There have been many impressive offensive feats performed in the last few weeks by the Washington Nationals in the midst of their hot streak, which now has them four and a half game out of the last Wild Card spot, currently held by the Cincinnati Reds. Arguably the most impressive of said feats is the 24 (and counting) game hit streak by center fielder Denard Span, which is good for fourth in Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos history, right behind just-retired Vladimir Guerrero and current teammate Ryan Zimmerman, and has propelled the Nats to a 19-7 record during the streak. Here’s how Span’s streak looks:
Not too shabby, eh? Now, let’s take a walk down (recent) memory lane and take a look at how Span’s production — batting average (BA) and on base plus slugging percentage (OPS) — during his hit streak compares to similar Nats (as in Washington, not Montreal – sorry Canada!) hitting streaks. Moving forward, I am only considering hit streaks of 15 games or more, courtesy of Adam LaRoche, Cristian Guzman, Span, Ian Desmond, HDIB? great Nick Johnson, and Zimmerman:
Not surprisingly, Span’s batting average is reasonably high, with his OPS reasonably low compared to his fellow Nats streakers, which makes sense, given Span’s lack of power and so-so (for a top of the order hitter) on base percentage. Fair enough.
I seem to recall an 18 game hitting streak in there somewhere, in the annals of Washingreal history.
Ahh, yes, F.P. Santangelo told me
many many times over the course of Span’s hitting streak once he had an 18-game hitting streak.
Ribbing aside, let’s take a look at Nats 15+ game hitting streaks — along with Santangelo’s 18-gamer — again by batting average and OPS:
OK, cool — we see some interesting trends here, namely, these guys are going out of their minds not only with their batting averages, but their overall power. Now, let’s break down OPS into its constituent parts — on base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage (SLG) and add that to AVG and OPS and then look at these streaks in comparison to each player’s career averages for these four stats, yes?
With this, we see that while Santangelo’s hitting streak was impressive, it is definitely the outlier in comparison to the other streaks; his streak production was in such great contrast to what he normally accomplished hitting-wise, even when compared to his fellow streakers. Conversely, Span’s hitting streak, as well as Johnson’s, more closely trend with their career averages.
What does this mean? Probably nothing; while it would be easy to say that the differences between streak averages and career average is some reflection of each player’s inherent hitting talent, that is a bit of a slippery slope and something that the data as presented can’t really speak to. Variables such as opponent defense and even pitching match ups all cloud the data enough to not warrant too many brash statements made about the data here. What is interesting are Zimmerman’s streaks and how he went about each — while some were driven more by his ability to make contact and not much else, others were marked by his ability to generate runs with his swings.
Taking one more step back historically, how does the Washingreal data compare to other teams?
Let me tell you, with the help of Baseball Reference’s Play Index. Looking at the modern era — 1916 to current day — I provide below the number of 15 game or more hitting streaks for each organization. I then averaged them over the years of interest to give an idea how frequently over the franchise’s modern era a big hitting streak occurs:
|Team||Yrs||15+ H Streaks||Strk/Yr|
Not that Span’s streak wasn’t impressive enough, but the data provided, especially the table above, confirms how special the streak is to the organization; these kinds of streaks, while seen more frequently in the last few years, thanks to Zimmerman, haven’t been a hallmark of Washingreal hitters, to say the least. Between that and the context of Span’s streak — in the middle of a wild card run in the waning days of the season — only adds to the enjoyment of the streak and its importance to the success of the Nats’ 2013 season.
More Opening Week moving and shaking over here at HDIB? to share with you. I’ve had a couple of articles posted over Camden Depot way, one with an Orioles slant, one without. However, both delve into the seedy world of baseball injuries:
So Cliff’s notes version:
Injuries – bad.
Blogging – good.
Blogging about injuries – delicious.
…and it wouldn’t be a HDIB? post about the Orioles AND injuries without an appearance from our buddy, Nick Johnson:
We miss you, Nick. Hope that golf handicap is treating you well.
Another HDIB? favorite becomes a baseball emeritus.
Granted, this news comes years after his body decided to involuntarily retire on him, but it nonetheless comes with sadness that a player with so much potential has to part ways with the game with unanswered questions and unfinished business. A quick look at his career stats show not only the polish that made him a highly regarded prospect of the 1996 MLB Draft out of McClatchy High School in Sacramento, CA, but also the statistical pock marks of numerous injuries that sapped him of playing time and production.
What really jumps out in terms of Johnson’s production is his career 123 OPS+, which puts him in some heady company. Other first basemen with career OPS+ of 123 include Glenn Davis and Justin Morneau; at career 122 OPS+ are names like fellow Sacramentan Derrek Lee and Hall of Famer Tony Perez. When healthy, Johnson’s ability to get on base and generate offense, all while proving fairly adept around first base defensively was historically impressive.
Yet, history will only be impressed by his fatal flaw, which was staying on the field – his injury history reads much like a Stedman’s Medical Dictionary- and for that, history will be poorer. Poorer knowing that a player who in many respects epitomized a baseball evaluation ideology, in the form of Moneyball, will never be truly admired or properly remembered for his abilities, which were so frequently overlooked in a time and at a position where power ruled the roost.
A wise man once said – ‘Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans’.
A wise woman once said – ‘Could you please update your blog…this is getting ridiculous’.
It’s been awhile.
The well had runneth dry in some respects. A combination of no real baseball to talk about, with the pressure of an unconventional career, and its hours taking its toll on my desire to dig deep for any nubbin’ of baseball news to be cynical or snarky about, or to have the chance to link a youtube video to, it had all gotten to me.
The more I researched, the more I prepared, the more I primed the pump for inspiration, and the more personal critique I gave myself for not giving a toss, the more molasses-like the words became, trickling out of the ends of my fingers, stopping short of paper, or computer screen. Or not trickling at all.
When those feelings started seeping into non-blogging aspects of my life, the need and the want to know how to baseball all but evaporated, like acetone on a cotton ball, and with it any semblance of a blog entry.
But the ol’ spiritual altimeter is ticking back up, and all it took was a brief visit from our patron saint, Nick Johnson:
Breathtaking amounts of Dadlap to behold here, and enough to get the cobwebs of indifference knocked off the keyboard, and fingers ticklin’ the QWERTY again.
I started this blog with a simple question, and an oft injured man. I went walkabout for a moment, and lost sight of the simplicity of what I am doing here, and the question I look to answer.
A wise person said ‘you dance with who brought you’.
…and wouldn’t you know it, my dance partner had sexy feet all along.
Given the genealogical manure that this blog sprouted from, I would be remiss to not give a mention to our fallen How Do I Baseball? warrior, Orioles first basemen Nick Johnson, and his most recent setback – another 15-day DL stint for a wrist sprain, which has now been extended to a 60 day rehab vacation.
I will defer the hyperbole, and the flotsam and jetsam of How Do I Baseball?’s Chairman of the Board’s career to the fine people of Deadspin for the moment, as they did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of Nick Johnson’s siren-like baseball qualities. However, I will leave you with this, their visual homage to #36: