stats are up to date through game 58, June 10, when the Red Sox were swept.

The players are ordered in descending order by wRC+. The hottest bats are at the top. The cold ones at the bottom. If nothing else, read up on the Shark. He has some good looking stats.

Bryce Harper (139 PA, wRC+)

Bryce Harper's bat is clearly the hottest on the Nats roster right now. His .368 OBP is a close second on the team, but his slugging percentage is #1 at .521. His stats are not only great, but healthy. He takes his share of walks, and his .312 BABIP suggests that luck is not a factor. His strikeout rate is nice and low at 17.2%. He hits plenty of line drives and fewer than average ground balls. 9.1% of his hits have been infield hits, and 15% of his hits have been home runs.

Plate discipline: Harper is aggressive, swinging at 53.1% of pitches, but has a good eye. He has swung at a team high (four pitchers aside) 77.5% of strikes, but also at an above average number of pitches out of the zone. His contact rate is merely average 77.6%, though his ability to hit pitches outside the zone is a touch above average at 68.8%. Considering that only 39.2% of pitches he sees are strikes, and a team low 44.1% of pitches he sees are fastballs, he is handling it well and may be able to maintain his torrid pace for a while longer.

Since everybody is wondering, if Harper played a full season like this he would hit about 25 HR.

Jayson Werth (113 PA, 127 wRC+)

Werth is on the disabled list with a broken wrist, and probably won't be back for another two months at least. Until his injury, however, he was the Nats second hottest hitter. His .372 OBP is still #1 on the team. He walked a lot, and did not actually strike out that much. His BABIP this year is .324, which is in line with his career numbers (2011's bad luck was an anomaly). He hit few line drives this years, but a lot of fly balls.

Plate Discipline: Werth in 2012 showed a discerning approach at the plate. He swung at only 41% of pitches, including only 25.2% of pitches out of the zone. His contact rate at 78.6% was only average, largely because was terrible at connecting with strikes in the zone (78.5%).

Adam LaRoche (231 PA, 121 wRC+)

LaRoche has been wonderfully consistent and solid this year. He has gotten on base at a solid clip (.346 OBP), and has shown excellent power with a .490 SLG. He is on pace to hit 28 HR this year. He drew walks at a higher clip than anyone on the team. LaRoche's .299 BABIP shows no special luck. He hit plenty of line drives, very few ground balls and lots of fly balls. He has by far contributed the most runs to the team (RE24).

Plate Discipline: Nobody on the team swung at fewer pitches than LaRoche so far this year (39.2%). His swing percentages are pretty similar to Werth's, but LaRoche has been connecting with pitches in the strike zone at a much higher rate (87.2%). LaRoche is the only Nat who saw fewer pitches in the zone than Bryce Harper did.

Chad Tracy (55 PA, 116 wRC+)

Until his groin tear two weeks ago, Chad Tracy was one the best pinch hitters in the majors this year. As a pinch hitter, he put up a .435 OBP with a .556 SLG in 23 plate appearances. Overall, his .327 OBP was solid, and his power was exciting to watch (.510 SLG, .245 ISO). Nearly a quarter of his hits were home runs. He did not walk a lot, but did not strike out a lot either, and he had as bad luck as nearly anybody on the team putting balls into play (.270 BABIP). His line drive and ground ball percentages were extremely low, while his fly ball percentage was sky high (65%). It will take another month or two for Chaditude to return to D.C., but if he can contribute like this later this year nobody will be complaining.

Plate Discipline: Average swing rates, but Tracy made contact with 91.1% of strikes he swung at, and 83.5 pitches overall (good for 2nd on the team).

Roger Bernadina (107 PA, 104 wRC+)

The Shark was on and off the bench all season, playing all three outfield positions but still relegated to the bottom of most depth charts. His .340 OBP was very good for him, and his .402 SLG was solid. As a pinch hitter he laid down a .643 OBP and a .625 SLG in 15 plate appearances (take that Chaditude!). The Shark sports the highest line drive percentage on the team at 29%, his luck (.318 BABIP) was not exceptional, and a team high 12% of his hits were infield singles. He stole five bases in six tries. In limited plate appearances, the Shark is third in runs contributed (RE24) as well as WPA (does Doghouse mention him enough?).

Plate Discipline: Bernadina swung at the same percentage of pitches that Werth does, only 41.3%. He connected 80.1% of the time, however, which is the third highest rate on the team.

Wilson Ramos (96 PA, 103 wRC+)

Now out for the season, Ramos was a solid contributor behind the plate. His .354 OBP and .398 SLG will be missed. His luck was average. His ground ball percentage was very high at 66.2%, yet he only grounded into one double play this year.

Plate Discipline: Nothing special, just slightly above average all around.

Ian Desmond (258 PA, 97 wRC+)

This man is clutch. He may never be clutch again, but so far this year Desi has been very clutch. He leads the team in Doghouses (WPA, that is). Overall, his .291 OBP is a bit disappointing, but his .440 SLG is quite nice. His luck has been fair (.317 BABIP). He does not walk (3.5% walk rate). He hit nice average amounts of line drives, ground balls and fly balls. He stole seven bases in nine tries.

Plate Discipline: Aggressive, but it works for him. He swung at a team high 56% of the pitches he saw, including 74.2% of strikes. His contact rate is solid (79.9%), especially in the zone (87.6%). He has a unique approach at the plate, and it requires him to make contact. When Desi hits the first pitch, he has a .421 OBP with a .579 SLG. He has yet to get a hit while down 0-2. With two strikes on him, he has only five hits in 51 plate appearances.

