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Roster review: Steve Lombardozzi

Oct 25, 2013, 6:00 AM EST

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Age on Opening Day 2014: 25

How acquired: 19th round pick, 2008 draft

MLB service time: 2 years, 23 days

2013 salary+bonuses: $501,000

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2015, free agent in 2018

2013 Stats: 118 G, 307 PA, 25 R, 75 H, 15 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 4 SB, 8 BB, 34 SO, .259 AVG, .278 OBP, .338 SLG, .616 OPS, 3 E, -0.7 UZR at 2B, -2.9 UZR in OF, -0.7 WAR

Quotable: “He’s been a mainstay on the bench. It’s a tough job, and he’s handled it very well mentally and physically. He’s been my best pinch-hitter all year long.” — Davey Johnson on Steve Lombardozzi

2013 analysis: A key contributor as a rookie in 2012, Lombardozzi entered this season expected to contribute again off the bench. But he struggled early, especially when forced into a starting role due to injuries to lineup regulars, and it took some time to get back on track.

Lombardozzi hit only .252 with a paltry .271 on-base percentage as a starter (he hit .286 with a .306 OBP when coming off the bench). Break down the numbers even more and it’s interesting to note Lombardozzi’s terrible offensive numbers when asked to play left field (.179/.195/.205) as opposed to his numbers when playing his natural second base position (.304/.323/.392).

In the end, Lombardozzi proved the Nationals’ best pinch-hitter this season, but he was far from a top performer, playing at a sub-replacement player level for the year while drawing an inordinately small number of walks (leading to the seventh-lowest OBP by any NL player with at least 300 plate appearances).

2014 outlook: Given how unproductive the Nationals’ bench was as a group this year, and the fact Lombardozzi was the best of that bad bunch, it stands to reason he’ll return next season. He’ll need to refine a few parts of his game, though, to become a more valuable reserve.

Clearly, Lombardozzi performed better as a second baseman than a left fielder, so perhaps it’s time for the Nats to give up on the idea of him being a “super-utility” player and have him stay in the infield. If that happens, though, he’ll need to become serviceable enough at shortstop and third base to be used around the infield and not only at second base.

Lombardozzi also is going to have to work on his plate patience. Light-hitting backups have to be able to work the count and draw the occasional walk. Lombardozzi incredibly only drew eight free passes in 307 plate appearances this season. That’s simply not going to cut it in the future.

  1. David Proctor - Oct 25, 2013 at 7:34 AM

    Interesting that Anthony Rendon had a 3.4 UZR at 2B while Lombardozzi had a -0.7. For a guy who had never even played the position until he reached the major leagues, that’s pretty freaking impressive. For anyone wondering, Danny Espinosa’s UZR this year was 3.2. However, last year his UZR was 7.5. It actually has Rendon with better range, but Espinosa’s lack of errors gives him a big boost.

    Regardless, it’s very interesting. Especially when you consider Rendon is likely to continue to improve at the position as he gets more and more reps.

    As for Lombardozzi, he’s nothing special, but he can get you a hit off the bench and he doesn’t completely embarrass you if he has to start every now and then (as long as it’s not often). I’d be okay with upgrading, but I think our other bench spots need to be replaced before him. Great point about his lack of walks though. He needs to do it more. Much more.

    • David Proctor - Oct 25, 2013 at 7:38 AM

      Wow, upon further inspection, Fangraphs has Rendon listed as the 7th best second baseman among all 2B in baseball with at least 700 innings in the field. He’s behind Darwin Barney, Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist, Brandon Phillips, DJ Lemehieu and Mark Ellis. He’s in front of guys like Howie Kendrick, Omar Infante, Chase Utley and Robinson Cano.

    • Hiram Hover - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:29 AM

      To clarify: Danny’s UZR/150 was 12.2 at 2B in limited innings in 2013; Rendon’s was 6.6; Lombo was -2.0.

      Which, of course, doesn’t mean anything unless you put much stock in UZR in the first place. I think it has value, but also that you need a larger sample size to give you a true read on talent level.

      FWIW, the defensive metrics at bbref rate Rendon a lot more harshly–so much so that it washes out his offensive contribution and leaves him at 0 WAR.

      None of which is really that big a problem for me–I like Rendon and expect him to get better too, both offensively and defensively.

      • nats128 - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:40 AM

        “I like Rendon and expect him to get better too, both offensively and defensively.”

        Well said. Im thinking the same.

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    Don’t say this too loud as the naysayers can’t stand the truth. 6th best in 2nd base range and this is from a player who had to learn a new position. If he can improve on the errors he could be Gold Glove quality.

    While I felt strongly that ARen could play 2nd base, I had no idea he would be this good, and to the point where he is looking like a career 2nd baseman.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:27 AM

      David, I thought I hit the Reply button to respond to you on Rendon. Good stats BTW.

      On Lombo, he was the team’s best pinch hitter and he showed a lot of maturity. Overall though a .278 OBP won’t work for a non-power guy.

      As sad as it might be, Lombo could be the odd man out if Rizzo can really bolster the bench.

    • nats128 - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:38 AM

      Steve-O, I hadnt seen much of Rendon at 3rd and to me he looks like a natural 2nd baseman. Good call by you when it seemed you were the only one saying it which is why Im listening to you about Werth moving to 1st base as a good idea.

      David, great points on the Espi/Rendon defensive comparisons and the range/error comparison. I think with Rendons 700 innings at 2nd base he can show even more improvement using Davey’s 1,000 innings to be ready at the position.

      Overall, Rendon is a huge upgrade at 2nd base over his predecessor with the better offense. Lombos overall stats look bad however he was clutch so many times in pinch hitting.

