Since April 23, the Nationals have gone 13-10, and while not a true hot streak, it is a far cry from the 6-16 they started the season. One of the reasons for this above .500 play is the solidifying rotation, as I talked about last week. But one of the other reasons is that some of the hitters are really starting to hit. First and foremost on that list is Ryan Zimmerman. Since he took a day off on May 4, he has hit .309/.333/.636. He’s hit 5 HRs in those 13 games and has 11 RBI. Still troubling is his lack of walks, he only has 1 since then. But if he is going to hit over .300 and hit with power, I’m not going to complain yet.
Meanwhile, all season Christian Guzman has been able to get on base. In May he did slightly better than he did in April, hitting .304/.324/.464 so far this month. What’s nice to see with this isn’t just the fact that he’s hitting .300 but that’s he’s doing it with power. His OBP is low enough that without power, he may not be that effective. But this .788 OPS, from your SS no less, is nice to see. Meanwhile, Felipe Lopez has made a comeback of sorts. For the first 2 weeks of the season, he was hitting .194/.265/.194, and it looked like the Felipe of ’07 was back. Since then he hasn’t exactly been on a tear, but he has hit .281/.352/.360. That OBP is key, he is the leadoff hitter, he needs to get on base. More power would be great, but if he can keep up what he’s done in that stretch, he’ll be acceptable. With the way Guzman is hitting, if Lopez can get on base, Guzman can drive him in or give Zimmerman a chance to start a big inning with just a single. When all 3 are on, this lineup starts out strong and at the very least can score a few runs.
On the other side of the offense
Elijah Dukes still hasn’t started hitting. He will, eventually, the question is how much. Is he going to hit .250 or .300? Dunno. Is he going to hit with power? He should. Is he going to have patience enough to walk? Yes, he already has in the majors and will continue to do that. Speaking of patience, Austin Kearns continues to baffle me. Since April 23, he’s hit .176/.253/.235, but really you could highlight any stretch of the season so far and come up with similar numbers. He’s still walking, which is good, but not only is he not hitting the ball enough to get actual hits, he has virtually no power when he does. Unlike Nick Johnson, who I’ll talk about more momentarily, is hitting with power even when his average is low. Anyway, Kearns’ numbers are scary, but the scariest one may be his OPS+, which is sitting at a whopping 49. Yikes. He’s a RFer, too, and that OPS+ is based on the whole league, most of whom should be worse hitters than him. Yeah.
Also on the stinky side is Lastings Milledge who started out so hot and has slid to hitting .179/.246/.214. At least he is taking some walks, for such a young hitter, extended slumps can make you forget you are supposed to be selective. So I am expecting Milledge to get out of this sooner or later. Remember, he’s 23, players that age tend to be pretty streaky. Let’s just hope the hot streak starts soon.
Other bats are shutting down
Unfortunately, Nick Johnson tore the tendon in his wrist and is allegedly out 4-6 weeks. In Nick years, that translates to 4-6 months, but hopefully he’ll be back by the all star break. What does this do to the lineup? Well, it would give Aaron Boone the starting role, except that Dmitri Young just came off the DL. So how do they all stack up?
Nick is hitting a whopping .220 right now, and over the last 13 games, which works out to exactly 50 PAs, he’s batting .229. But it’s a very effective .229/.460/.429 for an OPS of .889. If you extend the numbers out a month, they are very similar. Sure, it’s not ideal, but that OPS is still great, and if you look at the OBP instead of the AVG, you realize that Johnson is getting on base almost half the time.
Compare this to Da Meat hook, in his amazing 2007 he hit .320/.378/.491, that’s an OPS of .869. Still very respectable, but it’s not quite what Nick can provide. And assuming Nick gets on track and hits something like .260, you’d assuming his ISO would stay about the same, and his OPS would track above .900. As for Boone, he played very well in his role. Over his last 49 PAs, he’s hit .378/.429/.667 for an OPS of 1.096. Now, I am not sure that he can do this over a sustained amount of time. But if he were to start, and he were to continue playing this way, he seems like someone that would be trade bait for a team midseason.
What ends up happening with Nick on the DL is that as long as Boone is hitting, you have a better replacement than Nick himself. With Dmitri, even if he hits as well as he did in 2007 he’s not quite the hitter that Nick is, but the dropoff is pretty small, so it isn’t something to panic about. Boone and Young both have had spots as the #4 hitter in this lineup, at least giving this team effective hitters in spots 1-4.