Skip to content

Is next year’s lineup already set?

Aug 9, 2011, 2:33 PM EST

US Presswire photo
Jayson Werth and Michael Morse will definitely be part of next year's lineup.

CHICAGO — What's the No. 1 problem area that has plagued the Nationals this season? Obviously, a lack of offensive production. How many more games might this team have won had it simply produced one more clutch hit per night, especially during the season's first half when the pitching staff was regularly allowing three or fewer runs?

So it would stand to reason that the No. 1 area the Nationals will need to address this winter is a significant offensive upgrade.

Except, that probably won't be the case.

Scroll through the Nationals position by position, and it becomes pretty clear they're already set for 2012 in at least six of eight spots, possibly seven…

CATCHER: Wilson Ramos is firmly entrenched as the starter. The only question is who will back him up next season.

FIRST BASE: Adam LaRoche is expected to be 100 percent healedRead more »

  1. Anonymous - Aug 9, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    Absolutely not. Not including the CF, there are only 3 hitters to speak of with meaningful experience. One has vastly underperformed this year, the second isn't playing this year, and the third is excellent but only when healthy.

  2. Bowdenball - Aug 9, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    That lineup is not good enough to run with the Phillies. But it might be good enough to hover over .500 and be in the mix for the wild card. We'd be following the SF Giants model, so we'd need above-average #3, #4 and even #5 starters to get it done. I'm assuming we will have above-average #1 and #2 starters in Strasburg and Zimmermann. If that doesn't happen we're not competing regardless of the rest of the picture.We can add Edwin Jackson in free agency; he's good enough to be an above-average #3. That would leave us hoping that two of Lannan/Detwiler/Milone/Peacock are good enough to be above average for the back of the rotation.I trust Rizzo to put together a quality bullpen, even if we lose Storen or Clippard in pursuit of our CF.

  3. Doc - Aug 9, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    Yeah, on paper (with Oppo Boppo in LF) good things can happen with this offense. RZim is healthy from the start, Werth is more settled, Desi is taking Davey's advice about not expanding the Kzone, Espi likewise, and Mickey Morse continues to be Mickey Morse. Ramos should get better.I think that Morse ends up at 1B, where he's more suited than LF. Can Ankiel continue to do the deal? It could be worse than having him doing what he's doing in CF.So yeah, this is a good offensive lineup. On paper, better than Phillies and the rest of them. This team has youth; Phillies and Braves have age. Fugedabout da Mets and da Marlins.

  4. Tcostant - Aug 9, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    Jose Reyes leading off, Espinosa at SS and Ian on the bench.

  5. Anonymous - Aug 9, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    If Morse is happy (hitting) at first, it is his. LaRoche can find another place to land(2012 Matt Stairs?). Keep the Beast happy.

  6. Anonymous - Aug 9, 2011 at 2:51 PM

    If the table is set these guys will feast! The number 1 and 2 spots have been trouble for the last two years and it shows. The pitching is still getting better and as the young players get more experience the hits will come. Could be fun for a change.

  7. Bowdenball - Aug 9, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    Doc, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Braves have both youth and age. Their farm system is stacked and Freeman, Heyward, Hanson, Kimbrel and Venters are all still on their way up. And McCann isn't going anywhere.

  8. Todd Boss - Aug 9, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    If these guys all play to their abilities (big if obviously), then this is a decent-to-good lineup offensively speaking but a very good lineup defensively speaking. Lets not forget capabilities here: both Zimmerman and Werth were league top 10 in OPS+ last year. LaRoche was 25 homers/100rbi guy for several years running. Morse this year is a league leader in HR and BA. Espinosa may very well hit 25 homers as a rookie. That's 25-homer potential from your 2-3-4-5-6 hitters. And Ramos isn't a slouch at catcher. Honestly the longer term move may be to put Lombardozzi in leadoff/2nd, move Espinosa to short and put Harper in center. That'd give you 25-homer power potential from 2-7, prototypical leadoff hitter and a catcher in the #8 hole who isn't a slouch.Can you win with this lineup? Absolutely … if your pitching is good enough. SF Giants last year: 9th in the NL in runs and mostly middle of the road in other offensive categories. But they were #1 in the league in ERA, earned runs allowed, K's, hits allowed and saves. With good enough pitching you don't need a #1 offense. This should be the goal of the team.

  9. Anonymous - Aug 9, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    Mark,I read yesterday that a Mets front office guy expected the Nationals (along with the Red Sox and Angels) to be in the mix for Reyes. Have you heard anything along those lines?

  10. Anonymous - Aug 9, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    What about this…. We trade LaRoche for a low level prospect, we signPrince and move Morse to Left. Then give Harper a year of practice in CF. Based on Bryce's AA numbers he may be a few years away. ThoughtsAlso what about Weaver, isn't he a free agent?

  11. Doug - Aug 9, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    Doesn't a lot depend on who they trade away? Upton or Span would require a major leaguer. Then there's a shakeup. And, despite how entrenched those six or seven players seem, might Rizzo go after Fielder or Reyes as an upgrade? Sign Reyes, then they have to trade Desmond or Lombardozzi. Sign Fielder and write off LaRoche. I'd love to keep together a team of young players who came of age here, but it seems like there might be more turnover if Rizzo can pull off any big moves.

  12. JamesFan - Aug 9, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    Reality check: OpoBopo is not tearing up AA and may not be ready by June; Stras will require May-June to work out the kinks even if all goes well with his program; we are still a quality starter to be competitive and a call up from AA or AAA is always iffy.I see a big trade coming. The Nats have lots of bits and pieces available for trade. I would not let Storen and Clip go because the team has invested heavily in their development and would have a hell of a time replacing them. Can't win without a quality pen and a closer.

  13. NatsNut - Aug 9, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    This caught me off-guard and made me laugh out loud: CF "Speedy McOnbase"

  14. DFL - Aug 9, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    Morse plays first much better than left. The Nats ought to move La Roche to another team during the off-season, even for peanuts and a beer. The Orioles might be persuaded to take La Roche off our hands. Morse has earned first base and looks to be a steady 25-30 HR 100 RBI guy.Lombardozzi has hit better at every move up the chain and has an OBP that has steadily hovered at about .370 his three years as a pro. He can steal a base; his percentage isn't much lower than Desmond's. Perhaps switching Espinosa to short and installing Lombardozzi at second and lead-off is the way to go.A left-field platoon of Nix and Gomes is plausible if a heavy-hitting improvement can't be found. Eventually, this is where Harper will likely start at in 2014.If Lombardozzi leads off, a center-fielder who lead off is no longer imperative. The Nats can win with Ankiel/Bernadina. Note: Eury Perez seems less likely than ever before of being the eventual Nats center-fielder and Lead-off man. He doesn't draw many walks. His OBP stands now at .298 at Potomac.

  15. Jimmy - Aug 9, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    I think the nationals should move Espinosa back at in the lineup maybe to 6th. He is more a RBI guy then get on base run producer. Desmond could hit second and it is pretty easy to tell that Davey has helped in his batting. The question is: Will Davey Johnson be back next year?

  16. Bigfitzva - Aug 9, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    The Line Up is only as good as the starting Pitching. (See Giants & Phillies)

  17. SCNatsFan - Aug 9, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    Play the same lineup and get the same results… and I know LaRoche hasn't been here and Zim missed 1/2 the season but counting on these guys to pick up their play is a fool's errand. Desmond hasn't shown the ability to improve; I fear what we see is what we are going to get for the forseeable future. Espi and Ramos sound great on paper but both have tailed off tremendously and need to make that leap to being a better player. Sure I hope they make the leap but hoping for players to get better is what we have been doing for years. For Rizzo or the fans to be satisfied with this lineup means we accept being mediocre.Interesting idea I read online last week… if Rendon is the real deal then trade Zim and get a treasure trove of good players for him – not retreads, not pitchers recovering from surgery, not guys looking to catch lightning in a bottle but real MLB players, like a good SP and a CF. Don't know if I'd do it but it was an interesting point. As always Mark Thanks for all the good work you do entertaining Nats fans like myself who don't live in the area.

  18. DFL - Aug 9, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    Potential line-up 1- Lombardozzi 2B 2- Espinosa SS 3- Zimmerman 3B 4- Morse 1B 5- Werth RF 6- Nix/Gomes(Harper in 2014) LF 7- Ankiel/Bernadina CF 8- Ramos C 9- PITCHERReyes is unlikely to choose the Nats unless he receives a Werth-like contract. I see the Mets signing him if Martin Silver buys the team from the current owners.

  19. Anonymous - Aug 9, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    Agree that the team is better with Morse at 1B and Nix/Gomes (or some other combination of journeymen OFers) until Harper is ready as opposed to LaRoshe at 1B and Morse in LF. The problem is that LaRoche is untradeable right now. LaRoche was awful until he went on the DL, and teams are going to want to see that he can perform at high level before considering him as an option at 1B (there is no market for 1b that hit .200 with no power). Also, he is getting $8 million, which is deal breaker; so, the Nats would have to eat a large part of that salary before any team would take LaRoche. Hate it when money drives on the field decisions, but putting LaRoche back at 1st to start next season is based upon his contract, and not what is best for the team.Best case scenario is that LaRoche has a decent April and May (unfortunately, he is a slow starter even when healthy), and Harper is electric in the minors through June. The Nats can trade Laroche in June when they bring Harper. Hate to be a negative Nancy, but its more likely that LaRoche is awful through June, and the Nats simply release him when Harper is ready to come up. Pilchard.

  20. Section 222 - Aug 9, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    In my opinion, the Nats should seriously consider moving LaRoche, if anyone will take him. I wouldn't bank on him being 100% healed, by the way. Labrum surgery is not easy to come back from, even if you aren't a pitcher. This may make him more difficult to move in the offs season of course. But perhaps an early season trade if he's shown he's ok would be possible. But the key fact is that Morse plays excellent defense at first and only adequately in LF. He's turned into a hitter that you want playing the whole game, not being replaced in the late innings. I guess the question is can we find someone to play LF who is a better hitter than LaRoche. My guess is that we can.Desmond is the weak link in this lineup. I hope Rizzo makes a serious run at Reyes, or considers other options. Desi is a future decent utility infield guy, but I just don't see him as a long term SS for the Nats either offensively or defensively. (I don't care much about his clubhouse leadership. That just seems like an excuse to keep him in the lineup.)Whether this lineup can compete with the Phillies and Braves next year depends entirely on pitching.

  21. P. Cole - Aug 9, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    The thing that bothers me about Desmond is that he tore it up in the 2nd half of 2010 by . . . going opposite field.He stunk the 1st half of 2011 because he didn't . . . go opposite field. Now he's doing better because he's . . . you guessed it.I know he thinks he's a power hitter, but someone in the organization needs to be held accountable for not forcing him to pick up where he left off in 2010.

  22. yankish2 - Aug 9, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    Until the Nats can beat the Marlins, they aren't going anywhere. This lineup has proven it can't beat the Marlins so why would I think they can beat the Marlins next year?

  23. NatsJack in Florida - Aug 9, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    I agree on Desmond. He definitely needs to learn plate discipline and be a much more selective hitter.I didn't think he'd ever get over the lack of focus at shortstop but he's suprised me there so maybe he'll soon (and I mean REAL SOON) figure out what to do at the dish.Put me in the "something has to change" in the middle infield and CF for this team to improve. I'm OK with Espinosa at either second or short but we have to be better with whoever the other two players are.

