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Who should DH for Nats the next 2 nights?

Jul 9, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

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For the last week, Matt Williams has faced a nightly lineup decision, the crux of which has boiled down to the question of who would start at third base.

For the next two nights, Williams will face another lineup decision. This time, though, the Nationals manager has another position to consider: designated hitter.

With the Battle of the Beltways series shifting north to Camden Yards, AL rules take over, so both clubs will be allowed to use a DH. The Nationals’ choice would seem obvious — Ryan Zimmerman — but Williams wasn’t ready to commit to anything following last night’s postponement.

“We just called [this game], so we haven’t thought in those terms yet,” he said. “We’ll spend the short bus ride [to Baltimore] talking about it, I’m sure.”

While Zimmerman is the logical choice, taking his throwing issues out of the equation, there are other factors for Williams to consider…

— Other everyday players could certainly use a semi-night off, with Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth high atop that list.

— If Zimmerman doesn’t play third base, Anthony Rendon would slide over to take his spot, leaving second base open and forcing either Danny Espinosa or Kevin Frandsen into the lineup. Williams might prefer his extra bat to come in the form of someone else, perhaps Nate McLouth or Scott Hairston.

The decision ultimately boils down to the same one Williams has been facing since Bryce Harper came off the DL last week and gave the Nationals a fully healthy roster for the first time since Opening Day. What’s more important: Offense or defense?

The Nationals’ best defensive alignment would have Rendon at third, Espinosa at second and the usual outfield configuration of Harper, Denard Span and Werth. Their best offensive alignment, though, would probably have Zimmerman staying at third, Rendon staying at second and either McLouth in one of the outfield spots or Hairston as DH.

The Orioles will start right-hander Bud Norris in tonight’s game, so McLouth would seem to provide the better matchup. Thursday’s series finale, though, will see lefty Wei-Yin Chen taking the mound for Baltimore, so that creates a better matchup for either Hairston or Espinosa.

Whatever the case, this will only be a two-day dilemma for Williams. The Nationals return to intraleague play Friday in Philadelphia, and they’ll play only three more games in an AL park the rest of the regular season: Aug. 29-31 in Seattle.

  1. coop202 - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    To be fair – the best defensive alignment would have mclouth instead of Werth, but that’s not realistic.

  2. stoatva - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    I sure hope Williams is just being his usual unforthcoming self when he says he hasn’t thought about what kind of DH lineup he will use. Haven’t thought about it? I hope not.

    • stoatva - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:29 AM

      “We’ll spend the short bus ride…”

      The jokes write themselves.

      • Candide - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:30 AM

        Glad I saw your post before I posted my thought, else I’d owe you a drink…

  3. JamesFan - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:23 AM

    Hairston. Team needs pop.

  4. Candide - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    /sarc

    I keep hearing night after night that there are no weak spots in our lineup, that you can’t pitch around Span because Rendon because Werth because LaRoche because Zimm…

    So we don’t even NEED a DH.

    /end_sarc

    • scmargenau - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      Good one !

      I’d like to see Frandsen…he’s the best true hitter in the “secret service”

    • scmargenau - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      Good one !

      I’d like to see Frandsen…he’s the best true hitter in the “secret service”

  5. Brookstoor - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    For the DL, maybe Zim one night and ALR the other night? That way it removes Zim’s arm from third for both games, with him covering first for Adam. But then again they have shown that they don’t mind having his arm at third right now. Werth could certainly use a day off from the field and we could get McLouth a start out there. They have a few options.

    • masterfishkeeper - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:39 AM

      I’m pretty sure you mean DH and not DL! We’ve had enough DL for a while.

      • Brookstoor - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:52 AM

        Oh god I hope I didn’t set anything in motion with the cosmic overlords by saying DL instead of DH. Must be muscle memory to type DL, unfortunately :(

    • natsfan1a - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:16 PM

      No worries, we can fix this. We need a live–is it a live chicken?–a live chicken to take the curse off.
      No, wait. That’s going to be messy, and where are we going to get a live chicken, anyway?

