Earl Weaver, Davey Johnson, and the Washington Nationals




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Eight of Davey Johnson’s thirteen seasons as a
player were spent in Baltimore and four and a half of those were spent under
manager Earl Weaver. The world of baseball received sad news this morning
that Earl Weaver had passed away, but his legacy lives on. Earl Weaver was not
a big believer in the strategy of stealing bases or sacrifice bunting, or more
importantly he wasn’t in favor of giving away outs. In more than a few ways
Earl Weaver was the first sabermetrician.  

When most people think of
sabermetrics they think of numbers and stats, but it is the concepts that are
far more important than the math that proves them. Earl Weaver understood the
value of an out in a time when not many other managers did. The game of baseball
owes a lot to Earl Weaver, and with Davey Johnson as their manager there might
not be a team built in more of an Earl Weaver manner than the Washington

understand the importance of an out or avoiding them vs.
other philosophies let’s look simply at the standings. Of the teams with
the five highest OBP in the NL; St. Louis, Colorado, Arizona, San Francisco,
and Milwaukee four of them finished .500 or better, two made the
playoffs, and four finished in the top five in runs scored with Washington
displacing San Francisco for fifth in runs scored, but the Nationals did finish
sixth in the NL in OBP. While there is a direct correlation between runs
scored and OBP there isn’t one in stolen bases.    

five teams that successfully stole the most bases in the NL were
Milwaukee, San Diego, Miami, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Two of those
teams were very good OBP teams, but the three that were not in Philadelphia,
San Diego, and Miami were ranked eighth  tenth, and fifteenth in runs
scored. With such a scatter shot difference between the number of steals and
the number of runs scored it can be concluded that there is not
a correlation between scoring runs and stealing bases.    

is because getting on base and not making an out comes with more benefits than
stealing a base. When a base is stolen the man who was already on base has
simply moved up one base. It is far more beneficial and helpful in the
pursuit of run scoring for a batter who was not on base to reach base than for
one that was already on base to move up 90 feet. Sure the man that steals
second from first has put the team in far less danger of a double
play occurring and can now score on a single, but he was already on
base to begin with. The batter that reaches base has passed the torch to
another batter who can then drive him in or reach base himself. In the most
basic terms a stolen base has little impact on how many batters a pitcher has
to face that any whereas additional base runners do.   

Washington Nationals were the sixth best team in the NL in 2012 at reaching
base and the second best at hitting the ball out of the yard. Hitting for
power, like getting on base, has a direct correlation to runs scored. The top
five SLG teams in the NL in 2012 were basically the same as the top five OBP
teams with Washington displacing San Francisco. Reaching base and getting
driven in through extra base hits scores runs. That seems simple enough, but
yet some managers mess it up. Some managers get confused with a batter reaches
base. They believe they have to do something with the runner. Davey Johnson,
like Earl Weaver, doesn’t like to do things with his runners.

the NL the pitcher bats and often times it is a good strategy for the pitcher
to bunt as they are very close to an automatic out. So being that Davey Johnson
is an NL manager he can’t completely avoid buntings. The league average for
sacrifice bunts in the AL is 50 as opposed to 90 in the NL. Davey
Johnson attempted a sacrifice bunt 71 times. This was second lowest in the NL
ahead of only the Cubs, who had far fewer runners on base. Like Earl Weaver,
Davey Johnson, doesn’t sac bunt.  

Nationals as a team are built for pitching, defense, and the three run homer.
It is easy to project 20 or more homers for six or seven members of the Nats
line-up with the lone exceptions being Kurt Suzuki and Denard Span. But Span is
a career .359 OBP leadoff hitter and while he doesn’t steal a lot that is
perfect for the Weaver way of baseball. Span’s main job is to get on base and
get driven in by Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, or Adam LaRoche.
The Nationals are also built to play defense with plus defenders at every
position, and especially up the middle with Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, and
Denard Span.

far as the final component of pitching goes there is no part of the Nationals
team that is more discussed and more highly rated than their starting pitchers.
Before the 2013 season comes to an end the rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Gio
Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, and Ross Detwiler could go down in
history as one of the best ever. Pitching, defense, and waiting for the three
run homer. That is the Nationals, that is Davey Johnson, and that is Earl
Weaver baseball.