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Does the Nationals’ lineup need an upgrade?

Nov 18, 2013, 6:00 AM EST

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Pose the following question — What was the biggest reason the Nationals underperformed this season? — and you’d probably get various forms of the same answer: They didn’t hit enough.

Which leads to obvious questions about the possibility of upgrading the lineup this winter in hopes of fielding a more offensively productive group in 2014.

But do the Nationals actually need to make changes to their lineup? It should be noted that all eight regulars are already signed or under team control, so any addition would have to also include a subtraction of some type.

Truth be told, the eight guys who filled out Davey Johnson’s regular lineup during the second half of the 2013 season were productive enough to win. And should Matt Williams be given the same eight guys in 2014, there’s ample reason to believe they’ll not only be productive enough but should be even better.

Though it’s easy (and not necessarily incorrect) to say the Nationals didn’t hit enough this year, their regular lineup actually did. When healthy and on the field.

Using the stat OPS+, which normalizes a player’s on-base-plus-slugging-percentages for ballparks, six of the Nats’ eight regulars were above-average hitters while the other two were just a tick below average.

An OPS+ of 100 is considered the league average. Every point up or down from there is one percentage point above or below average. So, Jayson Werth (with an OPS+ of 154) was 54 percent better than league average this year. Bryce Harper (133), Ryan Zimmerman (121), Ian Desmond (114), Wilson Ramos (111) and Adam LaRoche (102) all rated above average as well. Yes, even LaRoche, despite a major drop-off from his fantastic 2012, still rated slightly better than average in 2013.

Anthony Rendon (99) and Denard Span (94), meanwhile, came up just a bit below average, though hardly by a significant margin.

What to make of this? Well, obviously Werth and Harper were beasts at the plate when healthy. Zimmerman, Desmond and Ramos were all very good. And LaRoche, while sub-par by the career standard he has set for himself, was productive enough to at least function as an average big-league offensive player.

Rendon and Span each struggled at times but each showed flashes of what they can be, and there’s reason to believe each will show marked improvement in 2014. Rendon, because he’ll have his first big-league season under his belt. Span, because he’ll be more comfortable with NL pitching in his second go-around and because he made some key tweaks to his swing and his approach during the season’s second half.

Those eight guys weren’t collectively responsible for the Nationals’ offensive woes in 2013. The guys who came off the bench, however, were.

It’s not unusual for bench players to rate as below-average hitters — that’s why they’re on the bench in the first place — but the Nationals’ reserves were absolute bottom-feeders this season. Nine other players received at least 36 plate appearances in 2013, and not one posted an OPS+ better than 69. That means even the best guys on the Nats’ bench (Steve Lombardozzi and Scott Hairston) were 31 percent worse than league average.

And don’t get started on Danny Espinosa, whose OPS+ sat at a pathetic 27 when he was banished to Class AAA Syracuse in early June, fourth-worst among all NL players with at least 100 plate appearances.

Point is, if the Nationals are hoping to improve offensively in 2014, they may not need to improve their starting lineup. They do, however, desperately need to upgrade their bench. And then hope their starters actually remain in the lineup through the full season.

  1. trochlis318 - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:03 AM

    I mean there starting lineup is great but looking through the stats last year, there bench was worth maybe -5WAR whcih is pathetic. Espi was a huge chunk at -1 but the collective was pretty terrible. We should shoot for maybe a 3WAR bench. that is a difference in 8 wins in the season and for this nats team 86 to 94 wins which is definate playoffs and division contention.

  2. David Proctor - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:07 AM

    I apologize but a long post is coming:

    The problem is that OPS+ doesn’t adjust for position. So while Harper, Werth, Zimmerman, Desmond and Ramos were all well-above average (especially the latter two given one plays SS and the other C), LaRoche was well below average with a 102 OPS+ given the position that he plays.

    I do agree with the basic premise, though, that a healthy Nationals lineup is plenty good enough to win–even with LaRoche in there.

    I also want to add, it might seem silly given how much we expect of young players these days, but it’s fairly remarkable that Rendon hit at a league average clip. Rendon played in only 79 minor league games. That’s an almost laughably small number. Even Bryce Harper, who was rushed to the big leagues, played in 133. On top of that, Rendon had to learn a completely new position that he had never played (well, not beyond pee wee anyway).

    Projecting forward, I think ultimately we can expect Span to put up about the same numbers, but hopefully a tad more consistent (not a late season surge that increases his BA 30 points) and with some more walks so that OBP goes up. Rendon I think could take a sizable leap forward. Harper should take another step forward (keeping him on the field is going to be the single biggest key in our success). Zimmerman will put up his usual numbers, hopefully with better defense. Werth won’t have as good a year as this year, but he’s hit .300 two years in a row and the power is back–he’ll miss time though. Desmond will put up his .280ish/20 HR/20 SB. Ramos being healthy a full season is another big key.

    LaRoche is the biggest question mark. Yes, he’s aging and I get that. But he’s still younger than Werth and we now know that he had an issue in his arm that required surgery in addition to the weight loss. He had an 127 OPS+ in 2012 and a 102 OPS+ in 2013. If we could even get him back up to 110 or so, I think that would help a lot. It’s still not really what you’d want from a 1B, but I also think that’s a reasonable expectation.

    One more thing in this last post: in one of Kilgore’s articles this past week, he quoted an unnamed executive calling our bench in 2012 “a joke.” We all knew that, but I was curious about the numbers. So let’s begin with pinch hitting. Our bench in 2013 was 11th in the NL in pinch hitting-it collectively hit .208. It was dead last in the NL with only 13 pinch hit RBI. Even the Mets managed 16 an the Marlins 17. Keep in mind: these numbers actually went UP at the end of the year. Scott Hairston drove in 5 of those runs himself.

    The other thing I wanted to figure out was how the bench players performed when they were forced to start. I couldn’t find any data on it so I had to do it manually. Roger Bernadina, Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore and Chad Tracy got 738 ABs. In those 738 ABs, they got 165 hits. That’s good for a .228 batting average. Those guys got about 15% of our ABs this season. That doesn’t even include the 158 ABs for Espinosa.

    I wanted to go just a tad deeper, though. This is the part that was really a pain. I wanted to look up how our normal 1-8 guys did (Span, Rendon, Harper, Zimmerman, Werth, Desmond, LaRoche and Ramos). Those 8 got 3,813 of our ABs. Those guys got 70% of our ABs. Now obviously the backup catcher, pitcher, guys like Corey Brown, Jeff Kobernus, etc. all factor in too, but they’re not really relevant here overall. I also left out Suzuki. But anyway, in those, 3,813 ABs from the starting 8, they had 1,049 hits. That’s a .275 average. The league average this season was .253.

    Now obviously, you can’t take away every team’s worst hitters and I ignored pitchers altogether which would drag down the average some (you’d expect the pitcher to get about 6% of the ABs in a season). So it’s not a fair comparison in that regard and obviously I’m not going to look at what every single team’s hitters did and differentiate. I can say that from just browsing around the data, not many good teams suffered a 50 point dropoff from their starters to their reserves. I’m also not factoring in the OBP difference which is much, much larger since our bench is made up so many low OBP guys (Lombo only drew 9 walks in over 300 PAs, for instance).

    Now this is an extremely long-winded way of saying…yes, improve the bench. Please.

    • David Proctor - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:08 AM

      Err. Make that calling our bench in 2013 “a joke.” I wish we had an edit function.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 18, 2013 at 8:21 AM

      David, nicely said and you beat me to it on OPS+ by position and especially 1st base where you usually have your #4 hitter.

    • Sam - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:03 PM

      This was a very well-written comment, and I agree with it completely. I appreciate the data that you cited as well, David.

      I have a few points to add:
      OPS+ is good in the aggregate. However, comparing a center fielder to a first basemen without adjustment is not particularly useful.
      Also, I think the expectation for bench players is that they perform about 10% worse than if they were playing everyday. Now, obviously, a bench player is a bench player because he’s not as good as the players in the starting lineup (or the guy starting over him has incriminating pictures of the manager’s wife). No arguments, though; our bench was terrible in 2013.

  3. Joe Seamhead - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:21 AM

    Suzuki, and his 64 OPS+ was in last year’s starting lineup enough that by Mark’s logic you could conclude that the Nats probably would have made the playoffs if Ramos had stayed in the lineup for the majority of the season. Combine Zook’s OPS + and the drop off of the pitching staff’s ERA while he was in and you have a pretty good picture as to why Suzuki is OK as a backup, but good enough to lose with as your starting catcher.

  4. trochlis318 - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:56 AM

    so basically from everythign im reading is that our bench sucked so hard last year,which we all know but bears repeating. 2 wishes i have, 1 which has been shot down. Keep dejesus, i thought he was a fine addition to our fairly weak bench and with all the injuries to our outfielders the past few years, we could have gotten him a 400-500 PA and 2 is to get Hanigan for our backup catcher. It really isn’t on anyone’s mind but we need one, the reds are looking to trade, and he is a very good catcher with offensive upside.

  5. Hiram Hover - Nov 18, 2013 at 8:17 AM

    One quibble about the #s for ALR.

    Yes, his OPS+ was 102, so he’s a few ticks above average, but remember, the “average” in this case is of the entire league including pitchers, SS, etc etc.

    ALR plays one of the premium offensive positions on the field. Compared to other 1B, he looked pretty bad in 2013 – among qualifying 1B in the NL, he was 2d to last in wRC+.

    (PS – wRC+ works pretty much the same as OPS+–ALR was at 103 in wRC+, vs 102 in OPS+, and it was easier for me to look up quickly).

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 18, 2013 at 8:29 AM

      Another good post. This was the offensive problem plus the production from the bench. Time to spend the money there.

      You can never count on your starting 8 to stay healthy all year so you better have a 4th outfielder who can step in.

      The only reason Rizzo may not want to get rid of LaRoche might have to do with the weak FA class. Still I think he can get creative and upgrade the corner outfield and shift Werth over if Jayson was willing to do it. LaRoche could then be in the Tracy role if not traded.

      2 of the bench players I would look at is McLouth and Morse.

      • Doc - Nov 18, 2013 at 9:12 AM

        Yeah, both McLouth and Morse project better than last year’s bench. Mclouth is a solid ballplayer, when given the opportunity. Mickey Mo will probably sign with an AL team.

        Both, though, may be looking for greater playing time than the Nats can offer them, which is going to be the main problem of attracting quality bench personnel.

        Williams will need to show flexibility in getting bench guys more ABs.

  6. Joe Seamhead - Nov 18, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    Ghost, I’m all in with you regarding a fourth outfielder, and Hairston isn’t it. My problem with Mikey Mo is that his defense was never great and it has looked worse in every passing year. Honestly, I think the idea of moving Werth to first base against LHP isn’t a bad idea. ALR was miserable against lefties, and Jayson was playing too many shallow hit balls too safe in RF last year. I think a 4th outfielder, either a RH or a switch hitter, platoon ALR/Werth at first, and pick up a Navarro or Hanigan to back up Ramos makes a ton of sense. But I’m sure that Mike Rizzo will shock us all before ST in some way we never fathomed.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 18, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      Nats are counting on Hairston and LaRoche to both bounce back. LaRoche has a better chance to partially bounce back. Hairston got greatly exposed last year. His numbers were better with the Nats but batting .000 against RHPs won’t cut it.

  7. Joe Seamhead - Nov 18, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    Doc, if you platoon ALR and Werth you open up the possibility of giving a fourth outfielder a bunch of AB’s.

  8. sjm308 - Nov 18, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    Great article and I appreciate the comments as well. David, I am so impressed with the time it must have taken to do all that research. Thank you.

    Ghost – we clearly understand that you are not in favor of LaRoche returning and you have documented those numbers numerous times. You of course are entitled to continue to mention this whenever possible but its starting to sound like a certain poster you ridiculed a ways back.