  24. baseballswami - Aug 9, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    I agree with posters above who are reluctant to rock the Michael Morse boat. Do you really think that LaRoche is going to magically return after barely playing much since , what September of 2010, and be wonderful as a fielder or a hitter? I really don't think spring training is going to be enough to knock off rust of that magnitude.MM seems to be natural at 1B, I hate to see us mess with that. Also — no matter what we do with the line-up, each player needs to hit up to his ability and stay healthy. Then , its' — pitching, pitching and pitching – 1 through 5. I see our needs as leadoff-cf and BULLPEN — middle to long type relievers. Zimm as #1, Strassie #2, LannEn#3 and then – whatever we can scrape together in the off-season or salvage from Gorzelanny, Wang, Detweiler or FA.

  25. Steve M. - Aug 9, 2011 at 4:12 PM

    LaRoche is my big question mark as to whether he will be ready for Opening Day 2012 as far as his shoulder? Don't need a repeat of 2011 with him.Will Ryan Zimmerman's contract be extended? That will be the big question as he becomes short-term with Free Agency after 2013 and determines where Rendon enters the Minor League as far as his position.I like Coco Crisp in Free Agency for CF. He still has lots of speed, .330 OBP isn't huge but better than what the Nats have had but his real hidden asset is that he is a clutch hitter at .310 with RISP. He gives you the combination of runs scored and RBIs.Buehrle would be a nice veteran presence and he is a Lefty, or go Back To The Future and get Marquis back for a 1 year deal with an Option. He showed this year that the Nats win for him.

  26. Natslifer - Aug 9, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Best column of the year, Mark. We were never really in the hunt this year and it's always been about our chances in '12 and '13. I think the companion piece to this is: who is Speedy McOnbase, what does it take to get him, and how does that affect the rest of the lineup we're thinking about? But I gotta say I'm kind of excited about seeing some of the young guys up at the end of the year trying to make their mark.Lastly, what do you know about Rendon's shoulder? I still say the odds are that he has surgery right after being signed.

  27. gonatsgo - Aug 9, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    I don't remember a time in the last few years where so many of the pieces were here or close. Are we actually starting to acquire depth in some areas? I don't see many people guessing on the catcher/backup situation, either. Ramos is the main catcher going forward. Pudge – can he return to form? Or Flores?

  28. Anonymous - Aug 9, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    Steve M — Buehrle – yes, please!

  29. Anonymous - Aug 9, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    I don't understand why we wouldn't go after reyes yes IK it would be better if he were a CF but we need a leadoff guy and he is the best there is right now. Also if we went after Fielder. I understand that is a ton of money but that is a playoff lineup.SS ReyesRF Werth3B Zimmerman1B FielderLF Morse2B EspinosaC RamosSP StrasCF Ankiel/BernieWhen Harper is ready move Werth to CF and HArper to right.Bench should include nix, desmond, bernie/ankiel, pudge if resigned or flores, and make a another splash and sign a old fan favorite in carrol.IDK I know thatd be a ton a money but the Lerners have it and with all the holes filled our farm becomes deeper and be can trade for pitching or a CF

  30. JD - Aug 9, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    I still view 2012 as a transition year heading into contention in 2013 when both Zimmermann and Strasburg are at full throttle. I am also of the opinion that the current alignment in the middle infield is not the one we'll see in 2013. I know that the concept of trading Zimmerman is tantamount to anti American thinking but it's a concept which must be broached if an extension (which is of course the 1st choice) cannot be worked out. Once an extension is worked out (IMO) we should be developing Rendon with an eye to an eventual trade because I think his value would be greatest at 3rd base. Finally; I don't believe that you can obtain 'speedy McOnbase' by trading a reliever no matter how much we love that reliever. It costs more than that.

  31. Scott from Burke - Aug 9, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    That ;ineup is good enough to win the world series, especially with this starting roation: Steven Strasburg. Jordan Zimermann, Tom Seaver (circa 1973), Sandy Koufax ('65), and Orel Hershiser ('88). With clipp and Storen they should win 115 games. I'd like to see Earl Weaver at the helm

  32. Steve M. - Aug 9, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    Anonymous said… Steve M — Buehrle – yes, please! August 9, 2011 12:16 PM My only caveat to my own suggestion is that Buehrle didn't have a great 2010 and you have to wonder in a contract year, is 2011 a blip for Buehrle and will he regress?I also believe all the big market teams will be "in" on him so doubt the Nats get him. My backup is a safe one with Jason Marquis. I was kind of surprised Rizzo didn't extend him for a year with an option given that he is a known quantity. Marquis isn't front-line but a solid #3 to #4 on this team. The 2011 Free Agent market for pitchers may be the weakest in years. The Nats aren't getting Sabathia so you can turn that page.Funny thing is the 2012 Free Agent pitchers market will be deeper and if the Nats are in it, some good names may be available on July 31, 2012. The Brewers may break apart after this season with Prince Fielder leaving so Greinke is a Free Agent after next season and may be a Nat afterall.

  33. Anonymous - Aug 9, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    What Happens to Marrero. He has been consistent all year at AAA and is absolutely killing it right now. His Power has seemed to return and he has played average to good defense at 1b all year. If he is called up in september and impresses(espinosa style), does he get a chance to start next year. Mike Morse is not leaving this lineup, just a matter of where he plays. 1b might be btw Marrero and Laroche.

  34. Steve M. - Aug 9, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    The Nats need to look at their 2 biggest rivals (Atlanta/Philly) which are LEFT HANDED dominant and find the best 2 Left-handed relievers they can or finally concede on Ross Detwiler and make him a reliever to shore up the weak bullpen. Burnett is under a guaranteed contract for 2012 so you have to decide if he can figure out how to pitch again and HenRod will be in a similar situation and on league minimum but without options. Outside of Clip and Storen, you may need 4 to 5 new relievers as Matteus may be salvageable.The Nats have given up 7 to 8 games out of the poor front end of the bullpen compared to Atlanta. So for anyone who doesn't think they can compete in 2012, I disagree. If they had a better bullpen like Atlanta this year, they would be close to Wild Card contention right now.For anyone wondering how good the Nats pitchers are and can be, the future is here in Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and John LannEn. If you believe in Sabremetric Component ERA, Jordan Zimmermann is #5 in the NL and ahead of all of Atlanta's pitchers. If you go by straight ERA, he is #12. Those are ACE numbers. http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/pitching/_/league/nl/sort/ERC/type/sabermetric/order/false

  35. DCChillen - Aug 9, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    Marrero needs a shot this year, to see if Morse can keep hitting in Left Field, and see if Chris has a shot. Would be nice if the Nats were in the Jose Reyes sweepstakes. Desmond doesn't look too promising, and he would fit nicely as a speedy leadoff guy. Would love Prince Fielder as well if Marrero does not work out.

  36. Anonymous - Aug 9, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    The point I was trying to make with that lineup is that it is an extremely weak draft class this year…If we are in the worst 15 teams record wise we get to keep our first overall. BC it is a weaker draft class this is the year to sign free agents. We lose very little and it hurts the brewers and mets if we did this. I understand its a ton of money to put out but that lineup will actually put ppl in the seats…w/o the buy one get one free offer. You have to spend money to make money and this would be a good investment for the lerners if they are serious about winning as well as I feel they would make money on the deal (more ppl in seats, more food sold, more memorabilia sold). It makes sense if you actually think about it. we spent the money on werth we might as well spend money on more than just clubhouse leaders

  37. JD - Aug 9, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    Anon @12:48 I think that Marrero's problem with cracking the Nats lineup is that he hits right handed so with Morse, Zim, Werth etc you have a very right handed hitting lineup. Having said that I very much hope that Marrero comes up in September and plays a lot because he has certainly graduated from the minors and if he can't make it with the Nats we need to convert his value to something useful.

  38. baseballswami - Aug 9, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    Does anyone think we might re-sign Marquis or does it depend on his numbers the rest of the year? I am kind of wondering who will be our starting pitchers beyond Zimmermann, Strassie and Lannen. That's a good top 3, but , besides maybe getting Buehrle, I don't have a clue who 4 and 5 might be, or even who I might want it to be. Any other FA pitchers coming up this off-season?

  39. Steve M. - Aug 9, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    Anonymous said… What Happens to Marrero. He has been consistent all year at AAA and is absolutely killing it right now. His Power has seemed to return and he has played average to good defense at 1b all year. If he is called up in september and impresses(espinosa style), does he get a chance to start next year. Mike Morse is not leaving this lineup, just a matter of where he plays. 1b might be btw Marrero and Laroche. August 9, 2011 12:48 PM I am in agreement with you. He has earned it and I thought Marrero should have been up earlier. Marrero could be a valuable bench role player as he is RH so he could still be a platoon partner with LaRoche and pinch-hit.Every current bench player is a Free Agent after this season except Jesus Flores and Brian Bixler.

  40. Steve M. - Aug 9, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    By the way, Michael Morse is under team control for only 2 more years also. Both Morse and Zim need to be extended. Zim is going to cost Werth type of money + a few bucks. He isn't going to give a Tulowitzki type of discount to stay. Morse is a more curious type as he really has 1 great year combined, if you put his 2010 + 2011 ABs combined and not sure what you pay for him. He is arbitration eligible for 2012 and 2013.

  41. Jeeves - Aug 9, 2011 at 5:33 PM

    By the way, Harper has been doing quite well at AA in the last little while. Average is going up–power beginning to insinuate itself. As usual, he began slowly, then began to hit. Seems to be the way he does it, no matter what the level.

  42. DFL - Aug 9, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    Steve M gives us two reasons why some people are dreaming if the Lerners are going to cough up big money for Reyes and/or Fielder if, by chance, they are available. Zimmerman and Morse have to be signed in the relatively immediate future and Zimmerman will be asking for a big deal. So the Nats might go big money for a stopper but not for another hitter. As for Fielder, he is almost superfluous. We have three first-basemen already- Morse, LaRoche and Marrero. And if the Mets get new ownership, they will shell out the big dough for Reyes just to prove to their fans that they are on the up-and-up. Expect the Nats not to make big moves in the off-season unless it is for a top-line arm for the rotation.

  43. Dawn - Aug 9, 2011 at 5:38 PM

    A few notes: Would like to see Pudge as the Backup Catcher; we need a Hairston type player on the bench (good attitude, energy, versatility, bat). CF is up for grabs, like parts of Ankiel's and Bernadina's game, they could be the answer until a minor league player shows up. Morse is the answer in LF with stints at 1B when LaRoche needs a break. Overall, can Zim remain healthy for one whole season, please! Pitching…well…that is another story.

  44. Steve M. - Aug 9, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    baseballswami said… Does anyone think we might re-sign Marquis or does it depend on his numbers the rest of the year? I am kind of wondering who will be our starting pitchers beyond Zimmermann, Strassie and Lannen. That's a good top 3, but , besides maybe getting Buehrle, I don't have a clue who 4 and 5 might be, or even who I might want it to be. Any other FA pitchers coming up this off-season? August 9, 2011 1:03 PM The Nats will need a veteran arm to lead the young group. I mentioned Buehrle as my 1st choice and Jason Marquis as my #2 choice and Chris Carpenter's stock as really fallen. He will certainly go into Free Agency and as a Tommy John survivor would be a great mentor to the young Nats especially JZim and Stras. I project Carpenter as a #4 pitcher behind LannEn.That leaves a dogfight for the #5 spot.Since the defense was fixed considerably in 2011, the 2nd best way to make your pitchers look better is a better bullpen. You can't undersell that part of the team. Jordan Zimmermann from his last start would be at a 2.98 ERA when he left the game with 2 outs and Henry Rodriguez allowed both of Jordan's inherited runners to score. This has been a huge stain on this 2011 pitching staff and all the pitchers have suffered from the poor 'stopper' ability (or lack of) in the bullpen. The relief pitchers have taken on 201 inherited runners and allowed 69 of them to score.Coffey 22Add that 69 runs to these relievers Earned Runs allowed:Burnett 22HenRod 21Storen 17Clip 11Broderick 9Balester 8Mattheus 7Gaudin 6Slaten 3Kimball 3Gorzelany 3Detwiler 2Stammen 1Add those 135 + 69 = 204In comparison, Atlanta Braves relief pitchers have inherited 152 runners and only 35 have scored.Add that 35 runs to these relievers Earned Runs allowed:Proctor 21Martinez 19Gearin 16Linebrink 14Kimbrel 12Sherril 12Venters 9Asencio 8OFlaherty 6Moylan 2Varvaro 1Add those 120 + 35 = 155The Nats bullpen has given up 49 more runs then the Braves. The Braves have scored 476 runs, and allowed 426 runs. The Nats have scored 449 runs, and allowed 471 runs.The Braves offense has outscored the Nats by just 27 runs but the starters are for both teams are almost identical in runs given up. If the Braves are your competition for the Wild Card, this is how you keep up with them, through the bullpen.

