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Improved bench a must

Dec 1, 2011, 12:00 PM EST

US Presswire photo
Laynce Nix was one of several Nationals who struggled as pinch-hitters this year.

For all the attention we've given so far this offseason to the Nationals' desire to acquire a veteran starting pitcher and a starting center fielder, we should be careful not to overlook another roster dynamic desperately in need of a major upgrade: The bench.

It may not seem as important as a deep rotation or a bolstered lineup, but there's no portion of the Nationals' roster that needs more improvement than its bench. Don't believe that? Have you looked at the numbers from this season?

Nationals pinch-hitters batted a collective .186 (38-for-204). And that's not even the most pathetic stat associated with that role. Those same pinch-hitters combined to drive in 14 runs (fewest in the NL) while producing a whopping five extra-base hits for the season (leading to a .240 slugging percentage).

Having trouble coming to grips with those anemic numbers? Wait, it gets even worse.

Let's look only at the five batters who were most-often called upon by Jim Riggleman and Davey Johnson in pinch-hitting situations: MattRead more »

101 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. MurrayTheRed - Dec 1, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    Wow! I knew Stairs was a waste, but I had thought Nix was pretty good. Amazing article Mark, thanks.

  2. MicheleS - Dec 1, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    What's out there that can actually be an upgrade over last year? Just wondering, because some of the names bandied about don't seem much better than Ankiel or Nix when they are healthy. I know that anything is better than Stairs

  3. Gonat - Dec 1, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    I re-read posts from Spring Training last year about the bench where many astute members saw that putting Stairs and Nix on the roster was a bad move and most favored Bernadina and Nix.As we know, that didn't happen. Stairs was a major failure and that is on Rizzo because as we would find in clues Riggleman wanted no part of Stares.Adding Gomes to the roster later in the year just made the "bench" numbers look even worse.This is why you spend money for players that can add to starter depth and spend time on the bench.I see 3 of the 5 spots going to Flores, Lombardozzi and Bernadina. I think Nix makes sense for the 4th spot. If the team adds Crisp and then subsequently finds another centerfielder you have Crisp off the bench. Yes, Crisp is expensive. The other thought mentioned if he was ready is Tyler Moore to be the RH bat off the bench. Not sure he is ready.

  4. Steady Eddie - Dec 1, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Murray — Nix was pretty good while he was healthy enough to start. He was terrible in the latter part of the season (after June)when his injuries relegated him to the bench, and an occasional pinch hitter's role.

  5. Anonymous - Dec 1, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    When something as ridiculous as Pinch Hit Leverage Index is in the conversation, something is wrong. A total of 200 AB's? If a guy comes in as part of a double switch, which happens at least as often in an NL game as the pinch hitter, that does count in the pile for this loopy index. Most pinch hitters are lousy. They come in cold against late inning relievers with great stuff. I am guessing that the clubs that do well in this index vary widly from year to year, as it is more luck and match-up and situation of the game than anything esle.The value of a solid bnech is not so much for the random pinch hit opportunity, but for overall depth. To be able to stack RHB's against a tough lefty, provide days off for starters without much fall off, have that back-up catcher who can get you an RBI. Be ready for an injury. Etc.The club needs a better bench, of course, but what it really needs is better results from its set of starting players, the guys who are getting a LOT more than 200 AB's over the course of a season. The Nats cannot blame their awful 2011 offense on pinch hitters so much as they can on Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth and every other OF bat stinking it up all summer in the thousands of AB's they had.dfh21

  6. Steady Eddie - Dec 1, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    And oh, yeah — add my praise, Mark, to Murray's for the kind of characteristically insightful article like this one that you won't find anywhere else.Seems to me that the Nats' core offensive problem wasn't so much a failure to get hits at all — if you could find stats for it, I doubt the Nats had a lot more 4-6 hit losses than the average NL team — but was their appalling failue to hit with RISP, which is the kind of high leverage situation Mark was talking about ( though the RISP problem was as big with starters as later in the game with pinch hitters). But I hadn't realized bench hitting was was such a big part of the problem.

  7. Joe S. - Dec 1, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    It's not as bad as Mark says. If you take Stairs' truly abysmal numbers away (remember, he got the plurality of PH ABs), you get a bench that is merely mediocre. And also remember: Riggleman (and maybe Rizzo) wanted a glove bench. A player who is both good glove and good bat is likely to be a starter or at least a supersub. So it won't be hard to get a much better hitting bench, if the Nats want it.

  8. NatsLady - Dec 1, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    I don't see Flores on the bench for long. He's too good a trade chip. Also, I have to agree with dfh21 on this one. Good players are not on the bench, they are playing. If a team has a good bench, then they should be looking for trades, because it's a waste. Yeah, it's exciting when a pinch hit wins a game, but it's better not to be in that situation in the first place.

