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Washington Nationals: Winning Percentage and other Stats

June 30, 2010

Two schools of thought have emerged recently on how to fix the Nats. One side argues that if the Nats top of the order can get on base more, the Nats power hitters will hit more 2 and 3 run home runs, and the Nats will win more games. One other side in the “how to fix the Nats” argument suggests that if the Nats would just stop committing so many errors, they would win more games. Is one side right and the other wrong? Are both sides right? Is it a combination plus other problems to rectify? Let’s take a look.

Solo Home Runs

How are the Nats doing compared to the rest of the league in Solo Home Runs? Through June 29th, the Nats have 44 solo home runs, placing them 11th in MLB. The MLB average is 40 solo home runs. That’s obviously not a game breaker.

Errors

The Nats lead the league in errors – 69 vs the league average 48. By comparison, the Twins only have 28 errors at this point in the season. In fielding percentage, the Nats are again last – .977 vs .983 league average. The Twins’ fielding percentage is a sterling .990.

Winning Percentage

According to the arguments then – there should be a direct correlation between Home Runs with runners on, errors, and winning percentage. Here’s a plot of all three values.

The light green bars indicate the percentage of home runs each team hits that score at least 2 runs. The dark green bars display the percentage of runs allowed that are unearned. The light blue line shows the winning percentage of each team. As you can see, these values don’t correlate. If any one value correlated to winning percentage, there would be a gradual increase in bar height from left to right.

Fixing the Problem

Some teams, like St. Louis, have fielding issues, but still manage to score more runs than their opponents. Other teams, like Tampa Bay, hit a high percentage of solo home runs, yet still win more games than they lose. Atlanta is the only team that currently makes a lot of errors, doesn’t score a lot of runs, and still wins a lot of games.

So here is the improbable task for the remainder of 2010:

  • The Nats need better defense – it’s hard to win when you ¬†give the other teams free runs. However, it’s not impossible – St. Louis, Texas and Atlanta are¬†winning games with a weak defense.
  • The Nats need to score more runs – it would be great if the Nats started hitting more home runs with runners on. But, Atlanta and Tampa Bay have shown you can win without a lot of 2 and 3 run home runs.
  • The Nats need to stop making mental mistakes – getting picked off base, throwing to the wrong bag. They are reducing their own total bases, while increasing their opponents.

Fixing just one of these problems will help, but won’t turn the Nats into a contender.

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