Skip to content

Can Morse do it again?

Dec 16, 2011, 12:00 PM EDT

US Presswire photo
Michael Morse clubbed 31 homers, drove in 95 runs and hit .303 this season.

There's no debating Michael Morse's importance to the Nationals in 2011. During a season in which Ryan Zimmerman missed 2 1/2 months, Adam LaRoche missed four months and Jayson Werth produced some of the worst offensive numbers of his career, Morse's presence in the middle of the Nationals' lineup was absolutely crucial.

The stats spoke for themselves: a .303 average, 31 home runs, 95 RBI, a .910 OPS. The fact Morse had never come close to producing like that previously in his career only made those numbers all the more impressive.

That fact, however, also leaves plenty doubting whether Morse can duplicate his 2011 output in 2012 and beyond. Those gaudy numbers might well have been a fluke, and the odds of Morse doing it again next year are minimal. Right?

Actually, that's probably not a fair assessment. Sure, Morse had never put up numbers like that before. But that was a product of his lack ofRead more ยป

  1. UNTERP - Dec 16, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    I expect him to be better…

  2. MicheleS - Dec 16, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    To all the Season Ticket holders.. Did anyone get there Teddy Ornament yet?

  3. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    I think a small regression is coming to some extent. The secret of Michael Morse is out and teams will do a combo of paying more attention to him in terms of a plan to get him out and of pitching around him. He's figured it out, but he's not sneaking up on anyone any more. So, maybe 25 HR's and 90 RBI batting .280 with a lot more BB's in 2012.dfh21

  4. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    it'll be tough for Michael to surpass what he did last year. Let's figure 25 HRs and 85-90 RBIs. I think every Nats fan should be concerned that, appartently, Rizzo will stick with LaRoche. Will he flame out again? Let's hope not. Also heard on the radio that the Nationals are likely NOT in the running for Davish.

  5. Will - Dec 16, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    I think it would probably be wrong to expect him to be better. I mean, last season he was the 15th best batter in all of baseball (better than the likes of Albert Pujols and Justin Upton). Is it possible that Morse could remain in such an elite group of batters? Yes. But is it likely? I'm not so sure.Perhaps Morse is another Jose Bautista-type late bloomer, but for every Jose Bautista you have a dozen one-year wonders. Pitchers adjust to batters, and then the impetus falls onto the batter to adjust accordingly to the pitchers. That can be difficult.I'm cautiously optimistic that Morse can remain an excellent hitter, but I'm not counting on a repeat of 2011.

  6. UNTERP - Dec 16, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    I think Morse'll be better because the rest of players will be better around him. His stats will improve not regress…

  7. Will - Dec 16, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    Off topic, but do you know who was a better hitter than Mike Morse last year?Carlos Beltran – an OF who still may have some years in CF left in him, and would instantly become one of the best leadoff men in baseball.He'll probably get 2-3 years, $10-15mil per season.

  8. natsfan1a - Dec 16, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    Too late in my case, although I am a member of SABR (not all members are statisticians). Interesting post, though, even if my eyes did glaze over a bit. ;-)===Before I get way too stat-geek here and lose 99 percent of you to brain injury, let's wrap this up in terms that don't require membership in SABR.

  9. Will - Dec 16, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    UNTERP, a better lineup might improve his RBI or Runs totals, but the stats that Mark focuses on are independent metrics. They don't depend on other players in the lineup to get on base or drive him in. Thus, I'm not sure how having Adam LaRoche batting behind him will enable him to hit more linedrives or, in general, be a better batter (though perhaps his BB% will increase with all the pitchers pitching around him to get an easier out with LaRoche).But I hope you are right!

  10. psdfx - Dec 16, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    I have to say I've not considered Beltran as a possible stopgap CF option for the Nats until I read Will's post. Actually intriguing on a few levels. I've read people question his durability, but his history has not been terrible other than 2009 and 2010. Decent power, OPS of .910 last year, top 30 in drawing walks last year, .385 batting average — I like this as a short-term solution if he is affordable. And if all goes as planned (SS, JZ, RZ and MM continue to excel, while Harper, Rendon, Espi, Ramos Purke et al continue to develop into emerging studs) he can become a super bench player for us when we find a longer term solution there. I will think on this more, but at this moment (not seeing a true CF option on the horizon unless Rizzo has a trade in the works) I'm really liking this option. Thoughts?

  11. psdfx - Dec 16, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    Oops .385 OBP not batting avg. LOL@me

  12. MurrayTheRed - Dec 16, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    Mark,This brings up the other question? Is Mike somehow disliked by the frontoffice people? They see th ese same stats, how come he never got playing time before!!!! Micheles: No TeddyOrnament for me yet.

