Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo refers to his analytics department as “The Pentagon”. They are a key to the Sabermetrics and the math of WAR (Wins Above Replacement) which keeps Rizzo’s analytics department on their toes as each player added to the final roster will be a integral part to the team’s success.
“[Davey Martinez is] bringing that love of analytics and the implementation of those statistics with his thought process,” Mike Rizzo said. “[Tim Bogar], same thing. He came from analytical organizations as well. He and Davey are both very intelligent and have the ability to take a lot of information and disperse it to the players in a way they can understand it.”
While Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez embraces the analytics, he understands that he must put his players in their best situations to maximize their values. Martinez plans to work very closely with the front office to consider all of the analytics data he receives.
“I got a little bit of old school [in me],” Dave Martinez said, “But a lot of new school. This game is still played on a diamond, on dirt, on grass, with a bat, with a baseball, with a glove. These guys have done it since they were little. I do believe in that. But it helps me make decisions before the game, with lineups and with other things, how we’re going to do things. It’s a big part of the game. Why not use it? The information’s there. We should all use it.”
Don’t expect any Spring Training controversy with Davey Martinez when it comes to line-up formation like last year when Adam Eaton was batting 7th in some games. As a matter of fact, Martinez has already divulged that he plans on batting Adam Eaton in the lead-off and Trea Turner in the two-hole based on analytics.
Eaton has a much higher projected OBP (on-base-percentage) than Turner while also seeing more pitches per at-bat. Adam Eaton in 2017 saw 4.14 pitches per plate appearance as compared to Trea Turner at 3.79. Did we mention Anthony Rendon was 3rd in all of the National League at 4.37 pitches per plate appearance? Eaton had an impressive .393 OBP in 2017 compared to Trea Turner at .338. Bryce Harper led the Nats with a .413 OBP followed by that Rendon guy at .403.
The reason to bat Harper and Rendon further back in the batting order is to take advantage of their power numbers. Harper slugged at a .595 clip, Rendon was at .533 while Eaton and Turner were at .393 and .451 respectively.
Wins and losses will always be determined by runs scored above runs allowed in any given game. While WAR will project you close to team wins, Fangraphs has found that wins and losses are more accurately estimated by run differentials calculated as BaseRuns.
“Our actual win projections [at Fangraphs] are calculated using BaseRuns and not WAR,” David Appelman told me. “BaseRuns ends up doing a better job of modeling team runs, so it’s going to look a little different than WAR.”
The Math of the Analytics
There has always been the saying in baseball that every team will win at least 50 games and lose at least 50 games, and it is what you do with the other 62 games that will determine a team’s fate in the regular season. But if we go by WAR per player, we get an idea of what their tangible value is to the team per the formula. So what does player WAR look like now? Here is the up-to-date charts from Fangraphs on WAR:
Here is the breakdown of the WAR: the position players are worth 24.9 WAR; the pitchers worth 20.3 WAR for a total of 45.2 WAR. If we add those “given” 50 wins plus 45.2, the Nationals should win 95 games; however, recall that runs determine the wins and Fangraphs has the Nationals projected currently at over 91 games. Fangraphs projects the Nationals with a +99 run differential with 4.93 runs scored per game while allowing 4.32 runs per game.
The Analytics Team
The group of Sabermetric stars on the Nationals’ analytics team is led by the Director of Baseball Operations, Michael DeBartolo and the Director of Baseball Research & Development, Samuel Mondry-Cohen. Mondry-Cohen currently has four assistants: Lee Mendelowitz and Scott Van Lenten who are analysts of baseball research and development; and Isaac Gerhart-Hines and Jay Liu who are developers of baseball research and development.
The Real Numbers
As Davey Martinez says, the games are “still played on a diamond, on dirt, on grass, with a bat, with a baseball, with a glove”. And because of that — the real numbers will be determined in the actual box scores.