Projecting the 2012 Nationals, Part 3, Bottom of the Inning: Offense & Runs Scored

In Part 1 of this series, we sketched out one method we can use to project wins and losses for the 2012 Nationals. In Part 2, we sat through the top of our hypothetical season-as-single-inning and watched the 2012 Nats give up 615.72 runs.

Well, now we come to the bottom of the inning. Time for the 2012 Nationals to bat. Do they score more runs than the visiting team? And if they do, how many more? Let’s find out.

Calculating Projected Runs Scored

As I mentioned back in Part 1, we need to use wRC to figure out how many runs the offense is likely to create.

wRC stands for Weighted Runs Created ( Not World Rally Championship, this blogger’s preferred form of motorsport). The “weighted” bit in the name comes from the fact that a major component in the stat is another advanced offensive statistic, wOBA or Weighted On-Base Average. As Fangraphs explains:

Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) is based on a simple concept: not all hits are created equal. Batting average would have you believe they are, but think about it: what’s more valuable, a single or a homerun? Batting average doesn’t account for this difference and slugging percentage doesn’t do so accurately (is a double worth twice as much as a single? In short, no). OPS does a good job of combining all the different aspects of hitting (hitting for average, hitting for power, having plate discipline) into one metric, but it weighs slugging percentage the same as on-base percentage, while on-base percentage is more valuable than slugging.

Weighted On-Base Average combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighting each of them in proportion to their actual run value.

Using a 4-year Average wRC

With that said, you’d think it would be a simple matter of finding an average wRC for each player during the period under study and then adding all those values together. Doing that yields a shocking result: the 2012 Nats would be projected to score 428.25 runs. As Dave Huzzard over at Blown Save, Win helpfully pointed out, this would make the 2012 Nationals the worst offense in all baseball. In 2011, the San Francisco Giants had the worst offense in the National League, scoring 570 runs.

(Incidentally, according to Fangraphs, the record for fewest runs scored in a single season goes to the hapless 1876 Cincinnati Reds, who scored a paltry 238 runs, earning them a 9-46 record, and plunging them into the National League cellar, 42.5 games behind the Chicago White Stockings. The record for most runs scored goes to the 1894 Boston Beaneaters, who scored 1,220 runs in a 132-game season)

Accounting for Plate Appearances

A 428.25 total, then, can’t possibly be right. The model must be broken.

Coming back to our imaginary baseball game, I realized something that should have been obvious: the more times that a batter steps up to the plate, the more chances he has to score runs. By dividing a player’s total wRC over the period under study by the number of Plate Appearances that player made, we get the number of runs the player is likely to create, on average, every time he steps up to bat. What happens if we normalize offense to the number of plate appearances each hitter is likely to get? Well, we end up with a table that looks like this:

Player Position wRC 2008-2011 annual average wRC/PA 2008-2011 annual average 2012 PA (projected) 2012 wRC (projected)
Adam LaRoche 1B 65.50 0.132658 600 79.59
Danny Espinosa 2B 22.50 0.116883 600 70.13
Ryan Zimmerman 3B 83.25 0.151158 600 90.69
Ian Desmond SS 33.25 0.102151 600 61.29
Michael Morse LF 37.75 0.161670 600 97.00
Roger Bernadina CF 22.25 0.100112 400 40.04
Jayson Werth RF 95.25 0.154941 600 92.96
Wilson Ramos C 15.75 0.121857 400 48.74
Mark DeRosa RF 44.50 0.129927 400 51.97
Steve Lombardozzi 3B 0.25 0.031250 350 10.94
Jesus Flores C 13.25 0.101727 300 30.52
And, just for kicks, let’s consider the pitchers, too, since this is the National League:
Player Position wRC 2008-2011 annual average wRC/PA 2008-2011 annual average 2012 PA (projected) 2012 wRC (projected)
Stephen Strasburg RHSP -0.75 -0.100000 60 -6.00
Jordan Zimmermann RHSP 0.25 0.010000 100 1.00
Gio Gonzalez LHSP -0.25 -0.111111 100 -11.11
Chien-Ming Wang RHSP -0.75 -0.111111 100 -11.11
John “Long Ball” Lannan LHSP -2.50 -0.042553 100 -4.26
Ross Detwiler LHRP -1.25 -0.104167 20 -2.08
Tom Gorzelanny LHRP -1.25 -0.038462 20 -0.77
Craig Stammen RHRP 1.00 0.048780 20 0.98
Henry Rodriguez RHRP 0.00 0.000000 0 0.00
Brad Lidge RHRP 0.00 0.000000 0 0.00
Tyler Clippard RHRP 0.00 0.000000 0 0.00
Drew Storen RHRP 0.00 0.000000 0 0.00

Added all together, that means the 2012 Nationals score a respectable 640.82 runs in the bottom of our imaginary season-as-single-inning.

One really surprising thing here is that Michael Morse’s “beastmode” 2011 season may not have been a fluke. Morse’s 4-year average annual wRC is 37.75. But when you break it down and look at his wRC per plate appearance, you discover that “beastmode” was always lurking inside Morse, waiting to be unleashed and given enough plate appearances. Multiplying Morse’s wRC per plate apperance by a projected 600 plate appearances (reasonable for an every-day player), his projected wRC jumps to 97.00: exactly what his actual wRC was in 2011’s breakout season.

That does it for the bottom of the inning. The 2012 Nats have scored 640.82 runs. What does that mean, and how should Nats Town feel about the ballclub going into the 2012 season? Tune in tomorrow for Projecting the 2012 Nationals, Part 4: Setting Expectations.

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