Monday, March 16, 2009

Fighting for .500: Position Players

Over the last month or so, FJB, Hendo and Farid have gone over how the Nats can possibly go .500 this year. I'll try too, but with a different method: comparing the 2009 Nats to the 2005 Nats, who went 81-81.

One note-I'm using historical Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stats from BaseballProjection and 2009 projections from Fire Jim Bowden (with wOBA tweaks based on projections from FanGraphs). I'm not so good with the number crunching myself.

Starting Catcher
Scheider had a career year in 2005, posting a .268/.330/.409 line with great defense, worth 2.3 WAR
I've got Flores at a .308 wOBA, a modest improvement over last year. For some reason CHONE hates Flores this year, projecting a regression with the bat from the last 2 years. I think Flores will at worst tread water, this year, but even if the bat improves, he is still a downgrade from the 2005 version of Schneider at 1.21 WAR.

Advantage: 2005 (2.3 WAR to 1.21 WAR, a 1.09 WAR difference)

Backup Catcher
Bennett was atrocious in 2005, worth -0.5 WAR. In reality, he's atrocious every year, but Bowden didn't seem to realize that.
2009: Josh Bard
Bard is a large improvement over either Wil Nieves or Javier Valentin. I've updated my projections to a 65-35% split in playing time between Flores and Bard, and Bard is worth almost as much. I've got Bard at 1.14 WAR, a huge, huge improvement over Gary Bennett.

Advantage: 2009 (1.14 WAR to -0.5 WAR, a 1.64 WAR difference)

Starting First Baseman
Nick was healthy for a significant part of the season for the second time ever in 2005, beating his previous career high in games played of 129 by 2 with 131 and his previous career high in plate appearances of 441 by 106 with 547. This was good for a 4.2 WAR.
Johnson is projected this year to be more productive than in 2005 (.389 wOBA vs. 2005's .379), but with significantly less playing time, and thus a lower WAR of 2.74. Keep in mind that Johnson's lower projected playing time will lead to more playing time for Adam Dunn at 1B and more for Kearns and Willingham in LF rather than seeing the likes of Aaron Boone and Kory Casto picking up slack at 1B like last year, so it's not quite as bad as it seems.

Advantage: 2005, but that doesn't tell the whole story (4.2 WAR to 2.74 WAR, a 1.46 WAR difference)

Backup First Baseman
I'm not going to lie, I was a huge fan of Carlito's Way in 2005, but he was pretty terrible, with a -0.4 WAR.
2009: Adam Dunn
This is going to be unfair. At the 45% of PT I project Dunn to have at 1B, he's projected to have a 1.05 WAR. Not as high as you might expect, but his defensive stats kill him almost as much as they help Nick Johnson.

Advantage: 2009 (1.05 WAR to -0.4 WAR, a 1.01 WAR difference)

Second Basemen
Funny, in 2005, Jose Vidro and Jamey Carroll almost split time at 2B and in 2009, Anderson Hernandez and Ronnie Belliard will probably split time pretty evenly Nice how things work out.

In 2005, Vidro was worth 0.9 WAR, which is pretty ordinary. He was hurt, though. Big Surprise
Carroll was pretty much the anti-Vidro, putting up terrible numbers with the bat but decent ones in the field, He ended up with a 0.7 WAR.
2005 total: 1.6 WAR

I'm not a big Anderson Hernandez fan, but I do expect him to win 55% of the playing time at 2B. at a .288 wOBA, he'll rely on his glove to reach his projection of a 0.5 WAR.
I have trouble giving up on Belliard, as he's been great for us for the last two years. He'll come back down to Earth after a stellar half-season last year, but shouldn't fall much further than his 2007 season. Expect something along the lines of .280/.330/.430. A .330 wOBA would put him at a 0.99 WAR, and he's hit .330 all but twice in his ten year ML career.
2009 total: 1.49 WAR

Advantage: 2005 (1.6 WAR to 1.49 WAR, a 0.11 WAR difference)

Starting Third Baseman
Vinny used all the juice he had left (perhaps literally) in 2005, posting his last career positive WAR of 1.0.
The biggest difference between 2005 and 2009 is some semblance of well-rounded players. Besides Johnson, there weren't really any players who could play defense and hit as well. The 2009 team features Johnson, Zimmerman, Guzman (if he can be 90% of what he was last year) and Dukes who can do this. I've got Zimmerman down for a 4.89 WAR, which is easily the best on the team and also a conservative guess hitting-wise.