    I am ok with whatever Rizzo/Williams decides on first base. I can understand LaRoche being given every opportunity due to his large contract and also his career stats. I can also understand that he underperformed compared to what is even the norm for a major league first baseman. What I don’t understand is why you and others just casually throw out Werth and Zimmerman making this move to first when its not mentioned by anyone in the Nationals organization. I also think moving an athlete to a position he has NEVER played is much harder then people think. This is why both Harper and Rendon should be given even more respect. One thing they have going for them is they are both young and hopefully that youth gave them the ability to make those huge changes. I played 3rd base and when asked to move to 2nd it was a huge change. I wasn’t that good to begin with but it was difficult. Later, playing outfield was another difficult move because it was so hard to deal with where the ball was going coming off the bat. I realize these guys are the best in the business but I am just not certain this move to first should be considered so casually. The final question about this “move” is how the athlete himself would take it. It is one thing for Rendon to move because this gave him a shot at starting in the major leagues. I also understand Harper moving from catcher to outfield because it probably allows him to play for more years (although if he keeps running into walls, you have to wonder). What 33+ year old outfielders have made the move to first base? Just wondering. Again, you can keep railing against LaRoche but with your understanding of the game and contacts, I would like to read something else.

    Go Nats!

    • Hiram Hover - Nov 18, 2013 at 9:47 AM

      To be fair to Ghost, I was the one who brought up ALR’s lousy (for a 1B) numbers.

      As to what to do with ALR – I expect some rebound, tho not a huge one, to be honest. Still, given the money they’ve invested in him for 2014 and the lack of great alternatives, the job is his to lose. How long it would take him to lose it depends on how badly he plays, and how the team does.

      If the Nats are winning in April-May, even if ALR plays poorly, he gets a longer leash. If the team is losing, I expect they will be quicker to look for alternatives via platooning, internal options, even a trade.

      About ALR’s platoon splits–he’s always hit RHP better, as you would expect, but he did epically bad in 2013: 56 wRC+ vs lefties, vs a career of 91. If he comes back towards career norms, then he’s fine. But if his awful splits were due to aging, injury, change in approach that aren’t fixable, then that’s a much bigger problem.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 18, 2013 at 11:06 AM

        Thanks Hiram. I’m not a hater. Just a realist. The 1st baseman market is super weak. LaRoche is staying unless Rizzo gets real creative.

  9. sjm308 - Nov 18, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    McClouth, if he can deal with not getting as many at bats is perfect. Great speed, solid defense. When is the last time we actually had a good defensive backup in the outfield. Morse – no Moore – no Hairston – no. I realize Corey Brown could play defensive but he just never hit. I guess it was Bernadina but again, no bat.

    Seamhead – I realize Werth is getting older but if you moved him to left and Harper to right wouldn’t that solve that situation. I am guessing Werth has played all 3 outfield positions in his career. I have always thought Harper was the perfect answer for right field with his great arm.

    • Joe Seamhead - Nov 18, 2013 at 10:19 AM

      308, I agree at first glance switching Harper and Werth makes sense except Bryce has seemed to have had a much tougher time with his reads in RF. Can he improve? Undoubtedly, with more experience out there. My logic with Jayson making the move to first has everything to do with the length of his contract, and with the health related quality decline of his OF play last year. Will he come back healthy this year? I think that there is a good chance that he will because of how much of a fitness freak that he is, and certainly LF is generally easier on the legs then RF is. Can he make the switch to 1B successfully? I agree with you that we fans are guilty of arm chair GM and manager fantasies when it comes to moving players around like pawns. I never have bought into the imminent Ryan Zimmerman move to first. Why? Because I think he is a premier 3B that is still young enough to recover from his injuries to regain his previous skill level. As to Werth, he has 4 more years left on his contract and I’m not sure that even with his fitness, that there is 4 more years left in his legs to play the OF. That said, with his height, athleticism, and smarts I think he probably could make the move to first, or at least it’s worth a shot to give him some reps in ST to get a look-see. Also, ALR almost definitely will be gone after this year and I’m not convinced that the Nats have anybody else in the system that can play a quality 1B. If Werth could make the transition it addresses the issue of his aging legs and could fill an apparent hole, while making room for the possible advancement of Goodwin.

  10. Theophilus T.S. - Nov 18, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    Much as GSM wishes otherwise, the Nats’ Top-Eight are locked in by money, contracts and “the future” — by which I mean they can’t scuttle their “future” by playing chess w/ Rendon, Harper, Ramos, etc. The only hope for improving the Top-Eight is for the Top-Eight to play better, and more regularly, in 2014. By that, I mean Zimmerman, Rendon, LaRoche, Harper, Span, Ramos have to play better and spend a lot less time in the hot tub. Rendon should improve, Harper should improve — but we thought that in ST this year, too, didn’t we? The most obvious source of improvement is off the bench, where Rizzo seems to be stuck in neutral, with bad-ranging-to-incredibly-stoopid decisions on Hairston, DeJesus. This team is in a two-year window before the pitching staff potentially starts to crumble (in Zimmermann’s and Strasburg’s year-before-free-agency years). For the life of me I don’t understand why the team doesn’t spend like the Yankees while the window is open. Buy the bench players needed to win 7-8 more games. Or 8-10 more games if you don’t believe in the re-blossoming of the Top-Eight. In ordinary times I’d hang on to Lombardozzi and Moore, who showed signs of being serviceable. But the Nats are so far from an ascertainable path to the WS they should be prepared to drop $15-$18MM on the five bench positions, to capitalize on what they’ve accumulated for the core of the team.

    • sjm308 - Nov 18, 2013 at 9:46 AM

      +1

    • Hiram Hover - Nov 18, 2013 at 9:58 AM

      I like the idea of spending more freely on the bench–even if they end up overpaying, we’re not talking about mortgaging the team’s future, since even an overpaid bench guy won’t require that much $$$ or that many years.

      For a RHB, whom do you like? I’ve see McLouth and Chavez mentioned, but both are lefties.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 18, 2013 at 11:46 AM

        I like Morse on a 1 year deal over TyMo if Williams can get him enough at bats and Rizzo can get a good price.

  11. Joe Seamhead - Nov 18, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    BTW, last year they brought up Kobernus, who really doesn’t have a MLB position. Though I don’t see him as a starter as long as Denard Span is with the Nats, if he keeps putting up the numbers, Billy Burns may end up being a piece of the bench in the not too distant future. The kid gets on base, rarely strikes out, plays a very good OF, is a switch hitter, and is on another level as a baserunner than any other player in the Nats organization. His weakness is no HR power.

  12. knoxvillenat - Nov 18, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    Hiram Hover asks, “For a RHB, whom do you like?”

    Well I for one would like to see more of Tyler, Tyler Moore at first base (not the OF!!) against LH pitching. Let him platoon with ALR and give him more ab’s and lets see what he can do.

    • Hiram Hover - Nov 18, 2013 at 10:45 AM

      Yeah, tho I meant more in the context that Theo raised, of FA bench players you could count on and would even be willing to overspend to get.

      TyMo has shown flashes of awesome and flashes of awful. The Nats can cross their fingers and hope for the best, but I was thinking of a more proactive and reliable plan.

      Morse is out there too, but after his lousy 2013, I think he has to be regarded as a bit of a reclamation project.

      • Joe Seamhead - Nov 18, 2013 at 12:40 PM

        Everybody that was on here last year knows that I am not a big Tyler Moore fan. I think that he is a great kid with limited MLB possibilities. He can hit the ball a mile, but that’s about it. Many felt that Davey mis-used him last year, but I think the reality is if you go back to 2012 Davey was Tyler’s biggest advocate. Tyler is a lug in the OF, and we didn’t get to see enough of him at 1B to really be able to form an objective opinion, but the Nats brass obviously didn’t think much of his defense at first. And since the gist of Mark’s column today is on OPS+, no matter how you cut it, Moore’s was a dismal 66. The league adjusted to him, and if I’m an opposing manager and my pitcher throws him a fastball over the plate, I’m sending that pitcher to the showers. Moore has not shown any aptitude to being able to hit a decent curve or slider.

  13. Faraz Shaikh - Nov 18, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    To answer the question, yes but I am not sure how. I can come up with ideas but I do not know how realistic and likely they will be.

    Has everyone discussed Harper’s deal issue? I missed few posts for last few days.

  14. Theophilus T.S. - Nov 18, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    David Murphy, Kelly Johnson, Dioner Navarro, Chavez, Brian Roberts (not so much, too ltd. to 2B), Skip Schumacher, Jose Molina, Bloomquist, McLouth.

  15. Apmcv - Nov 18, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    I would like to propose a solution to the backup catcher situation: Bryce Harper. Kid has a cannon for an arm and would probably love to get back behind the dish once or twice a week. This would also free up some much needed at bats for whoever becomes the fourth outfielder, and it allows us to add an extra arm to the pen.

    • scbilly - Nov 18, 2013 at 2:39 PM

      And we can certainly count him to be prudent in situations that might result in a collision at the plate.

      No thanks. I don’t doubt he could do it in an emergency (like both catchers getting injuring in the same game), but there’s a reason they moved from back there in the first place.

      • David Proctor - Nov 18, 2013 at 4:17 PM

        Lombo is the emergency catcher.

  16. jd - Nov 18, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    ‘David Murphy, Kelly Johnson, Dioner Navarro, Chavez, Brian Roberts (not so much, too ltd. to 2B), Skip Schumacher, Jose Molina, Bloomquist, McLouth.’

    And you think a combination of these guys gets you 7 – 8 wins?

    I don’t.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Nov 18, 2013 at 1:31 PM

      Not sure they do, in the aggregate, But they’re the best bench players available. I think either of the catchers would be worth a couple of games. Murphy, Chavez, McClouth, Bloomquist might collectively add up to five more. Those five would give the right complement — 2IF, 2OF and a C — but one too many LH bats.

  17. Eugene in Oregon - Nov 18, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    David Procter’s 7:07 a.m. post pretty much says it all, particularly about 1B’s offensive production. My only add-on would be: I would be comfortable with starting the season with the September 2013 line-up, but I would hope that Mike Rizzo and the rest of the front office would be willing to pull the plug more quickly on a 2014 non-performer than they were in 2013 with Danny Espinosa and Adam LaRoche. I know it’s not as easy to do as it is to suggest, but sometimes playing a risky alternative is better option than continuing to send a certain out up to the plate. So, fine, go with the current line-up, but don’t commit yourself to it to such a degree that you allow the team to fall as far behind as they did in 2013 — at least without trying to tweak things.

    • dgourds - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:37 PM

      +1

  18. letswin3 - Nov 18, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    I just finished reading this article, and although I haven’t yet read the comments (surely some of you will have echoed my thoughts here), the OPS+ metric for players needs to be categorized by position. Why not take the average first base OPS+ for a comparison with LaRoche…. I haven’t done that yet, but I’m willing to stake a pint that his OPS+ doesn’t stack up. An average of 100 just ain’t always the same….. a catcher with a great arm and the talent to call a great game, for example, can be valuable (even valued highly) with an OPS+ near, or even lower than, the average. But first base? Come on, we all know that we should replace ALR next season, if possible. I’m still in the Werth is talented enough (and worthy of having his health preserved enough) camp that says let’s give him a try at that infield spot….. make it a spring commitment to give it a legitimate testing ( not another Davey giving Lombo a 2 day test at second, only to return a failed Espinosa on the third day).

    Also, it shouldn’t be an average OPS+ that we seek anywhere in the lineup…. the average teams are just watching the October fun. We have the foundation of a very good team here, and to compromise it’s success by playing out the contract of a 237 hitter another year because that’s the remaining term of his contract would be irresponsible.

      • letswin3 - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:12 PM

        Thanks Nats 128, He finished 29th of 30, and behind even Adam Dunn. Guess I wudda won that pint. I don’t dislike LaRoche, it’s just that I want to win ….. and he’s 12.5% of our starting lineup, if we exclude the pitcher. And 12.5% of 162 games represents about 20 games that could be decided by the next to the last offensive first baseman in baseball … and a guy that got a little frisky in the last month of ’13 to raise his batting average to 237. I’m way too liberal with using the offensive performance of one player to decide 20 games, but I think you see where I’m coming from anyway. I’m guessing, but first baseman Crash Davis is likely credited with affecting at least 20 games by the FO and fans of that team just up the road.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 18, 2013 at 4:37 PM

        Yikes! It just shows that context is important in stats. The league average of all players is relative to their positional value. 1st base is a premium offensive position.

      • Hiram Hover - Nov 18, 2013 at 5:35 PM

        Letwsin

        To be fair, there was a 2d page to that list, so he finished 29 out of 53.

        Still not exactly the kind of thing you want on your tombstone or in your obit, but not as bad as 29 of 30.

      • letswin3 - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:28 PM

        Sorry HH.I didn’t realize that there was a second page.

  19. sjm308 - Nov 18, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    Agree with Mr. Oregon that a key for me will be how Williams/Rizzo deal with poor performance early in the season. I still have nightmares about certain games when we would send a lineup out there with FOUR guys hitting under .200, NOT including the pitcher. Go ahead and start LaRoche but I am not buying that “he always starts slow” stuff in his final year here. Either produce or sit down, and I want him to produce.

    • scbilly - Nov 18, 2013 at 4:55 PM

      I remember a couple of games when the pitcher had only the third worst BA in the lineup. Even if the pitcher is Ken Brett, that can’t consistently end well.

  20. jd - Nov 18, 2013 at 2:11 PM

    If you look at how Atlanta constructed their bench you will agree that no one expected to see that type of production from the likes of :Gaddis, Schaffer, Laird, Ramiro Pena, Terodaslevitch etc. The only known bench player they signed was Reed Johnson and they ended up with an exceptional bench.

    My point is that a big part of bench success is not just who you get but how you deploy it. I thought Fredi Gozalez did a masterful job of including his bench players involved from the get go and they produced because they were an equal part of the team.

    • nats128 - Nov 18, 2013 at 2:30 PM

      Gaddis won a spot on the bench and beat out veterans and Reed Johnson was an expensive Free Agent pickup. It used to work that way that you had to earn your way on to the team but with long-term contracts and Minor League options you cant always go with the best 25. Chad Tracy didnt earn a spot however it wasnt like Rizzo had several real candidates.

  21. jd - Nov 18, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    In contrast I thought Davey Johnson did a lousy job with his bench throughout the year. A perfect example was Tyler Moore; when he returned from his AAA stint he was a hot hitter and the Nats season was pretty much in the toilet. Why would you not give TyMo an extended look over a hurting veteran who is not producing?

    • nats128 - Nov 18, 2013 at 2:36 PM

      Agreed. Also you have to work in the hot player some times which Davey didnt do and Tyler Moore was one of them when he came back.

    • scbilly - Nov 18, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      When did the FO know about the extent of ALR’s injuries and issues? It seems that while his performance problems were obvious early, we in the public didn’t know until quite late in the season about the medication and arm issues. Did the organization know any earlier? I have no problem with them sitting on the information, but I wonder when the should have been able to take it into consideration when making lineup decisions.

  22. naterialguy - Nov 18, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    Two words i don’t want to hear next season at all…….”It’s early”

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 18, 2013 at 4:40 PM

      Some people were saying that in June. Knee-jerk reactions are tough but Espinosa and LaRoche never rose to their mean while Ryan Zimmerman got close offensively but didn’t defensively.

  23. Another_Sam - Nov 18, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    I’ll be whipping this dead horse all winter: I hope they take a hard look at Zimmerman’s throws the first week in March. If there’s any doubt there at all, they’ll need to start serious shuffling. Last spring it was clear that he couldn’t play third in th big leagues.

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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.

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