Monday, May 30, 2005

ERV Boxscore for May 30, vs. Atlanta

I guess they are all going to be like this, another 3-2 close win. Ohka gives the best Nats starting pitching performance in quite a while, maybe the whole year in terms of Win Value (6.80). Nick Johnson and Marlon Byrd team up on offense, and Frank earns his pay by talking the umps out of giving Jordan a home run, even though my Tivo says he deserved it. A very memorable Memorial Day.


-- I went to today's game, but was a bit distracted with the little DMs there, too (two boys, ages 6 and 4). The 4-year-old is the baseball fan, and I told him to watch "24 Nick" today (he thinks athletes are like Thomas the Tank Engine, each with a name and a number), and I think NJ made a fan for life with his doubles and fine play at first.

-- We got a ball! Thanks to a very nice little girl who got a ball from Eddie Perez, who then gave it to my 4-year-old. He gave it to my other son, who promptly threw it back to Perez. Eddie was nice enough to give it back.

-- A minor RFK complaint I hadn't noticed before: no candy! They only sell Cracker Jack and Cotton Candy. A 5th inning foray for M&Ms was futile -- but fortunately Mrs. DM brought a bunch of Smarties to allow us to make it through to the end of the 6th inning.

-- Since we left before the 7th, we were walking to the car during the Jordan confusion. Impossible to interpret the alternate cheers, boos and then cheers we heard from RFK. Speaking of cheers, unlike the Phillies and Cubs games I went to, practically no Braves fans at this game, and those that were there were very quiet. The inability of the Braves' remarkable success over the past 14 years to garner a committed following, even in Atlanta, is an interesting baseball oddity.

ERV Win: Ohka
ERV Loss: Kelly Johnson & Davies

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Byrd's Double in the 6th (2.59)
(2) Nick Johnson's Double in the 6th (2.48)
(3) Kelly Johnson's GIDP in the 3rd (-1.91)

Click on boxscore for larger image

ERV Boxscore for May 29, at St. Louis

Around mid-game, probably just after Johnson was caught stealing to end an inning, I started thinking things like this: "How many consecutive losses could this team suffer before Frank is fired, and would it be too much to recover from and still have a chance at a playoff spot?" But then I reminded myself that, in baseball, things can change, and change quickly. And they did, though we won in the same lean way we've been winning all year.

Looking back, we basically lost three more games than we should have on this road trip. But we can get those back at home with series wins over the Braves and Marlins. Not much breathing room, but we have a shot.

ERV Win: Wilkerson
ERV Loss: Grudzielanek

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Wilkerson's double in the 5th (2.75)
(2) Edmonds HR in the 3rd (1.27)
(3) Grudzielanek's GIDP in the 8th (-1.21)

Click on boxscore for larger image

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Automatic Triple

It can happen, and it did, in the Dodgers-Dbacks game I'm watching tonight. Dodger reliever Duaner Sanchez, on a bloop travelling about 6 feet above his head, threw his glove up in the air to block the ball. He did make contact, and picked the ball up and almost got the batter at first. The rule, though, is that the batter gets third base when a fielder obstructs the ball with his glove.

Vin Scully says he has always known the rule, but had never seen it happen in a game before. That is saying something.

P.S. Vin is explaining now that the play is not scored a triple, but a single and two-base error on Sanchez.

P.P.S. This has been a really good game. The "auto-triple" spurred the DBacks to come back from 2 down, and its 4-4 headed into the bottom of the 8th.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

ERV Boxscore for May 28, at St. Louis

It must be easy to be a fan of the team playing the Nats these days. If your club gets an early lead of any size, your evening suddenly becomes free. At some point in the near future, tonight's game will be indistiguishable in memory from last night's without the aid of Retrosheet.

Tomorrow is game 50. On March 31, I would have been delighted to be 24-25 heading into that game. Delighted is not the word I would choose for how I feel on May 28.

ERV Win: Suppan
ERV Loss: Castilla

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Castilla's GIDP in the 6th (-2.48)
(2) Molina's HR in the 2nd (2.09)
(3) Edmonds's HR in the 2nd (1.33)

Click on boxscore for larger image

More fun Cristian Guzman stats!!

Cristian is on pace for approximately 550 at bats this year (and about 580 plate appearances). He has 6 (count em) 6 RBIs, putting his season pace at exactly 20 RBI.

There have been two players in MLB history that had over 550 at bats and 20 or fewer RBI (although Luis Castillo has that crazy season where he batted .334 leadoff, a ridiculous hitting game streak and only had 17 RBIs--but he played in 136 games and didn't have 550+ at bats, although admittedly was close).
Those two players were Richie Ashburn (20) in 1959 and Morrie Rath (19) in 1912. Here's the kicker: Ashburn scored 86 runs in his season and Rath scored 104 times in his. Cristian? On pace for a whopping 34 runs scored.

Oh, and just so you know, the only guy in the last 40 years to play in 150+ games and score fewer than 34 runs? None. But at least Cristian can say that one guy tied him--In 1989, Juan Uribe played in 151 games and scored exactly 34 runs. However, since 1994, and the offensive explosion, the fewest number of runs scored for a player playing in 150+ games? 46: Mike Bordick, Jeff Conine and Rey Ordonez. Cristian at this pace would destroy that (in the bad way). Rey also has the fewest RBIs in a season for 150+ games at 30.

Going out now, but I'll add more as I think of fun things to search.

ERV Boxscore for May 27, at St. Louis

Outclassed is the word that comes to mind. We did not play poorly, though our failure to get timely hits (except NJ) continued. Note that Morris gave the Nats more chances than Armas (14.99 ERVF versus 9.24 ERVF), but the Cards did more with the opportunties with clutch 2-out hits.

ERV Win: Edmonds
ERV Loss: Armas

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Edmonds HR in the 2nd (2.11)
(2) Edmonds Double in the 3rd (1.96)
(3) Mabry's Single in the 5th (1.50)

Note that Castilla, Church and Schneider leaving runners on in the 5th was worth -2.68 WV, not quite the difference in the game, but close.

Click on boxscore for larger image

Well, at least he didn't hit into a double play...

So, bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, man on, down by three, Cristian Guzman up. Is there any reason not to pinch hit for a .188 guy who doesn't walk and has no power?

Of course, Cristian struck out to end the game, swinging and missing by about a foot and a half.

I can picture what Frank said to Cristian as he came back to the dugout..."don't worry, we'll get 'em next inning."

Friday, May 27, 2005

Is this a little defensive?

Quote from Frank regarding the recent losing streak:
``When we are going good, it's not the manager, it's the players,'' Robinson said. ``When we are going bad, it's not the manager, it's the players. I make out a lineup and hope they perform. We are not performing at any level or any phase of the game.''

Um, do you want to take any of the blame, Frank? Seriously, some of your decisions have just been blatantly awful. If you are admitting you don't actually do ANYTHING once a game starts, then what are you doing in that dugout, anyway?

Oh, and in more Nats news, major shakeup today as various players got moved up, moved down and moved back and forth from the DL. Major loss to have Patterson injured, but good to get Tucker back and Kim is supposed to be quite good. Let's hope Nitkowski can give them something and everyone else gets healthy real soon.

Friday Morning Figures

Through games of May 26

Click on chart for large image.

(Corrected to include Guzman's figures in the total).

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Bill James on the Sacrifice Bunt

You might want to read this post first, as background.

In an interview with Baseball Digest Daily, Bill James has this to say about the sacrifice bunt:

[T]he general argument against the bunt seems unpersuasive to me. The essential argument against the bunt is that the number of expected runs scored after a bunt attempt goes down in almost all situations when a bunt is used, and the expectation of scoring one run goes up only in a few situations.

But this argument is unpersuasive, to me, because it assumes that there are two possible outcomes of a bunt: a “successful” bunt, which trades a base for and out, and an “unsuccessful” bunt, which involves an out with no gain. In reality, there are about a dozen fairly common outcomes of a bunt attempt. The most common of those is a foul ball, but others include a base hit, a fielder’s choice/all safe, a pop out, a pop out into a double play, an error on the third baseman, and a hit plus an error on the third baseman, or the second baseman if you’re talking about a drag bunt.

Some of those outcomes are reasonably common, and others are quite significant even if they are statistically uncommon. For example, if there is a 2% chance that the third baseman will field the bunt and throw it up the first base line, that has a huge impact on the calculations, even though it is only a 2% chance. It seems to me that the argument against the bunt is unpersuasive unless you account for the entire range of reasonably common outcomes.

... [W]e are in danger of replacing one dogma with another. And the analysis is not strong enough to justify that.

I can see now why some people find James frustrating. To me, his contrarian side outmuscled his logical side here. And it is hard to argue the point he makes, because he is absolutely right ... as far as he goes. But if you just go a little farther than James, you end up in a place full of absurdities.

