The stat I like to best summarize overall offensive production is runs created (RC). After all, the team with the highest batting average or the most doubles doesn't win. It's the team with the most runs scored. RC is a quick and easy apples-to-apples measure that eliminates the biases and misconceptions we all have about the importance of baseball card stats like batting average, home runs, and RBI.
There are many ways to calculate RC, but they're all projections, looking at the player's performance and estimating the number of runs their production created for their team. I'm just using a really simple version: OBP x SLG x AB. Although there are far more sophisticated versions that factor in things like stolen bases or performance in the clutch, this one is close enough for my purpose here. (It projects for instance that the Nationals as a team as of 8/21 when I started putting this post together had scored 464 runs; in fact they'd scored 466.) RC also lets you get a rough sense of the number of wins and losses you're getting out of individual players' performance. For the Nationals, every 8 RC would mean another win.
Figuring RC by individual player split by the defensive position they were playing at the time is a fair bit more complicated, so I'm just looking at OBP and SLG at that level. I also note the percentage of the ABs at the position that each player has gotten. I dropped some guys who only had a couple at bats here or there, and there are some rounding errors, so the percentages don't all add up to 100.And again, I'm working from numbers as of 8/21, just because that's when I stared working on this post.
So with that out of the way, here it is.
--Flores (55%): .271 / .316 / .427
--Nieves (22%): .284 / .339 / .373
--Lo Duca (14%): .203 / .320 / .266
--Estrada (9%): .140 / .159 / .140
Nieves and Flores together give us plenty to be at least average, maybe a tick above, but tut the 23% of the ABs that we wasted on Lo Duca and Estrada drag us 8 runs below average overall.
--Young (28%): .288 / .384 / .400
--Johnson (23%): .219 / .420 / .438
--Boone (23%): .294 / .336 / .441
--Lo Duca (12%) .226 / .255 / .245
--Belliard (7%): .333 / .421 / .515
--Casto (7%): .182 / .308 / .242
Looking at Young, Johnson, Boone and Belliard, you kinda feel like we're doing ok at 1B. We're not. First base is one of the easiest positions to play defensively, and as a result you have to have a bopper. Twelve-plus RC below average is not good. But it's not our worst deficit.
--Lopez (58%): .250 / .319 / .351
--Belliard (20%): .216 / .296 / .412
--Bonifacio (17%): .241 / .277 / .342
--Harris (7%): .270 / .341 / .351
All told, we're 15 runs below average here. Hard to single out any one player, but Bonifacio is clearly the worst of the lot. At least he he's young. And catches the ball.
--Zimmerman (58%): .268 / .317 / .415
--Belliard (18%): .231 / .346 / .429
--Boone (11%) .176 / .218 / .314
--Casto (9%): .175 / .283 / .225
Another premium offensive position where we're getting hurt badly--13 runs below average, with Belliard actually our best run-producer. I'm not sweating this, because I'm pretty much convinced that Zimmerman is hurt.
--Guzman (86%): .293 / .324 / .400
--Lopez (5%): .042 / .179 / .042
--Orr (4%) : .273 / .304 / .273
--Belliard (3%): .667 / .688 / .800
--Gonzalez (2%): .333 / .405 / .485
Shortstop is the only position on the diamond where we're above average in run production. Not by a ton--our 6-run advantage here doesn't even make up for what we're giving up at catcher. But Guzman's first half carried it, but a couple hot weeks from Belliard and Gonzalez helped keep us solidly over the line despite Felipe's line.
--Pena (38%): .196 / .233 / .257
--Harris (28%): .211 / .289 / .383
--Langerhans (10%): .261 / .382 / .370
--Lopez (7%): .314 / .385 / .314
--Mackowiak (6%): .172 / .286 / .310
--Dukes (5%): .280 / .333 / .560
--Casto (4%): .150 / .292 / .200
--Lo Duca (3%): .385 / .385 / .462
Now this is brutal. Being 36 runs below average is hard to fathom. Like 1B, this is an easy defensive position to play, so it's absolutely necessary to have a bopper at this position. Just getting average offense would have been worth 3-4 additional wins so far this year. Instead, it's hands down our worst offensive position, not just compared to what the rest of the league is doing but in absolute terms. And before you go complaining about injuries, remember--our first choice, Pena, got the plurality of the ABs.
--Milledge (80%): .261 / .321 / .405
--Harris (11%): .357 / .471 / .643
--Bernadina (8%): .125 / .125 / .125
A little worse than five runs below average is still pretty bad, but by this measure it's our second best position. This again highlights though why it's so important for Milledge to be able to play centerfield defense. We're just a bit behind the pace here, but compare that 66 RC to what the league is getting out of right and LF and you can see clearly why Milledge isn't a winning corner OF. Recent stories about the Nationals' interest in Willy Taveras suggest the team's ready to pull the plug, but I hope they don't. Or if they do, Milledge shouldn't be counted on as more than a fourth outfielder.
--Kearns (63%): .219 / .311 / .310
--Dukes (32%): .270 / .372 / .428
Other than LF, no position is hurting us worse than RF. And it's only saved from Pena-esque futility because of Dukes's strong performance. No player has put us at a greater disadvantage this season than Austin Kearns.
League average: .228 / .315 / .344
Nationals: .230 / .324 / .399
Just for shits and grins, give your pinch-hitters a round of applause.
So summing it up, we're pretty much awful everywhere, which you knew. But, in order, the positions that are costing the most in terms of offense are: LF (-36), RF (-20), 2B (-16), 3B (-13), 1B (-12), C (-8), CF (-6), and SS (+6). (Again, every 8 runs or so for this team would mean another win.)