  9. baseballswami - Dec 1, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    Mixed feelings on this. I think Nix would have been pretty good had he stayed healthy. Stairs was truly one of the worst decisions ever in NatsTown. I also think that the bench has to have defensive versatility, not just hitting abilities. Often our players that entered late in the game were inserted for speed ( Bixler) or defensive reasons ( Bernadina, Ankiel) – and not primarily for a big hit.I don't think you can evaluate solely on BA if they entered for other reasons. Wondering what will happen to the bench philosophy now – will the regular position players remain in the game to play defense or run for themselves? Will the bench be only capable of hitting and will we lose the defensive versatility? I just don't think this is a one-skill issue.

  10. Steady Eddie - Dec 1, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    Nats Lady — I doubt Mark would argue with the point that dfh and I both madde, that the RISP problem is at least as much with the starters as the bench. But (apsrt from Stairs being iseless in the one capacity he was here for) Joe S. may have the key. Toggle man wanted a glove bench and wasn't necessarily wrong early in the season — Cora filling in for RZim was huge. But we now have enough developed depth on the farm that we can counter a DL contingency with a credible call up, and have a bat bench instead. Which means that much as we like his glove and love his arm, Ankiel may not moot make this bench.

  11. Anonymous8 - Dec 1, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    NatsLady, many teams are going with 4 starting outfielders so you always have 1 good outfielder on the bench. Some go 5 deep in the outfield like the Cardinals.The Tigers are rumored to want to add either Cespedes or Coco Crisp to go 4 deep in their outfield with Austin Jackson, Boesch and Delmon Young.

  12. Mark Zuckerman - Dec 1, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Joe S. said…It's not as bad as Mark says. If you take Stairs' truly abysmal numbers away (remember, he got the plurality of PH ABs), you get a bench that is merely mediocre.Not true. Stats for the five most-used Nats pinch-hitters:Stairs (6-for-39, .154 AVG, .283 OBP)Cora (6-for-32, .188 AVG, .278 OBP)Nix (4-for-29, .138 AVG, .235 OBP)Bixler (4-for-20, .200 AVG, .238 OBP)Gomes (0-for-13, .000 AVG, .222 OBP)

  13. Steady Eddie - Dec 1, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    Sometimes iPhone autocomplete is kind of funny — "Toggle man" does kind of fit the double switch king. Bswami, that also explains why Riggleman needed so many late defensive replacements. A largely glove bench is less necessary if you tend more to keep your starters in longer, and not double switch out your bigger bats, like Nix (when he was a starter) and Morse when you take your SP out in the sixth.

  14. Mark'd - Dec 1, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    To borrow a line someone used before, Nix as a starter was a 1st half stud and a 2nd half dud. Never good as a PH but still productive in 1st half. Yes, mostly due to injury. He may be worth bringing back as the LH power bat. For anyone who acts surprised by these stats, they have been discussed in the comments section hundreds if times and even yesterday.Part of the Marrero discussion was also as his role in 2012 as a bench guy.

  15. Unkyd - Dec 1, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    Eddie… Somebody put up a very edifying post, back in August/September, that showed, with a lot of statistical legwork, that our RISP numbers were actually in line with our overall team batting. The RISP seemed worse, because we groan louder, and break more stuff, when we fail in those situations, but the problem was less about clutch hitting, specifically, than about batting, in general. Keys hope that our vets return to their mean, our youngsters show a little more discretion, and Riz can insert a real producer, at CF, as well as a couple of bench guys who can each play 2 or 3 games a week, and help keep everybody sharp

  16. Unkyd - Dec 1, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    Let's……let's hope our vets…….

  17. nattydread - Dec 1, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    Great post Mark.Twenty more hits in 200 PH at bats might have won 4-5 more games, especially given the high leverage situations. Remember how many one run games we had!Choosing the hot hand is a managerial skill, though. Both Riggleman and Davey had problems here. They should get part of the blame.

  18. greg - Dec 1, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    if you look at the numbers, it's pretty hard to presume there was *ever* a "hot hand" as a pinch hitter. it's hard to blame either manager for not choosing something that didn't exist.

  19. Anonymous8 - Dec 1, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    nattydread, if Stares could have come through with contact a few more times instead of looking at strikes I can think of a couple of instances of wins instead of losses.Personally I think the days of specialty Pinch-hitters like Stairs is a thing of the past. It is getting more players who are 1A types like Reed Johnson, Coco Crisp, and Rick Ankiel. These are the guys who will get into 140 games and maybe only start 80.

  20. Gonat - Dec 1, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    greg said… if you look at the numbers, it's pretty hard to presume there was *ever* a "hot hand" as a pinch hitter. it's hard to blame either manager for not choosing something that didn't exist. December 1, 2011 9:30 AM __________________________________Model off of these teams:Reds: Pinch Hitter Hits – 61, Cards: Pinch Hitter Hits – 51,Mets: Pinch Hitter Hits – 54, Phillies: Pinch Hitter Hits – 54, Brewers: Pinch Hitter Hits – 49,