Here's what I mean. James is perfectly correct to say that the general argument (like the one I laid out here) is incomplete -- an accurate probability analysis must consider all the possible outcomes of the bunt (foul ball, infield hit, error, throw to the wrong base, pop-up, etc.) But let's think about what he is saying: that adding all those other things into the mix might make the bunt a worthwhile strategy. Well, which of those events exactly? Certainly not the foul ball, pop up or double-play pop-up, those make you worse off. He must mean the hit, error, hit + error or throw to the wrong base, because those make you better off than trading an out for a base.

But none of those events are intended by the batter or his manager. They are trying to trade the out for the base. He's essentially saying, hold on, the bunt might be a good strategy because it could go wrong -- you might succeed in spite of yourself. That is hardly a defense of the sacrifice bunt.

But I do agree with James that we should not replace old dogmas with new ones. But the way to do that is to highlight the questions a manager should ask before he decides to bunt, and it is here where you can make profitable use of James' point. Those questions include:

(1) Can I afford to limit this inning to one run?
(2) Is the batter likely to strike out or pop-up?
(3) Is the batter likely to ground into a DP?
(4) Is the third baseman a bad fielder, likely to throw the ball away or make a dumb play?
(5) Is the batter fast? Might he beat out the throw?
(6) Is the batter able to get the bunt down?

If you are answering yes to these types of questions, you are making the case for the bunt. These types of questions are all derived from the "general argument" and James' points. Stats like those won't tell you what decision to make, but they can tell you the right questions to ask.

Sac Bunt: The 1-Run Gambit

The general defense of the sac bunt is that it is useful in certain situations to help get one run. This defense acknowledges that by employing the sac bunt, the team is essentially saying "We're giving up the chance to score more than one run this inning in exchange for more certainty about getting one run." As Barry Svrugla said in his chat, it is a bit of a "surrender." But does it really give you more certainty? To help determine this, below is the probability of scoring one run at each of the base/out situations. It is based on the 2004 MLB Situation Run Probabilities from Basebal Prospectus (subscription required).

The green boxes show that bunting with a man on first and no outs decreases your chance of scoring him by 2.5% (from 42.7% to 40.2%). The other situations also show a decrease, except for runner on 2nd, no outs, which increases your chance to score, but only slightly, by 1.8%

In essence, it is a wash to bunt to get one run -- it doesn't improve your chances to score that run, and actually decreases them slightly.

So, a team should never bunt, right? Wrong. If you think the batter is more likely than the average player to strike out, pop up or make an out that doesn't advance the runner, you should bunt. If you think the batter is more likely than average to hit into a double play, you should bunt. But, in both of these situations, you are essentially minimizing or avoiding a loss, not increasing your chance to score the run. For example, with a runner on first and no outs, you want to avoid a strikeout, because that reduces the chance of scoring by 15% (42.7 to 27.3). If you think the batter is going to strikeout (e.g. a pitcher with no clue), bunting makes sense to keep your expected run probability from dropping too much.

Now, with this in mind, you should read the next post on what Bill James currently thinks about the sac bunt strategy.

The Training Staff

There has been some speculation, with all the injuries for the Nats, that the training staff is not doing its job. Hard to tell, but here's an example that may be evidence of incompetence, from the Post's story on Patterson going to the DL:

Patterson received three injections to relieve the back problem Monday. During the third injection, he said he began to feel "woozy" and started to pass out. The doctor administering the procedure, Reds physician Timothy Kremchek, stopped the process, and Patterson received oxygen and had an IV inserted in his right arm.

The IV, however, caused stiffness in Patterson's wrist, and he had very little flexibility Monday. He has improved and plans to throw off a mound Friday and Saturday.

Two questions come to mind: (1) Was the training staff present during this procedure?, and (2) if so, why didn't they yell "THAT'S HIS PITCHING ARM!" when the Reds doctor was about to put an IV in his right arm? I would think you would always use the pitcher's opposite arm for IVs, shots, etc.

Frank, Part Deux

I've was thinking about this on my drive in know, not to get too philosophical, but while baseball is a game of complexities and nuances, it is not a complicated game. Once the lineup is set and the pep-talks have been given and the various coaches have done what they need to do, the game starts...and the manager who knows the nuances of the game really isn't called upon to make as many hard decisions as you would think. My thought is that the manager has to make about one or two "guesses" in an average game--where basically things could go either way and reasonable minds could argue about the course of action.
The rest of the managerial decisions are strategy of course, but they are a fairly obvious course of action on which reasonable minds usually couldn't differ. Usually, these include: when to bring in a new pitcher, when and whom to pinch hit, when to use a double switch, when to bring the infield in vs. play back, when to bunt, etc. And yes, maybe throw in a couple of little surprises to make things interesting.

My main problem with Frank Robinson is that he far too frequently chooses wrongly on those things upon which reasonable minds should not differ. And that is going to cost a team a few games a season (maybe 5 give or take--I am not citing a stat here, just guessing. Add up 5 games a season and you get pretty close to Frank's woeful career managerial record). It's hard to say he lost us a game in which we were blown out, but with a couple of your better players on the bench and a chance to get back in the game yesterday, I just can't see how you leave a reliever (who has 1 career hit and had already struck out in his at bat that game) in for a bases loaded situation.
(Whenever I try to think "oh he's a professional manager with experience," I always use the NFL analogy--how many times have you screamed at the TV as a coach chooses wrongly on whether to go for the 2 point play after a TD wrongly--it's basic math and strategy for goodness sake--get it right! or the NBA analogy of down by 2 and the other team has the ball with 27 seconds left--foul! take a freaking foul! Makes my veins pop out as they go for "the stop" instead and watch the clock run out or end up having to foul anyway with under 5 seconds left).

And unfortunately, I think Frank is with us for a good while longer. First off, MLB will never fire him. He has meant too much to them is a company guy, and has all that history both playing and managing behind him. Plus, whatever his contract is, MLB has no desire to suck up any part of a contract (which is why Guzman is also with us until at least we get new owners).
Second, even when we get new owners, will they be able to pull the trigger on Frank early on? I doubt it. A) They won't want to be seen as the new Dan Snyders. B) Enough fans still view Frank as an icon; C) Even if the team has won some of its games "in spite of" Frank, they won't want to face the cries of "this team was supposed to lose 90+ games. They're at .500 and you want to fire the guy?!?" So, we can complain all we want, but I think we are stuck.

Oh, last point off-topic. Can we post some freakin' leads? We have yet to lose a game that we had a three run lead, and very few in which we had a two run lead. The problem is that we can't seem to score in the first half of a game--do these guys need a curfew? Caffeine water? Something else?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

ERV Boxscore for May 25, at Cincinnati

On Tuesday night, a thought occurred to me: Will I still be interested in doing this ERV stuff in September when the Nats are likely to be just playing out the string? Well, the Nats gave me a taste of that tonight, as I "watched" this game even though I knew the result. Not too much fun, but there is always the anticipation of how low Guzman's RV and WV can go (stay tuned for Friday Morning Figures for that).

Two weeks ago I said an 8-5 record against the Cubs, Milwaukee, Blue Jays and Reds would be disappointing. We went 6-7, and are now 4 games behind Playoff Pace, the lowest point in a month. Let's hope the St. Louis series looks a lot like the Los Angeles series.

ERV Win: F. Lopez, Belisle & Kearns
ERV Loss: Vargas, Rauch & Bennett

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) F. Lopez 2-run homer in the 1st (1.99)
(2) Kearns 2-run double in the 5th (1.40)
(3) Harris' single in the 4th (1.02)

Click on boxscore for larger image

ERV Boxscore for May 24, at Cincinnati

At long last, the ERV Boxscore for the frustrating 14-inning marathon. On Monday, a pitcher had the highest WV play, and again this night. In fact, we have two additions to the Top Ten list from this game. Lots of WV here, of course, due to the high leverage extra innings, where a single run can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

ERV Win: Keisler
ERV Loss: Ayala

3 Most Valuable Plays:

(1) Keisler's game-winning hit in the 14th (6.04)
(2) Luis Lopez's double in the 14th (5.32)
(3) Baerga's game-tying hit in the 9th (4.01)

Click on boxscore for larger image.

You MUST pinch hit in that situation!!!

Bases loaded, down 3-1, two outs, I don't care if you have to run through extra relievers. You do not allow Jon Rauch to bat and strike out to end the threat. Especially when Vinny Castilla is on the bench.

Injuries and losses to bad teams

Lets start with the latter. We are down 3-0 and if we lose today we will have dropped 5 of 6 to two pretty bad teams. Frank bunted a-F*****g-gain in the first and we didn't score again, and if we drop games like these, we won't have nearly the kind of cushion we need when we start up against the rest of the NL East again.

The big news has to do with the injuries though. With the addition of John Patterson, our best starting pitcher this year to the DL, the Nationals now have 11 guys on the disabled list, including some of our best players like Patterson and Vidro. And this on a team that we all agreed was one of the least deep teams in the majors.

