After writing a relentlessly negative series of posts over the last few days, I promised everyone that I would spend some time this week looking for signs of hope, and I'm here to deliver.
My search took me to The Hardball Times, a great stats-oriented baseball site. In 2005 they invented a stat called PrOPS--projected on-base percentage plus slugging percentage. The idea behind the stat is to look at the stats that are most consistently attributable to repeatable skill and least prone to random fluctuation and luck, like strikeout rate, walk rate, home run rate, line drives per batted ball, etc., and project out the OPS that you would expect a batter to produce based on these peripherals. If you're interested in really getting into the muck, you can read more here.
For the uninitiated, OPS a just a shorthand for the overall offensive value of a player. On-base percentage tells you essentially how often a guy avoid making an out and slugging percentage tells you how far around the bases he manages to get himself. These are the two key elements of scoring in baseball--getting around the bases while avoiding making outs--and so if you add these two numbers together you get a pretty good notion of overall how valuable a player is to your offense.
Here's what I found. If you compare the Nationals' PrOPS and actual OPS, of the 25 Nationals hitters in the THT database, 22 have higher a PrOPS than actual OPS. That would suggest that the vast majority of Nationals hitters are getting poorer results than they deserve. That chart is here, if you want to check it out yourself.
You can't quite take that at face value though, first because PrOPS has clear skew towards projecting too high. I don't have a really detailed statistical critique, but if you just look at the 70 hitters with the most ABs (hence largest sample sizes) in the NL, 43 of them have higher PrOPS than actual OPS. So just at face value the projection skews a bit high. I would also caution that there's going to be some statistical sample size noise in these numbers for some of the guys who haven't taken all that many ABs this year.
Still, according to PrOPs, the Nationals have more "underperforming" guys than most, and some by a big margin. Assuming PrOPS has some validity (and a better blogger would include some critique of the method rather than just passing this along uncritically, but hey you got me, so tough cookies), these players should improve next year and help our offense score more runs. If these guys actually approach their '08 PrOPS in 2009, we'll score quite a bit more runs.
In order, here are the the unluckiest Nationals in 2008 according to PrOPS (with OPS - PrOPS in parentheses and leaving out the former Nationals, since we're looking for signs of hope here):
Luke Montz (-.342)
Nick Johnson (-.212)
Austin Kearns (-.157)
Kory Casto (-.156)
Wily Mo Pena (-.147)
Roger Bernadina (-0.135)
Ryan Langerhans (-0.103)