Like my last post, I'm still thinking about last year. (Do you blame me, after the past two weeks, in which we are 3-12, having been outscored 101 to 55, and having scored more than 3 runs only 4 times?) In that one I compared the Mets' current record with ours from the 1st half of 2005, because I was surprised to find that the Mets did not have a better record than that. But that got me thinking about our second-half collapse, and wondered how the pre-All Star Break 2005 Nats stack up against the Mets in other categories besides wins and losses. Also, I decided to throw the "surprise" team of the year, the Tigers, into the comparison for fun (as of Tuesday's games).
Records and Runs
Nats 2005, 50-31, 4.13 RS/G, 4.11 RA/G, Pyth 41-40 (+9)
NYM_ 2006, 47-29, 5.33 RS/G, 4.32 RA/G, Pyth 45-31 (+2)
DET_ 2006, 53-25, 5.23 RS/G, 3.71 RA/G, Pyth 51-27 (+2)
Here, the obvious difference is offense, as our runs per game is more than 1 run below the Mets and Tigers. As a result, our Expected W/L was nine games below our actual, prompting the skeptics to predict our fall last year. As we'll see below, it was the power in our offense that was anemic, and in the second half it got worse, not better as expected, which caused the bottom to drop out. (I have not adjusted the numbers for ballpark, but all three teams play in pitcher's parks, so it should not make much difference).
As for 2006, note the Tigers and Mets defenses, the big difference between the two clubs. This bodes well for Detroit.
Nats 2005, .261/.332/.404/.735
NYM_ 2006, .268/.335/.461/.796
DET_ 2006, .275/.330/.461/.791
When it came to getting on base (the second number in the series -- AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS), we were just as good as the 2006 clubs, but our power was awful, which left a lot of those runners on base. I also suspect that the hit and runs and bad baserunning cost a lot too. We were 50% succesful on steals, about 25% less than you need to be to actually generate runs. In the second half we dropped to .243/.313/.373/.686. Thank you, Preston Wilson!
Note that the Mets and Tigers have very similar offenses this year.
Nats 2005, 3.88 ERA, 0.76 HR/G, 3.39 BB/G, 5.60 K/G, 1.65 K/BB
NYM_ 2006, 3.90 ERA, 1.12 HR/G, 3.37 BB/G, 7.50 K/G, 2.23 K/BB
DET_ 2006, 3.50 ERA, 0.98 HR/G, 2.96 BB/G, 6.27 K/G, 2.12 K/BB
Here you see another weakness of the Nats last year -- the pitching was good, but not dominant, as indicated by the relatively low K/G and K/BB numbers. As a result, it could not save us when the offense went completely sour. One of the most depressing and telling stats from last year was our July team ERA, which was the best month of the year, at precisely the moment when we lost all those games and our lead.
As for the 2006 clubs, pitching is where the Tigers have excelled so far, nearly half a run better than the Mets in ERA, and under 3 walks per game.
As I see it, both the Tigers and Mets have more solid fundamental numbers to support their records than the Nats had last year. If either club is to make a slide backwards in the second half, I'd bet on the Mets, and I'd predict it is a pitching problem that causes it. I doubt it will be 31-50 dramatic like ours last year, and the rest of the NL East is so weak that it won't cost them the division. The Tigers strike me as the real deal, and the bold prediction by some that the AL Wild Card will not come from the East is looking better and better.