I am hoping Brendan Harris shows that he is a real major league player given the opportunity because we are going to need some sparks in this offense. I wonder if he can play positions other than third so that he can plug up a hole bigger than Vinny (*cough* Guzman). Our 7-9 batters are a big black hole sucking the life out of any inning, and our pitching staff is basically in the ER.
Let's hope we can work some magic today to get back in this.

p.s. Claudio Vargas appears to be all but done this season


What is there to say? Not much after Capitol Punishment's fine work, which has really become required reading for anyone tempted to consider the notion that Frank is a decent manager. But I will offer these incoherent thoughts: The evidence is clear -- and disturbing, in part because the decisions are so haphazard and inconsistent that you can't get a fix on what prompted them.

Mel Proctor (who I like but am slowly growing tired of) repeated the chestnut about Frank last night, this way: Frank doesn't need stats, he just "knows" who is a good ballplayer and who isn't. Fine. Whatever. But I have one stat that he and we can't ignore: lifetime record as a manager, 937-1026; 18 years, no first place finishes, only 2 second place finishes. Whatever Frank "knows", it's not working too well.

What we know now (at least until Frank changes his mind) is that I have as much chance of starting against a LHP as Ryan Church this season, after trial period of about 54 minutes. I know that Carlos Baerga will come up again in a clutch situation and cost us a game because he solidified his "veteran leadership" last night. (His hit and Hammonds's reminds me of a story: Some leading French culture critic was asked who is France's greatest writer. He said "Victor Hugo, alas." I feel the same way: "Who got the game-tying hit? Carlos Baerga, alas.")

Last year, round this time, Phillies fans faced a difficult choice -- root for victory, knowing that it would prolong Bowa's tenure as manager and lead to certain doom at the end of the year, or root for dramatic losing streaks to force him out and give the team some hope. We Nats fans are not even offered this choice -- I am quite certain Frank has enough credit to survive whatever befalls this team. We just have to watch the train wreck happen.

I'll Comment On Guzman

DM was very kind in not commenting on Cristian Guzman's ERV chart, because it is beyond awful. That giant sucking sound Ross Perot was talking about? It turns out that it was Cristian Guzman's bat.

Let's put it in terms everyone can understand. According to DM's calculations, Guzman has cost the Nationals 22 runs on offense. In other words, if the Nats simply had an average hitter - not a good hitter, just an average one - in Guzman's spot, they would have scored 22 more run. Thus far this season, they've scored 187 (and allowed 195). Under the Pythagorean method (using 1.83 as your exponent, for you stat geeks), they should be 22-24, rather than 24-22. Now add 22 runs in, giving them 209 runs scored, and they should be 24-22. Thus, assuming that they would still be 2 games better than their Pythagorean record, Guzman has cost the team two games this year, and they would be 26-20 (and 2 games out of first, rather than 4 games) had he put up an average performance.

Two games doesn't sound like much, does it? Two games through 46 on the season is monumental. Catastrophic. Horrific. Over a 162 game season, that's 7 games in the standings. Seven games is the difference between a 91-71 playoff team and a 84-78 also ran.

Three and a three-quarters years left on the contract, Nats fans. Three and three quarters years and $15 million dollars. We need the 2001 Cristian Guzman, and we need him fast.

Game Notes.

The opposition got to Livan early again, didn't they? Afterwards, another shutdown performance by Livan, including shrugging off some jams in the middle of the game. It's hard not be impressed by Livan after watching him day in and day out - he's a competitor. Because I'm a White Sox fan, I get to see his brother El Duque in action (although he's on the DL right now) and they are the same way. Whatever Momma and Poppa Hernandez did with their boys, they did right.

Jamey Carroll looks like a ball player, doesn't he? I'd want him on any team I was on.

Nick Johnson is becoming the Nick Johnson everyone expected him to be. At 26, he's coming into his prime. We should expect 3 great seasons from Nick, as long as he can stay healthy. My fingers are crossed - he's made it 46 games so far.

Brian Schneider is the player who has grown on me the most. He's a great defensive catcher and despite the .238/.299/.377 line, seems to contribute offensively. It would be great if he could put up the .275/.339/.459 line he had in 2002, but I'd take last year's .257/.325/.399 line with his defense.

Technical Difficulties ... Please Stand By

A conspiracy of technology (Tivo, wireless network, laptop) prevented us here at Nats Blog from producing an ERV Boxscore of last night's game. (There is no truth to the rumors that those components were smashed in rage). Rest assured we will produce it along with today's game later this evening. In the meantime, like UPN 20 and the M*A*S*H episodes, we will provide some more traditional blog programming: half-thought out rants against the manager. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

ERV Player Charts ... Batting 8th: Cristian Guzman

Filed without comment.

Guzman and the History Books

El Gran asked a research question, and we shall answer. Thanks to Aaron Haspel's searchable database , we can come up with the list of players who have at least 400 AB in any season and AVG/OBP/SLG all equal to or lower Guzman's current levels (193/233/247):

[insert crickets.wav here]

That's right, if he does not improve, nobody in history has been that bad as a regular.

Here are the modern (post-1920) "records" he is shooting for, for guys with at least 400 AB:

AVG -- Rob Deer, 1991 DET, .179
OBP -- Rob Picciolo, 1977 OAK, .219
SLG -- Ivan DeJesus, 1981 CHC, .233

How RFK Is Playing

In his most recent "Ten Things I Didn't Know" Studes at Hardball Times noted that:
Returns are early, as they say in Washington. But the very early evidence is that RFK is once again a pitcher's park, on about the same order as the 60's. I calculate a park factor of 91 so far this year which is based on eighteen home games and twenty-one away games. Due to the sample size, well, you shouldn't really say much of anything. Let me give you some other examples:

Well, duh. I predicted this last freaking November.

And it really shows in the Nats home/road splits. Here they are at home, a .244/.313/.380 line with 15 home runs and 74 runs scored in 20 games (3.7 runs per game). On the road, they have put up a .276/.336/.420 line, and have hit 21 home runs and scored 110 runs in 25 games (4.4 runs per game). Insert small sample size disclaimer here.

Now the key is for the Nats to take advantage of RFK as a good pitcher's park. Among other things, it makes their pitching look better than it is, meaning that they can perhaps trade some of that pitching for a quality left-fielder. Or, they can pick up someone like Mike Cameron from the Mets on the cheap (with the Mets picking up a hefty portion of his salary) and move Brad Wilkerson over to left field. Cameron is stellar defensively, and despite a poor 2004, has always put up decent power and patience numbers (including a lifetime .342 OBP).

Nothing about this, of course, is going to fix the mess the Nats are in at shortstop. Still $14 million left to pay on the Guzman deal, and he can't be traded in the first year of a multi-year free agent deal without his permission. Maybe the Twins will take him back (and maybe he will agree to go) if the Nats pick up $1.5-$2.0 million per year of his deal.

A Cristian Guzman Breakdown

I mean of his stats, not a panic attack by our fearless(?) shortstop.

I decided to take a look at his situational stats to see how he does under various conditions, and what I found was pretty significant both by what he does and by how often he finds himself in various situations.

We know the overall numbers. .193 BA, .233 OBP, .247 SLG, .479 OPS, 1 HR, 6 RBIs (6!), 9 runs scored, 8 BB, 27 K, 1 SB, 2 CS, and 4 errors to lead the team in at least one category.

But what is even scarier are two things that I see in looking at a breakdown of his situations.

1) He is, if you can believe it, even worse in the "clutch," or more to the point, in important situations or spots in the lineup.

For example:

When Cristian bats 2nd, in 39 plate appearances, he has a .103 OBP, and .158 SLG, with 1 run scored, and 2 RBIs (oh..and this is the spot in which he hit his only home run).

When he bats 7th, in 37 plate appearances, he has a .158 OBP and .088 SLG with 4 runs scored and 1 RBI.

However, in the 8th spot, in 71 plate appearances, he actually has a respectable .366 OBP and .403 SLG.

So the less important the spot, the better he does (I didn't list the small sample size 3 games he batted 9th against Toronto).

When Cristian bats with the bases empty and one out or two out--low pressure because he neither has to drive someone in, nor must he start the inning--he has a .250 OBP and .319 SLG (And yes those are good numbers for him).

When he bats with none on, none out, he has a .222 OBP and .294 SLG.

When he bats with men on, he has a .227 OBP and .174 SLG.

If any of those men on are in scoring position, it goes to a .200 OBP and .114 SLG

If there are runners in scoring position and 2 out (which he has seen 23 times), it goes to .217 OBP and .053 SLG (and the .217 OBP is a function of walks to get to the pitcher as his average in those situations is .053).

By way of contrast, Nick Johnson, who has an overall OBP of .420 with a .516 SLG, sees his numbers go up to .512 OBP and .556 SLG with men on, .596 OBP and .686 SLG with men in scoring position and .455 OBP and .529 SLG with men in scoring position, 2 outs. Nick also has a single and a walk in his two bases loaded opportunites of the season.

2) Cristian gets into bad counts far more often than good counts

He has swung and connected on the first pitch 27 times for a .259 OBP and .296 SLG.
That leaves 131 times that he has seen a second pitch.

Of those 131 times:

77 of the first pitches have been for strikes putting him in a 0-1 hole.

And after he goes 0-1, his OBP drops to .195 and SLG .211. He has only managed to turn one of those 77 plate appearances into a walk.

He has seen 30 counts that went to 0-2. He has seen 13 counts that were 2-0.

He has seen 37 counts that were 1-2. He has seen 16 counts that were 2-1.

He has seen only five 3-0 counts all season. In all five occurrences, he was walked on the next pitch (so one could easily argue that he wasn't even being pitched to in those circumstances).

He has swung away and connected in three 2-0 counts and one 3-1 count, the big "batter's counts." He did not get a hit any of those times.

By way of contrast, Nick Johnson has seen a second pitch 167 times. The count was 1-0 84 times and 0-1 83 times. After going 1-0, Nick's OBP is .541 and his SLG is .766. On the seven occasions he has decided to swing (and connected) on the 1-0 pitch, he has recorded one out, two singles, one double and three home runs.

Anyway, I leave these stats with minimal commentary since you can easily make your own conclusions.

[promoted from the comments is this exchange between el gran color naranja & dexy's - SNV]

El Gran Color Naranja said...

Here's something to study for someone who's interested.

1) Is Cristian the worst everyday player in the majors this year?
2) If he continued on his current pace, how does his season rank among all-time worst seasons?

My guesses are:

1) Yes
2) Pretty high

dexys_midnight said...

Well, I will give you the following on question 1:

Of the 178 everyday players in the major leagues, Cristian ranks 178 in OPS and his .479 is 53 points(!) behind the player who is 176. Aaron Boone, who is 177 is 11 points ahead of Guzman, and Jack Wilson, at 176, is 42 points above Boone.

Of those 178 players, he ranks 178th in pitches seen per plate appearance at 3.02. This is a quarter of a pitch less than the player ranked 176th (who is as close to the player ranked 152 as he is to Cristian).

Although there are only 178 everyday players, Cristian ranks tied for 283 in extra base hits.

In runs created per 27 outs, Cristian's 1.23 ranks 177 (Aaron Boone at 1.19 is 178th). Jack Wilson at 176 creates 1.94 runs per 27, 60% higher than Cristian.

So, I would say the answer is yes, he is the worst everyday player in the majors this year, with Aaron Boone the only other player potentially even in the discussion.

At what point do fans become...

Statistically significant?
The folks over here at Nats Blog have gone together to 2 games, and have gone separately to 7. The Nats' record in those games? A stunning 9-0. That's right (knocking on wood here), the Nats are 9-0 when at least one of us attends a game, and 3-8 when we don't.

Nats front office, are you listening? We may want these seats for free next year :-) We are clearly distracting the visiting team as we sit behind their dugout and discuss ERV and play buck says.

Good News and Bad News

David Pinto has an interesting chart up at Baseball Musings comparing teams' Runs Created and Actual Runs so far this year.

The Good News: The Nats have 11 fewer actual runs than runs created, which means the sense that our offense has underperformed is correct, and we should improve in the future (assuming we have any players left uninjured).

The Bad News: Our Runs Created per Game is the lowest in the NL East.

Monday, May 23, 2005

ERV Boxscore for May 23, at Cincinnati

It just doesn't feel like we should have lost that game, but we did. We really need to win the next two in Cincy -- it would not be nice to head into St. Louis needing wins to salvage the road trip. Let's hope Livan matches Dontrelle with his 8th win tomorrow night!

ERV Win: Milton & LaRue
ERV Loss: Loaiza & Blanco

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Milton's double in the 2nd (1.33)
(2) Casey's single in the 3rd (1.20)
(3) Harris's 2-run HR in the 7th (1.20)

EDIT: LaRue's Single in the 3rd had a WV of 0.75, Vinny's play kept it from being 1.68, Vinny's play was worth 0.88 RV and 0.93 WV, but the WV is not reflected in the boxscore below due to a bug that I just fixed.

Click on boxscore for larger image

ERV Player Charts ... Batting 7th: Brian Schneider

Over the past couple of weeks Chris over at the very fine Capitol Punishment blog has been taking shots at Schneider, and I objected, pointing to his Win Value, which has consistently been above his RV all season. Well, this chart shows that Chris has a point. The reason Schneider's WV has been higher is because of one hit, his clutch double against the Braves in April. Since then he has treaded water in both RV and WV. But we should note that that is also an accomplishment, as it means he has not choked during that time, either, and has been an average batter during that stretch.

He's entered a bit of a slump recently, but, in the end, this is not a bad chart for a guy who hits number 7 in the lineup.

The Value of Win Value

A question I often ponder (in part because my wife asks it very often) is "Why do I do all this ERV Boxscore and Win Value stuff?" "Is it worth all the fuss?" My pat response: "For the money."

The real answer is: I want to know more about why we (the Nats) win or lose ballgames. I like baseball enough that time-consuming, non-remunerative research is worth it to me. One thought that is always lurking in my mind is that I am only going to discover things that we already knew, and which I could have learned for a lot less effort, and that I'm simply wasting my time reinventing the wheel.

But yesterday turned out to be a day where I felt pretty good about all this work. Here's why: a lot of Nats blogs out there gave Ryan Church its "player of the game" award for yesterday's 9-2 win over the Jays (see, e.g., Capitol Punishment, Distinguished Senators, BallWonk). Why? It seems largely because the traditional boxscore says he went 4 for 5.

But I took a look at the ERV Boxscore, which says that no less than 7 (!) Nats had a higher Win Value than Church. What's up with that? Is WV that screwed up? Here's Church's RV and WV for each plate appearance:

1. Double in the 2nd with 2 outs, left stranded by Hammonds -- RV 0.23, WV 0.15
2. Single in the 5th, starting the big inning -- RV 0.39, WV 0.52
3. Ground Out to end the 5th with runners on 2nd & 3rd -- RV -0.59, WV -0.50
4. Single in the 7th, RV 0.26, WV 0.03
5. Single in the 9th, RV 0.94, WV 0.02

Bottom line: This game was won in the fifth inning, and Church was not a key part in that inning, and left a couple of guys in scoring position at the end of it. Guillen, Bennett and Guzman (in that order) had more important hits, and thus have higher Win Values for the game. All of Church's other hits were inconsequential towards the Nats' victory. So I was relieved to see that Win Value was still providing valuable information about the game. In fact, this game is a great example of how it can sum up, in one number, the player's contribution to the victory or loss.

Hopefully, Ryan's 4 for 5 will convince Frank to play him more often, and he'll get more chances to win ballgames for us. But yesterday he was not a big reason we won that game.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

ERV Boxscore for May 22, at Toronto

I didn't see much of this game, listening to bits on the radio and watching the condensed game on MLB.TV (which now sucks -- it no longer shows every at-bat, and sometimes skips over entire innings; it's just an extended highlights show). But it certainly sounded like another resilient victory, complete with very solid pitching from Ohka, which is the key point. We now turn to Cincy with Loaiza and Livan going -- two wins at least there should be our expectation.


-- Hammonds continues his frugal ways, hoarding the WV he earned with his "big hit". He earned 0.58 today, bringing his total left from that night to 6.08, so he has actually earned WV since then. I would love to be wrong about him, but my "gut" tells me it won't last.

ERV Win: Guillen, Bennett & Carroll
ERV Loss: Towers

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Guillen's 3-Run Double in the 5th (2.96)
(2) Hillenbrand's 2-Run Homer in the 4th (2.73)
(3) Guzman's (!) single in the 5th to load the bases (1.37)

Click on boxscore for larger image

ERV Player Charts .. Batting 6th: Church & Hammonds

Because Frank insists on platooning these two, I decided to post their charts together.

For Church, he started very slowly, but turned things around dramatically in the Giants series, and has generally stayed above average. I think the jury is still out on him -- it will take some more weeks of production to convince me. Unfortunately, Frank won't give him regular at bats for us to know.

For Hammonds, one big hit dominates his chart, but it has led to some better games in Toronto. But this is all borrowed time ... he really has no business keeping Church from getting at bats. Wasn't Church once an Opening Day starter? How quickly Frank forgets.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

ERV Boxscore for May 21, at Toronto

The most interesting number from today's game is not on the ERV Boxscore -- 2:03. That was the time of game, which is surprising given the number of runs (for the Jays, of course). As Dave Shea remarked in the Ninth, it's as if the Nats were rushing to make dinner reservations. Let's hope the steak was good.


-- Jeffrey Hammonds manages to get a productive at bat in the first inning, so his credit from the game-winning hit now stands at 5.50, but it is merely delaying the inevitable.

ERV Win: Halladay, Hudson & Rios
ERV Loss: Armas & Castilla

3 Most Valuable Plays:

(1) Rios' Triple in the 1st (1.55)
(2) Hill's Double in the 2nd (0.99)
(3) Castilla's GIDP in the 2nd (-0.91)

ERV Player Charts ... Batting 5th: Nick Johnson

Just call him the "Blue-Chipper" -- whether stock price or baseball productivity, this is what you want your chart to look like. Solid, steady performance, consistently accumulating RV and WV. I expect he'll enter a down period soon -- everyone does -- but he's put himself in good shape to weather it. Hitter of the year, so far.