  13. Joe Seamhead - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    We have no crystal ball to say whether MM will be better next year but I have my own feelings as to his 2010/2011 comparative numbers. In 2010 Morse was in games and had a hit, sometimes two, and yes sometimes even 3 hits, only to get yanked in the 6th, or 7th inning in a classic double switch. Then he often wouldn't be in the lineup for a game or two, or maybe get a call to pinch hit. Morse is a streak hitter, and nothing can derail a hitting streak quicker then getting yanked when you're hot. Additionally it was said constantly by many that he wasn't an everyday player, and that he couldn't hit right handed pitchers, which I believe that he has proven to be poppycock.. So my point being is that if he hadn't gotten screwed around with so often in 2010 his stats would probably been just as good as his 2011 stats.Another point with Morse is his "mediocre" defense. More poppycock. He's a clutzy looking, but improving, outfielder that gets the job done, and though I agree that he wasn't a great first basemen last year, he was certainly better then Dunn, or Dimitri Young. Morse moved into a position that he had never really played much before. Though he has a good glove at first, he's no LaRoche. But he also has not been extensively coached to play 1B and his weakness there is that he doesn't automatically do what comes naturally for a player that has learned all of the nuances from dedicating himself to the position for years. Chris Marrero is also someone that is still learning how to play first after playing 3rd before he was drafted. The Nats moved him to the OF which really didn't work out. Now after a couple of years of receiving coaching and playing first he is reacting automatically.Michael Morse has proven himself to be an every day player. He comes under the old baseball adage of: If you can hit, they'll find a spot for you.

  14. whatsanattau - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    Before I get way too stat-geek here and lose 99 percent of you to brain injury, ….too late.(nice one)And of course he can do it again, he's a Beast.

  15. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    captcha was GooNat

  16. natsfan1a - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    Question: What is another name for Nats Insider's own bonus baby?Anonymous said… captcha was GooNat December 16, 2011 8:07 AM

  17. Feel Wood - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    My Teddy ornament is apparently lost. Of course, it is a Teddy ornament, so no surprise there. I hear the George, Tom and Abe ornaments all arrived on time.

  18. baseballswami - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    I find babip to be an interesting stat. In my humble opinion, it's not just luck. I have seen hitters, Morse is one, that just scalds the ball so hard that, that even though it's in a location where it should be fielded, it's hit too hard to field – not an error either, just hit too hard to field. Not luck – just scalded. Is there any data that can assess how hard a ball is hit? For example – timing how long it takes a ball to get to a certain location or the mph of a hit ball? If you watch a lot of baseball, and I do, there are just certain hitters that smoke the ball. When I watch Morse hit I almost think the ball is going to explode sometimes. I just love watching it – and I miss it :(

  19. Feel Wood - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    Mark,This brings up the other question? Is Mike somehow disliked by the frontoffice people? They see th ese same stats, how come he never got playing time before!!!!Two words: Jim Riggleman. (You don't remember when Morse hit two homers in a game only to be double-switched out before he could come up again?)

  20. You keep using that word--I do not think it means what you think it means. - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    impetus = motivationonus = burden of proofThere goes the other 99%.

  21. Joe Seamhead - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    Swami, I agree. Score keepers often refer to those shots as," too hot to handle."

  22. nats guy - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    MicheleS,Their not there. Teddy would have been horrified by poor spelling and usage.

  23. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    No manager held Morse back in Seatlle or in his 4-5 minor league stops before he got to DC. What happened was that Morse got much, much better in a very short period of time. He never got playing time, becasue he was not that good before and he had no natural position. A 6'5" 250 lbs SS? In Curtis Granderson, Jose Bautista style, the guy made some adjustments that finally clicked together allowing him to get his hands in front and pull damn near anything. dfh21

  24. Will - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    Baseballswami,There is definitely some credence in what you're saying. Line drives are statistically much more likely to become a base hit than groundballs and fly balls. There's actually BABIPs for each type of hit. IIRC, it's something like .700 for line drives, and around .250 for ground balls, and .200 for flyballs.Guys like Morse (or Joey Votto, an extreme LD hitter, with a career .352 BABIP) can consistently have inflated BABIPs because they hit the ball harder than most.This BABIP anomaly also extends to fast players, where they are able to turn an easy groundball out into an infield single, which causes their BABIP to increase.

  25. Gonat - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    I think Michael Morse will actually do slightly better. I think that because he choked for the first 45 days of the 2011 season plus he didn't have Ryan Zimmerman in front of him for the first 3 months of the season and too many times was batting with bases empty. I see 100+ RBIs in 2012 for Michael Morse.

  26. JamesFan - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    Imagine what Morse's numbers might have been if men had been on base in front of him or it he had been protected by hitters ahead or behind him. With a lineup that whiffs constantly, opposing pitchers will simply pitch around Morse next year, so his numbers may be down a bit. However, if the Nats improve their contact and put balls in play, I expect him to be even better in 2012. Why in the world are the Nats not extending a guy who hits .300 and 30 homers? Look at what you have to pay free agents who deliver like this.

  27. Wally - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    I agree with Will's description. Hitters can have BABIPs outside the league average depending on the type of hitter they are, but starting pitchers usually can't. It is very unlikely that Morse will regress to being a bad hitter. If he falls off from his 2011 numbers somewhat, I suspect that it will be a regression in his LD%, which did have a fairly significant 15% jump from 2010 to 2011.But he hasn't had enough time in the majors to have a real sense of his career averages, so I think a Bautista-like late bloomer is possible, although unlikely to the degree of Bautista.They really ought to sign him for two years plus some team options. JZimm too. If Rizzo gets that done and nothing else, I'll be ok with the offseason.

  28. Will - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    Baseballswami,I just looked it up, and it's .235 BABIP for ground balls, .130 for fly balls, .720 for line drives.If a batter hits many more LDs than FBs, then he's going to have a great batting average and an extremely high BABIP, which explains Morse's BABIP.

  29. Hopeful2012 - Dec 16, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    I hope so! I am still worried that he will have no oned behind him in the lineup (I assume he will be hitting in the 5 hole) so he might be pitched around alot if he has early season success.

  30. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    Morse better do it again and then some because Rizzo has done absolutely nothing to beef up the offense. Further, the bench is in shambles.

  31. Theophilus - Dec 16, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    Re: Extension for Morse . . .. It takes two to tango. Morse will be a FA in 2014. An extension means giving up two arbitration years, maybe three FA years. He see guys talking about three-year $15MM/year deals for OTH injury-prone Carlos Beltran (who I would still sign in a heartbeat but not for that kind of money) and sees himself being in the Matt Holliday class (plus inflation). Maybe he doesn't want to be extended. If he comes close to last year's numbers (the line drive percentage is striking; league average is about 18%) in 2012, then the Nats could justify — and Morse would be willing to accept, Holliday type money. But I'll be surprised if there's an extension in his Easter Basket this year.

  32. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    Just remember, Morse did most of his heavy hitting while he relaxed and happy playing first base. As soon as he returned to the outfield, where he is uncomfortsble, he slumped again.

  33. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    Ryan Braun: a cautionary note that players are still using and cheating…"Morse got much,much better in a short period of time." That is a good reason to be prudently and cautiously suspicious.Morse has been suspended before for PED's. The reason is less important than the fact.I like Morse, but I can't help wondering if the miracle involves more than playing time. Nobody (presumably) saw the Braun case coming.I'm going anonymous on this because I feel fairly certain I will be energetically criticized for the points I have brought up, and I'm not up for that today.

  34. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    Morse will bat in the cleanup spot, not 5th. Laroche or Werthless will bat 5th and Zim 3rd.

  35. natsfan1a - Dec 16, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    Does Twitter not have a spell check function? Just wondering.

  36. Nationals Anthems - Dec 16, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    Great piece Mark!Re: Morse hitting best when playing first base, I agree that it looks that way to the naked eye and in hindsight. But it would be better to have stats to back it up, and some reasonable sample size. And how do we know he is uncomfortable in the outfield? Personally all I know is I am uncomfortable when he is in the outfield, and very comfortable when he is at first with the condor wingspan.

  37. Mark Zuckerman - Dec 16, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    Anonymous said…Just remember, Morse did most of his heavy hitting while he relaxed and happy playing first base. As soon as he returned to the outfield, where he is uncomfortsble, he slumped again.Not really true. Morse's Sept slash line: .252/.314/.577. Yes, the average and OBP went down, but his slugging percentage actually went up. He hit 10 homers that month.What caused his average to go down but his slugging percentage to go up? Not moving to left field. Maybe as he realized a 30-homer season was in sight, he started swinging for the fences more. That would hurt his average but raise his power numbers.Also, his Sept BABIP was .254. Unlucky? Maybe. But probably more a reflection of him hitting more flyballs than line drives, which again he might actually have been trying to do in an attempt to pad his home run total.

  38. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 16, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    natsfan1a said…Does Twitter not have a spell check function? Just wondering.What, you don't like *cooberating? Perfectly good word. Means "cooperatively corroborating," something like "one lies and the other swears to it."Almost as good as "insinuendo." Which is the standard.

  39. Doc - Dec 16, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    Nice artical on Mickey Morse, Mark!In the favor of a repeat performance by The Beast, is Riggleman's abscence and the positive presence of Batman Davey and Stickman Rick.Stay healthy (and thirsty) my friends!

  40. Big Cat - Dec 16, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    Anon 9:19….I'm glad you brought the PED's issue. I love Morse….but he hit some balls in the upper deck in right center late last year where I remember thinking…"Something just doesn't seem right here." And there was the talk of his batting practices, how he would put on a show with his tape measure shots. I'm not accusing anybody, it just seems funny how a guy that crushes the ball like this spends 9 years in the minors.

  41. RPrecupjr - Dec 16, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    MicheleS said… To all the Season Ticket holders.. Did anyone get there Teddy Ornament yet? and then… nats guy said… MicheleS,Their not there. Teddy would have been horrified by poor spelling and usage.Actually, if we're going to go all English major here, you're both wrong. "Anyone" is singular, whereas "their" is plural and therefore does not agree with "anyone".The correct question should read, "Did anyone receive HIS (or the politically correct "his or her") Teddy ornament yet?"We now return you to the appropriate subject matter for this blog. For waht my two cents is worth, I think MM should match last year's numbers and probably increase his RBI total. He will be THE starter in left field, not part of platoon situation as he was at the beginning of the year in 2011, which should make him much more comfortable. He also (we all hope) will benefit from a healthy RZ and ALR batting around him. The fact that he put up the numbers he did last year while having minimal protection in the lineup indicates to me a true hitting talent.Here's hoping we're all right :)Sixty-five more days….Hahahaha…captcha was "divit"….the definition of my golf game

  42. Young Pitchers - Dec 16, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    Big Cat,Morse hit one like that in a game in Taiwan. And that's about one month after his season's over? I'd think one'd take a break from drugging oneself in the off-season, no?

  43. Nattydread - Dec 16, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    Off-topic but interesting Fangraphs comp valuation of Yu vs Zimmermann. Kind of makes you see why Rizzo is standing pat.http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/how-much-would-yu-pay-for-jordan-zimmermann/

  44. Wally - Dec 16, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    Theophilus said… Re: Extension for Morse . . .. It takes two to tango. Morse will be a FA in 2014.Agreed, but he also hasn't made any significant money yet, so I think guaranteed money with options at attractive rates should be something that he considers seriously, at least. I assume that he and his agent will guesstimate how much he gets in arbitration for the next two years, assuming he continues to produce like 2011. Using the 40/60/80 rule of thumb (1st year arb gets you about 40% of FA rates for similar production), I think he is looking at $4-5m and then $10-12m (they use rolling averages, so I think that he gets dinged for not being a full time player in 2010). Of course there is risk that he gets hurt or doesn't produce at the same levels. My guess is that he would have to think hard about 2 yrs/$12m, and would he give the team an option for 2014 @ $12m, and 2014 @ $15m? A lot of younger guys have found these kinds of deals attractive. They get financial security, and take the injury or performance risk out of the equation, and even the team option years can be rationalized by thinking "I am either a FA or making pretty nice dough". In return, the team gets cost certainty, and an option on a player that extends his period of control in case he is outperforming. A pretty good mutual arrangement.If a team waits until the player has made big money (like RZim has), the player becomes much less incentivized to want to trade future earnings for eliminating the near term financial risk.JZimm is another guy in that same spot. I thought that was an interesting article on Yu Darvish on Fangraphs comparing him to JZimm.

  45. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 16, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    I AM the Five Percent!Actually, while most style manuals treat indefinite pronouns as singular, "their" is also OK as a singular possessive pronoun when gender is indeterminite. Not a matter of "political correctness" (not that there's anything wrong with that), so much as prioritizing agreement in gender over agreement in number, when you can't have both. Man, how many 95%ers are we losing today??

  46. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    The only good news so far this off season for the Nats is that Pujols left our league. The Nats might have Harper on the roster in 2012 and with more Stras and a healthyish Wang and LaRoche they should be a better club, but the roster needs more than what it has to compete for a playoff spot. Rizzo needs to get on his horse. The Nats are close to being good, but management has to want it in order for them to have a real chance. I hope that this is the year the club gets bold and actually tries to win. 8 years of losing is not something the fanbase should have to endure simply because management remains afraid to build a winner.

  47. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 16, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    Nattydread said…Off-topic but interesting Fangraphs comp valuation of Yu vs Zimmermann.Thanks for that link, NattyD. One relevant point made in the comments was a reminder (AKA "news" to anyone who didn't know it already) that MLB, not the teams themselves, owns the merchandising rights, and the income is shared. So they won't get their money back selling Yu jerseys.

  48. blovy8 - Dec 16, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    There's no current reason to expect much of a dropoff, maybe a couple fewer home runs and a few more walks since pitchers will be more careful. I always thought Seattle wasted him, when you look at the potential in those first couple of years, it seems like they let him go cheap. You never know how far a player will go to keep his job, but he doesn't seem dumb enough to get caught twice on steroids. The power showing up at 27 probably isn't' that rare, really the FO should be deciding how many years to offer in the extension, not whether to do one.

  49. greg - Dec 16, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    will, i think beltran's CF days are over. his knees are in pretty bad shape. he didn't play any CF last year (he play all his games for the mets/giants in RF) and, while he could probably fill in at times, i don't think it's a good idea to count on him to play CF. not just because his knees hurt his range, but because the mets/giants played him on the corner to preserve him from more injuries (he missed significant parts of 09/10 for knee injuries). he would be a good leadoff guy for the nats, but (as i mentioned), his knees are shot. he doesn't steal that much any more, so his leadoff capabilities would be purely OBP. that would make him much better than what we have currently, but nowhere near "one of the best leadoff men in baseball."the real issue would be signing him for more than a year. with harper coming in, you'd *have* to play werth in CF most of the time to keep beltran on the corner. i'm not sure the team wants werth in CF for 2 seasons (i'm really not sure they want him there for even one).

  50. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 16, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    It's "99%" in Mark's post, not 95. False modesty is unnecessary–there's plenty of reason to be modest already.Man, we're just fixing everything in here today!

  51. Feel Wood - Dec 16, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    Darvish merchandise. Yu know Yu want it.

  52. Traveler8 - Dec 16, 2011 at 4:52 PM

    Mark, Please, can we stop making non-references to Bryce Harper – "a certain 19 year old phenom" sounds cute, except that it is at least the fifth such non-reference. Unlike silence, he will not cease to exist if we say his name. We went through enough of the same thing with Stephen Strasburg. It is not clever or original.

  53. CBinDC - Dec 16, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    Did the Nationals make a bid or not …..I am still confused if they made a creditable bid or just tanked in hopes the talk gets them a cheap amount of publicity. I feel that if they are to break open the Jack Benny Memorial bank under the President Club, Yu Darvish was the play to go for besides the obvious people who are on the roster now. On another note what is going on with MASN. Nothing on coverage but the MASN site has all the blogs of the on air personal removed and one blog is completely gone, Debbie Taylor. And on another note Hi folks and Happy Holidays

  54. greg - Dec 16, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    yowza.The Rockies have agreed to sign Michael Cuddyer to a three-year, $31.5MM deal

  55. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    Beltran or they could try to swing a deal for Vernon Wells. With Trout now considered more of a corner outfielder they have to find a place for him … When the question was posed to Rizzo in his latest phone-in interview to MASN it sounds like he is reneging. I don't think its because he can't get someone I really believe its because Davey has convinced him to go with Werth. And that was Davey's idea all along going back to last year when he put Werth out there.So, instead of going out for a Beltran the Nats will use an in-house solution in CF and if the CF solutions in the minors develop perhaps they won't have to go out and get someone. BUT, he didn't completely nix Prince Fielder (speaking of Adam LaRoche). He more than any other player would give the Nat's offense an immediate jump start … particularly when you surround him with Zim, Morse and Harper. The hangup there is there is the 10 years; at that point Fielder would be 37.

  56. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 16, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    Welcome back, CB. Happy to you, too.Bids haven't been announced yet, but Toronto is the general scuttlebutt.

  57. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 16, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    BUT, he didn't completely nix Prince Fielder (speaking of Adam LaRoche).What did he say? Or did he simply not mention Fielder?

  58. natsfan1a - Dec 16, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    Re. the scuttlebutt link: Ha-ha! MLB Trade Rumors got it wrong. They didn't confirm to Bowden, they cooberated. BIG difference there…===The Blue Jays bid more than $40MM and possibly close to $50MM for Yu Darvish and are now favorites to win exclusive negotiating rights with him, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Multiple sources confirm the Post's report to Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio and ESPN.com, who says the Blue Jays "won the bidding" (Twitter link).

  59. Section 222 - Dec 16, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    Great post Mark, on one of my favorite topics. I've been rewatching the Nats' Condensed Games in order on mlb.com. (I'm up to the end of the three game McLaran era, and the Nats are 42-40. Good times.) One of the striking things is how quickly Riggleman took Morse's starting job away from him. He basically lost his job at the end of April, after only 26 games. He started only 5 games between May 1 and May 22 before he took over for LaRoche at 1B. LaRoche played 18 games in May and his average was down to .176 by the time he fessed up that his shoulder was interfering with this swing. Morse's average at that point, even with his supposedly terrible slow start, was .258, better than Werth (.247) and definitely better than Stairs (.100), who was sent up to DH in the series against the O's. So Morse, who was our best hitter in spring training and turned out to be our best hitter over the course of the season, was on a shorter leash than anyone on the team. Mind boggling.As many have noted Riggleman had it in his stubborn head that Morse was not an every day player. As @Feel Wood recalls, his infamous double switch of Morse in 2010 after he hit two home runs against the Brewers was a real low point. Thanks also, Mark, for dispelling the myth that Morse hits better when he plays 1B. The evidence just doesn't bear that out. Finally, watching the condensed games confirms @baseballswami's impression that Morse's high BABIP is not luck. He just hits the ball really, really hard.

  60. greg - Dec 16, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    say WHAT? vernon wells? seriously? the guy who hit 218 last year? the same one who had a 660 OPS? let's just keep bernadina in the lineup. at least he might get better.

  61. Feel Wood - Dec 16, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    Nationals TV contract with MASN is up for renewal. It's not possible for their TV rights to be sold to a different carrier, but the payment to the team will have to be adjusted to fit the going market rate – which has been greatly bolstered by the recent deals signed by the Angels and Astros, among other teams. This is why the Nats brought on a media consultant a few months ago, to handle the negotiations with MASN (i.e. Angelos) over the new contract. If the two sides cannot agree on a rate, it goes to independent arbitration. So no matter what happens, the yearly payment by MASN to the Nationals is bound to increase substantially, And as a result of that, MASN is going to have to raise the money to pay it, which means they are going to have to increase their advertising income – and the only way to do that is to increase their viewership. In short, MASN is really going to have to step up its game in the DC market. That's probably why there's uncertainty on the fate of on-air talent like Bob Carpenter and Debbie Taylor who they're not contractually bound to at the moment. (FP Santangelo has another year or more on his deal, so we know he'll be back.) Look for that uncertainty to be lifted after the new TV deal is announced.

  62. court - Dec 16, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    Good stuff Mark,The stat-heads seem to agree that batters have more control over BABIP than due pitchers and it's because of their ability to hit line drives as Will and Wally pointed out. Morse's splits show he did tank in Sept/Oct, but maybe that is more due to him wearing down than moving back to the OF. His K rate did go up though, and from watching the games, pitchers were coming in on him much more. But I do think there is something to the theory that he was trying to loft the ball more to get 30 hr's which might have accounted for his drop in BABIP.Now that he's finally gone thru the wear and tear of a full season, I believe he will come close to matching his slash line. He's the real deal who actually hit RHP better than LHP.One more quick note – if the Nats were to sign Prince, Morse would be on the chopping(trading) block. Werth in CF is a bad idea, and certainly not a long-term solution, so once Bryce is up, Morse needs to go to 1B. That would be out of the question if Prince is parked there.

  63. WTFRizzo - Dec 16, 2011 at 5:52 PM

    WOW – Nats sign Jeff Fulchino..ok looks like that was the final piece to a contending team…see you in spring training….WTF!?

  64. greg - Dec 16, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    OMG THE SIGNED SOMEONE WHO ISN'T VERY GOOD AND NOT TO A MAJOR LEAGUE CONTRACT THERE'S NO WAY THIS TEAM CAN WIN 20 GAMES NEXT YEAR!seriously. relax.

  65. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:01 PM

    Jeff Fulchino? Sounds like they are still filling out the Syracuse roster. Remember, almost everyone on that roster was a free agent this year AND left the team. So … you know the drill.

  66. Hopeful2012 - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    Anonymous 923, Morse will NOT be batting cleanup, LaRoche will be to break up the RH lineup. Werth will be hitting 2nd and Zim 3rd, so who bats 6th!? Ramos? Espinosa? Random OF not on the roster right now!?

  67. Will - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:08 PM

    Greg, I certainly wouldn't use Beltran solely as a CF. I agree with the injury concerns, it's probably not advisable to do it frequently. However, he could be used there in a pinch, which is definitely useful.For the first half of 2012 I'd use Werth in CF, occasionally playing Beltran and Bernadina/Ankiel there. Then around July, trade/release/give away LaRoche, and move Morse back to 1B, where he seems more comfortable defensively.If Harper is deserving of a call up at that point, I'd move Harper to LF, and keep Werth in CF.I also agree that Werth is not a long-term solution at CF, but I think that over the next 1-2 years, he'd be good enough there (moderately below average, something like -5 to -8 UZR). But to me, there just doesn't seem to be better options. Rizzo values his prospects too much to move any of them for Span or Bourn (or Bourjos or Upton).There's also little in the pipeline. It would make A LOT of sense to start playing Harper in CF, but that doesn't look likely. Eury Perez and Goodwin are still a few years off (if they ever arrive at all). Thus, I don't think it's a bad idea to add a big bat in Beltran, and get what we can out of the Werth albatross, especially if we could address our OBP problems at a cut rate (Beltran was worth $21.1 mil just last year alone, that could be what the Nats would have to pay him for the next 2 years).

  68. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    Anonymous 923, Morse will NOT be batting cleanup, LaRoche will be to break up the RH lineup. Werth will be hitting 2nd and Zim 3rd, so who bats 6th!? Ramos? Espinosa? Random OF not on the roster right now!?It could be Prince Fielder. Who knows? Besides you never know what Davey might decide to do. Especially if he decides to bring Harper along for the ride starting in April. There are a lot of permutations possible. And apparently Rizzo is starting to get comfortable with that idea … along with Werth in CF.

  69. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    For the first half of 2012 I'd use Werth in CF, occasionally playing Beltran and Bernadina/Ankiel there. Then around July, trade/release/give away LaRoche, and move Morse back to 1B, where he seems more comfortable defensively.They are not going to sign Beltran. Johnson will convince Rizzo and get his way and Harper will make the 25 man out of ST 2012. There is no room for a Beltran unless its on the bench.

  70. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:21 PM

    Kilgore has announced that the Nats did not bid on Darvish.

  71. MicheleS - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    Well with Kilgore's announcement that tells me that either they are going for Oswalt possibly Saunders OR sticking with the kids. Maybe now they will concentrate on the Bench or get another bat. I think the Cubs end up with Fielder.

  72. CBinDC - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    The Nationals did not bid on Yu DarvishSo it is Official THE LERNERS ARE STILL CHEAP ……wow you make noise that you serious to play in the game called player acquisition and stop the dumpster diving for players that was the hallmark of this organization but now you are just frozen in place DOING NOTHING. YOU DO NOT EVEN BID. Truly you have bought nothing but ill will. Why should anybody believe anything this FO says when planing what or if at to go to games next season. Your one shot you get out bid by a margin you could have spent BUT NO you were holding on to make a NO BID ON DARVISH. What is the plan REALLY. Just lie and say you are going to be serious and then sign minor leaguers to minor league contracts or trade for anothers teams player for your player, deck chair for deck chair. This is the BIG OFFSEASON you said you were prepared for this year?? OHHH were is the Tylenol

  73. gonatsgo - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:28 PM

    Regarding Morse – he is a big guy, but he doesn't look unnaturally bulked. He was previously playing an awkward position(ss), for his body type. Unfortunately, I think 1b is really his best position and he just kind of found himself this year with the comfort level on defense and the regular playing time. He can probably learn left, he really hasn't spent much time there. Seemed like he did ok in right the previous year. I just love the way he always has a smile on his face and just seems so happy to be here. He was a great ambassador for mlb and the Nats in Taiwan and it was great to see those fans showering him with attention. I know it's supposed to be all about winning and play-offs, but as a fan I am happy to have players on the team that seem like good guys.

  74. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:29 PM

    Looks like Rosenthal is reporting the Nats interest in Danks. They want left-hander[s]. Not righties like Darvish. Its been a fairly pretty consistent pattern: see drafting Matt Purke and Kylin Turnbull back-to-back at the top of the draft.Again, this appears to speak volumes about what they think off Lannan. And advanced stats appear to support their concerns.

  75. HHover - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:34 PM

    CBinDCYou need something much, much stronger than a tylenol. And the Nats need something much different from a $100M Yu Darvish. This is not bad news.

  76. Exposremains - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:35 PM

    The Lerners were told that they can build a good baseball team without spending too much money.(draft, build from within). They're businessman, as long as they are making money, all is good.

  77. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    So it is Official THE LERNERS ARE STILL CHEAP ……wow you make noise that you serious to play in the game called player acquisition and stop the dumpster diving for playersI think there's a HUGE difference between Chris Marerro and Michael Burgess the kind of players that Bowden liked. Now its Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon, AJ Cole, and Sammy Solis. If you aren't see the difference CBinDC then you don't know baseball?The Nats WANT A LEFT HANDED STARTER; tis why they went after Buehrle. In fact given the elbow soreness Solis is dealing with they probably want multiples. Its what Davey Johnson asked for along with a different bench.Ask yourself, does Yu Darvish throw left-handed? NO! So why would the Nats be looking to pay out $$$ for a right hander when they already have Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, AND Bradley Peacock? All power pitchers … all coveted by every team in major league baseball? Which is why I wasn't a big fan of this particularly since they are already dealing with Wang. And I still don't know why they still have Wang except they spent so much on him when they were desperate for starters 2 years ago. I am telling you the Nats are in the market for left-handers. Preferably power-pitchers under the age of 30. That means Gio Gonzalaez, John Danks, and even David Price if they could get him? They aren't happy with Lannan. Lannan's neutral stats are horrible. They aren't happy with Detwiler. He's shown small improvement, and his stats were miserable. We'll have to see how he does with a full year of Davey. Gorzelanny had injury problems and was a more effective long/short reliever. His stats were about average.Doesn't anyone follow along, watch and listen? Sheesh!

  78. Unkyd - Dec 16, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    "Officially"? I'm good, either way, but let's not etch anything in stone, just because some unamed folks are reputed to have whispered it in Kilgores ear…

  79. Section 222 - Dec 16, 2011 at 7:08 PM

    I've been a proponent of bringing up Harper when he is ready, regardless of Super 2 status. But there is NO WAY that he is on the 25 man comming out of Spring Training because that would mean that he becomes a free agent one year earlier. It would be GM malpractice to let that happen, and managerial malpractice by DJ to suggest it. That means we still need a CF to start the year. Can Rizzo trade for someone, or are we going to see Bernadina out there for at least a few weeks? Only about two months left to find out. Unless LaRoche has a monster spring (and remember he is supposedly a slow starter as well as coming off a serious injury), I woudln't expect him to displace Mickey Morse from the cleanup spot. He probably shouldn't bat 5th either.

  80. CN - Dec 16, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    I may be late on this, but Kilgore reports what many of us has been suspecting over the last 24 hours, Nats did not submit a bid on Darvish:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/post/the-nationals-did-not-bid-on-yu-darvish/2011/12/15/gIQA4pXayO_blog.html

  81. sjm308 - Dec 16, 2011 at 7:15 PM

    Why all of a sudden is this year so important? We have improved each of the last 3 years. We should improve this year no matter what moves are made and next year is the year to pounce.(Harper up full time, SS & JZ with no innings limit, Rendon hopefully up as well and our young pitchers all nearer to being ready). I would not mind another pitcher for this year and we definitely need to bolster our bench, but when people are paying Cuddyer over 10 million a year for 3 years its just silly. I would like to see them resign Ankiel and also sign Keppinger as a utility guy. They still have Bernadina and Flores and if they send Lombardozzi down I guess they need one more piece, especially if Marrero is not ready (and I don't think he will be). I also agree that LaRoche will bat 4th breaking up the righthanded hitters and again, if he can just get back to his numbers for the last 6 years we will get a big boost in our offense. If Werth can improve and we get minimal improvement from Ramos, Espinosa and Desmond then we will be at worst an average offensive team instead of below average. I just hope they work somehow on cutting down on the strikeouts but as I am not a coach, I am not sure how that is done.

