June 20, 2010


"I WANT to believe the problem is with the pitching, not the hitting. But by league rank, it's the opposite." - Chris Needham, Capitol Punishment, 6/15/10

The Washington Nationals offense is like a good-for-nothing ex-spouse, or a cheap bra. It offers no support. The boys have scored 0, 1, 3, 3 and 4 runs in the last five games (all loses), and averaged just 3.4 runs/game over the last ten. The middle of the lineup - Zimmerman, Dunn, Willingham - has been great, All-Star caliber. Ivan Rodriguez and Roger Bernadina have been fine complementary pieces. The rest of the lineup? Ah, therein lies the problem.

Well, sort of. The truth is, the Nats are underperforming even their own modest projections. Baseball Musings' Lineup Analysis tool is a blunt instrument, but it credits the Nats standard lineup (Morgan, Guzman, Zimmerman, etc...) with creating 4.79 runs/game. FJB suggests batting Zimmerman second, and that probably wouldn't hurt, but fiddling with the lineup is rearranging deck chairs. The difference between the Nats best and worst possible lineup is measured in fractions of runs per game.

Jim Riggleman's lineup may not be helping, but it isn't the main problem. The Nats are carrying four well below average hitters into every game, every day. Now, being a National League team, they're more or less stuck with a pitcher. But that still leaves the shortstop, second baseman and center fielder not pulling their weight. (Bernadina may be a below-average hitter for a right fielder, but he's above average overall.)

If you're so inclined you can write Ian Desmond's (.299 OBP, .400 SLG) bat off as the price of doing business with his spectacular glove. The same cannot be said of Cristian Guzman or, in 2010 at least, of Nyjer Morgan. Maybe the Nationals can carry one defense-first starter, but not three, particularly when two aren't really all that defensively gifted these days.

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