1-run Innings

Barry Svrugla's game story points out that the Nats have had only 1 multiple run inning in the past 38 -- and that was Nick Johnson's meaningless homer in the Brewers blowout.

Conclusive proof that Frank's bunting strategy is working according to plan.

Friday, May 20, 2005

ERV Boxscore for May 20, at Toronto

Revenge of the Canadians! Somewhere up North the handful of people in Montreal who recall the Expos are smiling. Claudio Vargas continues to give the middle relievers a perfect audition to replace him in the rotation.

Actually, before the season started, I was preparing myself for a lot of games exactly like this: our measley offense drowned by a bad inning from one of the starters. It is shocking we haven't seen more of this, as all the right ingredients exist for it to happen, almost every night.


-- I fear that, at a point in the near future, Jeffrey Hammonds' game-winning hit two nights ago will cost us, as it will keep him in the lineup longer than is necessary or appropriate. Thanks to Win Value, we can determine that unhappy moment with precision. That hit alone earned him 6.04 WV credit, and since then he has spent 1.23 WV on Thursday, but earned back 0.45 tonight, so he has 5.26 left.

ERV Win: Wells, Hill & Lilly
ERV Loss: Vargas, Guzman & Schneider

3 Most Valuable Plays:

(1) Hill's Triple in the 4th (2.32)
(2) Wells' Home Run in the 4th (2.30)
(3) Hillenbrand's hitting into a DP in the 1st (-1.15)

Click on boxscore for larger image

ERV Player Charts ... Batting 4th: Vinny Castilla

A real solid chart. After a mild start, he quickly jumps up after his near-cycle in the home opener, and has stayed at a reasonably high level since then, with slight ups and downs. His clutch hitting dropped a bit in later April, but has picked up recently. In sum, a very pleasant surprise from a questionable signing by Jim Bowden.

"A Nice Club"

In following my favorite sports teams, one thing I like to do is pay close attention to what the opposing columnists, beat writers, players and managers say about my teams. To me, there is more truth in those statements, especially when made after the game. The law reflects this, as the rules of evidence exclude statements by a party-opponent from the definition of hearsay.

Anyway, I'd like to offer as Nats Blog Exhibit 1, a statement by a Mr. Ned Yost, manager, Milwaukee Brewers:

"That team, over there?" Yost said, gesturing with his thumb toward the
Nationals' clubhouse. "That's a nice club. A nice club. They play the
game right. They don't make mistakes. And they're tough."

Of course, there is impeachment evidence against Yost: He is the man who intentionally walked Cristian Guzman.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

More on Sacrifice Bunts

Since it appears that Frank's fetish with sac bunts will be with us all season, I wanted to explore more what it was costing us exactly. So I put together this chart. It shows the probable RV from allowing the average Nats hitter to hit away with a runner on First and No outs, and runners on 1st and 2nd, no outs. I pulled the Nats team stats for Runner on 1B and Runners on 1b & 2B from for the 2005 season so far, and used these to calculate the probability of various events. I then multiplied that probability by the RV for each of those events. I was conservative here, in that I assumed only that runners advanced one base on a single, two on a double, etc. Note also that I assumed the sac bunt is succesfully executed.

Essentially, in either case of 1st or 1st & 2nd, allowing the average Nats hitter to hit away will earn 0.16 more RV than bunting. If you think the batter is better than the average Nat, or has less chance of striking out or hitting into a double play, then the RV difference is even greater.

Also, I played around with the chart, and determined that, keeping all other events constant, you would have to have a batter who has a 50% chance of hitting into a DP with a runner on first to make the bunt the right move, which is 5 times the average for the Nats so far this year. (For 1st&2nd, you need a 35% chance of a DP, which is 7 times the Nats average).

Mini-FAQ on Win Value

The most frequently asked question on Win Value so far is a variation of this: "Player hits a go-ahead home run in the 6th. Later his team scores 6 more runs in the ninth, and wins by 7. Do these later runs affect the Win Value for the home run?"

The answer is no. Win Value is determined at the time of the event, and is not affected at all by subsequent events. When that player hit that go-ahead home run, if the game played out according to the averages, the home run would have a certain value in that context. That is Win Value. The fact that the game turned out differently than the average shouldn't change the value of the home run. That is the only way to provide a reliable benchmark against which different events can be measured and compared.

For more detail, please see this post

Friday Morning Figures

through games of May 19.

Click on chart for larger image.

ERV Player Charts ... Batting 3rd: Jose Guillen

Out of the gate like a rocket, Guillen's two big hits early in the season against Philly and Florida put his WV in the stratosphere. But since he has plummeted back to earth, and both WV and RV are back down to only slightly above-average levels. It is good he is resting, and if he can return to April form, we might finally get those runs we've managed to live without so far.

ERV Boxscore for May 19, vs. Milwaukee

Mission accomplished. We did exactly what we needed to do this homestand, and are now set up to make up ground on the Playoff Pace (see sidebar) on the road: just 5-4 on the trip allows us to pickup a game, and that is eminently possible.

I was at the game, and am now 4-0 at RFK. Livan really knows how to pitch; more correctly, he knows when to pitch. Today against Bill Hall with runners on 2nd & 3rd, Livan pitched carefully, essentially walking him on purpose midway through the at bat so he could get to weaker hitters. It worked.

ERV Win: Castilla
ERV Loss: Jenkins

3 Most Valuable Plays:
(1) Jeff Cirillo grounding into a DP, 8th inning (-2.35)
(2) Geoff Jenkins popping up in the 9th inning (-1.83)
(3) Vinny Castilla's double in the 4th (1.78)

Click on boxscore for larger image

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Most Valuable Plays of the Year

According to Win Value, in absolute terms, here are the top ten plays of the year, for either the Nats or their opponents:

1. 4/21 Guzman's throwing error against the Braves (-8.33)
2. 4/12 Schneider's 2-0ut double against the Braves (7.35)
3. 5/18 Hammonds single tonight (6.04)
4. 5/8 Vizquel's double in the 13th inning (6.04)
5. 5/7 Ryan Church's double in the ninth against the Giants (5.37)
6. 5/10 Troy Glaus's 3-run homer in the sixth in Arizona (4.52)
7. 4/6 Jose Guillen's homer in the 8th against Tim Worrell in Philly (4.48)
8. 5/11 Chad Tracy's bloop single in the 8th in Arizona (4.32)
9. 4/10 Paul LoDuca's double in the 7th in Florida to give them the lead 2-0(4.26)
10. 5/7 Moises Alou grand slam in San Francisco (3.96)

ERV Boxscore for May 18, vs. Milwaukee

Wow. Another great win. Loaiza appears to be in his 2003 form, and was in command tonight. I screamed when Frank left Hammonds in to bat in the ninth, but he came through. The Jamey Carroll bunt obsession continues, to the detriment of his RV and WV, and, though it is hard to see, to the detriment of the team.


-- The new Win Value tables are in use, and this box is a good example of how it works, since the game was 0-0 throughout, the WV should be pretty high, especially from the late innings. Hammonds singles is about the highest WV you can have for a single event, as the run he batted in is worth 6 times as much as the average run.

ERV Win: Hammonds & Loaiza
ERV Loss: Adams

ERV Player Charts ... Batting 2nd: Jamey Carroll

Now things get more interesting with this chart (this does not include tonight's game). Most people, including myself, would say that Carroll has played pretty well the past couple of weeks. But this chart doesn't look so good, does it? What gives?

A couple of things. First, sacrifice bunts. Each time he does it, he loses 0.21 RV, and so that has cost him nearly 1 RV (and it's not a positive under WV, either). A bit unfair to him, since it is likely Frank's call to bunt. Second, the red line spike around May 10th indicates that he had some clutch hits then, which helped create the conventional wisdom about his play in our minds. Also, his WV is generally higher than his RV, which means he has done slightly better in the clutch.

But this chart definitely indicates a downward trend for Jamey, and if that continues, the luster might come off his reputation very soon.

Win Value Changed

I warned you that this is a work in process. Almost immediately after describing how Win Value works in this post, I revised it, based largely on this comment by loyal reader Backward K. I realized that the index run I used to calculate Win Value could be better. I originally used the average go-ahead run. Why not use the average run, regardless of score and inning? In other words, why not key Win Value off of Run Value? In part I didn't do this because I didn't think I had the right data, but I realized last night I did, and I recalculated the Win Value chart. Essentially the average run increases a team's chance to win by 8%, whereas the average go-ahead run is worth 16%. So, bottom line, this new approach doubles the WV from the old approach.

But, most importantly, it improves the ERV Player Charts, because you can now more directly compare a player's RV with his WV to see how that player does in the clutch (which is what Backward K was pointing out in his comment). I've revised the Wilkerson chart, and you can see now that for him the WV almost exactly tracks his RV, which says he performs almost exactly the same in the clutch as in other situations.