Steve Lombardozzi (44 PA, 95 wRC+)

Lombo has put together a solid line this year filling in at 3rd, 2nd, short and LF. Though he has shown the least power of any Nat, his .350 OBP has definitely helped boost the Nats. He has a .363 SLG. He did not walk often (7.1%) but struck out far less than anyone else on the team (7.9%). His line drive, ground ball and fly ball rates were pretty average. He has not been blessed with extra luck (.304 BABIP).

Plate Discipline: This is where this kid shines. He doesn't swing at more pitches than average, either in our out of the strike zone. When he does swing, however, he rarely misses. When Lombardozzi swings at a pitch, he makes contact 92% of the time. If he is swinging at a strike, he makes contact 95.6% of the time. When he swings at a ball, he makes contact 86.8% of the time. He looks like an all around solid slap hitter for now.

Danny Espinosa (231 PA, 92 wRC+)

This season is definitely a bit of a disappointment for Espinosa so far. His .314 OBP is adequate and his .376 SLG is a step down from last year. He has even had luck on his side (.323 BABIP). He put up a solid 10% walk rate, but struck out a very ugly 30% of the time. When he puts the ball into play, his line drive, ground ball and fly ball rates are nothing unusual, but he has trouble putting that ball into play.

Plate Discipline: Danny swung at an above average 52.9% of pitches - at 73% of strikes and 38.8% of balls (2nd most on the team). His contact rate of 68.7% was second worst on the team, however. He made contact with 80.4% of the strikes and only 53.2% of the balls he swung at. His approach has not changed drastically since last year, when he simply chased fewer pitches both in and out of the strike zone and simply did a better job of connecting with the pitches he swung at. He is at his strongest swinging early in the count, but once he starts fishing with 2 strikes on him he has usually lost.

Ryan Zimmerman (196 PA, 83 wRC+)

Battling with injury, Zim has putt together an underwhelming season so far. His .321 OBP and .354 SLG are not what anyone expects from him. That said, his walk rate (9.7%) and strikeout rate (16.8%) are in line with his career numbers. The BABIP gods have not favored him so far this year (.286 BABIP). He has been hitting more ground balls at the cost of fly balls, which may be reflected in the fact that he has grounded into a team high eight double plays this year. On the plus side, he has managed to leg out infield hits at a higher clip than Bryce Harper so far. Despite his struggles, Zim is 2nd on the team in runs contributed (RE24).

Plate Discipline: Zim has not changed his selective approach from past years. He still swung at 41.8% of pitches, including only 58.2% of strikes. His contact percentage is down this year though, to 76.8%, about five percent lower than years past.

Rick Ankiel (144 PA, 70 wRC+)

Ankiel's bat has been in decline for several years now, and it has not gotten better this year. His .285 OBP and .391 SLG do not stack up well with his competition on this team. He got a lot of playing time in CF this spring before Harper was called up, but will probably see his playing time decrease now unless he turns things around with his bat. He did not walk a lot (7.6%) and struck out more than any other Nat this year (33.3% of the time!). Luck has been on his side (.329 BABIP), but he simply has not gotten the ball into play enough.

Plate Discipline: Ankiel swung at 52% of pitches he saw, a bit above average. His problem is that he made contact only 65.7% of the time, worst on the team. When he swung at strikes, he made contact a team worst 72.7% of the time. When he swung at pitches out of the zone, he hit them only 57% of the time. Nobody on the team whiffed entirely on as many pitches as Ankiel (17.4%).

Jesus Flores (115 PA, 62 wRC+)

Flores has started to rack up a lot of playing time since taking over the starting spot for the injured Wilson Ramos, but unfortunately his bat has not woken up yet. His .289 OBP and .337 SLG and not exciting, though up from last year. He has not walk a lot (6.1%) and has not struck out too much (20%). He has a nice balance between line drives, ground balls and fly balls.

Plate Discipline: Flores was aggressive at the plate, swinging at 54.6% of pitches, including a team high 43.3% of pitches out of the zone. His contact rate was pretty average at 78.1%, and he actually made decent contact swinging at junk outside the zone (72.8%).

Michael Morse (35 PA, 47 wRC+)

Morse has struggled coming off his injury, but there is not much that can be said with this small of a sample size of data. Beast Mode will be back, sooner or later.

Xavier Nady (100 PA, 21 wRC+)

Nady, Nady, Nady.. This man has gotten a decent amount of playing time simply because he bats right handed. All the good bats on the Nats bench are lefties this year. Nady sports a .200 OBP and a .277 SLG. That is abysmal. He is equally terrible against lefties and righties. The only position player he should ever replace in the batter's box is Ankiel, and only against a lefty. The BABIP gods (.162 BABIP!) may have seriously cursed him this year, so it probably/certainly isn't all his fault, but it is still hurting the team. Think of how much Adam LaRoche has done for the team. Now think of the opposite. Yep, Xavier Nady has managed in limited playing time to cost the Nats almost as many runs as LaRoche contributed to the team (RE24 rankings link).

Plate Discipline: Nady swung at an average percentage of pitches, suggesting his approach is not off per se, though he did have a below average contact rate (75.4%). Whether it is luck or something else, the fact remains that when Nady put a ball into play, he got on base only half as often as Werth or Espinosa would have. Nobody wins ball games that way.

Mark DeRosa (44 PA, -2 wRC+)

DeRosa is still not back from his DL stint, and the numbers he has put up so far probably don't do his healthy self justice. With lousy luck (.094 BABIP), he managed to collect only three hits in his 44 plate appearances. It's up to him to do better when he returns.

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