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The Nationals' slow offensive start

Once his team joined him in the visiting clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park, Manager Jim Riggleman had a message for his players. "We haven't got started yet," he said. Riggleman told them he liked their intensity and the way they were grinding through games, and that they could be upbeat about their 3-4 record because their offense had not yet come close to hitting stride.

That would be the positive to draw from Washington's first full week. Certainly, it wouldn't be the starting pitching, which has consisted of one excellent start, two passable ones and four clunkers. The Nationals staff has thrown 32 1/3 innings, fewest in the majors despite five teams having played just six games. (Tracee Hamilton will chat about the Nationals and Jason Marquis's poor start this morning at 9:30.)

Their offense has also lagged near the bottom. They've scored 3.71 runs per game, 25th in the majors. The Nationals are drawing walks -- they have 29 as a team, 10 from Adam Dunn, who is tied for the league lead. But they're not hitting -- their .218 batting average, second lowest in the majors.

Maybe some of that owes to a .266 batting average on balls put in play, 26th in the majors and about 35 points down from the league average. But virtually no Nationals have been swinging well. Josh Willingham, Ivan Rodriguez and Cristian Guzman are all hitting .300 or better; Rodriguez (.421/.476/.579) and Willingham (.391/.483/.739) have been outstanding. Everyone else? Not so good. Here are the grim details, in average, on-base and slugging:

Ryan Zimmerman: .211/.250/.368
Ian Desmond: .190/.320/.476
Nyjer Morgan: .172/.226/.345
Willie Harris: .154/.313/.462
Willy Taveras: .143/.200/.286
Adam Kennedy: .136/.167/.182
Adam Dunn: .111/.448/.111

So early in the season, those rotten statistics are probably more of a good sign. A week of stats are worth about the same as the paper they're printed on, but it's clear most Nationals will be rising to the mean as opposed to regressing to it. Despite their bad offensive start, the Nationals have kept their collective head above water.

FROM THE POST
In their 7-4 loss to the Phillies, the Nationals blew a lead and, in the process, tried to demand some respect.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 9, Buffalo 1: Luis Atilano allowed one run on two hits and a walk in five innings, striking out six.

Bowie 5, Harrisburg 2: Matt Chico allowed five runs -- just one earned -- in 3 2/3 innings. He allowed five hits, walked one and struck out three.

Potomac was off and will play Winston-Salem tonight.

Lakewood 7, Hagerstown 4: Destin Hood went 2 for 4 with a solo home run, his first this year. Jeff Kobernus went 2 for 5.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

It was the minor leagues, but Chad Cordero saved a game for the first time in nearly three years.

In other ex-Nats closer news, Jon Rauch is 5 for 5 for the Twins while replacing Joe Nathan.

It seems the Nationals are leaning toward the clear-cut No. 1 pick, catcher Bryce Harper.

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 13, 2010; 9:14 AM ET
 
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Next: The best Nats pitching prospect I saw in Altoona

Comments

Adam,
LOVE the little minor league blurbs and links! Good stuff.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 13, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

A bit more off-day reading. I also recently posted a link to a Post ombudsmen piece on this. What think you?

While lack of moderation can definitely be an issue, and I do think that anonymity can lead to flaming, I don't know that revealing the identities of online newspaper readers is the answer. One concern I would have is that I don't want any of the, um, somewhat unstable individuals out there on the Internet (present company excepted--mostly :-)) to be able to track me down. Also, does this mean that newspapers will no longer publish quotes from "anonymous sources" in stories? After all, I have a hunch that some of them just *might* have an agenda as well... ;-)

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/12/technology/12comments.html

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 13, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Link to a related ombudsman post:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ombudsman-blog/2010/04/readers_offer_ideas_for_modera.html

After reading the latest there - yikes. One possibility raised is that the Post could bring in "volunteers" who could access our accounts and decide whether or not (1) we are to be trusted, and (2) our posts are offensive. Oh, and someone also suggested tracking which posters are subscribers and which aren't. Um, if all that comes to pass, I might just decide that this *site* is offensive and stop posting here.

How about simply offering an "ignore" button for readers and letting us decide for ourselves regarding whom and what to read? In the meantime, there's always the scroll bar, of which I make frequent use. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 13, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Great to see things looking up for the Chief!