      Okay, try this. Spin around three times, spit, curse (something like “Oh, Phillies!”). Then, spin around three times, spit, curse. And we should be good to go. Yeah, that’ll work.

      • NatsNut - Jul 9, 2014 at 1:09 PM

        I just had some chicken for lunch. Maybe that will help.

  6. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    Idk, I think I would have Werth DH both days… But with Fister being a ground ball pitcher (really hope this extra day of rest doesn’t throw him off), I think I would rather have Ryan DH and have Espi in at 2nd and Rendon at 3rd…

    • scmargenau - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:41 AM

      Good point.

    • adcwonk - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:54 AM

      Definately Espi at 2b for the second game, at least.

  7. Eugene in Oregon - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    With regard to offense vs. defense, not so much ‘what’s more important?’ as ‘how best do you balance them?’ Against a RHP, I would suggest that an additional LH hitter (Nate McLouth, who might also improve the RF defense) outweighs the potential improvement in IF defense, moving Jayson Werth to the DH. Against a LHP, I would suggest that the combination of Danny Espinosa’s RH hitting combined with the improved IF defense, leads to Ryan Zimmerman DHing.

    • Section 222 - Jul 9, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      +1. Of course, we’ve faced a bunch of lefties since Harper returned and Espi hasn’t been in the lineup even once. Baffling.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:44 PM

        Yes, tho that was probably because they wanted Zim in the line up, both for his bat and to assess how he would/could do at 3B.

      • Section 222 - Jul 9, 2014 at 1:00 PM

        I know, but not a single day off for Zim, Harper, Span, Werth, or Desi, to let Espi to hit against a lefty? Seems extreme.

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      +1.

  8. alexva6 - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    tonite
    Span CF
    Rendon 3B
    Werth DH
    Zimmerman 1B
    Harper LF
    Desmond SS
    McLouth RF
    Ramos C
    Espinosa 2B

    tomorrow
    Span CF
    Rendon 2B
    Werth RF
    Laroche 1B
    Zimmerman DH
    Harper LF
    Desmond SS
    Ramos C
    Frandsen 3B

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      Alexva, you beat me by 2 minutes. Love it!

      • adcwonk - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:55 AM

        Disagree — have Espi face the lefthander, right?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 9, 2014 at 2:27 PM

        Frandsen is good against LHPs also.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:55 AM

        Oh hold on, why are you sitting LaRoche. I figure with a dayoff he should be good to go.

      • alexva6 - Jul 9, 2014 at 11:25 AM

        2 is better than 1.

        not worried about the splits on him and Espinosa. if you are you could switch the #9 hitters and make the appropriate defensive changes

      • adcwonk - Jul 9, 2014 at 11:40 AM

        Danny is .196 against RHP, and .273 against LHP. At .273 he’s actually an asset on offense as well as defense. Use that asset, no?

    • alexva6 - Jul 9, 2014 at 1:01 PM

      Espinosa is 2-10 against Norris and 1-6 against Chen.

      you flip your coin, I’ll flip mine.

      • adcwonk - Jul 9, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        I plead small sample size on that. OTOH, he’s had just about 200 PA’s against RHP and it batting .196 with 75 K’s.

      • alexva6 - Jul 9, 2014 at 3:33 PM

        a fair plea. but I am sitting LaRoche tonight for injury concerns and want one more LH bat, albeit it a weak one.

        and you thought I was just throwing darts at a roster

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    Werth as DH tonight with McLouth in RF tonight makes sense and RZim tomorrow with either Frandsen at 3rd or Espi at 2nd with Rendon at 3rd.

    Take advantage of rightie and leftie matchups.

  10. tcostant - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    Werth tonight.

    LaRoche on Thursday with Zimm playing 1B.

  11. Joe Seamhead - Jul 9, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Whoever it is playing, just win!

    • natsfan1a - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:16 PM

      This.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:22 PM

        “Don’t wait for it to happen. Don’t even want it to happen. Just watch what does happen.”

        Sean Connery as Jimmy Malone, in The Untouchables

  12. nats1924 - Jul 9, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    of course RZim will DH both games. The guy cant throw!

    …I know a lot of us talk that 1B will cure RZim 2015 and beyond. But, the last I checked 1B still throws a few times in a game on average, especially when opponents know he cant throw to 2B, 3B or home. so what happens then?

    Man, this Ryan Zimmerman injury may really haunt us for years to come.

    Go Nats!

    • jd - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:20 PM

      The throws by a 1st baseman are few and far between and they are mostly to 2nd (short throw). He’ll be fine at 1st.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:24 PM

        Besides, all of his throws aren’t problematic, only the routine ones where he has time to think about it.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:50 PM

        If it really is a mental thing, they need to rig up a device like an electronic dog collar, but wired to his glove, so when he fields the ball, he gets a tiny electric shock. Just enough to distract him for a second, so he can’t think about the throw.

        That’s if it’s really a mental thing, which I think much of it is not.

        Also, he would have to be pretty careful about pounding his mitt between pitches.

      • chaz11963 - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        It doesn’t seem to be a thinking problem. It’s a shoulder strength problem. Even on routine throws he lobs the ball across the diamond. He has also shifted his positioning to be closer in because of the throwing issues. He will not be able to make a strong throw from behind the bag and has limited his range.

  13. jd - Jul 9, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    Random thoughts:

    1) I don’t need to see Frandsen in the lineup – Not a great asset offensively or defensively.
    2) Hairston should never start against a right handed pitcher but should really get a few starts against leftiies just so he can keep sharp. I find that he normally drives the ball even when he makes outs.
    3) Espinosa should only start against lefties. I think his ship has sailed, I think he’s gone before the end of the year.

    4) I thought MW handled the pen perfectly in the 11 inning game. When you get to extra innings you pitch your bullpen from best to worst. Atlanta kept Kimbrall out of the game the other night saving him for when they take the lead, in the meantime a lesser pitcher lost the game for them.

    • Section 222 - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:49 PM

      On your point 4, I generally agree although NL made the good point the other day that matchups ought to have some influence on who you choose to send out there after the 9th.

      Fredi held back Kimbrel because they were the visiting team. That seems to be the standard approach, and MW has done it as well. He was even ready to send ALR out there before using Soriano. That’s crazy. Like you, I’d prefer to see us use Soriano in 9th on the road in a tie game. There are other guys who can save the game if we take the lead. But that’s just not the way it’s done these days.

    • alexva6 - Jul 9, 2014 at 1:11 PM

      up through the ninth, no problem. I would have gone to Detwiler in the tenth, with the game tied as it was I would have started warming him up at the same time Soriano giving him ample time to be ready to go as long as needed. I would have saved Storen for a mid-inning switch if needed because he is a true reliever used to that situation.

      just a different way to look at it, your theory of good to worst is as valid as mine.

  14. veejh - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    Not much of a dilemma….get to rest someone in the field and add a bat to the lineup. What a dilemma!

  15. Theophilus T.S. - Jul 9, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    Against Norris, who hits a lot of bats anyway, putting an extra LH bat in the lineup. McLouth is the only viable option. I think Williams has sufficiently declared that Espinosa 4.0 is not ready for prime time. Against a team that has the ability to score a lot of runs, defense be damned — the best defense is to outscore them. And I would put McLouth in RF, not just to improve the defense but to give Werth’s legs a day off and take advantage of his caged animal nervous energy at the plate.

    Against Chen the same rule applies, defense be damned. Neither Hairston or Fransden offers an opportunity to improve the defense anyway. In a choice between Hairston and Fransden, I pick Fransden. As far as Hairston goes, you are weighing the probability he’ll run into a pitch; I can’t see him giving you three quality ABs. Fransden more so.

  16. letswin3 - Jul 9, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    I just got a text from an unnamed person on “the bus” heading up 95 who says that Matty is genuinely confused about who to DH tonight, and he’s now reading NI looking for suggestions. Now the bad news ….. he keeps chuckling, shaking his head and mumbling something about “where’s the meat?”.

    • natsfan1a - Jul 9, 2014 at 3:28 PM

      +1

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