  21. Anonymous - Dec 1, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    Guys, no one can argue that the club does not need better bench players, but Zuck is off-base. "It may not seem as important as a deep rotation or a bolstered lineup, but there's no portion of the Nationals' roster that needs more improvement than its bench." That is some crazy talk. The bench is not as important as the rotation or the lineup; it just isn't. Do Championship clubs need a great bench, yes, of course. But it is the starting, everyday players that count the most. Justin Upton is more important to the D-Bax than Wille Bloomquist.The Nats had 4 guys K more than 125 times (Ankiel manaaged almost 100 and Nix had 80 in less than full time duty but largely as starting players). No one could get on at the top of the order and the guys in the middle were largely hitting .220. Espi and Desi combined for more than 300 K's, and something like 1,300 plate appearances for 95 EXH and less than 95 BB's. The club did not hit for power or for average and did not excel with RISP. The lineup was so bad that Wilson Ramos was batting 5th a lot and hitting something like .205 in that spot. The Nats finished in the bottom third of almost every offensive category. They had over 5,400 AB's last season; the 200 lousy ones from pinch hitters is not what killed the Nats in 2011.dfh21

  22. Exposremains - Dec 1, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    I don't know if it's possible to calculate but how many runs did they save with their gloves?

  23. Gonat - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:03 PM

    http://www.fannation.com/truth_and_rumors/view/319079The story on the Tigers quest for 4 top outfielders.

  24. Tcostant - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    The pinch hitters have many of the same issues as the "regulars"; they swing and miss to much. This is one of the worse teams I've ever seen at getting that run home with less than two outs and a guy on 3B. Maybe I'm just too old, but I'd like a batter to take a different approach (chock up, shorten there shwing, ect.) with two strikes; it the route of a lot of these issues.

  25. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimsitic_For_Me - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    Mark Z wrote: Stats for the five most-used Nats pinch-hitters:Stairs (6-for-39, .154 AVG, .283 OBP)Stares actually got six pinch-hits? Wow. I don't remember a single one.

  26. Feel Wood - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    Guys, no one can argue that the club does not need better bench players, but Zuck is off-base. "It may not seem as important as a deep rotation or a bolstered lineup, but there's no portion of the Nationals' roster that needs more improvement than its bench." That is some crazy talk. The bench is not as important as the rotation or the lineup; it just isn't.Zuckerman is not saying that the bench is more important than the rotation or the lineup. He's saying that for the Nats in this offseason improvement on the bench is more important than improvement on the rotation or the lineup. And he's right.

  27. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    "but there's no portion of the Nationals' roster that needs more improvement than its bench."Starting 8? Infield is set at 3rd, 2nd, 1st, and ss if you don't hate Desmond, catcher is good, and both corner OF spots are spoken for. They need one guy, assuming Ankiel is Plan B at best. Since it looks like BJ Upton is going to be available, let's say he's the fallback if they can't get someone better. That's not awful.Rotation? Znn, Strasburg, Wang, LannEn, and LHSPTBNL, with youngsters in the pipeline. Still want Buehrle or somebody like him, but even so, that's not awful.Bullpen? Please.So what other part of the roster needs more improvement? Bench. Which is what Mark wrote.

  28. Mark Zuckerman - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    Actually, I'm neither saying that the bench is more important than the rotation or lineup, nor that the improvement of the bench is more important than the improvement of the rotation or lineup.What I am saying is that the Nats' bench is in need of more improvement than any other aspect of their roster.Think of it this way: If you gave a rating from 1-10 on the quality of each part of the roster, I'd say it would look something like this:Lineup: 4Rotation: 7Bullpen: 8Bench: 1Does the lineup need to improve by a couple of ticks? Yes. Would it be nice for the rotation to improve a bit? Sure.But no part of the Nats' roster needs an overhaul more than their bench. If you're going to improve from a 1 to even a 5, that requires a major overhaul.That's the point I'm trying to make.

  29. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    Stares actually got six pinch-hits? Wow. I don't remember a single one. I remember seeing the double off the wall in right, and thinking that the sad thing was, he really did get all of that one. Even two years ago, it would have been in the upper deck.

  30. Mark Zuckerman - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    Thanks, Sec3. I didn't see your comment (which basically made the same point I did) until after I had posted mine.

  31. NatsLady - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    Stairs got a pinch hit that won a game. That probably kept him on the roster for far longer than he should have been…

  32. Steve M. - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    dfh21, yes, I agree that the bench depth is last in priority after the starting rotation, starting 8 position players and then the bullpen but when it is totally overlooked or thrown together like last years redundant LH group, it spells problems.Hairston was a good performer and the rest were an inconsistent group. Gomes came in to give some RH pop off the bench but couldn't find a hit as a pinch-hitter.I like the 4 starting outfield concept that many teams are using. Milwaukee and the Cardinals used it to win many games. Rizzo needs to look at that model.

  33. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimsitic_For_Me - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    @Sec3: Now that you mention it, you're right. Bat speed had slowed to a crawl. From the get-go, Stares made no sense: a 42-year-old one-dimensional specialist who had lost it.Has anyone figured out who gets the credit/blame for this? Was he Riggs' guy (I can't imagine). Or did Rizzo just lose it? Gomes reminds me of Stares Lite.

  34. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    @MZ, yw. We were probably typing at the same time, but you said it better.

  35. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    Although I do think you are selling the starters a bit short with a 4.