Posted by: Kev29 | April 13, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Is the Hamilton chat working? It's not showing any live q&a for me.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | April 13, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I am also having the same problem CIL. Hope the Chief makes it to the bigs again.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | April 13, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Looks like the chat is dead today.

Posted by: Tom8 | April 13, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Adam, I call foul on posting averages six games into the season. They are terribly misleading. Yesterday, I gave the example of Nyjer Morgan. If he went 2 for 3 today, he raises his batting average 40 points.

At no point in the middle of the season would you consider putting averages over six games out (I hope) to advance an argument. It is irresponsible of you to do so now.

Please use the raw numbers of hits and at-bats.

Posted by: Section506 | April 13, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Early stats are clearly misleading but also rather fun. I fully expect Pudge to keep hitting at this .421 clip. I really dont think the offense has struggled to terribly. We have faced some aces in Halliday and Johan but we have put up enough runs to win a few games. Run totals can easily be inflated this early in the season. Yesterday KC puts up 10 and SD puts up 17!!!

Posted by: Stu27 | April 13, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

CIL and anyone else having problems with First Things First today.

Apparently one had to register special to get in today. By the time, I did, the Chat has ended.

@506

6 games (12 to 18 appeareances) is not too early to start looking at Stats. I agree with your implication that it is still to early to worry about anybody except maybe Dunn. He really has to start hitting.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | April 13, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Batting average is just a shorthand for expressing the raw number of hits and at bats. It's the exact same thing, and conveys the same information. Everyone knows it's early, and with a good day a batter can greatly increase his average. Guess what, though? With a good day his raw number of hits and at bats looks a lot better all of a sudden too.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 13, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Of the 26 runs scored by the Nationals this year, only two have come against the opposition's bullpen.

That's one against Baez on Wednesday in the eight inning and one against Figueroa on Thursday in the seventh inning.

In eight opportunities, the Nationals have yet to score in the ninth inning.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 13, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

"6 games (12 to 18 appeareances) is not too early to start looking at Stats. I agree with your implication that it is still to early to worry about anybody except maybe Dunn. He really has to start hitting."

I think we mean the same thing adhardwick, but just to be sure, I don't mean Adam shouldn't look at stats. But saying Dunn is only 2 for 18 is a heck of a lot different than saying he's batting .111, and that's what I think is irresponsible.

If Adam Dunn has only 1 hit in 4 at bats today, then he is batting .136, 25 points higher than his average this morning.

On an individual level, using averages instead of number of hits and at-bats (ditto with OBP and SLG) gives us a tragically failed analysis on which players are doing well and which are doing poorly (compare Adam Dunn to a theoretical player who is also .111, but has had 28 at bats with those 10 walks of Dunn changed to outs and you see they are very different players).

When you bump it up to the team level after only six games it becomes tragically poor statistical analysis. Adam should have looked at the raw numbers if he meant to have a serious post looking at a slow offensive start.

Posted by: Section506 | April 13, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

"CIL and anyone else having problems with First Things First today.

Apparently one had to register special to get in today. By the time, I did, the Chat has ended."

The Post will now use this information to justify further cutbacks in its baseball coverage. They went out of their way to promote this chat, and still no one came. Ergo, no one cares about baseball, so why cover it? Hail to the Redskins.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 13, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

"Everyone knows it's early, and with a good day a batter can greatly increase his average."

Lack of careful reporting and analysis with the assumption that "everybody knows" anything, is what makes ESPN so damned intolerable. Barry gave us better, Chico gave us better, and Adam has proven he can give us better too. So he should.

Posted by: Section506 | April 13, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Section 506 et al,

Concern about Dunn is not based on his poor performance in the 1st six games. Fact is he looked terrible at the plate all through spring training and, to a lesser extent, last September. I would feel less concern if he'd catch up to just one of these fastballs pitchers are pounding him with. OTOH, he's got the best track record as a hitter as any Nat, is in the prime of his career, and seemingly free of injury. So everything points to his snapping out of this--but when? As others have commented, Nats are now a one-punch team and will remain so until Dunn gets back on track.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | April 13, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

CapPeterson, this is precisely my point. You just made Kilgore's point a lot better than he did with largely meaningless batting averages. And I want more from the beat writer, not to have him outdone in the comments section. And given how well he knows baseball and how well he writes, I'm annoyed that he took the ESPN route and threw up averages.

