August 26, 2007

Mildly Offensive

Last time out I gave you a glass-half-full take on the potential 2008 starting staff. Now it's time to do the same with the lineup. This is a little trickier, just because there are so many more people involved. Nevertheless, the analysis is straightforward and simple. I'm only looking at the guys on the 40-man roster as of today (aka no Adam Dunn!!1! in leftfield.) I'm also optimistically assuming a return of DC's fallen heroes, Nick Johnson and Cristian Guzman. All other lineup and production assumptions are my own and based on no particular evidence.

Brian Schneider - You may not like it, but there's not much to be done about it. Officer Schneider is under contract for a few more years, and he does a nice job handling a relatively inexperienced staff. His defense has slipped slightly, and he's turning into an offensive black hole, so a return to he career average .252/.321/.377 line would actually be a welcome improvement.
Anonymous Veteran Free Agent Catcher - With Schneider still getting the bulk of the work, there's no sense having Jesus Flores ride the pine in DC when he can play every day in Columbus.

Nick Johnson - This team misses Nick the Stick more that two Alfonso Sorianos. With Johnson batting between Zimmerman and Young you better believe Ryan would be getting more pitches to hit and Dmitri would have more RBIs. Even a hobbled Nick is a definite upgrade in the field and at the plate. Say .270/.390/.450 to account for some rust and behold the marvel of OBP.
Dmitri Young - $5M is a heck of a lot to pay for a pinch hitter and backup 1B, but that's the best case scenario for the Nats. If he plays, expect a dozen errors to take some of the shine off of a .290/.350/.480 line.

Ronnie Belliard
- Sure, it'll probably be Felipe Lopez here, but it shouldn't be. A .275/.335/.405 line would make second base much less of an offensive drain in 2008. Plus FLop can play 2B and SS, while Ronnie's a 2B who moonlights at first and third. And you've just got to love a guy who plays 2B from short right field.
Felipe Lopez - No reason not to keep him around, but a .255/.325/.400 line means there's no reason to start him either.

Cristian Guzman
- Who's the real GOOOZ? The slap-and-run .263/.302/.378 career hitter, or the guy who put up a .329/.382/.468 line in 43 games? Not surprisingly, my money's on the new and improved Cristian. If not, there's always FLop.
Felipe Lopez - As bad as his career line is, it's an improvement over Guzman's career numbers. That's about all the upside I've got.

Ryan Zimmerman
- Asking a 22 year old to carry a team is always a bad idea, and the RZA has struggled as his lineup protection has evaporated. Still, he's got the skillz that pay the bills, and it's not unreasonable to expect continued improvement. Let's call it a .280/.340/.480 line in '08 to go along with Ryan's first Gold Glove.
??? - Not that we need one, Zimmerman's on pace to play 162 games, but my money's on Anonymous Veteran Free Agent corner infielder (aka anyone but Tony Batista.)

Wily Mo Pena
- The consensus $64,000 question for the offseason is "Who's in left?" But on a team devoid of any real power hitters there's no good reason to leave Wily Mo's bat on the bench. Hopefully the impaired outfield defense will matter slightly less in a smaller ballpark. .260/.320/.490 anyone?
Ryan Church - Wily Mo hits lefties better than righties anyway, so having Ryan available to spot start, pinch hit and sub in on defense might just be ideal. Like it or not he appears not to be an everyday OF anyway. .270/.345/.450 as a 4th outfielder might be best for everybody.

Nook Logan
- Again, you may not like it, but the guy is hitting .277/.321/.357 on the season, and you could do worse for a #8 hitter. His defense is good, but not great, and might be less important in a less cavernous park. Which, conveniently enough, is what we'll have next season. If the team decides to emphasize offense over defense the obvious choice here is Ryan Church.
Ryan Church - unless he starts, in which case take everything I just said about Nook and move it down here.

Austin Kearns
- He seems to have figured something out over the last few weeks, and he's starting to look like the hitter we thought we were getting from Cincinnati last year. He might benefit from leaving RFK more than anyone on the team. Plus, he's always been an outstanding outfielder. Let's say .270/.360/.455 if he really has figured it out.
Ryan Church - Why not let him play everywhere? Figure 3 starts a week in the outfield plus pinch hitting and subbing in for Wily Mo practically makes him a full-time OF.

So that's your 2008 Nationals offense, all without a single free agent signing or prospect promotion. How would you turn this into a lineup?

1. Guzman - SS

2. Belliard - 2B

3. Zimmerman - 3B

4. Johnson - 1B

5. Pena - LF

6. Kearns - RF

7. Schneider - C

8. Logan - CF

Is this offense going to challenge for a NL East title? No. Can you win 81 games with this lineup? I'd argue that you could. Zimmerman-Johnson-Pena-Kearns is a solid, if unspectacular, middle of the order, and you wouldn't lose too much with a Zimmerman-Young-Pena-Kearns lineup either. Would it be nice to have a speedy, high OBP leadoff guy and a true cleanup slugger? Sure. if we had those, we could do this:

1. Speedy, High OBP Leadoff Guy - CF

2. Guzman - SS

3. Johnson - 1B

4. True Cleanup Slugger - LF

5. Zimmerman - 3B

6. Kearns - RF

7. Belliard - 2B

8. Schneider -C

But if you're holding your breath waiting for that, you'll be dead long before Opening Day. First, those guys aren't out there. Second, those guys aren't worth the contracts they'll get. Third, the Reds aren't trading us Adam Dunn. Not happening. And even if they did, I don't want an all Reds outfield. The Reds suck.

No comments: