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Scribbling out lineups

Mar 12, 2010, 6:00 PM EST

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jim Riggleman may bat Elijah Dukes seventh or even eighth at times this year.

VIERA, Fla. — When the Nationals had their full complement of starting position players healthy last season — something that admittedly didn't happen very often — they pretty much knew how they would all line up.

Most nights, Washington's 1 through 6 hitters were set: Nyjer Morgan, Cristian Guzman, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, Elijah Dukes. And with all six of those players back in 2010, common wisdom would seem to indicate they'll remain lined up just like that.

To which Jim Riggleman says: Not so fast.

As he sits around scribbling down potential lineups on napkins this spring, the Nationals manager has been toying with a somewhat different idea. As things currently stand, he may decide to go with something like this…

CF Morgan
SS Guzman
3B Zimmerman
1B Dunn
LF Willingham
2B Kennedy
C Rodriguez
RF Dukes

Adam Kennedy batting sixth, with Dukes perhaps batting eighth? Yes, it's a possibility.

On the surface, the idea of Kennedy (whose career average over a 162-game season is eight homers, 58 RBI and a .391 slugging percentage) batting sixth instead of Dukes (whose similar career averages are 21 homers, 83 RBI and a .421 slugging percentage)Read more »

  1. Anonymous - Mar 12, 2010 at 6:17 PM

    This is also an interesting lineup idea because of Dukes' propensity to work the count and get on base via the walk (granted this declined last year). This could possibly extend innings when the lower third is batting, giving the pitcher more breathing room between innings pitched. Since Dukes' base stealing instincts are questionable, this would also allow the Nats to make use of his speed on the base paths without the straight steal by having the pitcher bunt him over. I don't think Kennedy is a prototypical #6 hitter, but 58 RBI's out of the 6 hole is more or less comparable with the production we've gotten in years past (not necessarily a good thing) and he is a better contact hitter than Dukes, who takes a lot of called second and third strikes.

  2. TBC - Mar 12, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    Wake us when Riggleman starts batting the pitcher 8th. Or when Dukes starts hitting better than a 7 or 8 hitter, whichever comes first.

  3. Anonymous - Mar 12, 2010 at 6:29 PM

    If Dukes bats 8th, Nats pitchers will lead the league in walks. Bad idea, with our group of pitchers who have no hitting or bunting skills.

  4. Steve M. - Mar 12, 2010 at 6:31 PM

    Dukes needs to be in the 7 hole to drive in runs.

  5. peric - Mar 12, 2010 at 7:29 PM

    Be nice if Lombardozzi the switch hitter were further along … not to mention switch hitting catcher Sean Rooney. I like Dukes batting second. With Morgan on pestering the beejeesus out of the pitchers there is no way the guy doesn't get a lot of big hits. Of course we all know Guzman knows this well. Why is that guy pampered so? He can't throw right now … his hitting continues to erode. His range is questioned. But he is a switch hitter.Wondering if there are glimmerings of Ian Desmond batting 2nd in this? Followed by Dunn, the Zimmerman, then Willingham … then you set the table for Dukes with Kennedy and IRod.

  6. peric - Mar 12, 2010 at 7:40 PM

    From Ben at MASN:Scott Olsen will start Saturday's game against the Astros, who will also throw Drew Storen, Matt Capps, Matt Chico and Sean Burnett in the game. Aaron Thompson and Collin Balester will both pitch in an intrasquad game, as will Jason Bergmann and Atahualpa Severino."Strasburg's Sunday start is the same as was scheduled, and Livan Hernandez will make his spring debut in that game, as well. Miguel Batista and Shairon Martis get the intrasquad game.""And Monday, Garrett Mock starts for the Nationals, with J.D. Martin throwing an intrasquad game."Mark, do you think that pitching "intrasquad" games would be an indication of those they plan on sending down to Syracuse? It sure looks like it could be?

