Yesterday, we compared and contrasted the pitching staffs of the 2012 vs the 2014 Nats playoff teams heading INTO the postseason (ignoring actual performance from 2012 as unfair bias). Today, let’s see how the bats shake out:
Catcher: Kurt Suzuki 2012 vs Wilson Ramos 2014
The early August 2012 trade that brought Kurt Suzuki to the Nats marked the beginning of a career revival for him. “Zook” hit well those final two months of the 2012 campaign, bashing 5 home runs, driving in 25 and putting up a .725 OPS in 43 games. Meanwhile, injuries robbed Wilson Ramos of just under half a season this year. Even so, he still hit 11 home runs and drove in 47, though his OPS was lower that Suzuki’s at .705. Nevertheless, it would be hard to argue that the Suzuki of 2012 was better than Ramos today either offensively or defensively.
Verdict: Slight Advantage, Wilson Ramos 2014
First Base: Adam LaRoche 2012 vs Adam LaRoche 2014
Adam LaRoche had a fine 2014, leading the Nats in both home runs (26) and RBIs (91). Nevertheless, 2012 was his career year as he hit his career high in home runs (33) tied his career high in RBIs (100), led all Nats in OPS (.853) and won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards for his position.
Verdict: Slight Advantage Adam LaRoche 2012
Second Base: Danny Espinosa 2012 vs Asdrubal Cabrera 2014
If it were just a matter of season stats, Danny Espinosa wins this contest going away. Unfortunately, though we fans were kept in the dark about it at the time, Danny hurt his shoulder in September that year. After the injury, his slash line crashed to .171/.241/.271 with only a single home run and 4 RBIs in 22 games, in other words the kind of putrid offensive statistics he’s been putting up ever since. Cabrera has hardly been an All Star at the plate since he was acquired from the Indians, but he looks like Frank Howard compared to the hobbled Danny E of two years ago. Only Espinosa’s great glove keeps this one close.
Verdict: Slight Advantage, Asdrubal Cabrera 2014
Shortstop: Ian Desmond 2012 vs Ian Desmond 2014
You would think that with 2014 being his third consecutive 20-20 season that a more experienced Ian Desmond would have the advantage. But Ian’s 2012 breakthrough season was a much better year for the Nats’ shortstop both offensively (.845 OPS vs .743) and defensively (15 errors vs 24). Ian is obviously still a vital component for this team in both areas, but 2012 was simply a better year for him.
Verdict: Slight Advantage Ian Desmond 2012
Third Base: Ryan Zimmerman 2012 vs Anthony Rendon 2014
This is actually the strongest position for both teams as Zimmerman’s .824 OPS, 25 HRs and 95 RBIs compare quite favorably to Rendon’s .822 OPS, 21 HRs, 81 RBIs and 111 runs scored. Rendon, however, gets the nod for his team-leading 6.4 overall bWAR vs only 3.9 for Zim two years ago.
Verdict: Slight Advantage, Anthony Rendon 2014
Left Field: Mike Morse 2012 vs Bryce Harper 2014
Both players missed significant time due to injury, each playing around 100 games. Morse was better offensively (.791 OPS vs .752, 18 HRs vs 13, 62 RBIs vs only 32) while Bryce has a slight advantage defensively (-0.7 d/bWAR vs -1.0). Bryce also stole only 2 bases all season (the lumbering Morse had zero), which is a real disappointment for a player with his speed. Surprising as it may seem, Morse was the better player two years ago.
Verdict: Slight Advantage, Mike Morse 2012
Centerfield: Bryce Harper 2012 vs Denard Span 2014
These two are such different players that I’m going to have to resort to their Wins Above Replacement figures to come to a conclusion. Bryce put up an amazing bWAR of 5.1 in 139 games his rookie year (where oh where has THAT guy been lately?), while Span has a very respectable 3.5 bWAR in 144 games this year.
Verdict: Slight Advantage, Bryce Harper 2012
Right Field: Jayson Werth 2012 vs Jayson Werth 2014
Werth missed half of the 2012 season with a wrist injury that sapped his power when he did return. Realizing he could help the team better by batting leadoff, Werth selflessly sacrificed RBI opportunities so that his high OBP could set the table for the lineup. This is another case in which we’ll have to let the WAR decide. Doubling Werth’s 2012 bWAR of 0.6 in 81 games still gives him only 1.2, while he managed to put up a 3.6 overall score this year. Statistical bias against leadoff hitters? Perhaps, but there you go.
Verdict: Slight Advantage, Jayson Werth 2014
Bench Players: Chad Tracy, Tyler Moore, Steve Lombardozzi, Roger Bernadina & Jesus Flores 2012 vs Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, Kevin Frandsen, Nate Schierholtz & Jose Lobaton 2014.
The 2012 “Goon Squad” was the best group of offensive bench players the Nats have ever assembled. The only reason the 2014 group is in the conversation is because of the presence of Ryan Zimmerman as the top pinch hitter who will also likely get a start here and there, moving one of the other starters to the bench. Of the rest, the 2014 group has a slight edge defensively, but Tracy, Moore and Bernadina all had outstanding seasons at the plate. Only Lobaton from the this year’s team is a clear upgrade over his counterpart (Flores).
Verdict Slight Advantage, 2012 Nats
Manager: Davey Johnson 2012 vs Matt Williams 2014
Forgetting for a moment the mistakes in bullpen management Davey Johnson would make in the 2012 NLDS, the Nats went into the playoffs that year with a Hall of Fame manager who just guided a team that had never been over .500 in 7 seasons in DC to MLB’s best record. Williams, on the other hand, took a very talented squad and, after a few growing pains early on, got it to do exactly what was expected of it after an unexpected down year.
Verdict: Slight Advantage, Davey Johnson 2012
Score for Position Players and Manager:
2012 Nats: 6 Slight Advantage = 6 points
2014 Nats: 4 Slight Advantage = 4 points
Total = +2 points 2012 Nats
Pitching Total (from yesterday’s post) = +5 points 2014 Nats
Overall = +3 points 2014 Nats
So there you have it, the 2014 Nats come in slightly better overall than the 2012 squad going into the playoffs. Most importantly, thanks in large part to the presence of Doug Fister and the emergence of Tanner Roark, this year’s team is significantly better in the most important area and the one that let them down the last time: pitching.
Let the PLAYOFF games begin.