Advantage: 2009 (4.89 WAR to 1.0 WAR, a 3.89 WAR difference)

Backup Third Baseman
It's amazing that in 61 PA in 2005, Zimmerman posted a 0.5 WAR, half of Castilla's 1.0 WAR that was attained in 549 PA.
Casto will probably take away a decent number of Belliard's innings at 3B, but Belliard is the one I can run numbers on.  He's worth 0.13 WAR, mainly because I only have him at 10% of the plate appearances at 3B. Although if Zimmerman can come up with a 0.5 WAR in about 9% of the PA's at 3B...

Advantage: 2005 (0.5 WAR to 0.13 WAR, a 0.37 WAR difference)

Starting Shortstop
If you told me in the summer of 2005 that Guzman would be penned in (not just penciled in) as the starting SS in 2009, I would have gone back to being a full-time Cubs fan. Guz was worth -1.8 WAR in 2005.
After a miraculous 2008 season (where he was worth 4.3 WAR), Guzman's gotta fall off at least a little bit. I've got him at 1.99 WAR, still decent enough considering his 2005 season.

Advantage: 2009 (1.99 WAR to -1.8 WAR, a 3.79 WAR difference)

Backup Shortstop
I realize that Jamey Carroll was the primary backup SS in 2005, but I couldn't split up the stats and Carroll fit in so well at here's Spivey. We'll just call this role "Backup Infielder #2." In not too much time with the Nats, Spivey was worth 0.5 WAR.
In not too much time with the Nats in 2009, I've got Gonzalez down for being worth 0.2 WAR. If only we could say the same about his evil twin...

Advantage: 2005 (0.5 WAR to 0.2 WAR, a 0.3 WAR difference)

I'm just going to post them all in a big lump because it's hard to separate the 2005 guys by position.
2005: Jose Guillen: A decent year for Jose, worth 2.3 WAR. Anyone remember the home/away splits?
Brad Wilkerson: The 3rd best year of Wilkie's career ended up being worth 2.0 WAR.
Preston Wilson: Was he worth Zach Day and J.J. Davis? At the time, no, but it ended up being a wash as everyone in the deal turned out bad. 0.5 WAR.
Ryan Church: Not enough playing time for someone as good as he is (compared to those who were around him), 1.4 WAR.
Marlon Byrd: Not too good with the bat, OK with the glove, 0.3 WAR
2005 total: 6.5 WAR

2009: Adam Dunn: Here for the other portion of his playing time. Worth 1.61 WAR.
Elijah Dukes: Worth 2.39 WAR in around 455 PA. Imagine what he could do with 700 PA. Or imagine if he has a breakout year. I'm excited.
Lastings Milledge: If his defense stays bad and his bat improves decently, we're expecting a value of 1.39 WAR. If his defense improves and his bat breaks out, I'll be surprised.
Josh Willingham: I wish we could plug him in for 25% of the at-bats behind the plate where his bat would make him a top-10 catcher, even if his defense was below average (and, judging by his limited stats from 2004-06 in the Majors, it wasn't all that bad). In LF, he'll give poor defense and a value of 0.86 WAR in limited time. If Johnson gets hurt and Willingham stays healthy, he could give us 30 HR. Or his value could be better in a platoon role (like that of Jayson Werth in Philly). Here's something you might hear a lot this year: potential. Too bad he's 30.
Austin Kearns: Patience has been running thin with Austin, but I think he's been playing hurt the last few years. All 5 projections predict a great improvement over last year and numbers close to that of his 2005 and 2007 seasons. He's worth an incredible 1.13 WAR in only about 250 PA, way more than that of Willingham in 20% less playing time.
Willie Harris: Harris will not be as good of a htiter as last year, but he will be as good of a fielder. I hope Manny can find him some AB's at 2B and 3B, because he'll get stuck behind a lot of guys in the OF. He's worth a little less than Kearns in the same number of PA. I have him at 1.09 WAR.
2009 total: 8.47

Advantage: 2009 (8.47 WAR to 6.5 WAR, a difference of 1.97 WAR).

2005: 13.9 WAR (thanks, Guz!)
2009: 23.32 WAR

So basically, the 2009 Nats are projected to be 8.54 wins better offensively/defensively than the 2005 Nats. But that's only half of the story. Hopefully I'll be able to get the other half done by  sometime Wednesday or Thursday.

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait for Opening Day, although I can't say I'll be there to see the first pitch. It needs to warm up a tad, but then I'll grab a Ben's Chili Dog & a bleacher seat. Hope the Gnats don't embarrass us this year!


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