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Washington Nationals: Right Field Power Outage

April 2, 2010

There has been great consternation in the Nats blogosphere regarding right field after the release of Elijah Dukes. Specifically, the Nats don’t have the strong armed speedster and/or power hitter prototypical to right field. How does the Nats platoon of Willie Harris, Willy Taveras, and Cristian Guzman (are you kidding me?) compare to the rest of the league? Most teams either have a speedster with a high OBP (Ichiro Suzuki, Shin-Soo Choo) or a big bat slugger (Garrett Jones, Justin Upton) in right field. We’ll use the common comparison of SLG vs OBP to find out how the Nats platoon stacks up.

Below is a chart of every projected opening day right fielder. Jason Heyward and Matt Joyce spent most of 2009 in the minors. I’ve included their AAA stats, but placed a * next to their names. In 2009, the average MLB right fielder reached base 0.353 percent of the time. The average SLG for right field was 0.468.

Good Power and Good OBP

Players listed in the upper right quadrant of the chart have both a higher OBP than average and a higher SLG percentage. Looking at the chart, you see the players who combine both OBP and SLG – Garrett Jones, Justin Upton, J.D.Drew, etc.

High OBP

The lower right quadrant shows the players who get on base more than the average right fielder, but don’t hit for power. This group includes: Ichiro Suzuki, Bobby Abreau, and Magglio Ordonez.

Good Power – Below Average OBP

The upper left quadrant, which includes Nelson Cruz and Michael Cuddyer, lists players who hit for power, but don’t reach first as often as their peers.

Kids who were picked last in school

Players in the lower left corner are like the kids who were picked last in PE – they don’t hit for power and they don’t get on base. The team tries to hide them in right hoping that nothing bad will happen. This list includes Nate Schierholtz, Corey Hart, and Jeff Francoeur. These teams forgot to get 3 outfielders in the off-season and threw whatever they had on the bench in right field.

Nats Situation in Right Field

So how do Willie Harris, Cristian Guzman, and Willy Taveras rate? Taveras SLG – 0.285, OBP – 0.275. These numbers are so low I would have had to alter the graph minimums to fit him in. I guess the Nats could spin him as being off the charts, and he really is, but in the wrong direction. Cristian Guzman would have been the most offensive offensive right fielder in 2009 – SLG – 0.390, OBP – 0.306. The only other player on this chart with SLG less than 0.400 is Willie Harris. Guzman’s poor offensive showing ignores the other glaring question – if Guzman’s arm isn’t strong enough to throw from short to first, how can he possibly throw from right field to 3rd/home? Of course, Guzman and Taveras make Harris look like Babe Ruth. Harris’ numbers – SLG – 0.393, OBP – 0.384. The good news is that Harris’ 2009 numbers actually fit on the chart! Harris has a marginally higher OBP than the league average for right field. However, power is a serious issue – 0.393 SLG just isn’t acceptable for a major league right fielder. I like Willie Harris – he’s a hard working guy who gives his best effort every night, but he is not a major league every day right fielder.

So what should the Nats do – trade a AAAA pitcher for a AAAA right fielder? Sign an unwanted free agent? We’ll see what kind of GM Mike Rizzo really is – his current grade is an incomplete for right field. On April 5, the incomplete turns into an F.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 1, 2014 4:51 PM

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