  36. Steve M. - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    I think the big hit was in the Pittsburgh game on July 1st where Stares had Cora on 3rd with 1 out and just needed a fly ball to win and hit the long single off of the wall in rightfield.It wasn't a high pressure situation for a pinch hitter.It took him that long to produce his 1st meaningful RBI of the 2 he had all season. His other RBI was on June 28th in a blowout loss.His 1 double was in Baltimore in a blowout loss. That was his only extra base hit of his entire season here.

  37. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    SteveM, thanks, I think it was the long single I had in mind, not the double.

  38. Steve M. - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    Mark Zuckerman said… Think of it this way: If you gave a rating from 1-10 on the quality of each part of the roster, I'd say it would look something like this:Lineup: 4Rotation: 7Bullpen: 8Bench: 1That is a good rating system although if that was a 1 in 2011, the bench in 2010 with Maxwell seemed like a 0. Rizzo dropped the ball on Day 1 when he put Stares on the roster and didn't have a big RH bat. He had Nix as his big LH bat and no team speed on the bench.This year he can improve but he needs to spend some money. I like the idea of 4 quality outfielders especially where Werth can get some more days off. I think Werth sat 12 games because of injury which shortened the bench by 1 player. I can see Flores, Bernadina and Lombo as 3 of the 5 bench guys. You need to add 2 bigger bats and 1 needs to be LH and 1 RH in addition to the last roster spot for position players in the outfield.Essentially there are 3 spots to fill for position players and 2 are guys off the bench.

  39. sm13 - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    Jerry Hairston would help fill multiple bench issues. He proved whether a pro he is and how versatile he can be during his 1/2 season here.

  40. sm13 - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    Jerry Hairston would help fill multiple bench issues. He proved whether a pro he is and how versatile he can be during his 1/2 season here.

  41. Steve M. - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    Sec3, it was a walk-off single so it felt like a double when he clanked it off the wall. Cora scored from 3rd so Stares only had to touch 1st base. As slow as he is, you have to wonder if he needed to if he could have legged it to 2nd base.

  42. Gonat - Dec 1, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    Sm13, agreed on Jerry Hairston although he made some nasty comments on his way out the door and may have burned a bridge. I agree that Lombo needs to fill that void.

  43. Bups - Dec 1, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    Lots of needs for the bench as the pinch hitting last year was pathetic. The Nats gave away their only reliable sub–Jerry Hairston. It seems like the ever cautious Rizzo is once again sitting on his hands this winter and will end up having to do the usual dumpster dipping in January. That's why we end up with players like Matty Stairs and Brian Bixler. They come cheap and no one else wants them.

  44. Anonymous - Dec 1, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    Lombardozzi's stick is much too weak to have any value as a pinch hitter. He is good defensively but I doubt he will ever hit major league pitching. I'd trade him to the O's, who are looking for a second baseman, while he still has some trade value.

  45. Anonymous8 - Dec 1, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    http://districtondeck.com/2011/12/01/some-center-field-options-to-consider/On the outfield subject. They mention Josh Willingham as a corner outfielder. Its not a crazy idea at all especially to think against LH pitching he plays LF and Morse to 1st. It would be a very expensive option to only start Willingham twice a week and come off of the bench but would certainly be a big jolt to a troubled offense.

  46. Unkyd - Dec 1, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    Waitaminnit….. I thought Lombo has hit well, at every level… Where's this "weak stick" stuff coming from?

  47. Gonat - Dec 1, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    Anon at 11:06, you are selling Lombo short as you have only seen him in a few games and when you say weak I'm not sure if you mean in strength or in ability. Some have thought of him as the Nats starting 2nd baseman if they moved Espi to SS, I don't see that right now.I just think he could fill that Hairston void. All pinch-hitters don't have to be power guys. Some singles would be nice in key spots.

  48. Anonymous - Dec 1, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    I still think Zuck is wrong. Crappy pinch hitting was a reality as Zuck explains, but he's showing you exactly how moldy that deck chair on the Nats' shipwreck has been. It is not a huge problem relatively speaking.Zuck's ratings above seem pretty fair but they are not properly weighted. And the lineup needs more than a couple of ticks of improvement. It was terrible.The rotation and the lineup are the foundation, the bench is less important than either by a mile. A club assembles its bench to compliment its starters. Parse it out in any semantic way you want, the lineup was the biggest problem for the Nats in 2011, it needs the most improvement for hte club to win in 2012. Without a quality lineup, who cares who comes off the bench. Maybe the moves needed are fewer, but they are the most important. It is a higher priority than the bench, and the bench is not even number 2 on the priority list in my mind. Lead-off and a quality 2-hole hitter are what the club needs the most (3 through 8 they can cover if guys perfrom within reasonable expectation). Top end rotation help is next. The Nats have something like 5 No. 4 starters right now, but with Stras on an innings limit and Zimermann just coming off of one, Wang a big questions mark, no true Ace). A healthy guy who has a track record of throwing 200 innings of sub 4 ERA ball; they need one of those guys before they worry about the 5th OF.Rizzo is trying like crazy to get a CF who can lead-off, because 600+ PA from a quality guy there is more important to the club by a country mile compared to the 50 potential PH AB's some guy on the bench might have (the bench guys are largely selected based upon the defensive flexibility and baserunning capability they bring anyway, with one true PH specialist in tow). The lineup stunk. SP was good, the bullpen great, defense midling, etc. Give them whatever ratings you want. But the big problem was that the team could not score, not so much that it could not score when it had to go to a pinch hitter. dfh21

  49. JamesFan - Dec 1, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    Bench is very important and the Nats bench last year was weak. Five players must include (1) a back-up catcher (Flores), (2) a solid defensive infielder who can play multiple positions. If he can hit even better. (probably Lombo but maybe a FA). (3) A defensive outfielder (I like Ankiel over Bernie because he has a better arm, better overall ball chaser and hits about the same). (5) I don't like Nix for the last position because he gets hurt and fades as the year progresses. This fifth position is where we need a guy who can play the outfield or infield but gets on base and doesn't strike out a ton.

  50. Gonat - Dec 1, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    JamesFan, am I reading it wrong? Looks like you numbered to 5 and only listed 4.

  51. natsfan1a - Dec 1, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    The only remark I recall seeing quoted upon his exit was something to the effect that it was great to be going to a winning team. That struck me as honest but not nasty (the Brewers were headed for the playoffs, the Nats not so much). Was there something I missed? Source please, if so.Gonat said… Sm13, agreed on Jerry Hairston although he made some nasty comments on his way out the door and may have burned a bridge. I agree that Lombo needs to fill that void. December 1, 2011 11:00 AM

  52. Steve M. - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    dfh21 is correct in many ways. It is about team offense and scoring 70 to 80 more runs which will be the differential needed to get in the Wild Card picture.Those 70 to 80 runs will bring the Nats to the NL average and about 12% improvement.Too many are looking at the bench as pinch hitters and really this bench has to be constructed as 1A starters. No more of the one dimensional Stares types. This is why Dombrowski in Detroit realizes part of the Tigers fail to go further in the playoffs last year was their team depth in position players which is why they are looking at Coco Crisp.Rizzo should be all over Crisp. Switch hitter, fast, athletic, intangibles. Expensive but won't break the bank. He is the backup if Desmond can't leadoff and can start or come off of the bench.Crisp should be priority #1 just in case nothing else pans out. I say that because many think a healthy LaRoche, a healthy Zim and a better Werth will provide the runs the team needs. All that is fine in hope and wishful thinking, but the leadoff was the WEAK link last year and if they rely on Desmond they better have a Plan B so Crisp is that added insurance.

  53. Anonymous - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    I think the philosophy of getting veteran players who could play defense, rule the clubhouse for Riggleman didn't really work.I notice nowhere in this was Hairston mentioned yet he was a part of the bench and the best of the bunch in my opinion. Yet a below average third baseman defensively. Too many balls got by that guy. And Bernadina was sent to the minors for too long … This year instead of the Riggleman mantra of "Respect the veterans, respect the game" which means play the veterans no matter what …we may get to see some of the younger players fill those bench roles.Players such as Stephen Lombardozzi, Bernadina, and it would have been nice if they had managed to keep Antonelli now with the Orioles. There's also a new kid named Harper. I sure hope it isn't Mark DeRosa.

  54. Anonymous - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    Crisp should be priority #1 just in case nothing else pans out. I say that because many think a healthy LaRoche, He's not. Why? Again Johnson told Boswell (doesn't anyone read his chats) that his outfield has Jayson Werth in CF, Michael Morse in LF/RF, and Bryce Harper in RF/LF. Forget Crisp.

  55. Anonymous - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    And Lombardozzi should get a chance to leadoff. That is what he did in the minors right? Not an outsider like Crisp.

  56. Anonymous - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:29 PM

    (1) a back-up catcher (Flores), I think you mean Jhonatan Solano.

  57. MicheleS - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:33 PM

    Anon 12:27…People should also read Boz's Article today… rather enlightening… especially the relationship between Boz and Davey.http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/at-baseball-winter-meetings-nationals-mike-rizzo-is-usually-predictably-unpredictable/2011/11/30/gIQA1WSIEO_story.html

  58. Hopeful_2012 - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:34 PM

    Bench is easy:Backup catcher – Flores*Backup infielder 1 – LombardozziBackup infielder 2 – Carlos Guillen or Mark DeRosaBackup outfielder 1 – BernadinaBackup outfielder 2 – Ankiel (resign him now!)* If not Flores then Solano

  59. Gonat - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    Anonymous said… Crisp should be priority #1 just in case nothing else pans out. I say that because many think a healthy LaRoche, He's not. Why? Again Johnson told Boswell (doesn't anyone read his chats) that his outfield has Jayson Werth in CF, Michael Morse in LF/RF, and Bryce Harper in RF/LF. Forget Crisp. December 1, 2011 12:27 PM ______________________________I don't see it like that on Opening Day. Maybe on July 1st. It is banking on Harper being an impact guy and if you think Jayson Werth felt pressure last year, BHarp will feel like the weight of DC is on him.Better have a Plan B in place Anon….

