Friday, June 28, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, June 28, 2024 -- "NL East Notes"


This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider.

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Washington Nationals

A frustrated reader asked me about the Nationals’ propensity for making outs on the bases. He wasn’t just venting. The Nats lead baseball with 39 times caught stealing, eight more than any other team. They lead baseball in times picked off, with 17. They’ve made 31 additional outs on the bases -- third in baseball. On average, a National makes a baserunning out once a game, the kind of thing fans notice and that drives them crazy.

The outs on the bases add up. Baseball Reference calculates baserunning value, and the Nationals are nearly last. 

Walk, Don’t Run (B-R baserunning value, 2024)

Guardians    -9
Nationals    -5
Marlins      -5
White Sox    -5

By this stat, Nick Senzel is one of the worst baserunners in the game this year, with his infield compatriots Ildemaro Vargas, CJ Abrams, and Luis Garcia all costing the Nats runs. 

The aggressive approach, though, may make some sense. Stolen bases have the most value when a team hits a lot of singles relative to their other hits. They need to get that runner from first to second more than a team that slugs a lot. Steals also have value the more contact a team makes. The Nationals are 29th in homers, 27th in isolated power, and ninth in the percentage of their hits that are singles (67.4%). They have the ninth-best contact rate in baseball, too. 

So while it’s frustrating watching all those baserunning outs, Davey Martinez may be playing a style of baseball that best fits the roster he has. The Nationals just don’t have a lot of paths to scoring from the batter’s box -- 23rd in OBP, 26th in SLG -- so aggression on the bases, even at a cost, is their best play.