  45. Steve M. - Aug 9, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    Dawn said… A few notes: Would like to see Pudge as the Backup Catcher; we need a Hairston type player on the bench (good attitude, energy, versatility, bat). CF is up for grabs, like parts of Ankiel's and Bernadina's game, they could be the answer until a minor league player shows up. Morse is the answer in LF with stints at 1B when LaRoche needs a break. Overall, can Zim remain healthy for one whole season, please! Pitching…well…that is another story. August 9, 2011 1:38 PM Good points. I wrote that about 6 months ago about Zim's health and caught a lot of grief. I still believe his injury at the end of 2010 was the same injury in Spring Training that carried over to April when he went on the long DL and needed surgery. Just my opinion. I think Zim will be fine going forward as I think he has it figured out now.Pudge could certainly be re-signed to give Flores a chance to work back to 100%. I think Morse in LF and can play some 1st base or like I suggested Marrero to backup LaRoche.

  46. Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 9, 2011 at 5:58 PM

    Of course, this is all predicated on everybody being healthy, which almost never happens.

  47. Knoxville Nat - Aug 9, 2011 at 6:19 PM

    Dawn,Wasn't Hairston tweeting to everyone and anyone how he couldn't wait to get out of DC when he got traded to the Brewers? Doesn't sound like the kind of guy I'd want around my clubhouse or on my bench.

  48. Mark'd - Aug 9, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    SteveM, your numbers between Atlanta and the Nats are off as the Braves have played 2 more games so runs scored differential isn't as large.You have convinced me with the numbers that there are more unconventional ways to winning. League average for Team runs scored is 478. The Nats ate at 449 and the SF Giants are last at 399.The Nats aren't getting any BIG Free Agent hitters which is why I like Coco Crisp. With LaRoche healthy, the Nats will get above the league scored average while also Jayson Werth getting on base like he is now.So if you score a little more, you must give up less runs. The rotation will improve with the Top 3 and the big improvement like you eluded to is in the 'pen! That should really make the Nats starters look better than Atlanta overall when you consider Inherited Runners scoring goes against the previous pitchers ERA and that is usually the starting pitcher!

  49. Anonymous - Aug 9, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    I can't wait to see Rendon and Harper's bats get here. Where can Rendon realistically fit other than 3b? Is LF or 2b more likely? These guys with Morse and Zimm could be a special hitting lineup and afford us the promising but inconsistent production of Espi and Ramos with their great D.

  50. JaneB - Aug 9, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    I love Reyes, but since I follow the Mets as my second team I can tell you his injury record rivals Willingham. He's fab when he is healthy and he is often not healthy. I'd be up for seeing Marrero if only to check out if Morse really belongs on first and we trade LaRoche, or if he hits no matter where he plays.Speedy McOnbase better not cost us Clip and Store. I know the value of an everyday player versus reliever argument, but I love them on our team and will throw up if they get traded. I was trying to type that I'd rather trade away RZimm but that idea makes me I'll too.Werth is our third highest RBI producer. I am surprised.

  51. jd - Aug 9, 2011 at 6:47 PM

    Steve M. I don't like the idea of a 23 year old backup. Marrero has earned the right to compete for a full time position. Here or somewhere else.

  52. jd - Aug 9, 2011 at 6:51 PM

    Steve M. There is a problem with the comparison to the Atlanta pen. The Braves are in the unenviable position of having 2 stud young relievers in Venters and Kimbrel who also happen to be very inexpensive at this stage of their careers. Will they pay the big bucks for a setup man when both reach their arbitration years?

  53. FS - Aug 9, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    First of all, thanks Mark for the awesome post. My lineup might also look exactly like that in next season.I think if we add the right lead-off guy, this lineup is as good as any divisional rival (except maybe Marlins: Hanley, Gaby, Stanton, and Morrison might disagree). Like Steve M, my vote also goes to Crisp CF even if he comes here with some baggage. Best part about him is he is a switch hitter so we don't have to worry about his splits and we can say 'no thanks' to platoon. Couple of problems with him are a) injury risk: Last two seasons, we signed a 'big' FA and had bad luck by them getting injured. and b) not Boras agent LOL.Another possible issue with this lineup could be the #2 hole. I think we need a higher OBP guy than Danny in this position. One who can make sure that our 3-4-5 hitters come up mostly with runners in scoring position. Both Danny and Ian have the speed for top order bat, but not high enough OBP. We might just decide to stay with Danny. I am not as much worried as about CF.I like Morse in #4, even though he started the season slowly. I think our 3-4-5 will soon top what we had in Zimm-Dunn-Hammer. LaRoche, Desmond, and Ramos make up one of the better bottom order of lineup in the league.Pitching is the name of the game these days and I prefer us adding at least one solid starter such as Mark Buehrle. He also has couple of issues, a) more than 2 year contract: I am not sure we should be committing more than an year to a pitcher who is declining in IP and lesser CG as seasons pass, and b) “If the White Sox don’t want to sign me back after this year and some team (wants me) that I’m not a fan of, or don’t want to play for, or it’s too far from home, I’m not going to go play just to make money. It’s going to have to be the right spot, the right fit for my family.”: he has already won it all, so how much does he crave for another ring or help complete a rotation like ours? Again, he would be a great addition, but he is not a sure bet to come to DC.Chris Carpenter is old (37) and might be looking for more than one year deal. This is the huge gamble and if Cardinals does not show interest, I say we try to get him for an year. Main addition to our pitching staff should be made in 2013 when more starters are available in the market.Other candidates involve some Asian names: 1) Yu "Farid" Darvish – he is playing in a weaker offensive league, but coming to NL should not be a great difference for him. At one point, I had wished for a rotation of SS, Chapman, and Darvish. 2) Hisashi Iwakuma – honestly don't know much about him but known as a extreme groundball pitcher. Anyways, bottomline is I will ask for a true CF/lead-off and a solid #3 pitcher behind JZ and SS.