  60. Water23 - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:42 PM

    Just a thought but maybe we can do a Riggles double-switch that actually helps out both starters and bench. Signing Fielder (4 years $90 Million) allows us to use LaRoche as a OF/CI/PH. He would be expensive but he gets on base and would actually be a decent late-inning defensive replacement.

  61. Gonat - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:42 PM

    Hopeful_2012 said… Bench is easy:Backup catcher – Flores*Backup infielder 1 – LombardozziBackup infielder 2 – Carlos Guillen or Mark DeRosaBackup outfielder 1 – BernadinaBackup outfielder 2 – Ankiel (resign him now!)* If not Flores then Solano December 1, 2011 12:34 PM ____________________________Look who the Tigers are trying to put in place of Guillen on the bench, Coco Crisp. Yes, one is an infielder and 1 an outfielder. If you have Lombardozzi you have your extra infielder. Backup catcher – Flores*Backup infielder 1 – LombardozziBackup infielder 2 – Tyler Moore (RH Power hitter)Backup outfielder 1 – BernadinaBackup outfielder 2 – CrispThat gives you 2 switch hitters, 2 RH, and 1 LH. When Bryce Harper comes up, Bernadina is optioned.

  62. Steve M. - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:54 PM

    Anonymous said… And Lombardozzi should get a chance to leadoff. That is what he did in the minors right? Not an outsider like Crisp. December 1, 2011 12:28 PM One Anon says get rid of Lombo and another Anon wants him to leadoff.This isn't your 2008 Nats any more. Can't try experimenting when you are trying to make the playoffs.Fine if you want to go with Desmond at the leadoff, just have a Plan B. Coco Crisp is the guy. Lombo may be the leadoff of the future but let him earn his stripes.My bench is Flores, Lombo, Bernadina, Crisp and another new acquistion.If the Nats pick up Cespedes, not sure what level he starts at.There also has to be a strategy in place on who goes when Bryce Harper is called up.If the Nats don't have a better option at CF, then Werth stays in RF and Crisp becomes the starting CF.

  63. Water23 - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    Gonat,Decent solution but I think that Bernadina is out of options. He would have to be DFA'd or traded.

  64. The Great Unwashed - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    Water23,Fielder is looking for a deal a lot longer than four years. Just so you know.

  65. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    I don't know which chat Boswell wrote that in–I don't remember it–but here is something he did write (Winter meetings/Rizzo):“'We can contend for the playoffs next year right where we are, with a couple of tweaks. We’re one player, maybe two players, away from being a strong team,' Johnson said.""What Johnson really wants from Santa Rizzo is a vastly better-hitting bench because, last year, the one he inherited “was horrendous.” The Nats endured 1,564 at-bats from players listed by baseball-reference.com as their bench; they hit a combined .203 with a pathetic 20 homers. A good bench would produce 100 extra hits and 20 more home runs in the same at-bats."

  66. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 1, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    …which sounds a lot like your extra 100 runs.

  67. Water23 - Dec 1, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    Great Unwashed,I know, I know but a 3 or 4 year deal may also work for him. It gives him two bites at the FA apple. I am not sure he would go for it but you might lay it out as an option to him.

  68. Mick - Dec 1, 2011 at 6:16 PM

    Great post by Mark and spot on. I agree with what Mike Wallace said last week to Phil Wood, Nats pitching is fine as it is, put all efforts on offense period.

  69. NatsLady - Dec 1, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    Didn't Coco Crisp say he would not want to play for an East Coast team? I doubt he comes here, there must be teams closer to home that can offer him a good paycheck.

  70. Gonat - Dec 1, 2011 at 6:42 PM

    NatsLady, Crisp said something like that. He played for the Red Sox and has never played National League ball.I wouldn't say Detroit is a West Coast team. Time for Rizzo to get him so we aren't sitting here at March 25th wondering if Bryce Harper has to be rushed to the Majors.

  71. Feel Wood - Dec 1, 2011 at 6:47 PM

    Just a thought but maybe we can do a Riggles double-switch that actually helps out both starters and bench. Signing Fielder (4 years $90 Million) allows us to use LaRoche as a OF/CI/PH.LaRoche has played a total of 1032 major league games for five different teams. You know how many of these were at a position other than first base (or occasional DH)?(a) Zero(b) Zip(c) Nada(d) None(e) All of the above.Exactly what do you think would be gained by sticking him in the outfield now?

  72. Hopeful 2012 - Dec 1, 2011 at 6:56 PM

    @ Gonat Look who the Tigers are trying to put in place of Guillen on the bench, Coco Crisp. Yes, one is an infielder and 1 an outfielder. If you have Lombardozzi you have your extra infielder. Backup catcher – Flores*Backup infielder 1 – LombardozziBackup infielder 2 – Tyler Moore (RH Power hitter)Backup outfielder 1 – BernadinaBackup outfielder 2 – CrispThat gives you 2 switch hitters, 2 RH, and 1 LH. When Bryce Harper comes up, Bernadina is optioned. 1) Crisp said he will only play on the West Coast now, so Tigers are even barking up the wrong tree.2) Bernie is out of options so that is a no go3) with a thin bench Moore is not going to be helpful because he can only play 1 position. Davey needs and likes guys who can play multiple positions so others can get days off. Morse is the backup 1B anyway so no need to carry three of them! A lineup with only one back infielder is horrible. sorry but nice try!

