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Paying attention to the numbers

Sep 5, 2010, 10:42 PM EST

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam Dunn hit his 34th homer of the season during today's win.

PITTSBURGH — Baseball, more than any other sport, is a game of numbers. There's a stat for everything, and there's virtually nothing anymore that can't be quantified.

Stat geeks, fans and media members alike put great stock in these numbers. We use them to form opinions and make evaluations of teams and players. But we often forget one simple fact about all these numbers: Players rarely pay attention to them.

Adam Dunn had no idea he hit his 350th career home run today in the Nationals' 8-1 thumping of the Pirates. Jason Marquis has no idea what his ERA stands at after six solid innings this afternoon (it's at 7.14, down more than 13 points since he returned from the disabled list). Ian Desmond doesn't know that he's hitting .386 since moving up to the No. 2 spot in the daily lineup.

And most certainly, no one around the Nats' clubhouse stopped today to note that with 59 wins, they've now matched their entire season totals from both 2008 and 2009.

These simply aren't the kind of things ballplayers spend much time contemplating in the middle of a long season. During his three months on the DL following surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow,Read more »

  1. TheOptimist - Sep 5, 2010 at 11:18 PM

    They can still break even by going 23 and 2..

  2. sm13 - Sep 5, 2010 at 11:26 PM

    70 wins in 2010 is within reach (an 11 game jump), improve 10 more games and that's 80 in 2011, add the return of Strasburg in 2012 and another 10 win step up, 90 wins and playoff contention are not a wild fantasy, they are reality. Let's go Nats!!

  3. Les in NC - Sep 6, 2010 at 12:08 AM

    …And when Stras returns we should have Harper lining up for us on an everyday basis! IMO, Bryce should be able to out perform any current outfielder that we have, defensively, offensively or whatever. 2012 should be a season that we all finally expect to make the post season!

  4. Jake - Sep 6, 2010 at 12:08 AM

    Glad MarkZee got the stat bug! Can u imagine if the Nats had a .360 OBP guy leading off? It would be like last year with lots of Zim RBIs!They have to find a way of extending Dunn as the Nats may have him wearing a Nats cap in the HOF in about 15 years. Pudge will probably wear a Rangers cap so Dunn could be a coup for the Nats. Before anyone doubts Dunn in the HOF, he should be 500 to 600 when he hangs it up and in the post steroid era should get him in the hall.

  5. Anonymous - Sep 6, 2010 at 12:23 AM

    Another very nice piece, Mark. Thank you.

  6. Anonymous - Sep 6, 2010 at 12:47 AM

    Let's get Dunn signed to an extension. What's the holdup?

  7. LoveDaNats - Sep 6, 2010 at 1:01 AM

    Does Dunn want too much money?

  8. N. Cognito - Sep 6, 2010 at 1:07 AM

    Maybe Dunn wants to be a free agent. Why wouldn't he? See what he can get on the open market.

  9. Steve - Sep 6, 2010 at 1:22 AM

    As noted, a nice piece, as usual, Mark.However, I'm left thinking that professional hitters do indeed — or should — know what their numbers are. Can you imagine Ted Williams not knowing his batting average? (I'd say Pete Rose, but I'm not going there.)

  10. carolync - Sep 6, 2010 at 2:08 AM

    Mark, I enjoyed your article as usual. Can you tell me how to find stats that show Desmond has great range? I thought UZR and UZR/150 were the best available advanced metrics for range. On FANGRAPHS, these show our Zimmerman with the best range among MLB third basemen which seems right. But they show Desmond as below average –tied for 17th among rated shortstops. I'm not sold on Desmond. I've waited all season to see Espinosa whom I think is a much smarter all around ballplayer. Thanks.

  11. Mississippi Snopes - Sep 6, 2010 at 2:51 AM

    UZR and UZR/150 are not range statistics, they're overall defense stats. Desmond's errors hurt his UZR and UZR/150 stats.

  12. Let Teddy Win - Sep 6, 2010 at 2:59 AM

    Do Nats fans realize how lucky we are to have a BLOGGER giving us this kind of writing?

  13. BQ - Sep 6, 2010 at 3:08 AM

    I have to admit too. We are very fortunate to have such a great blog. I really enjoy reading posts and comments on this blog.

  14. JayB - Sep 6, 2010 at 3:14 AM

    Let Teddy Win said… "Do Nats fans realize how lucky we are to have a BLOGGER giving us this kind of writing?"You're welcome.Oh! You weren't talking about me?

  15. HHover - Sep 6, 2010 at 3:38 AM

    Carolnyc -You need to look at some of the components that go into UZR–on fangraphs, look specifically at RngR, or "Range Runs Above Average." In this measure of range, he ranks 5th best among regular MLB SSs. What kills his UZR is his ErrR – "Error Runs Above Average" – where he ranks dead last.

  16. Big Cat - Sep 6, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    Too bad we can't play Pittsburg everyday, they are just dreadful. Ok Riggs, you gave Kennedy some time, now lets get the kid back in there today

  17. JaneB - Sep 6, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    Steve… I disagree that professional hitters necessarily need to stay on top on their numbers. Their job is to hit; that means being in this moment. Most people don't actually perform better when they are trying to hit a goal; so it stands to reason that approaching each pitch as a discrete entity rather than as an opportunity to increase their average is the smart way to perform better. I work with performers of all kinds, and what motivates them to improve is not always what works TO improve their actual performance. Counterintuitive I know, but real.And Kasten, Rizzo, Lerners: sign Dunn. It would be such a breach to the fans and the team if you don't. He's got productive years left and we DO want him in Cooperstown in our uniform.Go Nats!

  18. souldrummer - Sep 6, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    @Les in NCI'm Michael Burgess, and I disapprove of this message. Plus I'm raking in the Eastern League and have Harrisburg on the brink of the playoffs.

  19. Doc - Sep 6, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    Interesting article as usual, Mark. Teddy Ballgame aside, I don't see the point of 1st team players paying attention to their stats. It's sufficient that they know what they are doing between the lines, e.g., game focus, muscle memory, etc.I'll bet the bench jockeys pay attention to their personal stats—for most of the game, what else is there to do.The better GMs, e.g. Beane, Epstein, pay attention to numbers that count, and rely on their sabermatricians for real data. Most managers, apart from some basic stats, are probably and primarily 'eyeballers'. Paying attention to 'numbers' should help you become a better 'eyeballer', though.IMO football coaches do better with stats than baseball managers.

  20. HHover - Sep 6, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    Doc I agree, and would add that another downside of old-school managers is that they also cling to out-dated, simplistic rules even when the #s don't bear them out. I'd include here Riggs' devotion to lefty-righty match-ups, and small-ball decisions like the one to have Desmond lay down a sac bunt yesterday with no outs and Morgan on second in the 1st.





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