I'm not going back and redoing the boxscores, but will be using the new approach from here on out. If anyone wants an old boxscore with the new approach, send us an e-mail and I will send you one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Introducing ... ERV Player Charts!

The crack R&D team here at The Nats Blog, Inc. (picture a cross between Oompa-Loompas and Beaker from "The Muppet Show") has done it again: ERV Player Charts! Each night, we will be unveiling a chart for each player in the starting lineup in the Nats. Tonight we lead off with the lead-off hitter, Brad Wilkerson:

The chart shows the cumulative Run Value and Win Value for Wilkerson's batting only, through tonight's game. As a reminder, RV reflects the runs generated/squandered by the player, independent of the score and inning of the game. WV adjusts the RV to reflect the score and inning. I'm not sure yet exactly what these charts show, but I think separation between the RV line and WV line indicates whether the player is producing or choking when the game is on the line, generally close and late situations.

[Edit: I've revised this chart based on the change to Win Value I made, described in this post.]

As you'll see over the next few days, the charts look very different for each player, and show a few surprises. Brad's seems to be a good depiction of his up and down season so far, though it must be stressed that he has stayed above average all year, which is an accomplishment. They remind me of stock charts, and in a sense they are the same -- they reflected the value that the player has added or subtracted from the Nats' fortunes during the season.

Win Value Explained

[WARNING: This is a long post, with a pretty high "geek" quotient. If you are looking for the slightly less "geeky" stuff, like last night's ERV boxscore, then scroll down.]

What is Win Value? It is an adjustment to Run Value to reflect how the event realted to the ultimate point of baseball, winning the game. Recall that Run Value essentially translates every event in a game into a common currency, runs. A double play with bases loaded and one out is worth negative 1.4 runs, a leadoff walk is worth positive 0.39 runs, etc. But RV is the same whether it is the first inning, or the last inning, and regardless of what the score is. WV adjusts the RV for each event to reflect its worth relative to winning the game.

This analogy might be helpful. Runs are the currency with which wins are purchased. Like any currency, the value of runs varies over time and in different circumstances: 1 run in a tie game in the ninth is worth a whole lot more than 1 run in a 10-0 blowout. What WV tries to do is measure the value of runs at different points during the game, and come up with an adjustment value for each of those points that you multiply by RV.

So, how do we determine the value of runs based on the game situation? The game situation is simply the score differential and inning, e.g. Visitors down by 2 in the fourth. Thanks to relatively simple probability analysis, we can calculate the probability that a team will win the game from any "game situation". For example, when the Nats entered the bottom of the second tonight down by 6 runs, the average team has only a 8.7 percent chance of winning the game in that situation (assuming they are facing an average team).

How is that calculated? You start with the basic distribution of runs in an inning -- I used 2003 MLB because it was handy, but any season is a pretty large sample and it doesn't change much from year to year. It shows that for any inning (half-inning, really), 71% of the time 0 runs are scored, 16% of time 1 run is scored, 7% of time 2 runs are scored, etc. From this distribution, you can build a relatively simple model that calculates the probability that a team will score enough runs to overcome the deficit (and any additional runs the opponent would score, on average). Note that at any time the game is tied, the probability of winning is 50%, because I am only concerned with the average team, which I can use as a benchmark for evaluating performance.

So what can you do with this information? You can calculate the chance of winning for every (realistic) game situation. Then you can do something really neat, an idea I borrowed from Nate Silver at Baseball Prospectus (who was kind enough to send me his probability model, which helped me considerably). You can determine how much a particular run increases a team's chance of winning. For example, entering the bottom of the second down 6-0, the average team has a 8.7% chance of winning. If they score 1 in that inning, it goes up to 9.7%. So that run increases the chance of winning by 1%, so it is "worth" 1%.

Once you have the marginal increase in probability of winning for each run, you can determine its value precisely, and thus derive adjustments to RV. But you need to pick an "index" run to compare all values to. I picked the average go-ahead run, averaging all of the increases in probability of winning for every tie game situation, for both home and visitor. [EDIT: To explain these strikethroughs, go here] The average go-ahead run increases a team's chance of winning by 16% 8%. That is the index value against which all other game situations are compared. Doing that analysis, you get the following table for Visitors (there is a separate one for Home team):

Visitors Win Value Adjustments

How do you read this chart? The run scored when the game is tied in the 3rd is worth 73 percent of the average go-ahead run, while the same run in the ninth is worth 350% of the average go-ahead run. The most valuable run the visiting team can score is the tying run in the ninth, which is worth 4.05 times (405%) as much as the index run. A solo home run to leadoff the ninth to tie the game would get 1.0 RV and 4.1 WV.

After I created these tables, at first I thought I was finished -- I can simply multiply the RV for each event by the adjustment in these tables based on score/inning, and I would have WV. In most cases (like the solo shot mentioned above) that works, but it is not comprehensive enough, because of the problems of multiple run events. For example, if a team hits a 2-run homer in the ninth to tie, the first run that crossed the plate didn't tie the score, so it is not worth 4.05 times the index run. It is only worth 1.10. The second run is worth 4.05, so the total WV is 5.15, not simply 2 x 4.05. Similarly, with bases loaded, each runner has a different value based on how he changes the score, and you must reflect those differences in calculating Win Value, which my spreadsheet does.

Why is this last point important? Because by doing that, you can solve what I call the "sac fly problem". From almost the very moment I came up with ERV Scoring, people questioned how it dealt with sac flies, because RV in almost every case of a sac fly is negative or barely positive, even when it might be a run that ties the game. RV is negative because the team is squandering the chance to score runs AFTER the run that comes in. But with these WV adjustments, the run that ties the game is worth 4.05, whereas the future runs (which the sac fly out negatively affects) are worth 3.5, 1.70, etc. By using the "correct" values for each run, WV can turn a negative RV for a sac fly into a positive, if the run that scores is worth more that the runs that are squandered by the out. At some point I will put together a chart that shows the situations where WV is a positive for a sac fly while the RV is negative. Also note that I carry this approach throughout all WV calculations at any point in the game to be as accurate as possible.

I hope this explanation gives you some sense of what WV represents. As always, this is a work in process, and I welcome and encourage feedback, questions and suggestions.

ERV Boxscore for May 17, vs. Milwaukee

Not pretty. Ohka the only positive on the evening. Note that this box score is a good lesson in Win Value, as most of the Nats WVs (including Ohka's) are near zero, because the game was not close -- the 2 runs scored in the ninth are worth only 0.02 WV, or 2 percent of the average "go-ahead" run.

ERV Win: Obermueller & Lee
ERV Loss: Vargas

ERV Boxscore for May 17, vs. Milwaukee

ERV Boxscore for May 16, vs. Milwaukee

I did not see much of this game, but the highlights were pleasing. Marlon Byrd makes a spectacular debut, and gets a share of the ERV win. Armas with another solid outing, and the bullpen continues its high level of performance.

ERV Win: Castilla & Byrd
ERV Loss: Davis & Branyan

ERV Boxscore for May 16, vs. Milwaukee

Monday, May 16, 2005

RFK Gets Some Props

David Pinto of Baseball Musings liked what he saw this weekend during his visit at RFK. I have to say I agree with him. The stadium is growing on me, and not like mold

40,000 Guillen Fans Can't Be Wrong

I was in the Nats Blog seats for yesterday's tilt with the Cubs (leaving SuperNoVa a sparkling 4-0 when attending Nats home games), and much enjoyed the Nats' squeaking victory over the Cubs.

What will probably be lost in the box score - even the ERV box score - is the value of Jose Guillen in right field. I know that DM gave Jose Guillen credit for his play on Lee's drive to right center. Mostly deserved, although I think about 50% or more of Major League right fielders make that play. But perhaps a more meaningful play occurred in the sixth inning. Here's the sequence:

J Dubois doubled to deep center, J Burnitz scored.
J Macias fouled out to third. [making the second out]
R Cedeno singled to right, J Dubois to third.

From my perch in the Nats Blog seats, I could tell that Dubois (pronounced Du-BOYS, not Du-BWA, I've learned) got a pretty good read on Cedeno's hit and a good jump off the bat. He was essentially rounding third as Guillen was preparing to field it. My initial reaction was that he would score easily - especially with two outs. But the pure intimidation factor of Guillen's arm in right field stopped DuBois from even taking the chance. I would say he would have scored on perhaps 90% or more of MLB right fielders (but probably not Ichiro or Vlad). But Guillen's right arm was enough to convince DuBois and the Cubs' third base coach not even to attempt it.

It's a subtle thing. But in a one-run game, that play is the difference between winning or going to extra innings.

On Lee's Drive Caught At The Wall:

I play a lot of softball, and therefore see a lot of home runs flying over fences. When he hit it, Lee's ball was gone. I know them when I see them. Somehow, RFK kills home runs at the fence - they simply die out there. I don't know if it's the configuration of the outfield and the upperdeck blocking wind patterns or creating a dead air flow, but I can tell you that his ball was a home run in pretty much any other park in the league. This underscores my preseason prediction that RFK will play as a pitcher's park.

Game Notes:

Another hazard of going to a (near) sold out game: the concession stand near our section not only ran out of the Ice Cream of the Future (causing the future Ms. SuperNoVa to speculate that it's because of the high cost of time travel), but jalapeno peppers for the Nacho Grande. What an outrage!

I missed Nick Johnson's home run because of the aforementioned shortages. Damn it. Damn it all to hell!

On Politics And The Nats Games:

Between innings, James Carville was shown on the big board and was booed (he took it well, laughing). I don't get that. At Nats baseball, we leave our politics at the entrance gate - we must unite behind the team. And unless he was wearing a Cubs hat, he shouldn't be booed. (Mary Matalin, his wife, went to the same high school as SNV, and is likely a Sox fan, if she has a baseball rooting interest at all). In fact, although I disagree with his politics, I have new respect for Bob Novak, who shows up at a lot of Nats games and keeps score. Now that's a baseball fan.

Merciless booing of Linda Cropp, however, is always acceptable.

Red Sox Fans

Since I bashed Cubs Fans last post, I decided to give equal time to Red Sox fans, and explain why they are quickly becoming worse than Yankee fans. Here's the analogy: Red Sox fans are essentially the same as Duke basketball fans. I speak from experience. I'm a Duke basketball fan (and alum) and have been one for 25 years.

Here's my brief: Duke and the Red Sox share a kinship as a sports team that for years was very likeable, very talented and failed to win the big one, which endeared them even more to fans, especially casual ones. People tend to forget that Duke went to a lot of Final Fours without winning before 1991. They also labored under the shadow of a much more successful (and popular) bitter rival (the Yankees and UNC).

For Duke, I can pinpoint exactly when the worm turned: when Christian Laettner stepped on Aminu Timberlake's chest in the Greatest Game Ever, 1992 East Regional Final. Duke, the defending champs, were being outplayed by a scrappy underdog Kentucky team with only one star, Jamal Mashburn, and in the NCAA tournament, the upset is fan favorite over any team. The fact that we squashed the great story of the Fab Five two games later by 20 points to win our second National Championship helped seal the deal: forever more we would be the target of derision and scorn. It doesn't hurt that our fans are cocky, arrogant, conceited and suffer from a sense of superiority.

For the Red Sox, they are headed there, if not already arrived. I think the turning point may be the Fenway fan who punched Gary Sheffield and made him look like Ghandi. Or maybe it was "Fever Pitch." As a Philly sportstalk guy said, it's bad enough that we have to hear about the "Sawx" all the time anyway, and now we have to suffer commercials for a Red Sox ROMANTIC COMEDY!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Cubs Fans

I went to the 2-hour, 40-minute rain delay Saturday, and got to see 3 innings of baseball before my babysitter's double-OT rate kicked in. Watched the rest of the game on TV (baseball, the only game you can watch at the park AND on your couch) and enjoyed it.

But during the delay, spent a fair amount of time observing Cub fans. They're not as annoying as Red Sox and Yankees fans, but they try, real hard. True to midwestern roots, they apply a straightforward, earnest, nice guy approach. One might even say they are "cute". But it's still annoying.

Case in point. While enjoying our grilled dogs in the concourse, a couple wearing Cubs jerseys and Cubs caps walks by, with fake ivy around their necks. I point this out to Mrs. DM without comment, to get her reaction. She is a lifelong Reds fan, sportswriter in college, but a girl nonetheless, and a fan of cute things generally. So I didn't know what kind of reaction I'd get. I waited with anticipation.

"Losers", she said, "God, Cubs fans are annoying."

Byrd ... Marlon Byrd

Basil over at Nationals Inquirer has done the legwork and summarized the learning, as the lawyers say, on Marlon Byrd, the newest Nat. Thanks to Basil, though I must admit to having not read much of the case law he cites. As the Phils are my ex, I know something about Marlon Byrd. Well, I know that the Phils management is so screwed up that getting any meaningful information about a player's performance there is futile -- Bowa, Wade et al. generated way too much noise around Byrd to give us any insight into what he'll be like here.

Bottom line: I like the deal, because there is a chance that Byrd is good and will play well for us, and you can't say that about Endy. Also, the fact that the Phils took Endy made me smile this morning -- just like any ex, I had that nice "I don't have to put up with that crap anymore" feeling thinking about the trade this morning.

Also, ironically, as I type this, Baseball Tonight is showing Endy lay down a perfect bunt but then fail to slide into first and get tagged out. Enjoy him, Phils fans.

ERV Boxscore for May 15, vs. Chicago

Well, that was satisfying. Patterson outduels Maddux (slightly, neither was really sharp), we continue our practice of answering the opponent taking a lead, and we benefit from the other guys's self-destruction for once. Nice to see Ayala throw well -- he's had a few disappointing outings in the past two weeks.

This bullpen is really something so far -- think about it, we didn't even use Rauch this series, and didn't need him. And after watching Felipe Alou and Dusty Baker run through pitchers like a chain smoker through a carton of Marlboros, I have to say Frank does a decent job of handling this crew.

(Edit: The first version of this box did not include Guillen's sweet play on Lee's drive. This one does. It diminishes Ayala's RV somewhat, but still a nice outing from him)

ERV Win: Johnson
ERV Loss: Perez (his glove, to be precise)

ERV Boxscore for May 15, vs. Chicago

Sacrificing Frank

It seems to me that Frank loves the sac bunt. Knowing that the ERV matrix demonstrates that the sac bunt is rarely the smart move, steam has been coming out of my ears when he orders one, especially when there are no outs and it's #2 in the lineup at the plate. But I said, let's look at facts, and see whether the sac bunts have really cost us this year. So I put together this chart from my spreadsheet from scoring the whole season:

First, a couple of explanatory notes. The chart (which does not include Sunday's game) only lists succesful sacrifices, not botched ones. Also, "Bases" shows the runners AFTER the bunt, but ERV shows the expected runs on average BEFORE the bunt. RV is the run value for the bunt. "Actual" are the actual runs scored by the Nats for the remainder of the inning.

The Totals row is the interesting one. ERV says we should have score 14.89 runs in the innings where we successfully bunted, and in those inning we actually scored 11 runs. So we've given up about 3-4 runs so far this year by bunting. This is close to what the RV scoring estimates, as the sum of all the RVs is -2.16 runs. Our bats generally have been below average this year, which explains some of the difference between the two. Note also that most of Frank's sac bunts have been the most costly (none on, runner on first), which squander -0.21 RV each time.

Note that actual is a bit inflated, since the last entry is Jamey Carroll's bunt Saturday night, which Zambrano misplayed and threw to third. In other words, we didn't have to trade the out for base then, so the 4 runs we scored would probably have been less if Zambrano had played it right. So the Actual is a bit inflated. Also, the botched bunts, which there have been a few, mean we've squandered some more runs than reflected here too.

In sum, I'm right to have steam coming out of my ears. Frank bunts too much, and he is giving away runs with them. It's not a lot right now, but it adds up, and could be up to 20 or more runs by the end of the year, which equates to about 2 wins. That's the real sacrifice.

ERV Boxscore for May 14, vs. Chicago

ERV Boxscore for May 14, vs. Chicago

Saturday, May 14, 2005

ERV Boxscore for May 13, vs. Chicago

Not a good way to start a critical homestand. But like most games this year, some positives -- we didn't give up, had a chance to come back in the ninth, and much of the damage earlier was self-inflicted (note that the ERV box has a hard time giving credit for the win to any one Cub).

Three weeks ago, we had lost three straight and Livan went to the mound in New York. He put us back on course. We need that again from him tonight.


-- Mateo's missed squeeze is recorded in his Running RV for now, for technical reasons related to my spreadsheet. It cost us 0.88 runs.

ERV Win: Hawkins, Ohman & Barrett
ERV Loss: Ayala & Baerga

ERV Boxscore for May 13, vs. Chicago Cubs

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Next Fortnight

Samuel Johnson said, "When a man is told he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

In baseball, however, the season is so long, you can fail to see the hangings. As mentioned on the aptly named Capitol Punishment, and briefly by us, the next two weeks for the Nationals are a really critical part of the season. We've just completed a stretch of 34 games where we faced a team with a losing record only 6 times (my ex, the Phils, of course) -- check out our strength of schedule on ESPN's RPI. We've come out of that forced march 18-16, damn good for a team that played a bunch on the road and has a bunch of injuries.

But by May 26 or so, our playoff hopes may be on the gallows. Why? Because we enter a stretch against lesser teams (Cubs, Brewers, Blue Jays, Reds) that we must -- repeat must -- take a lot of games from. Look at it this way: If we go 8-5 over the next 13 games, we're still 2 games behind playoff pace (see sidebar for specifics). We're not gonna make up that 2 games against the likes of the Cardinals, Braves and Marlins, whom we meet immediately after. The harsh reality, to me, is that 8-5 would be a disappointment.

So, concentrate Nats fans, on the next two weeks. I hope Frank and crew know what they are facing.

Friday Morning Figures, May 13

Here's the latest total RV and WV for the Nats, through May 12.


