Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Second Basement

Last year, the Nationals left fielders combined for an overall level of production so far below the league average that it crippled their offense all year. With "contributions" from the likes of Wily Mo Pena, Felipe Lopez, Paul Lo Duca, and Kory Casto, the left field became a vortex of awfulness into which wins disappeared.

This year, the second basemen are dragging down the team in a similar fashion.

Together, the Nationals second basemen have posted a line of .228 AVG / .297 OBP / .298 SLG in 450 plate appearances.

By player, it breaks down like this:
  • Alberto Gonzalez: 71 PA, .266 / .324 / .375
  • Anderson Hernandez: 216 PA, .250 / .312 / .310
  • Willie Harris: 29 PA, .207 / .343 / .241
  • Ron Belliard: 101 PA .163 / .230 / .239
  • Alex Cintron: 2 PA .000 / .000 / .000
Consider, the National League average for second basemen is .266 / .335 / .408. In all of MLB, only San Francisco is close to as bad at .232 / .285 / .328, and they of course just traded for Freddy Sanchez to upgrade.

To get a rough estimate of how much the Scats' keystone cops are costing the team in wins, we can use the very most simple formula for runs created: OBP x SLG x PA. (There are lots of much more precise calculations, factoring in base-running and all sorts of other metrics, but this is good enough to get us in the ballpark.)

This calculation gives us a total of 39.8 RC total for the season to date. If the Nationals were getting just league-average offense, they would have produced 65.1 runs to date, a difference of 25.3 runs.

Since every 10.1 or so in run differential is typically worth another win, that means the Nationals are 2.5 wins below average at second, with one-third of the season remaining.

Ultimate Zone Rating says the Nationals second basemen have been just about average overall fielding, so it could be worse.

Regardless it's terrible. And in case the comparison to an "average" second baseman doesn't hurt enough, try this. Former National Maicer Izturis, traded with Juan Rivera for Jose Guillen, is hitting .302 / .349 / .431 and playing a +7.7 runs above average defense, all while making just $1.6 million.

Give Izturis those 450 PA, and you get 68 runs of offense. Add his glove, and you're about 33 runs ahead. That's three wins in 107 games, a huge difference.


flippin said...

Are you sure we don't need a toolsy corner outfielder?

Souldrummer said...

Good point here. When the FO says that "we're not rebuilding", putting their money where there mouth is would say "we're going to get 3-5 more wins by getting a free agent 2nd basemen". If there's a place where making a one to two year rental would make sense, here it is.

Would you have wanted them to have signed Orlando Cabrera by the way?

Do you think Ian Desmond is part of the solution for the middle infield?

He's had a real good year to this point, but I haven't seen him so I don't know how much of it is a mirage.

NattyDelite! said...

the possible answer: Ryan Freel.

Guy has proven he can play in the past. Unless this year marks his true skill level (which is doubtful, as he's seen little playing time) he could hold down the fort. He could become our Wille Harris Infield Edition, more commonly known as Chone Figgins.

Will said...

Desmond can't be any worse than what we already have, though I'd like to see Gonzalez given more time.

The real solution would have been Orlando Hudson. He's been worth 2.3 WAR this year, which is better than every player on the Nats except Zimmerman and Willingham. Too bad we chose Adam Dunn instead.

Deacon Drake said...

Hudson would have been a satisfactory replacement this year, but he looks to be aging dramatically as the season goes on.

And the 2010 2B FA class doesn't look much better, with Hudson and Freddy Sanchez topping it. Iwamura is also an intriguing option if he is healthy.

Grover said...


Dunn's at 1.6 WAR. And let's be honest, if your team is losing like the Nats are this year, would you rather have those .7 wins in your pocket or the occasional thrill of watching mammoth home runs bounce around the upper deck scoreboard pavilion?

The more important question: The Nats have a publicly financed stadium where they rank in the middle of the league in average ticket prices, and the wealthist owner in baseball. Yet they have the 4th lowest team payroll in the game. So why the heck couldn't we have both Hudson and Dunn?

Steven said...

If I was going to sign another FA in the offseason it would have been Jon Garland or Derek Lowe. But Hudson would have been an upgrade.

I'm serious though that the best 2b situation for the Nationals over the last 4 years would have been Izturis backed up by Brendan Harris, and Jake Smolinski might be better than any of the 2bs in the system.

Desmond has a chance. We'll see.

Ben said...

You know, 2nd base will have to be written off as an experiment. At the start of the season taking a chance on Gonzalez/Hernandez was a perfectly reasonable gamble to take.

In the same way it seems that we have demonstrated that Dukes is worth it, Milledge is not, Zimmerman is actually as good as we thought, Maxwell is not. That is how rebuilding works surely. Next year we experiment with the remaining holes to be filled.

phil dunn said...

This problem could have been solved in the preseason if the Nats weren't so cheap. They could have signed Orlando Hudson, who went wanting in the free agent market, for a reasonable price. For the Dodgers in 411 AB, Hudson is hitting .292 with 7 homers, 53 RBI's and an OBP of .360. The Nats have not had a decent second baseman in their five seasons in DC.

Matt C said...

The only issue with Hudson was we had to give up a draft pick if we signed him. I thought it was a first rounded but could be wrong. Giving up either the 1st or 9th pick in this years draft was not really an option for this team. Even trading for Jamie Carroll might have been an upgrade at this point.

Ben said...

I agree Mat.

One season of Hudson, who appears to be dropping off, would cost us a draft pick and frankly we'd still be in last place.

His biggest plus is that he could have been flipped at the deadline. I honestly stand by trying Gonzalez.Hernandez out. Sure it didn't work out for us but, that's why it was an experiment.

Will said...

Did Bowden let Rizzo know about this blog before he resigned?
Hernandez was just dealt back to the Mets.

Looking closer at Gonzalez and Harris' numbers, I think they'd make a great 2B platoon. Start Harris vs RHPs (.755 OPS) and Gonzalez vs LHPs (.772 OPS).

miguel said...

second base is not the problem,is relief,the bullpen,they produce the runs now,gonzalez have a key doble today, give the chance to the kid,you think guzman will be there next year,anyway the bullpen is needs fixing now and for next year,rotation,closer,the can hit

SUSasskusah said...

Re: Matt-

I could be wrong about this, but I believe the top 10 picks are exempt from losing their draft pick if they sign a Type A FA. I seem to remember that coming up in the Texiera debacle. I think in that case, the Angels would have only gotten a supplemental pick and not an extra 1st rounder. So there goes that excuse for not signing a real 2B, or SP or CF, or SS...

Anybody know the answer for sure?

Steven said...

I believe it's the top 10 that are protected, but yes you're right the Nationals would not have had to give up their top pick had they signed an A.

John O'Connor said...

Actually, I believe the top 15 picks are protected, so signing a Type A free agent costs you a second round pick if you're in the top half of the draft.

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