  73. NatsLady - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:03 PM

    LaRoche is not going to play OF. He himself said he is "too slow." He has a GREAT infielder's glove, why would you put him in a position he can't play?

  74. Will - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:11 PM

    Don't mind the troll. Fielder's starting asking price will be double that (8 years/$180mil), and there's no chance LaRoche at 32 reinvents himself as a speedy CFer. There's no reason to entertain such absurd claims.

  75. Exposremains - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:14 PM

    One thing I don't understand is assuming that Laroche will come back and hit his career norm after not playing for a year.

  76. Unkyd - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:16 PM

    Hopeful: 1) Crisp said he will only play on the West Coast now, so Tigers are even barking up the wrong tree.———————-We should all agree that anytime we see/hear the phrases: won't play/will only play, or anything that appears to be absolute, we can accurately interpret that to mean "I'd rather not……wait-how much $$ did you say?!". Even in our casual discussions, it makes no sense at all to take anyone at their word, in these matters.

  77. Anonymous - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:32 PM

    I think that LaRoche is going to be a very solid additon to hte club. He plays a very nice 1B, and his pretty LH swing should push out something like 25 HR's at .275 and 80+ RBI. Zim, LaRoche, Morse, Werth, Espi, Ramos is a nice 3-8; it's the top two that give us fits. IF Rizzo can land the CF lead-off man, and move Desmond in trade for something we need (pitching, depth, prospect(s), whatever), then maybe Span or Crisp or Burjos (maybe a Juan Pierre playing LF if Werth can do CF) and Lombo at the top (Espi to SS)? That lineup might score nicely and defend well too.dfh21

  78. Steve M. - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:35 PM

    Unkyd, that's exactly what it means—Money talks. Crisp played in Boston and Washington is a good town to play in.I give that as much serious talk as the player who says "I want to stay right here for the rest of my career" until they leave on the biggest meal ticket out of town.

  79. Scooter - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:36 PM

    UnkyD, I'm with you.Now, the Nats are not the Yanks, and Crisp is not Sabathia, but just three years ago Carsten Charles really really wanted to pitch on the west coast. We saw where he ended up.

  80. Scooter - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    And Adam Dunn didn't want to play in the AL. (No, he didn't do it well. But he did it.)

  81. Steve M. - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    dfh21, you amongst others thinking Rizzo will trade away Desmond won't happen unless they get Jose' Reyes.Davey really likes Desmond. I wouldn't say Desmond is protected, just doubtful.

  82. Steve M. - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:47 PM

    Scooter, 2 good examples.

  83. jeff550 - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    This is what I think the bench should be next yearJesus FloresCody RossRoger BernadinaJerry HairstonGreg DobbsI think this bench gives you a good mix of defense, power, and average/OBP. I also think that all these guys could be had on 1 year deals, so they wouldnt eat of space long term. Also, the Nationals should sign Cuddyer, and move Werth to CF. That way you give Harper time to finish his devlopemnt in the minors, and Harper will be ready right about the time Adam LaRoche is traded, allowing Morse to move to 1B

  84. Iceman - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:59 PM

    Is the Cuban slugger Cespedes the real deal?

  85. Anonymous - Dec 1, 2011 at 8:23 PM

    Steve M. — I think that you're right, that the Nats will not move Desmond unless they land a FA middle infielder (but I don't think it has to be Reyes). They may chase Furcal or Rollins, or use Desmond in trade to get a Span or Buorjos, who knows. Maybe they go for DeRosa to play 2B on a 2 year deal, using him as a utility guy in 2013, and move Espinosa to SS, that approach would make Ian movable too. Desmond may get it all together and wow us, he is wicked talented, but he needs to do that now, he has to look great in ST and he needs to start well too. Espi can play SS, he's a switch and he has power, and they have Lombo and Rendon down the line for 2B. Unless Desmond figures out a way to get to 1B, his tenure as a MLB player is going to end very soon. He does not hit enough to play a corner, he's not skilled at getting on, his glove is not strong enough to carry him on its own at SS and he's never played CF. I do think that Johnson loves the kid's make-up, but I don't think that Johnson loves the guy so much that he'll suffer Desmond not hitting or not making the plays at SS that he has to make. Davey is here to win ball games.dfh21

  86. Unkyd - Dec 1, 2011 at 9:03 PM

    I guess I'll have to admit that, My Boy's window will close, rather abruptly, at some point this year, if he doesn't find an effective way to bat, and be on base, where he can be so disruptive. Since he became a Daddy, the glove has been there. If he bats like Sept. last season, he can play here for a long time…

  87. Unkyd - Dec 1, 2011 at 9:05 PM

    captcha: coptic…..Are we scouting any Egyptians?