-- The WV figures ("Win Value") are based on the new system I mentioned here (someday I will have time to explain it in detail). The bottom line is that Win Value translates every run into a "go-ahead run" situation, so that 1.0 WV = the average "go-ahead" run (at any point in the game, for either the home or visiting team). So, reading the chart below, Cristian Guzman's fielding has cost the Nats over 6 go-ahead runs this season.

-- Note that there is a subjective element to all of this, in that I make judgments about whether fielders should have made plays, runners should have taken the extra base, etc. Whenever possible I solicit others' views on those plays to check if my judgment was right. Ideally we would have a large group of people make such judgments and we could average them to get the most accurate value. These situations are relatively rare, but that judgment does affect the running and fielding RVs particularly.

-- One tentative conclusion I have come to from doing all of this (which may be obvious to many, I know) is that fielding and running are a lot like things in life: there is little upside and lots of downside, in that you are "productive" in them by avoiding a screw-up, rather than affirmatively adding value. Hence most of the RVs for these two are going to be negative, probably.

(Click on chart for larger image)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

ERV Boxscore for May 11, at Arizona

Another loss that did not need to be, but one you can't get too worked up about. Vargas pitched well, so I guess we are going to use a 6-man rotation now. The bats, of course, are the worry the past two games, esp. Wilkie, who seems to only be able to strike out.

Overall, a solid trip at 5-4. The next two weeks are critical, as we finally get some weaker teams, at home. We need to feast on them if we are serious -- if we go 3-4 against the Cubs and Brewers, it would be a real setback.

ERV Win: Counsell
ERV Loss: Rauch

(Click boxscore for larger image)

Traditional Boxscore here

ERV Boxscore for May 10, at Arizona

Another win squandered -- Frank leaves Armas in too long, and it spoils a terrific performance to that point. Plus, we have plenty of chances to score, with the right guys at the plate, and don't come through. Check out the ERVF in the box -- Arizona pitchers essentially gave us more than twice as many chances to score than we gave them (28 to 12). We did not invest that money wisely.


-- My spreadsheet tallies our WV-adjusted runs for and runs against (80.5 RF, 75.4 RA). Plug this into the pythagorean theorem and it predicts our W-L almost exactly (17.51 to 15.49). Also, adjusting for Guzman's -16.23 WV (add back the 16 WV runs he's cost us), and it says he's cost us 3.27 wins. Our most valuable player? Chad Cordero (1.5 wins), with Nick Johnson (1.06 wins) and Livan (1.03 wins) next.

ERV Win: Glaus
ERV Loss: Carroll

(click on boxscore for larger image)

For the traditional boxscore, click here

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

ERV Boxscore for May 9, at Arizona

This team can "answer"! From Guillen's homer in game 2 of the season to Saturday's touchdown after the Grand Slam to last night's Carroll to Johnson give and go, don't go messin' with this team's lead.

But the casualty lists keep getting longer -- word is that Guzman may be out for a week. Three weeks ago you could say "blessing in disguise", but I doubt Carroll can play 2B and SS at the same time. It feels like we are flying in a plane really fast and parts keep flying off, and the crew is busy in the back with some duck tape and string.

Note: Take a look at Ryan Church's line. ERVPA is a sum of the runs the average team scores in the situations in which Church came to the plate. In Church's three appearances, the average team scores 0.28 runs, 0.11 runs, and 0.11 runs. What did he produce from these meager morsels? 1.49 runs! His Return on Investment is over 300%! I'm pretty sure this is the highest of the year. By comparison, the highest for the year for the team is betwen 15 and 18 %. Ryan Church needs to play more!

ERV Win: Johnson
ERV Loss: Clayton

Click on boxscore for larger image

Traditional Boxscore for this game

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Nats Blog Book Review

A couple of weeks ago I finished two books that might interest you, and which have some tangential relation to baseball. The first was Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explains the Hidden Side of Everything, which is getting a lot of buzz these days, especially on the blogs. It is about Steven Levitt, an young economics professor at the University of Chicago, and his wide-ranging, interesting research. The authors have a blog discussing the book.

This was a quick, enjoyable read, and that's both the positive and negative review. This book is more like an extended NYT magazine article (where the authors first collaborated). So, if you want an introduction to cutting-edge views in economics (which purports to be more accessible to the non-economist), this is a very good book for that purpose.

I personally got a lot more out of The Wisdom of Crowds, which I've mentioned before on this blog. It is a much more in-depth treatment of the subject -- examining the economics principle that a group has more collective intelligence than any one individual in the group -- than Freakonomics, so therefore I found it more rewarding. The latter third of the book devolves a bit into more of a business management book, but the first 2/3 make up for it.

The baseball connection in these books? Levitt has posted on his blog about Billy Beane, making a simple but controversial point that although Moneyball's premise is that Beane used OBP to find guys who could help him win on the cheap, the stats show that the A's don't have any better OBP as a team than other clubs. Levitt thinks they won because of pitching, and will suffer mightily now that Hudson and Mulder are gone.

As for Wisdom of Crowds, it is my view that fielding statistics would become a lot more meaningful if we turned them over to the crowd.

P.S. To help you understand where I'm coming from, I have no formal training in economics whatsoever and for years thought its appellation as the "dismal science" was too good for the subject. That attitude has changed somewhat dramatically over the past months, due in part to blogs like Marginal Revolution, which tipped me to the Levitt book and which I strongly recommend for anyone who is curious about anything, literally.

Interesting article

Actually states the position that as opposed to being lucky to be 17-14, the Nationals are actually substantially outperforming their record/runs scored and allowed... meaning that if the Nats keep up this level of OBP/SLG etc. for and against, their record should improve even more (or meaning that they could drop off in offense and pitching a bit and still maintain this pace). 31 games (30 for this article) is a small sample size, but it's encouraging.

ERV Boxscore for May 8, at San Francisco

This game was like an avant garde foreign film -- way too long, interrupted by non-sequiturs (M*A*S*H episodes), rife with unpredictable fiat(bad calls), hard to get your mind around, unhappy ending. In the end, so complex you can't really understand it, and can't really say it was bad. The ERV box is a mess, fielding and running RV all over the place, reflecting the complicated nature of this game. Bottom line though, we won the series, didn't lose any ground to the playoff pace, and head to Arizona, a team we handled at home. Pretty successful road trip so far.

I listened to the last few innings on XM, which carried the Giants radio feed. Being good, informative announcers, every time they mentioned a Nats reliever warming up or coming in, they would say "right-hander" Hector Carrasco comes in, or "right-hander" Jon Rauch stays in the game, or "right-hander" Gary Majewski gives up another walk. I could only laugh to myself and think, "Guys, they're ALL right-handers. Save your breath."

ERV Win: Eyre
ERV Loss: Chavez and Guillen

Click boxscore for larger image

Sunday, May 08, 2005

One TOUGH division

Well, the NL East is quickly becoming the class division in the major leagues. Keeping in mind that every team has played most of their games against their division, so there are only so many games each team has played outside its division for a small sample size, take a look at the combined records of teams by division against other divisions:

NL EAST: 28-9 (19 games over .500)
NL CENTRAL: 16-34 (18 games under .500) (even the Cardinals are 2-7 outside their division (but 16-4 within))
NL WEST: 19-20 (1 game under .500)

AL EAST: 20-19 (1 game over .500)
AL CENTRAL: 19-20 (1 game under .500) (even the White Sox are just 5-3 outside their division (but 18-4 within))
AL WEST: 27-27 (exactly .500)

So, while the NL East is 19 games above .500, the NL Central is 18 games below and every other division is right around .500. And it isn't a matter of the NL East just beating up on the Central. The Central has been about equally beaten up by the West and East (9-17 against the West, 7-17 against the East), but the East is also beating up on the West (11-2).

What does all this mean? We should be even more proud of the start our Nats have shown. See? I say positive things too :-)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

ERV Boxscore for May 7, at San Francisco

What to say after a game like that? Incredible composure on this club, plus a defiant spirit that is not concerned with having two outs against it. Watching the Phils all last year, I never saw them come close to a win like that. And this is the third or fourth this year for us. Really incredible.

Ryan Church turns his RV completely around this series -- he's back in the positive. Nick Johnson continues to be the offensive stalwart -- it seems he can have a walk at will. Jose Guillen is our "10th Man" -- has any pinch-hitter ever had a game like that? And all of this without Vidro, Sledge.

Some bad points, of course. I am growing impatient with Zach Day, too. And Patterson fell back to Earth. But hard to dwell on these.


-- The new Win Value system is now in place for this boxscore and Friday night's. It is much better; I'll try to post later exactly how it works, but it appears to solve the sac fly problem, in that it turns a negative RV into a positive WV where the run scored comes late and puts the team ahead. When reading these boxscores, remember that 1.0 WV = an average "go-ahead" or "tie-breaking" run, so Ryan Church had the equivalent of 3.5 "go-ahead" runs in this game.

ERV Win: Church & Johnson
ERV Loss: Brower & Accardo

Click on boxscore for larger image