Thursday, February 12, 2009

Plan A: Johnson and Dunn Both Start

It's good news that the Nationals' plan A is to play both Adam Dunn and Nick Johnson. Why? Because Nick Johnson, when healthy, is the best player on the team. To scratch Nick's name from the line-up card and replace him with Adam Dunn simply doesn't make the team any better.

Take a look. Here's what CHONE expects from each:
  • Dunn: .371 OBP / .475 SLG
  • Johnson: .420 OBP / .477 SLG
Here's what Marcel expects:
  • Dunn: .374 OBP / .497 SLG
  • Johnson: .396 OBP / .464 SLG
  • Dunn: .396 OBP / .541 SLG
  • Johnson: .410 OBP / .472 SLG
And Oliver:
  • Dunn: .363 OBP / .488 SLG
  • Johnson: .390 OBP / .473 SLG
And ZIPs:
  • Dunn: .385 OBP / .522 SLG
  • Johnson: .416 OBP / .486 SLG
In other words, we have two systems that think Nick will be a little better (CHONE and Oliver), one that likes Dunn a little better (PECOTA), and two that think they're about the same (Marcel and ZIPs). (Also, these projections tell you that both of these guys can flat-out hit.)

But that's before you factor in fielding. You always have to remember that a run allowed in the field is worth just the same as a run created at the plate. Nick's career UZR/150 at 1B is +5.9, while Dunn's is -11.3. That's a big 1.5 win difference. Clay Davenport's Rate2 isn't quite as hard on Dunn, pegging him as a -4.5 runs per 150 games 1B, but Johnson by this measure is a +5, still almost a full win better.

The only way that Dunn represents an upgrade is if he's displacing Josh Willingham. Willingham is nearly as much of a butcher in LF as Dunn: averaging their
career UZR/150 and Rate2 stats, both players are about -11 runs below average per season for their careers. But Dunn is hands down the superior hitter. I don't think I need any stats to back that up.

Of course, durability is the big issue with Nick. But
that's the beauty of signing Adam Dunn. He both gives you an upgrade in LF and gives you a plan B in 1B that will spare us the horrors of Ronnie Belliard or the next Paul Lo Duca over there.

So mark the calendar--that's two days in a row that Jim made a decision I agreed with.


Hendo said...

For the record, PECOTA projects Willingham as much less hideous in LF (-2) than Dunn (-10).

One hopes the pounds Dunn is said to have shed will make a difference, because otherwise I'm still pleased with this signing.

Steven said...

Well, as iffy as historical defensive stats are, defensive PROJECTIONS are pretty much total guesswork.

The other thing I'm not sure about is the effect of park effect on these projections. If they're projecting Dunn hitting in Chase, that will tilt things even more to Johnson. And looking at PECOTA's EqAs (Johnson beats Dunn .312 to 308), I think at least BP may have.

Regardless the point is sound. Dunn and Johnson have similar overall offensive value, but the fielding gives Nick the edge (all together now)... if healthy.

Michael said...

If Johnson is healthy enough to play 120+ games and Dukes is in the line up all year, they could have 3 guys in row with .900+ OPSs. Round that out with Zim, Milledge, Flores and Kearns as the 4th OF and they really could be one of the better offensive teams in the NL if they stay healthy. Too bad they don't have enough reliable starting pitching to field even a 3-man rotation. Regardless, if you're saying "if..." when talking about your team's prospects, you're generally screwed. Probably their best bet is to hope Nick has a monster first half and trade him for the best starting pitching value they can get (meaning guys who have performed well either in college or above class A ball).

I put a lot of stock in meaningful offensive and pitching stats, but sabermetric attempts at fielding stats haven't won me over yet. Dunn's a bad OF, no doubt, but I think his problems with the glove are overstated. I hope I'm right on that...the season at least will be more interesting this year.