  88. Anonymous - Dec 1, 2011 at 9:11 PM

    The Nats aren't moving Desmond because: Davey Johnson put him at shortstop in the majors. Riggleman wanted him to be a UTL. Which occurred? Who is the current manager of the Nats? Yes Espinosa can play shortstop, second base and I bet he'd be gold glove at third base. But HIS challenge is the platoon-bat. He has yet to prove he is viable as a switch hitter. So, it's likely Davey wants him to concentrate on that, wants him to focus on that. One guy who will likely make the starting 24 out of ST 2012 is Bryce Harper. YES peeps he will! Stop hiding from the truth.Because he is the next coming of Ted Williams? HELL NO. Because Davey Johnson wants to finish developing him with his coaching staff in the majors. Because off the bench the kid could very well be very productive. He will get to start but it will be a gradual process I bet …. that's how they used to do it dontcha know? That is how its going to go down. Cocoa Crisp … as a backup. I guess you don't think Roger Bernadina is worth anything at all coming off the bench? Its not like he's slow either. And GEE HE bats left-handed. And after him there's Corey Brown who just might turn out to be more than many think … So, let's look at the bench and assume that everything regarding the CF (unless Rizzo gets a great deal on BJ Upton) is a smoke screen and their #1 offensive priority is Prince Fielder. Oh and the Cuban corner outfielder Cespedes? Just another Brian Goodwin … maybe he gets to AA if signed maybe he doesn't.1. Desmond SS2. Werth RF3. Zimmerman 3B4. Fielder 1B5. Morse LF6. Espinosa 2B7. Harper RF8. Ramos CBench:C Flores/Solano.OF Bernadina, Lombardozzi, Brown, Nix (perhaps)MI Lombardozzi, Cora (left-handed bat) (perhaps)1B La Roche, Morse, Moore.Even with Fielder the Nats are still weak batting left. They are relying onLombardozzi and Espinosa mastering the platoon bat plus Harper maturing. This is still an R&D phase except the R has become smaller and D a good bit bigger. Rebuilding and Development. That is where the Nats are at. Crisp … sheesh what team are you watching? Really the notion of the Nats going after the Yankees Brett Gardner seems far more likely. Same reason Rizzo went after Morgan: HE BATS LEFT. Crisp DOES NOT. So unless that CF is BJ Upton or Peter Borjous (both bat right) expect the Nats to look for a left-handed hitter almost to exclusion of anything else. In other words: Brian Goodwin. But he isn't ready. So, as far as the bench? You can expect Davey Johnson will give both Corey Brown and Roger Bernadina every chance to prove they belong on the 24-man. They both bat left and Brown is a superlative fielder. That you can take to the bank.

  89. natsfan1a - Dec 1, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    Only if they can draw a lot of walks.

  90. natsfan1a - Dec 1, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    They being the Egyptians.

  91. Unkyd - Dec 1, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    lolololol!!!! =^D"AYO AYO AAYOOAAYOAAA…."Walk Like an Egyptian…….Good one!

  92. Gonat - Dec 1, 2011 at 9:27 PM

    Anon @ 4:11, you keep calling it the 24 man roster. It is actually now the 25 + 1 emergency starter.

  93. Anonymous - Dec 1, 2011 at 9:30 PM

    Gonat said… Anon @ 4:11, you keep calling it the 24 man roster. It is actually now the 25 + 1 emergency starter.Just further evidence that this guy (Periculum in disguise) is not playing with a full deck. But we already knew that, didn't we?

  94. Anonymous - Dec 1, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    Just further evidence that this guy (Periculum in disguise) is not playing with a full deck. But we already knew that, didn't we?Hey old-dude Mr. Wilson (BinM) can I play in your back yard? Aww c'mon Martha says its okay? — Dennis the Menace

  95. Astute reader - Dec 1, 2011 at 9:51 PM

    Ever notice how PMP and this Anon dude tend to pop up at the same time? Things that make you go "hmmm"

  96. NatsJack in Florida - Dec 1, 2011 at 10:46 PM

    Aside from the 24 man thing, he doesn' even know Crisp is a switch hitter.

  97. natsfan1a - Dec 2, 2011 at 12:35 AM

    Glad you enjoyed it, Unk. ;-)

  98. greg - Dec 2, 2011 at 12:59 AM

    gonat, i have no idea what this means in response to my comment that our pinch hitters were so bad that there were no hot hands to choose from.=====Model off of these teams:Reds: Pinch Hitter Hits – 61,Cards: Pinch Hitter Hits – 51,Mets: Pinch Hitter Hits – 54,Phillies: Pinch Hitter Hits – 54,Brewers: Pinch Hitter Hits – 49

  99. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 2, 2011 at 4:50 AM

    @Greg, if I may venture a guess, I think he meant to agree with you that the bench was nearly useless, and to suggest the Nationals should find a way to emulate the production of the league leaders, by way of benchmarking what a really successful bench can do.

  100. greg - Dec 2, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    ok, that makes sense. thanks.

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