…or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bombs.
As an aside from the playoff race and the fun that the Nationals are having looking forward to October, I’m always speculating about how they’ll structure next year’s lineup (the biggie: will LaRoche still be here?). If they’re happy with Harper in CF they could just keep LaRoche, but that might not be up to them. And if it’s not, they’ll might have to find a free agent. Except that the corner outfield and 1B free agent market is sparse. So maybe get a real CF, move Harper to a corner OF spot and Morse to 1B.
If they do go that way, there are 3 big name center fielders that are available. One is Shane Victorino, but I have my doubts that he’s the right answer. Another is Michael Bourn, and he’s a good player, but he might want a big long term deal, and maybe they don’t want to do that. Another guy who might be had a little cheaper, and maybe they could sign him shorter term is B.J. Upton (maybe they couldn’t, but at least he’s two years younger than Bourn).
And I like the idea of Upton, but is he the answer for this team? He’s a low AVG, relatively low OBP (bad year this year, but .337 career aint awful) and decent power guy. In other words, he reminds me of Ian Desmond. Desi’s had a much better than year than Upton, but the similarities are there in my mind. I just keep thinking they’re OBP low and power high and maybe they need more OBP and they’re great but streaky… well, I went ahead and worked myself into a frenzy, so I submitted this basic premise to Colin Wyers at Baseball Prospectus during his chat yeseterday:
Charlie (Nationals Review): It seems to me that while the Nats can certainly score (4th in R/G in NL) they seem to do more feast or famine. Do you think this can be attributed to relatively low OBP (8th) compared to their SLG (3rd)? If so, should that encourage Rizzo to look specifically for OBP in the offseason?
Colin Wyers: I don’t know that there’s much evidence that the composition of a team’s offense matters much. There is some evidence that “feast or famine” is better than a more consistent approach. As for what the Nationals should target — baseball players are not so fungible and really good ones are not so plentiful that I feel like teams have a whole lot of latitude in trying to figure out what KINDS of good players they really want to acquire. If there’s a good player at a position of need for the Nationals out there, they’d be foolish to pass on him just because he didn’t fit a certain hitting profile.
That of coures plays right into what I was worried about. If the Nats go ahead and get BJ Upton, he is a relatively low OBP high SLG guy. This year isn’t great for him, but a move to the NL would certainly help, not to mention a move away from the home ball park in Tampa which is definitely a pitcher’s park. But he’s still that “style” guy, so:
Charlie (Nationals Review): I don’t disagree with your assessment, but that would suggest they could go after BJ Upton to play CF. And it seems to me they already have about 4 guys that bat just like that. Would that worry you?
Colin Wyers: You can do a lot worse than B.J. Upton in center field. If you have eight hitters like him, you’ll probably win a fair amount of ballgames in the National League (assuming you can pitch at all).
So this is maybe a point that I haven’t thought about. What’s the big deal exactly how you make up your lineup? If you have 8 BJ Uptons, or 8 Ian Desmonds, or 8 Ryan Zimmermans, well some of those scenarios might be better than others, but they’re all gonna score a bunch of runs.
And that’s when I relaxed a little bit and realized, hey, maybe signing Upton, perhaps the only big name CF that really makes sense for them, wouldn’t be a bad idea. He isn’t high average guy, he doesn’t walk a ton, but he hits bombs. So thanks, Colin Wyers, for letting me stop worrying so much about the walks, and love the bombs.