Seahawks loss of Doug Baldwin loomed large in 2019

The Seahawks woes weren’t on the offensive side of the ball, but I can’t help but think how far they could have gone with Doug Baldwin on the field.

I’ve made a point of defending the Seahawks offensive philosophy this season. Sure, there were times that I’d rather have seen them turn Russell Wilson loose sooner, and let him destroy the opposition. There were a few times I doubted a decision to not just have Chris Carson bowl over a few defenders, too. But overall, I can’t complain too much about an offense that was the NFL’s ninth-highest scoring. Still, I can’t help but think how much better they would have been with the inimitable Doug Baldwin in the lineup.

Make no mistake, the Seahawks got a steal when they drafted DK Metcalf in the second round. He’s a very different player from Angry Doug, there’s no doubt about that. But he basically replaced Baldwin’s production from the previous year, letting the Seahawks passing game continue without skipping a beat. Here are Baldwin’s and Metcalf’s stats for comparison:

PLAYER               REC           YDS          AVG         TD

Baldwin                50            618          12.4          5

Metcalf                 58            900          15.5          7

Obviously, Metcalf looks even better than the Seahawks legend here. I have to mention a couple of very important considerations, though. Baldwin played through injuries for virtually the entire 2018 season, missing three games. A better comparison would be his 2017 performance, which saw him pull down 75 catches for 991 yards and eight scores. The biggest difference is that Baldwin caught practically everything in his zip code, and a few outside it as well.

Let’s look at some advanced stats from playerprofiler.com, shall we? Baldwin’s true catch rate – that is, the percentage of balls he caught that were actually catchable – not overthrows or grounders – was 86.2 percent. As for Metcalf, his true catch rate was 70.7 percent. Baldwin was also better at contested catches, the kind of passes where Richard Sherman just crawled inside your jersey. Baldwin made the catch 60 percent of the time, while Metcalf pulled the ball down in 47.6 percent of those situations.

The biggest difference between the two is their targets. DangeRuss threw to Angry Doug 73 times to get those 50 catches. It took 100 targets for Metcalf to get his 58 receptions. The Seahawks burned 23 plays when throwing to Baldwin, and wasted 42 when targeting Metcalf, nearly twice as many. Don’t get crazy on me, 12s; I’m not down on DK at all. He had a fantastic season by any reasonable expectation.

What I am saying is this: the Seahawks season would have been so much better with Baldwin in the lineup. The real comparison isn’t Angry Doug and the Wolverine; it’s between Baldwin and the Hawks number three receivers this season. Those players would be Jaron Brown (four starts), David Moore (two starts), Malik Turner (four starts), and Josh Gordon (one start). For this comparison I’ll use Baldwin’s 2017 season. His 2108 stats are already listed above, plus we want to look at what a healthy Baldwin would have produced.

PLAYER              REC           YDS          AVG          TD

Baldwin                75            991          13.2          8

Others                  55            905          16.5          5

There’s certainly a nice bump in the yards per catch, but that’s the only advantage here. It took 95 targets to get the four receivers their 55 catches; that’s a catch rate of 57.9 percent. Baldwin was targeted 116 times for his 75 catches, for a rate of 64.7 percent.  Or you can look at it as the Hawks burning forty plays when throwing to their third receivers this past season, while wasting 41 when throwing to Baldwin. That’s just one additional wasted play for a trade-off of 20 more catches and three more touchdowns. I’m pretty sure Wilson and the Hawks would make that trade.

It’s pretty easy to picture the havoc Baldwin would have wreaked on the 49ers in that last regular season game, isn’t it? Angry Doug caught more touchdowns (eight) against the Niners than any other team, as he averaged exactly one every two games. He also averaged more yards per catch versus them than our other division rivals. Extrapolated to his career, Baldwin would have added 13 scores and nearly 800 yards to his career totals.

Next: The free agents the Hawks should let walk

Even with all the defensive woes the Hawks suffered this season, just having Doug Baldwin in the lineup would have made a huge difference to the team. The Seahawks lost to both the Saints and the 49ers by one score. Picture the game is on the line, and Number Three can target Tyler Lockett, or DK Metcalf, or Doug Baldwin. How you feeling now, 12s?

 

 

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