This post is an introduction to an in-depth analysis of the 2009 Washington Nationals' batting lineup using some old-fashioned sabermetric methods. Throughout it all, I'm interested in how Nationals' players compared to the league average. Before we get to the actual measure of quality, I'm going to offer a profile of how the Nationals put together hits, power and walks in the different lineup slots in order to generate runs. As a first step, I'm going to excavate the Ashley Hexagon, which first appeared in the 1997 Big Bad Baseball Abstract.
The Ashley Hexagon was described by Gerry Myerson on pages 100-106 It doesn't tell you a whole lot about quality. What it analyses, using a basic form of Bill James' Runs Created, is where a given batter sources his offensive contribution. 'X' percent came from his hits, 'y' from walks and 'z' from power. Usefully, we can compare that to the league average.
Here's a graph (click on it to see it bigger) showing you the National League average. There are three components. The left-hand graph measures the walk component. The bottom is a contact component, but the right-had graph is power, so a negative number at the bottom means not much power.
Here's another graph, showing the Nationals' average by batting order position. As you can see, the Nationals' get more of their runs created by power than the league average in the heart of the lineup.
That 'z-axis' marks the right-hand boundary of the NL average, but the Nationals' push w-a-a-a-y over to make space for their cleanup hitter. Basically, the heart of the Nationals' order was more likely than the league to create runs through extra-base hits. They also tended to walk a bit more. However, at either end of the lineup there's a distinct shortage of both power and, in the leadoff spot especially, walks. It's a peculiar sort of bifurcation. Sock and eye is all in one place.
Finally, let's take a snapshot of actual quality by utilizing the Big Bad Baseball Annual's Offensive Index. Here, we have one line showing the league average of Runs Created per batting order position matched against another showing that of the Washington Nationals.
Well, there's a couple of surprises there. All that power didn't actually generate a lot of Runs Created by those 3, 4, 5 and 6 hitters. Who'd have thought the number three slot for the Nationals offered below-league-average production? And the leadoff slot was about average? What, you did? [Exeunt, red-faced.]
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