  54. SonnyG10 - Aug 9, 2011 at 6:53 PM

    I agree with JaneB on Reyes and the comparison with Willingham is spot on. I think it would be a lot of money for a part time player. I would like to see our problem solved another way.

  55. Steve M. - Aug 9, 2011 at 6:56 PM

    Mark'd, thanks for the auto-correct. I should have done average runs but it makes the differential on runs scored smaller and the impact of relief pitching larger when comparing runs given up also so it further emphasizes that the overall difference between the Braves and Nats is small on offense and almost identical on starting pitcher actual runs given up by the starter and emphasizes where the Braves success has been in 2011 which is the BULLPEN.One reason ERA works is it takes out unearned runs. One place it doesn't work is that it doesn't take out a lousy bullpen that allows too many inherited runners to score.So if you look at ERC and OBP which just basically takes the relief pitchers out of the equation, Jordan Zimmermann is #5 and #7 respectively in the NL and is a TRUE ACE. You don't judge him for his W/L since he has the 4th worst run support by his own offense in the league and most times a lousy bullpen behind him.If you use ERC and OBP for John LannEn he is #33 and #48 respectively in the NL and it is his high Walk count and high double play count that makes up the large differential between the 2 stats, but in my mind he is a solid #3 pitcher right now in the league. If the Nats don't get a Mark Buehrle, I think a Jason Marquis and a Chris Carpenter would be a #4 behind John Lannan.Hopefully Lannan has made us all believers. Like I said before the season started, I thought they should have traded him. Luckily Rizzo didn't.

  56. Steve M. - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    Anonymous said… I can't wait to see Rendon and Harper's bats get here. Where can Rendon realistically fit other than 3b? Is LF or 2b more likely? These guys with Morse and Zimm could be a special hitting lineup and afford us the promising but inconsistent production of Espi and Ramos with their great D. August 9, 2011 2:36 PM The Lerner's would be doing the team and Rendon a dis-service if they don't extend Zimmerman after they have ink'd Rendon. Now if Zim refuses to sign an extension, then you know where Rendon will be playing.Rendon either goes to the Minor's as a LF or as Zim's replacement at 3B and agree with JD's comment at 12:37 only if Zim doesn't sign the extension. I don't think you can go into Spring Training without the extension done.

  57. baseballswami - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    I think that Reyes' value is dropping by the day.It could be that the off-season will heal his hamstring, but speed is a huge part of his game and so it would be a big risk. I also think that a discussion about Espi and his OBP needs to take into account that this is his rookie season. He is seriously young, playing a new position for him, switch hits and has played every game. He is fantastic – but please don't expect him to be perfect. With his attitude, work ethic, and baseball IQ I think he has a huge upside for us. I can't wait to see him next year! I love talking about Zimm, Stras, LannEn going 1,2,3 next year and about what the rest of our team "could" look like. This year has not been at all what I expected, though, so who knows what next year will bring. – Morse is my biggest surprise at 1B this year – did not see that coming at all. Werth hitting as badly as he is – didn't see that coming, either. But then, he BA is higher than Adam Dunn's.

  58. Steve M. - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:08 PM

    SonnyG10 said… I agree with JaneB on Reyes and the comparison with Willingham is spot on. I think it would be a lot of money for a part time player. I would like to see our problem solved another way. August 9, 2011 2:53 PM I agree with you both. I also think this is Reyes's big year (see A. Soriano 2006) and his returns will regress going forward.I spend my money on Coco Crisp who won't be real expensive, a #3 or #4 veteran starter that I named above and stocking the bullpen with stoppers and the best LH reliever available.If I was Rizzo, the only trade I make is to maybe ship out LaRoche and Gorzelanny for prospects because if the Nats are in the thick of it on July 31, 2012, they will be buyers and will have to part with some prospects.

  59. baseballswami - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    Steve M — are intentional walks included in the "walks" numbers? I heard the on-air team talking the other day about how Lannan is not afraid of walks and almost uses them as part of his strategy since he can usually dial up a dp to erase a baserunner. I didn't know if the intentional walk is usually included, but I also know that not all walks are accidents – if you are pitching around someone and you end up getting out of the inning without the other team scoring then it doesn't matter if you walked someone. I think for most pitchers,walking someone, especially lead-off , tends to come back and bite you. But, choosing who you pitch to can just be smart pitching.

  60. baseballswami - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:16 PM

    I think Jordan Zimmermann is a perfect example of why you should not use a win-loss record to judge a pitcher. He has done a fantastic job this year and if that's all you look at, it doesn't look good. He has gotten really low run support and has had some leads blown by bullpen guys. It kind of bugs me when I hear people talking about how fast Strassie is coming back from TJ and how he is on track in a way that NO ONE has ever been. Sheesh – Jordan has been textbook. Kind of funny that he gets low run support when he probably has the highest batting average of any starting pitcher on our team. When he gets run support and no innings limit next year – look out NLEAST!

  61. fpcsteve - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    Nats Jack and Steve M., I have been interested in the discussion about Harper as a potential CF. Are CF's born or made? What would the effect of that kind of move have on Harper's hitting? Moving from C to LF to CF; that's a lot of moving around. What say you?

