Thursday, September 25, 2008

Signs of Hope: PrOPS

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)


JayB said...

That was a posting of Hope?

Other than Nick Johnson, I hope none of those guys are on the team next year....if they are we have not improved at all regardless of the projected improvement. The point is Kearns, Pena, and most of the rest are constant underachievers. That is not going to change. Nick Johnson if a constant DL trip every year; that is not going to change next year or ever.

Sorry, but that did not give me any hope at all......Signing players who reach their projected numbers, that is what I can hang some hope on....not Pena, Kearns, et al.

Steven said...

Well, the goal of the stat is to try to separate out factors within a players' control versus those outside their control--so it's not fair to call this underachieving, but more bad luck.

That said, I hear you, buddy. These guys aren't going to lead us to the promised land (though I'm still somehow pulling for Nick).

It's not easy finding rational reasons to be optimistic about this club.

JayB said...

Fair Enough.....

I think the best signs of hope I have seen are in the pitching in the pen. I like Shell, I like Hinkley, I like Lannan. I hope the next wave will be better. I not sure Mock, Chico, Balaster, Bergmen, Hanrahan and Saul R are going to be long term solutions but should bring some trade value if we sell high now at least.

I like the defense at SS that has been added. I think we got something for nothing if Dukes and the better end of the deal in Milledge, but I would trade them both for starting pitching prospects that were true top of the rotation prospects.

The only way to improve next year is spend money on FA or Trade for big contracts. We both know that is not going to happen.

Down side.....Zim will be gone soon.....even Nats must hear the message between the lines of his me or lose in 3 years unless you are willing to do what it takes to win by 2011......and that will be a said day.......but one that will come so...yes trade Zim in a year when he is having one of his hot streaks......if not you will lose him anyway for some draft picks......

You know what I keep thinking.....what would this team look like with Alfonso in LF.....Bet you he will be a value even at the end of that contract with inflation of salaries going the way they are.

Steven said...

sell high? what is this sell high you speak of? me no understand.

soriano is debatable I guess. personally, I think he'll be out of baseball at the end of that contract. if the cubs win the WS that'll be worth it for them. we'll see. But I respect that you at least name names. Most of the people who complain about the lack of FAs don't because if you look at the top of the '06 and '07 classes it's a lot of crapola--Zito, Silva, A. Jones and the like.

Really the best argument would be for ARod. He's the guy who was available and would have really made a difference. No one says it cuz it sounds dumb, but if you want to buy wins, he would have been the man.

love the ellipses though.....keep it up......its uniquely yours....much Better than Random Capitalization patterns.....

Dave Nichols said...

i LOVE PrOPS. i thought i was the only guy in the universe that continued to look at it.

just got home from the rain out. unfortunate, but appropriate, way to end the home season.

Monday should be a fun day.