I've been worried about his lack of power, but apparently he has been too, judging by some of those strike out swings. Settling down and just slapping singles will help him get in a groove, but you can see the frustration.

Posted by: Section506 | April 13, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

As for comments about the averages, yes they are very early and therefore of limited importance. But they are a small data point and I see nothing wrong with posting them. Anyone who is reading Nats Journal knows we are only 7 games into the season. Absolutely everybody.

I liked both Barry and Chico, but Adam is head and shoulders above them with what he has done here and to jump on this post as somehow inferior reporting because he didn't say "Hey folks, we are only 7 games into the season for those of you who don't know this" is just hyper-critical silliness.

Posted by: NatsFly | April 13, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

IMHO, it is not too early to look at stats, but it is too early to draw conclusions about performance - especially for a binge hitter like Dunn. I don't really care whether he gets hot in April, June, and August or May, July, and September. He'll hit below .260 and over 35 HR for the year either way. He has a track record. Its ok to be more concerned about players with less history or bad history. For example, Tavares has a history of low OBP and his slow start reflects that.

As slow as the offense has been to get untracked, I'm still more concerned about the pitching - not based on stats, but based on the ability to throw strikes. Where are the first pitch strikes?

Posted by: natbiscuits | April 13, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

A caveat, I was informed by my red-headed Cubs-fan wife that I am extra grumpy this morning.

I'm not dinging Adam for inferior reporting, he's doing great reporting. I'm dinging him for lazy analysis this morning, by choosing to use a method of inferential statistics that is well-acknowledged to be a terrible tool for making judgments about the thing being studied at this point in the season.

He ought to have used the descriptive statistics that we all know and acknowledge to be better suited to drawing conclusions in this case, because he is paid to write about and analyze baseball. Any posters wishing to use averages at this point in the season get a pass because they are not baseball-writers and posting in their free time. If he's doing it for a job he should get it right, particularly since we all know he has the ability.

Posted by: Section506 | April 13, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

The stats AK dropped are merely illustrative of the fact that a bunch of Nat regulars, many of whom can be expected to be more productive, have gotten off to slow starts to date. This is not something that requires sabermetric Rube Goldberg devices to explain. Adam made a point and he showed exactly how bad it has been and for whom. Some people are hard to please.

Posted by: dfh21 | April 13, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Then again, four of the first seven games have been against the 2-time NL champs, including Halladay, whom most of them wouldn't hit much if they *had* seen him before, which they probably haven't. A guy like that can put you into a slump. So they're probably pressing, too.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 13, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Put another way, given

Ryan Zimmerman: .211/.250/.368
Ian Desmond: .190/.320/.476
Nyjer Morgan: .172/.226/.345
Willie Harris: .154/.313/.462
Willy Taveras: .143/.200/.286
Adam Kennedy: .136/.167/.182
Adam Dunn: .111/.448/.111

and
"one excellent start, two passable ones and four clunkers"

being 3 for 7 is probably more than you'd have guessed.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 13, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see Kobernus is back....

Posted by: hansenjo | April 13, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Another way to look at this would be to look at history, and pay little attention to 7 games worth of stats.

Objectively, the Nats have 4 good hitters: Morgan, Zimm, Dunn, and Willingham. Desmond is young and has shown that he can hit - albeit in a small sample set. Pudge is on the downside of his career (despite 7 good games), Kennedy is a good field/mediocre hitting 2B, and the RF situation is the weakest offensively in MLB.

I didn't see much in the way of improvement this offseason - but that's just me.

Posted by: comish4lif | April 13, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Comis4lif -- what about Guz? Guz hit .285 last year dinged up and .315 in 2008.

Posted by: dfh21 | April 13, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

No worries, 506. We all have our grumpy mornings. Heck, I had one myself today. :-)

---

A caveat, I was informed by my red-headed Cubs-fan wife that I am extra grumpy this morning.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 13, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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