I’ll do these every month or so.
5. New York AL
6. Los Angeles AL
7. Los Angeles NL
9. St. Louis
11. San Fran (Best team out)
12. Tampa Bay
14. Chicago AL
18. Chicago NL
21. Kansas City
22. San Diego
26. New York NL
-Colorado’s offense shouldn’t be underestimated. A healthy Tulo, CarGo, and Fowler is an impressive bunch; their pitching is absolutely horrendous, however.
-Not bullish on ChiSox, Orioles, or A’s.
-On parity: seems like a handful of teams at the bottom that could lose 100 games. Gives me the impression that we could see inflated win totals for the middle due to the heavy bottom.
-Still think Detroit has a much better lineup and only slightly poorer rotation than the Nats. It’s close, but I’ll take Cabrera and Prince and Verlander over Zimmerman/Harper/Stras and Co.
Cody Ross signs for 3 years with the Diamondbacks and their OF logjam becomes a veritable clusterfuck. Upton, Ross, Kubel, Parra, Eaton, and Pollock make 6 guys for 3 spots. There’s lots of speculation on Kubel getting moved, and he would be a very good fit for the Braves and the Phillies. I’m not sure if the Phillies have the prospects to swing that, but the Braves probably do. I still wouldn’t count out the Braves on Upton, though. Parra also fits pretty well with both, and would be cheaper both in prospects and in dollars, but they may be disinclined to trade him because of his defensive value. Texas, Seattle and Tampa also in the game. Going to be interesting.
gonna be fewer article-articles but just short things I think, like the Nationals roster as currently constructed:
C: Ramos (with Suzuki getting ~2 starts a week)
1. Span (L)
2. Desmond (R)
3. Zimmerman (R)
4. Harper (L)
5. Morse (R)
6. Werth (R)
7. Espinosa (S)
8. Ramos (R)
(Spot starters: Zack Duke, Yunesky Maya, ????)
5. Thee Obligatory Lefty Zach Duke
The Goon Squad:
The most striking thing about this list is the absence of holes, but that’s well-documented. I’m not sure if I necessarily trust Zach Duke as our only lefty, but JP Howell and Michael Gonzalez are still on the board.
Without LaRoche, our lineup is too right-handed; getting Moore some ABs could counteract this, especially if Morse struggles.
I’m counting on Garcia as a bullpen guy right now. Pretty sure that’s where he’s going to be most valuable. I could see the Nationals signing one of those aforementioned leftys, though, bumping Garcia to the minors to get stretched out as a starter and sticking with H-Rod in the bullpen. I still think he’s shown too much promise to dump him, especially if he was injured. Short leash, though.
Saavy-minor league deals for backup SPs are a must. They’ll be hard to attract given the Nationals rotation situation but I’d expect at least two February signings. Practically everyone in the rotation is a more-than-average injury risk. Especially considering the rotation luck we had last year, I’d be shocked if we didn’t lose a starter for a few weeks.
What does this mean for the Nats and Fielder?
Continuing where we left off here. Read that first for an introduction.
I discussed the issue of Morse’s BABIP in the last article; his detractors say it’s too high to be sustainable, so it will inevitably come down and negatively impact his triple-slash, while his supporters point to his high career BABIP as proof that his his performance from 2011 is indeed sustainable.
The point I’d like to make is that the type of ball hit in play has an impact on whether it’ll drop in for a hit or not. BABIP is not just a “luck” stat, especially for hitters.
Player Alpha, who hits all infield flies, would likely have an average and BABIP of .000, and you wouldn’t necessarily expect the player to improve upon that, even though his low BABIP would suggest a regression to the mean. The poor quality of the balls he’s putting in play precludes this hypothetical player from ever being good.
Likewise, Player Beta, who hits all line drives, is likely to have a high BABIP, since line drives fall in for hits much more often than ground balls or high fly balls. Obviously, some are speared by diving defenders, but in general if you hit a hard line drive, you can be confident that you were “supposed” to get a hit.
Michael Morse’s breakdown of batted ball numbers (which mirror his career rates), compared to league average (courtesy of FanGraphs):
There’s a slugger that I’d like to contrast Morse with: Joey Votto. He’s obviously a huge star, with a .309/.416/.531 line in 2011. Similarly to Morse, he famously sustains a high career BABIP (.352) despite being quite slow. He’s also about as close as a player gets to Player Beta; his 27.5% LD led all of baseball last year. However, even if his BAPIP dropped a lot, his OBP would remain quite good due to his excellent walk rate of 15.3%.
Morse is dissimilar in both respects; his 19.5% LD is a tick below league average, suggesting that he doesn’t really have exceptional line drive skills, and his 6.3% walk rate is also fairly poor. This might initially support that his BABIP was mostly luck, and that he’s due to regress heavily.
However, he hits significantly fewer infield flies than the average player does; less infield flies effectively means fewer outs. Since infield fly balls are part of fly balls (i.e. 4.8 of the 36.5% of fly balls Morse hits are infield flies), this means that Morse hits about 31% of balls into the outfield. There, both his ability to hit the ball to all fields and gaps plus the relative difficulty of fielding a fly ball in the outfield come into play, which both lead to a higher probability of a batted ball dropping in for a hit. There’s also the matter of Morse’s power; over one in five of his fly balls in 2011 were home runs. Even better: Morse’s IFFB% over his career is 5.5%, only slightly higher.
