The Nationals have some offensively great players this year, but what does a season of strong offense actually look like? What does it mean for a player to be hot?
For today's off day, I dropped by Fangraphs and pulled data on three of the more interesting Nationals players this year who are talked about a lot for being hot or not.
My focus today is entirely on the offensive side of the game and for that I turned to wRC+, which is a scaled measure of the "weighted runs created" by each player.
wRC+ is a number where 100 is league average and every number is expressed as a percentage of that baseline.
Roughly speaking Daniel Murphy by this measure has created 85 runs this year, which is 64 percent better than league average and therefore Murphy has a wRC+ of 164.
The data points in the following graph each represent the average weighted runs created for one week of play.
The first data point represents the first week in April and the last point in each player’s line represents this past week. (The length of the lines varies a little due to differences in games played.)
It is interesting how streaky even Murphy was, and he is the most consistent producer on the team. He started out hot but by the end of April there was more than a week where he was at best league average.
In May, he went on a tear and won Player of the Month but even in the middle of that month there was a solid week where his production was again essentially league average.
He was league average for a large chunk of June and then went back to destroying the ball in July. He is currently ranked fourth in the majors in wRC+.
Bryce Harper started out strong then turned into a baseball yo-yo in May.
In June, he was inconsistently above average and flirting with greatness again, but when July came around he fell right into a serious funk.
That said, do you remember him being as bad at the beginning of May as he was at the end of July?
Remember, the bottom of each trough is not a single bad performance. Each is a very terrible week of baseball. He got out of that first funk just fine.
The rise and fall of Danny Espinosa is a long and sordid tale.
He started the season in the dumpster, flirted with respectability in May, flirted with greatness in June but was not truly consistent enough to be counted as great, then fell back into the dumpster in July, and has just fought his way back to flirting with respectability again.
He owns both the least productive and the most productive weeks of these three players.
It is interesting that Bryce Harper is the only player to manage a month without a week where his production was below league average.
Daniel Murphy has been so great and seemingly so consistent but his season is made up of peaks and valleys just like everyone else.
Yes, he never spent a lot of time at or around the league average level, but even he was not immune from playing like a mortal for weeks at a time.
To me the most valuable piece of information to glean from this graph is the simple fact that we cannot predict next week's production by this week's production for any player.
Harper has pulled himself out of a slump before this year, as has Espinosa.
Another piece of insight gleaned here is that this is an illustration of how much a team can continue to win despite one or more players having a terrible week.
Invariably, someone has stepped up to carry the load.
Remember last year when Bryce was doing all the lifting by himself. This approach is probably healthier and leads to more wins.
If you can find more insight to glean from this chart please do share it in the comments.
Likewise, if you have ideas for similar projects toss them out there. There is another off day coming up this week after all.