The Nationals’ offense is horrible, we all know that. But is the lineup? We all think we know what needs to be done to fix everything. But is there much that can or should actually be changed? Let’s take a look at the lineup, starting with the guys who are either hitting just fine already, or are set to improve
Ryan Zimmerman – Zim has hit only .224/.312/.343, truly appalling numbers. But he is streaky and was hurt, so basically they missed his offense when he went on the DL, and they missed it before. There is little doubt this will improve.
Adam LaRoche – He’s hitting .316/.406/.537, and he’ll likely regress. But there isn’t any reason to suspect even with a regression he’s better than any alternatives.
Bryce Harper – Another case for regression, if Harper kept up his .265/.381/.441 line all year, it would be incredible. But the OBP will probably slide, although he has a few homers in him, too. Either way, they’re fine with this, wherever he plays in the outfield.
Wilson Ramos – Hitting .260/.348/.364 so far, he’s basically been Wilson Ramos from last year without the power. This should appear at some point, as he’s shown decent power throughout his pro career, although the OBP may be a little high. Still, at only 24 he’s already a pretty good hitter for a catcher.
Alright so we’ve already gone through half the lineup, and are relatively satisified. This is good, this list includes 3 middle of the lineup types who are supposed to provide power. So if we just had some table setters, this team would be projected to score some runs. Speaking of table setters…
Ian Desmond – Desmond has been one of the team’s most valuable hitters, but that’s not saying much. His .264 average hides a .294 OBP, although his .434 SLG is nice. His number’s aren’t bad for a SS, but they are bad for a leadoff hitter. Now that he’s brimming with confidence, perhaps a move down in the lineup would be a good idea, where his power and average could be used to advance runners, since he’s not doing a great job of making himself one.
Alright, no changes and we’re now we’re down to 3 positions – 2B, and 2 OF spots. Ok, Davey, who can you play? At 2B, we’ve got the choice of two guys. Let’s start with…
Danny Espinosa – The strikeouts are bad, but the .189/.281/.245 is laughable, and his great D isn’t enough to justify that. Of course, he’s just not this bad of a hitter, and some improvement is expected. But he looks confused at the plate, and the suggestions to send him to AAA might not be off base. Whenever he rights himself, he’s the best hitting middle infielder on the team, with his OBP and SLG potential, and this team needs that. Of course, if sending him down screws him up mentally and he never recovers… this is the psychology of management that Davey needs to figure out. He is a good hitter with a good eye and real power. They need to figure out how to get him back, rather than just abandon the 25 year old.
Steve Lombardozzi -Lombardozzi, on the other hand, is living up to his potential. His .300/.382/.350 right now is probably a perfect world projection for him, but just like at every level he’s played at, he’s found a way to get there. He’s the closest thing the Nats have to a prototypical leadoff hitter (he even stole bases in the minors, although those numbers are always hard to trust) with his ability to get on base in front of the power guys. If they want to keep Danny in the lineup, Lombardozzi should be trusted with LF a few days a week, because they just don’t have anyone else who’s going to get on base the way he does. And it’s not like he’d be a big black hole out in the outfield
Speaking of the outfield, they have a few choices out there…
Rick Ankiel – Ankiel is what he is. His numbers of .277/.299/.415 are basically the same as Desmond’s, meaning he’s a power source who can’t get on base. Why does he sit down at the 6th and 7th spot while Desi gets leadoff? I don’t know, but Ankiel’s where he belongs. His power and CF defense makes him attractive enough of a starter versus RHP, especially with a lack of other options.
Roger Bernadina – Whether its the lack of playing time, or just lack of ability, Bernadina doesn’t appear to be working out. He might be a usable bench player or 4th/5th outfielder type, but his .184/.298/.286 isn’t cutting it this year, and his career line of .238/.304/.359 doesn’t give alot of confidence.
Tyler Moore – Moore has seen limited time, going 2 for 9 so far this year. He’s only started 2 games. Davey seems to fear using him in LF, and he’s certainly a defensive question mark, and probable liability with his almost zero time playing there. But he has potential to provide some real HR power, and this righty can provide something against LHP, which Ankiel absolutely can’t. Even if he’s used only in starts against lefties, and is subbed for defensively late in the game, he needs to see more time.
Xavier Nady – Wow. Just wow, this guy has been bad. The .129/.169/.194 is the worst in all three categories among their position players with real playing time. He’s managed to be 9th on the team in PAs, which is actually moving down the list for earlier in the year, so that was a good sign. But with the long term absence of Jayson Werth, it seems that Nady is getting alot of the opened up playing time. I’m not sure what they see in him, but he’s a poor defensive outfielder who isn’t hitting.
So while there isn’t a whole lot that can be changed (this team is set at 1B, 3B, SS, C and 1 OF position), there are a few tweaks I, and I think most people see:
- It might not be a bad idea to move their leadoff hitter who sees the 2nd fewest pitched per plate appearance (3.31) in the entire NL and doesn’t get on base much down in the lineup.
- At 2B, the team needs to decide what’s best for Espinosa, not what’s best for the team at this moment. Whatever brings him back to himself faster, sending him down or leaving him in, is what they should do. I know that some people would argue with me on this, but I really believe he’ll have a better career at the plate than Desi or Lombo, so they need him to fix it (and here’s what I’d do for that).
- Lombardozzi is the only guy on this team other than power hitters LaRoche and Harper with an OBP over .350. Put him at the top of the lineup. If Espinosa’s playing, put him in the outfield. If not, play him at 2B.
- No more Nady. He appears to be finished. He hasn’t hit like an outfielder since the first half of 2008, and hasn’t hit like a major leaguer since 2009. That’s three seasons ago. Give up on him.
- Moore should get some more time. Not just coming off the bench as a pinch hitter, although that is a good use for him when he doesn’t start, but also starting at times.
I know working Moore and Lombardozzi into the lineup at the same time may be difficult. I’m not sure if, for the sake of defense, Davey is willing to put a Moore-Harper-Lombardozzi outfield out there. So this can’t happen all the time even in the right situations. But as general rules of thumb, that’s about all they can do.