  7. Anonymous - Mar 12, 2010 at 8:01 PM

    do you think he would see more fastballs or curveballs hitting 8th? i do like the power potential down there though.longterm

  8. Sunderland - Mar 12, 2010 at 8:07 PM

    Mark:Can you please offer a guess, more informed than mine for sure, but still just a guess….If Bergmann is waived, with the intent of putting him in Syracuse, will he clear waivers or will we lose him?

  9. peric - Mar 12, 2010 at 8:09 PM

    MLBTradeRumors lists the guys who are out-of-options:NationalsJason Bergmann, Brian Bruney, Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Tyler Walker, Mike Morse, Josh Willingham, Alberto Gonzalez

  10. TBC - Mar 12, 2010 at 8:26 PM

    Keep in mind that if Bergmann is waived and is claimed by another team, that other team would then have to put him on their 25 man roster, where he would still be out of options. So if the Nats decide he's not good enough to be part of the worst bullpen in baseball, why would another team want him in theirs? If Bergmann is waived, he'll almost certainly clear waivers. And if he doesn't, he can be traded to whatever team claims him in exchange for prospects.

  11. Anonymous - Mar 12, 2010 at 8:52 PM

    "Keep in mind that if Bergmann is waived and is claimed by another team, that other team would then have to put him on their 25 man roster, where he would still be out of options. So if the Nats decide he's not good enough to be part of the worst bullpen in baseball, why would another team want him in theirs? If Bergmann is waived, he'll almost certainly clear waivers. And if he doesn't, he can be traded to whatever team claims him in exchange for prospects."I don't think this correct, I think your confusing the Rule 5 Draft rules here. If another teams claims him, they can send him down, once. Mark – can you comment?

  12. peric - Mar 12, 2010 at 8:57 PM

    We know Clippard is safe. But, what if Severino looks better than Burnett? They now have Rafael Martin down in Syracuse … Storen is on the way; Garate, Spradlin, Wilkie, Kensing and Jesse English who is still up with the Big Club. Bergmann, Burnett and Walker have a lot of competition … is this the worst bullpen in the majors? NOT SO fast … with Storen's arrival, if Bruney gets his act together? With Stammen in long relief? Chico?

  13. Anonymous - Mar 12, 2010 at 8:58 PM

    I like the idea of Dukes hitting lower in the lineup ,instead of having some light hitting guys down low, sort of like when the Yankees batted Cano 7th or 8th.

  14. peric - Mar 12, 2010 at 8:59 PM

    I think the only exception may be to send guys down for rehab starts … i think you will definitely see a lot of that this year.

  15. JohninMPLS - Mar 12, 2010 at 10:13 PM

    "There is no real evidence that [batting order] matters. What matters is having good hitters. Who hits second and who hits sixth. . .there is little evidence that it makes any difference."~Bill James

  16. Jeff Wang - Mar 12, 2010 at 11:32 PM

    Bat Dukes 9th, pitcher 8th.

  17. Mark Zuckerman - Mar 12, 2010 at 11:45 PM

    Regarding the Bergmann scenario you guys are discussing … because he is out of options, if the Nats decide not to put him on the Opening Day roster, they would have to designate him for assignment. At that point, they would have 10 days to either trade him, release him or pass him through waivers to then outright him to Class AAA. If another team claimed him through waivers, he would have to appear on their 25-man roster. He'd still be out of options. However, if he cleared waivers and was released, any team would be free to sign him and put him in the majors or minors.

  18. BinM - Mar 13, 2010 at 1:18 AM

    Bergmann could be in a tight spot, but it hinges on his performance & Riggleman's preferences to start the season. With some off-days in the 1st two weeks, the team could go with an 11-man staff (4SP's, 7RP's), adding a 5th SP in mid-April. As of now, Clippard, Bruney & Capps are in a scrum for the CL/SU roles, along with Storen, IMO; All four might survive, but I'd figure on three. One or two slots could go to the LHRP's (Burnett, English, Severino, Slaten, Villone), with the remaining seat(s) filled by two from Batista, Bergmann, Chico, or Walker.