  3. Hiram Hover - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:38 AM

    Lombardozzi proved the Nationals’ best pinch-hitter this season

    That makes me very sad.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:45 AM

      Yes, as Mark said the best of that bad bunch.

  4. Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    If Zach Walters could actually play defense, he could step up as the utility infielder on the bench. This is the state of affairs on the bench. Awful.

    • Doc - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:10 AM

      Lombos’s UZR stuff is confounding, but then again I’m always confounded by that stat.

      It also appears that there is extremely poor reliability between the different algorithmic takes.

      Some saber nut needs to develop something that we all can understand, trust, and value.

      Ghost, I’m thinking that Walters is the guy for the bench. He has a better arm than Lombo, even if he’s more erratic in the field. Like the fact that he’s a switchy.

      Someone needs to work with him directly in the back fields of Viera, like he’s a Desi Jr–which he is..

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:19 AM

        I think Walters will take some reps this winter in LF. His bat is intriguing.

  5. karlkolchak - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    What’s surprising is that Lombo did take walks as a minor leaguer. He had over 60 BBs in 2009 & 2010 with OPBs over .370 each year (his career Minor League OBP is .369). Let’s hope it is a case of him still needing to mature as a young hitter and that he will get better next season.

    • David Proctor - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:57 AM

      I think his spot is probably safe next year so I hope you’re right. Rizzo already has to find at least 2 new bench bats and I can’t see him creating another hole by optioning Lombardozzi.

  6. David Proctor - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    Ken Rosenthal ‏@Ken_Rosenthal 2m
    Sources: #Nationals plan to hire Matt Williams as manager with goal of keeping Randy Knorr as bench coach. Timing of announcement not known.

    Looks like it is Williams.

  7. Faraz Shaikh - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    Hope he made the right choice.

    • David Proctor - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      I’ll be interested in seeing how Knorr reacts. I understand Rizzo’s thinking. He wants change, but Knorr also provides some continuity and the players all love him. But would Knorr want to stick around as the bench coach after being passed over for manager?

  8. David Proctor - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    Adam Kilgore ‏@AdamKilgoreWP 1m
    .@Ken_Rosenthal reports the Nats plan to hire Matt Williams and keep Randy Knorr as bench coach. Knorr says he’d stay. “I love this team.”

    I guess that answers the question about if Knorr would stay.

    • Candide - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:48 AM

      Knorr says he’d stay. “I love this team.”

      I guess that answers the question about if Knorr would stay.

      But if the Tigers were to come calling…

      But really, what would you expect him to say?

      “Lousy bastards don’t give me no respect. Been busting my butt for these jerks, running things whenever Davey dozed off in the late innings. I paid my dues, and I earned the job. Just wait ’til these underachievers start the season 3-14; they’ll be screaming for Williams’s head. And I’ll be laughing and laughing and telling them, ‘I told you so, asshats!'”

      • David Proctor - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:50 AM

        I wouldn’t expect him to say that no, but it’s quite common for coaches in his position to stepdown after being passed over.

      • Candide - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:58 AM

        David – agreed, which is why I said, “if the Tigers were to come calling…”

        Best not to step down until you have your next gig lined up. And until then, you say nothing but good things about everyone involved.

        That’s not only true in baseball, it goes without saying.

  9. tcostant - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    You know I love Lombardozzi, but I can see him getting dealt in the offseason. He actually has trade value where Danny Espinosa doesn’t. I can see Espi, coming back in a utility role and he is a much better defender and he can actually sub at SS if needed, which was a huge gap last year. We know Rizzo loves him and he might actually think that Espi would be better in this role. You heard it here first!

    • scbilly - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:44 AM

      Espinosa doesnt strike me as a guy who’s going to maintain a very good attitude in a bench role. Am I reading that wrong?

      • tcostant - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:02 AM

        You think he wouldn’t be a good solder in the bigs leagues? Would you rather me a utility guy in the bigs, with a ML salary and plane rides to game or ride it out on triple A buses. His attitude, should be play good defense and when he gets AB’s, don’t strike out and maybe a another team might want me down the line.

        I really don’t think it will be an issue.

    • NatsLady - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:22 PM

      I agree with this, and I agree Danny should come back and see what he can do–and I would guess he learned a little humility, especially when he didn’t even get a September call-up, and said at that time he would “sit on the bench, pinch hit, late inning defensive replacement, whatever.” We have no backup SS (I don’t count Zach Walters) and we were very lucky Desi went the whole season with only minor twinges. Danny can also (obviously) backup Rendon at 2B. If you want a stronger bench, you would rather have Espinosa than Lombardozzi.

      Personally, I think Davey got angry with Danny when he didn’t “follow my advice” and never wanted to see him back. That combined with the financial situation (MLB playing time) meant no September for Danny.

      • tcostant - Oct 25, 2013 at 3:14 PM

        NatsLady you are correct – again!

  10. adcwonk - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    Matt Williams new manager?

  11. jd - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    It sure looks like Matt Williams is the man. We know very little of what his managing style and philosophy is so will have to wait and see and withhold judgement. I am surprised that a new manager isn’t given the opportunity to hire his own coaching staff though. If all or most of the coaches return it sure looks and feels like Rizzo is putting last year’s failures squarely on Davey.

  12. Hiram Hover - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    New post.

  13. jd - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Lombo was actually terrible last year, there is not really any way to sugar coat it. Low OBP, no power, inability to play SS, mediocre at 2nd and below average at 3rd and in the outfield.

    You can almost live with Lombo’s deficiencies if he could:

    A) take a walk once in a while.
    B) hit with a bit more pop.





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