  62. Anonymous - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:26 PM

    Since the start of the 2009 season, Jose Reyes has played in 267 of the Mets 438 games or 61% of the Mets' games. Hard to spend earth-shaking amount of cash on player with that track record. Also, Reyes game is based upon speed, not sure if I want go all in on player that is so reliant on speed as he heads into his 30s. No doubt that the Nats have an issue filling the lead-off spot with no clear answer on the roster or in their minor league organization. Even so, just don't think the risk is worth the cost given Reyes' propensity to miss games recently.

  63. Steve M. - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    fpcsteve, I think an athletic outfielder with speed, range, instincts and an arm can play CF and some can play it better than others and is a combo of being born with ability and taught to be made better. Instinct is so important too getting that read off of the bat and Bryce Harper is learning to get better reads.Look at Ankiel, a converted pitcher. I really think Harper is a RF but would play a better CF than Werth if Rendon ends up in LF.My 2013 position players are:LF Rendon CF Harper RF Werth3B Zim SS TBD 2B Espi 1B Morse C Ramos

  64. FS - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:31 PM

    Totally against Reyes move because of all the reasons mentioned here; huge injury risk, too much money involved, and so on.Whether Rendon signs or not, Ryan should be extended to Tulo-like deal. He has injury history but that can be taken care of. Not sure how willing he will be after coming off a sub-standard season for him. Let Rendon sign first, then we will worry about his position.

  65. NatsJack in Florida - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    The fact that he's only 18 years old and has so much athletic ability leads me to believe he COULD become a CF but not without a serious learning curve. Andruw Jones was a natural when he came up at 19 or 20 but he had been playing the position all along. Harper seemed to adjust to right field fairly easily but the reports I've heard on his move to left leaves me to believe he'll have to work at whatever position they assign him.He certainly has the speed and the arm for any outfield position.

  66. BinM - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    fpcsteve: Here's a name to consider as a converted CF; Dale Murphy (CA to 1B to CF).

  67. Jeeves - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:45 PM

    I wonder if I'm the only nat's fan who thinks Deitweiler could be a very good starting pitcher for the team next year. I still remember (before injury) the excellent September he had two years ago.I also think Peacock is another possibility,although his AAA numbers are not too impressive.

  68. Steve M. - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:55 PM

    baseballswami said… Steve M — are intentional walks included in the "walks" numbers? I heard the on-air team talking the other day about how Lannan is not afraid of walks and almost uses them as part of his strategy since he can usually dial up a dp to erase a baserunner. I didn't know if the intentional walk is usually included, but I also know that not all walks are accidents – if you are pitching around someone and you end up getting out of the inning without the other team scoring then it doesn't matter if you walked someone. I think for most pitchers,walking someone, especially lead-off , tends to come back and bite you. But, choosing who you pitch to can just be smart pitching. August 9, 2011 3:12 PM While intentional walks are in the OBP, they are subtracted out of the Sabre ERC which is good. Obviously ERA doesn't count walks at all since it is a run scored matrix and LannEn makes the most of his OBP given the large disparity of John's different metrix ratings since he is 22nd in league ERA.John has improved greatly including his attitude. He believes in himself and the fielding behind him has helped his mindset. He was one of the biggest reicipient's of poor fielding in the past which isn't part of ERA but is part of mindset.John has made me into a believer in the last month and is making key pitches to get out of trouble which is the sign of a good pitcher.

  69. Anonymous - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    Harper's fielding is currently not up to major league standards in right, center or left. Which is one reason why they placed him in left. He likely just needs seasoning … BUT he is very, very young that speed could disappear as he matures. His body could definitely change. With Rendon and Harper on the way the Nats have plenty of position players and really do not need to outside except for the CF. And that doesn't mean that guy is leadoff. The notion of Jose Reyes looks attractive except he tends to underperform (see Jayson Werth) when he isn't in a contract year. For the Nats the trick is still the pitching … especially starting pitching. They will have Strasburg, Zimmermann, and Lannan … but they need one top of the heap top-of-the-rotation starter, preferably a young veteran. Not Edwin Jackson. Anibal Sanchez comes to mine. Jimmy Shields comes to mind. That I think is what they need to win and contend starting next year. That ONE pitcher because Livo just doesn't cut it.

  70. Carpe Diem - Aug 9, 2011 at 8:03 PM

    @Jeeves said… I wonder if I'm the only nat's fan who thinks Deitweiler could be a very good starting pitcher for the team next year. I still remember (before injury) the excellent September he had two years ago.August 9, 2011 3:45 PM _________________First you have to spell Detwiler's name right to be his fan.In all seriousness, even the scouts don't know what he is as most say that he doesn't have a body built to start which they said about Tim Lincecum. His numbers after the 4th inning say he isn't a starter right now. He's 25 1/2 years old so they better decide soon.

  71. Waddu eye no - Aug 9, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    Speedy McOnbase?Nothing against my forbears, but I'm not sure I'd go Irish.

  72. Steve M. - Aug 9, 2011 at 8:14 PM

    Anon @3:56, James Shields is only available on trade and will cost a ton and is a Free Agent after next year. He is another player having a career year. He is 29 years old and one of the top pitchers to be rumored to be available after the season. He has lowered his ERA by over 2 runs from last year. One of the biggest turnarounds in baseball. He will be too expensive for a mid-market team to risk that he falls back to his career averages of a back of the rotation pitcher.Now then, like Greinke, if the Nats are in it on July 31, 2012, Shields is another possibility.

