Jayson Werth to hit second for the Nats

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When Jayson Werth signed his massive deal with the Nationals back in December, my first thought was “wow, they paid elite slugger prices for a guy who really isn’t an elite slugger.” They still may have overpaid Werth, but to the Nationals’ credit, they’re not going to expect him to be something he’s not. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post:

Jayson Werth, the right fielder the Nationals signed this offseason for $126 million over seven years, will bat second in the lineup to begin the season, Manager Jim Riggleman said. The move comes as a surprise, but it is logical given Werth’s ability reach base and the Nationals’ needs at the top of the lineup.

Werth has power, sure, but he led the league in doubles last year while his homers went down. His true value is getting on base, with his OBP over the past four years being .404, .363, .373 and .388.  Reasonable people may disagree about lineup theory, but this is pretty classic second hitter material.  The worst thing for him and for the Nats would be if there was some expectation that he try to be the 40 home run guy that he’s never shown any real indication of being.

Nice move, Nats. Me likey.

Must-Click Link: Sherri Nichols, Sabermetic Pioneer

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If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.

While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.

The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.

A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.

A great read and a great history lesson.