Player UZR Change RZR Change MLBaverage DRA Change PFr Lobaton (C) n/a -- n/a --- n/a 6.1 +0.2 -2.1 Span (CF) -2.6 -2.2 .932 +.010 .915 - 4.0 -1.1 n/a Espinosa (2B) -0.3 +0.7 .766 +.009 .786 3.5 -0.9 n/a LaRoche (1B) -0.2 -- .846 --- .813 - 4.0 -0.8 n/a Harper (LF) -1.5 +0.3 .875 --- .868 - 3.4 -0.5 n/a Desmond (SS) -4.5 +0.1 .762 +.042 .772 -11.5 -2.8 n/a Werth (RF) -1.3 +0.6 .955 -.004 .888 - 2.8 -1.6 n/a Rendon (3B) -4.0 +1.0 .696 +.054 .720 - 0.5 +1.9 n/a minimum 120 innings
Depending on which end of the chart one looks at, it's either good news or bad news. DRA, the method using traditional fielding statistics, thinks the Nationals have been getting worse. UZR and RZR, generally see improvement. A change that the table does not show, which is possibly relevant to this discussion, is in the MLB RZR averages by position. These fluctuate as well. In fact, UZR and DRA are both liable to be affected by the play of the rest of the league, as those plus/minus numbers are compared against the league average, which is constantly changing as games are played.
If one sums the UZR changes, the Nationals' regulars have improved by about +0.5 of a run. That isn't very much, but they are improving slightly in the infield, which is where they need to improve. Doing the same with the DRA numbers nets you a minus 5.6 runs, or almost half a win. My own impression aligns more with DRA I'm afraid. Last night's game turned on Kevin Frandsen's muffed play at third base, although the blame for the loss really belongs to the Nationals' hitters, who should manage to score more than one run a game.
* These are available at the Baseball Gauge of Seamheads.com. Humphreys wrote the excellent Wizardry, which is a way of looking at fielding using only the traditional statistics, and not the newfangled play-by-play metrics.