Tony Plush Leads Nats to Streak

Defense much improved with Morgan in center

Maybe Tony Plush is better than we all thought?

Nyjer "Tony Plush" Morgan led the Nats to their fourth win in a row.  Before, most Nats fans would've settled for four wins in a fortnight.

Yesterday's 8-3 win gave the Nats their second straight victory over the playoff-contending Brewers, a much fairer measuring stick of their ability than the previous two wins over the Triple-A quality Mets.  The Nats have now won six of eight and are now 6-7 under Riggleman.

The biggest improvement under Riggles (besides what appears to be a little more intensity from some of the players) is the pitching.  And what appears to be pitching is often defense.

In the case of the Nats, that certainly appears to be true, and for that fans should thank Mr. Plush.  While his leadoff homer is appreciated (not to mention the two-RBI single he had later), it's his glove that's made the difference, more than anything.

Correlation does not equal causation, but we do know that he's a huge upgrade in center over the oafs the Nats had grazing in the pasture before.

Prior to the trade, the Nats pitching staff had a 5.21 ERA.  Although it's a small sample size (and it's not entirely attributable to him), that's dropped to 4.14 since.  He's good, but he's not 1.07 runs per game good!

So how good is he?  UZR says he's very good.

UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) is a stat that looks at every play, assessing where the ball is hit and how hard.  Basically, it looks at every player, and crunches the chances of a ball getting hit.  The supercomputer spits out a number that tells you how many runs better or worse a player is than average.

In Nyjer's case, he's been about 20 runs better than an average centerfielder would be over a full season.  Because he hasn't played much CF, that number is probably skewed a bit high, but it does jive with what your eyes see.

Contrast that with Lastings Milledge.  His UZR in center shows that he's about 15 runs worse than average.

So from switching to Nyjer from Lastings, the Nats would save something like 30 runs over a full season.  That's a lot of extra outs, and a lot of game-saving catches.

No, all the pitching improvement isn't Mr. Plush, but no longer do fans or pitchers hold their breath anytime anything is hit high and deep to center.

Chris Needham used to write Capitol Punishment.  Now he twitters about the team and counts the outs that would've been hits two months ago.

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