Back to Joey Votto, who’s shaping up to be the king of everything BABIP. His IFFB% was a minuscule 0.9%, meaning that he hit practically zero “cans of corn” to the infield. Along with his LD rate, he put himself in a position to hit balls that have the highest probability to drop in for hits. He’s an absolute monster.
So Morse, while not having an awesome LD percentage, has good FB skills that allow him to maintain a high BABIP. If I were him, I would work heavily on cutting back on his high K rate of 21.9%. If he can do that, he’ll put more balls in play, which, with his BABIP that I deem sustainable, will only increase his probability of success with the bat. If he can do that, he can hit for an even higher average than he did this year. Improving his walk rate would help kick up his OBP, as well as providing a cushion if his BABIP drops due to poor luck.
However, even if he doesn’t accomplish these things, for which there’s no real evidence he can/will, he’s settled in at around his true talent level. Don’t expect a huge regression from Morse next season unless you think his batted ball numbers will unexpectedly slide.
The Nationals’ schedule starts:
- 3 games @ Cubs
- 3 games @ Mets
- 4 games vs. Reds
- 4 games vs. Astros
- 3 games vs. Marlins
- 3 games @ Padres
- 3 games @ Dodgers
It’s really pretty favorable. The Reds are awesome offensively, but apart from their recent acquisition Mat Latos, their rotation is mediocre. And the Marlins’ dream team will be a pleasant challenge, especially considering the Nats’ struggles against the Marlins in recent years. But apart from those two teams, the Nats are facing some of what figure to be the worst teams in the National League.
Moral of the story: don’t be surprised and don’t get too excited if the Nationals get to a hot start out of the gate. Their first real challenge will be the first week of May, where they face the D-Backs and prepare for a weekend Phillies invasion in succession on a 6-game homestand. Hopefully a good start will wake up the fanbase to the point where we can push them out entirely (and maybe even begin construction on Nationals Park North).
Anonymous asked: As far as Morse's BABIP, consider that most of the stats you were looking at were Minor League stats (probably?) and it's easier to hit for a high BABIP in the Minors. Remember, Morse is not particularly speedy, and if you compare his BABIP (career) to someone like Ryan Zimmerman (not a speedster, but faster), his BABIP is .319. I'm not saying that Morse is due for decline necessarily - maybe he's just good at hitting gaps in all leagues - but his stats, at least so far, don't tell us much.
While you’re correct that it’s easier to hit for a high BAPIP in the minors (poorer defenses, field conditions), all of Morse’s numbers were taken from major league play (http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/morsemi01.shtml), including parts of four years in Seattle. I should have clarified that those 1260 plate appearances I mentioned did all come in the major leagues.
There’s another part to this series coming up where I’ll address the reasons WHY Morse is able to sustain such a high BAPIP. 1260 PAs isn’t exactly a career, but it’s enough to start drawing valid conclusions. BAPIP, according to analytic work done over at FanGraphs, stabilizes at around 1000 PAs, which would suggest that Morse is a true-talent .340-ish BAPIPer. Again, more to come on that front.
By all accounts, Michael Morse had the best offensive season of any Washington National by a wide margin, leading the team in nearly every relevant offensive category, including all three of AVG/OBP/SLG. While being the best hitter on the Nationals wasn’t a particularly high bar in 2011, not often does a skillset present itself in a player that can hit for both power and average like Morse; only 10 players in baseball had a .300+ average to go with a .550+ slugging percentage, including superstars such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, Ryan Braun, and Matt Kemp. The development of Morse into a bona fide slugger so late in his career, at the ripe old age of 29, is borderline-unheard-of.
However, like many late-blooming breakout players, Morse has those that are skeptical of sustaining his success. His OBP of .360 is only good and not great due to a poor 6.3% walk rate, compared to the league average of 8.1%. Michael Morse’s detractors will point also point out his BAPIP (batting average on balls in play) of .344, which is quite high for his skillset (a strong, muscular slugger who runs like Josh Bard on crutches). Under traditional thinking, speedy players are more likely to have higher BAPIPs due to their abilities to beat out ground balls and bunt hits and such. In Morse, however, this would typically indicate a large degree of luck in his hits; many of them simply drop in fortunate spots or are mishandled by the defenses he faces in a way that doesn’t incur an error. His BAPIP, under this idea, would be expected to drop, bringing his batting average down along with it. With his poor walk rate, his value would decline precipitously as his OBP would possibly dip below .330. Essentially, he would become Carlos Quentin: a low average, low OBP slugger that plays the outfield about as poorly as you can.
Morse’s supporters, however, will point out that his BAPIP is just a tick below his career average; despite his player archetype that implies he would sustain low BAPIPs, his career average BAPIP over 1260 PAs is .346. The easy, lazy way to explain this is that he proverbially “hits the ball hard”, a point which I don’t think any Nats fans that see Morse on a consistent basis would contest. Under this idea, then, Morse isn’t necessarily due for regression at all!
Both of these ideologies are overly simplistic. In the next post in this series, I’ll go into detail about the quality and quantity of balls Morse puts in play, how that impacts his BAPIP, and what we can realistically expect going forward. A bit of a teaser post, I promise the analysis is coming.