  82. Anonymous - Dec 16, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    Refusing to throw money away on a crap shoot isn't CHEAP. It's smart. There are far better ways for the Nats to spend the $100 million (posting fee+contract) that it would have taken to get Darvish. Also, folks, it's the middle of December. Spring training doesn't really start for another 2-1/2 months. Of the top free agents available this winter, 2 have signed (Reyes and Pujoles). Plus a scattering of other guys. Rizzo doesn't need to HURRY UP AND SIGN SOMEBODY ZOMG BECAUSE TIME IS RUNNING OUT AND WE STILL HAVE 4 SPOTS OPEN ON THE 40-MAN ROSTER AND WE WON'T EVEN HAVE 9 STARTERS FOR OPENING DAY ARRRRGH!!!!!!!Relax. It's Christmas. There's plenty of talent still out there and plenty of time for Rizzo to wheel and deal. He's better off letting the market come to him.

  83. CN - Dec 16, 2011 at 7:26 PM

    For anti-fans (some would call said group "haters"), the Nats would've lost on the Darvish situation either way:1) Spent too much money on an unproven pitcher when other Japanese pitchers have been marginal, at best.2) CheapI was hoping the Nats would be in the running, but I understand why no bid was submitted. Why bid $10M if you know it's not going to win. Also, Darvish mentioned that his preference would be to pitch on the west coast and dropping $100M on Darvish is a big gamble, especially when there are other holes to fill.

  84. greg - Dec 16, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    and if they'd have bid less than 90% of the winning bid, they'd have been called "cheap" by all of the same people calling them cheap for not bidding.

  85. greg - Dec 16, 2011 at 7:43 PM

    will, i think there are just too many moving parts to convince beltran to sign here. if he was still capable of being an every day CF, i'm sure he could see a place for himself here. but with the potential of two guys who really ought to be corner OFs long term (werth/harper) before the end of the year and morse already occupying a CO spot (until/unless laroche is traded), it's a crowded place for a corner OF to sign if he expects to play every day for multiple years.

  86. sjm308 - Dec 16, 2011 at 7:44 PM

    222 – good point on LaRoche and his historical slow starts – nice to have the option of Morse as cleanup and the r-l-r thing isn't probably that big a deal either. Count me on the bandwagon that not bidding on Darvish was a good move IF they knew that someone else was going to throw over 100 million at him. I guess my question is, did anyone really know what it was going to take? We all speculate here but I am wondering if the "big boys" get that kind of information before hand. If no one had an idea what the bid would be, I am not sure why a bid in the 30 millions would not have at least shown the fans you were interested. Again, its not my 30 million and if the bids do come out then you might look bad as well. I am not sure Rizzo ever commented that we were definitely interested, he just mentioned what a great prospect Darvish was and that we had scouted him.All that being said, I hope it is Toronto and that he has a great career in the AL with the Blue Jays and Rays sending the Yankee's and Red Sox home early.

  87. CBinDC - Dec 16, 2011 at 7:46 PM

    Look every player is a crap shoot but also the best odds in the casino is on CRAPS. I am upset at their claiming to know the risk and would be playing in this game what ever the merits but to NOT at the final hour is playing with the fans and just reinforces the impression that money is the rule. They take no risks? Really much money was wasted in the Bowden years on his "PROJECTS". The point made year after year in spite of contracts such as Werths the over all payroll is lower year to year and WAY below market. Only TWO major contracts in 7 seasons is not a break the bank position. But they have been the most profitable team all those years so where goes the money go?

  88. blovy8 - Dec 16, 2011 at 7:51 PM

    You can complain all you want, but Lannan has been effective and a great bargain. While I agree that they will now be paying him what he's worth, they do not have to get overly concerned about having a left-handed start who throws over 93 mph. The idea that some fictional left handed pitcher is going to put them into the World Series next year is idiotic.

  89. blovy8 - Dec 16, 2011 at 7:59 PM

    To clarify -I think it's more likely than Lannan progresses, (or Milone does eventually) as a finesse pitcher in the 4/5 slot for nothing but money, than some fictional harder-throwing left-hander from another team that costs the Nats prospects will. I suspect the White Sox will be asking PLENTY for Danks. More than RIzzo will agreed to.

  90. Pete R. - Dec 16, 2011 at 8:05 PM

    " CBinDC said… Look every player is a crap shoot but also the best odds in the casino is on CRAPS."Loser game. Bet on sports, you can control the outcomes.

  91. David - Dec 16, 2011 at 8:07 PM

    the nationals never said they bid on Darvish. just media speculation. theyve said all along that they like him… that's it.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 58 48 --
ATLANTA 58 51 1.5
MIAMI 53 55 6.0
NEW YORK 52 56 7.0
PHILADELPHIA 48 61 11.5
Through Thursday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Orioles at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Mets at Nats, 12:35 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

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