  19. BinM - Mar 13, 2010 at 1:29 AM

    Dukes, along with Kennedy, might have the most flexibility in terms of where they fit in the lineup. IMO, either could hit effectively when placed 2nd, 6th, 7th or 8th in the order; Both players have speed & have shown patience at the plate. Dukes has better raw power, but is less consistent at the plate. Mark, what are your thoughts?

  20. peric - Mar 13, 2010 at 1:31 AM

    Right now (if you use the SP's placed in the intrasquad games as a gauge?) it looks like Lannan, Marquis, Mock, Hernandez, Chico, [Olsen or Stammen] Capps, Bruney, Clippard, Burnett. Strasburg and Storen we know are going down to pick up that additional year before arbitration. The rest (except for Walker and Bergmann) have options and will likely end up in Syracuse with some going to Harrisburg to get enough pitching in. I am also guessing that Olsen goes down after this upcoming start.

  21. peric - Mar 13, 2010 at 1:40 AM

    Based again on intrasquad game starters it kind of looks like SYR's starting rotation will be: Martin [their ace], Thompson, Batista, Martis, Atilano with Kown as starter/long relief. Harrisburg will likely get Olsen and Juan Jaime. Meyers, Mandel, and Arneson. Detwiler and Wang when they are ready.

  22. peric - Mar 13, 2010 at 1:51 AM

    Walker and Bergmann get released. One spot on the 40 freed up for Livan. That would be my guess on March 10th.

  23. peric - Mar 13, 2010 at 1:52 AM

    If I had to guess I would say that second spot on the 40-man gets freed up for the left-handed bat of Chris Duncan.

  24. BinM - Mar 13, 2010 at 2:09 AM

    peric: Intra-squad assignments help the in-camp pitchers get some work in when Mother Nature interferes with schedules; I don't read anything into it until the hammer comes down & someone gets re-assigned. Everybody will be back on even footing by Tuesday, at the latest.The minor-league staffs are another argument, better suited for another place. SYR will get the most experienced five SP's that don't make the Nationals 25-man roster; the rest will filter back from there. As to the rest, good night & best wishes.

  25. peric - Mar 13, 2010 at 2:12 AM

    binm,Normally I would agree but they choices they made for intrasquad and exhibition look awfully suspicious?

  26. RPS - Mar 13, 2010 at 2:32 AM

    "There is no real evidence that [batting order] matters. What matters is having good hitters. Who hits second and who hits sixth. . .there is little evidence that it makes any difference."It doesn't matter for player performance, but it certainly matters for team performance. That is why it would make little sense to bat your worst regular (Pudge) anywhere but 8. No reason he should be getting more ABs than Dukes.

  27. peric - Mar 13, 2010 at 3:05 AM

    Batting Dukes may make sense because your pinch hitter would follow. Pinch hitting a Morse, a Duncan (instead of Alberto Gonzalez) for example might be very effective. And if Guzman is on the bench he is a potential pinch hitter?

  28. Anonymous - Mar 13, 2010 at 3:21 AM

    Elijah Dukes is going to be one of the keys to our season. Last year we drove in something like 670 RBI. The Phillies drove in somtheing like 870 RBI. Dunn and Zimmerman drove in about 106 each. Dukes and Willingham drove in about 50 or 60 each. We need more RBI production from Dukes and Willingham. We have to put Dukes in a position to drive in runs. I think that is the 2 hole. I think Morgan is going to get on base a lot this year. Dukes can drive him in from 1b. Dukes is fast,too. He will be hard to double up with Morgan running in front of him. With Morgan on and Zimmerman and Dunn coming along pitchers will not want to walk Dukes in the 2 hole. Better pitches. We all know about the low outside the zone junk that kills Dukes. They all throw it to him. He has to learn to lay off that pitch. They will have to put it in the zone for him. I saw Dukes reach out with just his left hand and flick one of those low outside pitches that caught just enough of the plate over the left field wall. I want to see him hit that ball into the right field gap and watch both him and Morgan run other teams crazy. He can do this. He has to do it if we are going to have better run production.

  29. Anonymous - Mar 13, 2010 at 4:44 AM

    Bring back Frank Robinson.





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