Over the winter, when things were rosey and Mike Morse was coming off a great season, there were lots of ideas of how to deal with the outfield. Rick Ankiel, a lefty hitter, could play great CF, but nobody knew if he could hit. Roger Bernadina wasn’t as good of a fielder, and was also a lefty. Mike Morse was a righty but hit everyone in 2010. Nyjer Morgan, another lefty, was still on the team. When Morgan left, alot of people started constructing ideas of the lineup. Perhaps Morse would start against lefties, and either Bernie or Ankiel would play CF. Maybe Hairston and Morse would play those games, while Bernie and Ankiel would start against righties. But Morse has looked so good, starting only against lefties seemed like a waste.
Well the season is moving along, and things have changed. First, Morse hasn’t hit at all. Ankiel is on the DL, and Bernadina just came up from the minors, with still a bit of a reverse platoon split, hitting better against righties. Meanwhile, other than their 23 year old catcher, the best hitter on the Nats has been Laynce Nix, and he is rightfully getting playing time in LF. Just as Morse’s 2010 may not have been a true reflection of how good he can hit, Nix’s April and May probably is a little overstated. The 30 year old hit this well last year, but it was in a very hitter friendly park in Cincinnati, and it was almost exclusively versus righties. Which brings me to the premise of the article.
While we can’t figure out everything at once, and CF remains a mystery, there is hope for LF for this season. You see, even this year, while everyone has lauded was Nix has done, something that has remained somewhat unnoticed is that he hasn’t hit lefties. Literally and figuratively, as he only has 1 hit in 8 PAs against them. His remaining 65 have been against lefties. And his career OPS splits of .743 vs righties and .518 vs lefties suggest this is the way to go with him. Meanwhile, despite Mike Morse’s struggle this particular season, he has always shown an ability to hit lefties, and hit them with power.
It makes sense, for the moment, to have a platoon in LF with Morse and Nix. Nix, despite his heroics for the team so far, still can’t hit lefties. And perhaps Morse will be able to crawl out of his early struggles by playing only against them. It would take advantage of both players strengths, and it would give Morse a chance to get his legs under him. Because even if he plays only against RHP, Nix isn’t going to slug .500 all year, and alternatives must be found. As Morse crawls out of his slump, he can get a few starts here and there against RHPs, and get another opportunity to become a full time player, down the road.