Monday, August 4, 2008

Your 2008 Washington Nationals: 55% Short-Handed

I've been griping all year about how Bowden's been forcing us to play short-handed. It makes me crazy for a lot of reasons, not least of which how skilled Manny is at using all 25 guys, like how he used Fick and Langerhans last year as defensive replacements.

I figured it was time to go beyond the anecdotal and look at the actual numbers on this. So after reviewing the game logs and news reports, here's what I've come up with. In 110 games this year, Manny's had a full deck of 25 guys available just 50 times, or 45% of the games played. He had 24 available 40 times, 23 available 28 times, and 22 available twice.

I have nothing to compare this to, and obviously some of this is unavoidable (like when Cordero turned out to be unavailable on Opening Night), but playing short-handed 55% of the time seems like an outrageously high number to me. Most of these short-handed games were totally avoidable, when a player was clearly known to be unavailable for several days or even weeks and Bowden just didn't make a move for no apparent reason.
And with Zimmerman, Dukes, and Guzman all hurt and not headed to the DL, these numbers are likely to get even worse over the next few days.

And although being healthy would seem to coincide with having a better team on the field in general, there's evidence that being short-handed has cost us wins as well:
  • In games when we are at less than 25 players available, we have a .350 winning percentage, compared with .380 at full strength.
  • With 24 available we're a .350 team.
  • With 23 available we fall all the way to .333.
  • We split our two games with 22 available, 1-1.
Some people will say, surely, "what's the difference if we're a .380 team or a .350 team? We stink either way." And I can't really argue with that, but there's something to be said for the integrity of the game, just giving it your best effort. I'm paying full price either way. And isn't there some value in giving young players a chance? I don't care if it makes no difference in the standings at all--it's just screwed up.

If you want to check my work or help make sure this is complete or if you're just interested in picking through the wreckage, you can download the full spreadsheet here (this link will only be active for a week, after that if you are looking for this email me).
As far as I know, there's no place that this is tracked, so if anyone has a smarter way to do this than just skimming the WaPo blog and Sporting News game logs, let me know. Or don't--since I've already done it the hard way ya bastard--no, still tell me. :)

Of course, I'm not even factoring in the time when we had four catchers and basically one roster spot was wasted or the time we wasted carrying a LOOGY in a bullpen that couldn't afford to use a Ray King to just face lefties. I'm just looking at injuries.

Some other details on how I did this: when Perez and Hill were on the active roster hurt, I only counted them as unavailable on the days they were scheduled to start. For Guzman this week, I counted him as unavailable, because he's been available only to play defense and pinch run. I didn't count games where guys got hurt mid-game, but I did count late scratches.
  • Update: based on this morning's Post, Zimmy, Dukes, and Guzman won't be available for a while. The story says they'll all be back "by the end of the week." So let's say they are all back Friday, but none sooner. That would mean that in 114 games this year, Manny will have had a full deck of 25 guys available still just 50 times, or 43% of the games played--24 available 40 times, 23 available 28 times, and just 22 available six times. We'll see if they can maintain that scorching .500 winning percentage when playing with a two-man bench.


Steve Shoup said...

This is an interesting stat. though I don't think one can hang it around Bowden's or anyones head without data from the other 29 teams or from past years. At the very least it shows that no matter how deep the farm system, the rash of injuries have had an effect on the team. My one nitpick with the list is how you mentioned that you counted the games against Guzman where he could pinch run or play defense. In my opinion, this situation or any like it shouldn't be included. Pinch running or defensive replacement (though Gonzo is better at short maybe put guz at 3rd if zim is out) do not make a player an empty roster spot. Esp. since in your intro you talked about Manny using Fick and Langerhans last year. In late inning situations Fick and Langerhans weren't there to bat. I realize that sometimes they were used in double switches but their primary importance on the team was of a defensive replacement.

Dave Nichols said...

Steve, i think the larger point here is that Guz has been unavailable for his intended role, i.e. starting shortstop. he STILL can't hold a bat, therefore can't hit, therefore should be included in the figuring that he wasn't available. pithcers can pinch-run, that doens't mean you cna throw them out at shortstop. that isn't hteir intended role.

btw, the ONLY reason Guz had to go out to play D the other night was because Manny was so short-handed and Dukes got the cramp. the fact that Guz wasn't put on the DL is atrocious, and you CAN hang that on JimBow.

Steven said...

Steve--I totally agree that a better analysis would have included some comparison to all the other 29 teams, but until I can find a source that compiles all this for me, that ain't happening.

Still, this seems like a huge number of games to go short-handed, and based on this morning's paper we're not going to be back to 25 until the end of the week at the earliest. And if you download the spreadsheet, you'll see that the largest number of short-handed games were played when a guy was unavailable for a 1-2 week stretch when they pretty clearly I think should have been on the DL.

Re: Guzzy, it's a judgment call where you categorize him this week as available or unavailable. I counted him as unavailable because to me he's mostly not available. Basically I agree with what Dave said. But the reason I made note of that in my post is because you're right it's more of a judgment call and I wanted to make sure everyone was clear of the facts. Regardless, even if Guzzy was totally healthy all year, the pattern would still be there.

Also I have to include my constant rejoinder to the "rash of injuries" argument, which is that a big chunk of our injury problems have resulted from very predictable injury-prone guys getting hurt. We had more Will Carroll "reds" (high injury risks) in our starting 9 at the start of the season than almost anyone, and I don't think Bowden gets a free pass when he has no plan B for Nick and Meat getting hurt. Or Hill, Estrada, Lo Duca, Guzman. or Dukes. These are all quite injury-prone guys or guys who were never healthy in the first place.

I'm not saying it's all Bowden's fault. We've had some unpredictable, bad luck injuries (Milledge, Zimm, Cordero), but given how many people out there are harping on what a victim Bowden is for this crazy "rash" of injuries, I feel compelled to point out that at least some of it he brought on himself.