  73. Steve M. - Aug 9, 2011 at 8:33 PM

    baseballswami said… I think Jordan Zimmermann is a perfect example of why you should not use a win-loss record to judge a pitcher. He has done a fantastic job this year and if that's all you look at, it doesn't look good. He has gotten really low run support and has had some leads blown by bullpen guys. It kind of bugs me when I hear people talking about how fast Strassie is coming back from TJ and how he is on track in a way that NO ONE has ever been. Sheesh – Jordan has been textbook. Kind of funny that he gets low run support when he probably has the highest batting average of any starting pitcher on our team. When he gets run support and no innings limit next year – look out NLEAST! August 9, 2011 3:16 PM Luckily you are smart enough to look beyond the easy numbers. Think of Jordan's bad luck in the one game in Nats Park where Bernadina lost the ball in the sun when it dropped and 2 runs scored. Those show up in earned runs or the game where Werth mis-read a fly to the warning track and played it off a bounce and that inning cost him 2 runs.Jordan and Livan were the 2 hard-luck pitchers this year and Marquis was the good-luck pitcher and Lannan was right there in the middle.

  74. K.D. - Aug 9, 2011 at 8:56 PM

    Overall the star of the team this year has been the Nats collective defense. Espy, Desi, Pudge, Ramos, Morse, etc. That has been brought the most joy to me. If whatever line-up that is put on field continues that trend, I'm in. Offense NEEDS to be there, defense HAS to be there.

  75. Mark'd - Aug 9, 2011 at 9:48 PM

    K.D., I think that is part of the key that offense suffered because of slumps by Werth and Desi and inability of LaRoche and absence of RZim.Defense was much improved which aided the pitching. Reliever pitching is the most depleted and neglected area of this team and the easiest to improve if Rizzo makes it an emphasis for 2012.I am sure when Mark's competition reads this it will be made into an article. Amazing how many runs have been given up by the 'pen. Shocking. If every 5 runs equals a win, I think 9 games or more have been lost and can be attributied to the names not Clippard and Storen.You can also see the frustration factor when the 'pen blows a game or LOOGYs away those runners on base. Blown saves and inherited runs happen which is why their are league averages.The Nats ERA is still better than league average as is the defense and my point is that the ERA should be Top 5. I think offense will improve to league average when you look at the team after the All Star break

  76. BinM - Aug 9, 2011 at 11:29 PM

    From the 'FWIW' department… Nationals' pitching staff – posted ERA vs I_ERA (inherited Earned Run Average). Current SP'sLivo: 4.41 vs 4.10 (5 inherited runners scored)Lannan: 3.56 vs 2.91 (10 inherited runs scored) Wang: 6.00 vs 6.00 Detwiler: 3.48 vs 3.48 Zimmermann: 3.12 vs 2.67 (7 inherited runs scored) Others Marquis: 3.95 vs 3.36 (8 IRS)Gorzelanny: 4.46 vs 4.35 (1 IRS)Maya: 5.40 vs 3.96 (4 IRS)The current bullpen… Gorzelanny: 5.07 vs 5.07 (1-0 with Inherited runners / runs allowed) Balester: 4.59 vs 5.17 (1-1) Rodriguez: 4.57 vs 5.66 (15-5)Coffey: 4.40 vs 5.00 (21-3) Burnett: 4.79 vs 8.71 (35-18) Mattheus: 2.55 vs 4.38 (21-5) Clippard: 1.56 vs 2.84 (39-9) Storen 2.75 vs 2.75 (6-0) Others Slaten: 2.19 vs 13.14 (28-15) Kimball: 1.93 vs 4.50 (5-4) Stammen: 4.50 vs 4.50 (0-0) Detwiler: 1.80 vs 2.70 (4-1)Broderick: 6.57 vs 10.22 (5-5) Gaudin: 6.48 vs 7.56 (7-1)

  77. Anonymous - Aug 10, 2011 at 7:36 AM

    What about trying Lombardozzi or Desmond back in CF until Harper is ready? I also hope Rendon is ready sometime in 2013 and would guess he'll be a 2B. I would cut our losses with LaRoche, he's only an average player anyway. Morse is playing like Pujols Jr. and comfortable at 1B because he used to be an infielder (SS).I'd spend our money on 1 more good #3, #4 SP, and 2 more good relievers who can pitch in the 6th and 7th innings. Clip and Storen are money in the 8th and 9th. I fear Henry Rod will never learn to harness his wildness and I don't trust Burnett anymore. Maybe Milone or Peacock as long relievers next year?20121 Lombardozzi 2B2 Werth RF3 Zimm 3B4 Morse 1B5 Espinosa SS6 Free Agent LF – easier to find7 Ramos C8 Ankiel CFStrasburg, Zimmnn, FA Starter, Lannan, Wang/Detwiler20131 Lombardozzi CF2 Rendon 2B3 Zimm 3B4 Morse 1B5 Harper LF6 Werth RF7 Espinosa SS8 Ramos C That's a lineup that can compete vs. the Phillies and Braves

  78. Anonymous - Aug 18, 2011 at 1:56 AM

    Well ideally, Harper is up by the all-star break and taking over left, LaRoche has proven healthy and trade-able for a prospect or two, with Morse moving back to 1st. Center… I'd love to get Kemp from the Dodgers. Juan Pierre is a FA, and might not be a bad short term solution. I'd like to keep Ankiel as a vet outfielder on the bench.Ramos, Morse, Espinosa, Desmond, Zimmerman is a solid infield. The pitching staff is looking good with a Strasburg, Zimmerman, Lannan, Wang, Detwiler rotation with Clippard and Storen in the bullpen looks pretty well set. Maybe Livan stays on as a vet to plug in if any injuries in the rotation. Middle relief assortment of Slaten, Rodriguez, Mattheus, Gorzelanny, Coffey, Burnett is fine.Really, the Nats are looking like they've got things in place for the most part moving forward. They can focus all of their offseason energy into addressing center field. And yes I think they can compete for a wild card spot with what they have. They've actually assembled a solid, young team can well continue to improve as individuals and as a team.

  79. Anonymous - Mar 10, 2012 at 12:17 AM

    The nats will win the series duh.Bryce harpers an opening day starter and strasburg gonzalez, jackson, zimmermann is perfect this lineup is done

Archives

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter