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Chad Tracy is 8-for-44 as a pinch-hitter over the last calendar year.
In principle, that notion makes some sense. But it requires some consistent production from those bench players who would be asked to pinch-hit in that situation. And right now, the Nationals aren't getting much production at all from their reserves.
When Chad Tracy struck out to lead off the bottom of the seventh yesterday, Nationals pinch-hitters fell to 7-for-48 on the season, a .146 batting average. Even more alarming, Nats pinch-hitter have yet to drive in a single run so far in 2013.
That comes in stark contrast to the numbers the Nationals produced off the bench last season. Pinch-hitters batted a collective .288 with four homers and 26 RBI in 2012, one of the most-productive unitsin the majors.
So what's happened to derail that this season? Nearly the entire bench returned intact, with Tracy, Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina taking up four of the five spots (the final one is held by whichever catcher isn't in the lineup on a given day). Those players simply aren't producing the way did a year ago, aside from one.
Lombardozzi (5-for-14 with a double and a triple) is the lone member of the group to have success as a pinch-hitter so far. The rest have been dreadful: Tracy is 1-for-13, Bernadina is 1-for-9, Moore is 0-for-9 with six strikeouts.
Moore and Lombardozzi, of course, are young players still learning how to adapt to a role in which they're called upon to bat in one big situation late in a game, coming off the bench cold. Bernadina has a bit more experience, though he still remains a relatively young player.
Tracy, on the other hand, is a seasoned veteran, an ideal pinch-hitter who had tons of success last season in the role, tying for the NL lead with 11 RBI off the bench. But those numbers are a bit misleading, because Tracy's production nosedived over the second half of 2012, a trend that has continued into 2013.
Tracy's last home run came on May 14, 2012. Since then, he's hitting .205 (18-for-88) with five RBI overall. As a pinch-hitter, he's batting .182 (8-for-44).
That's a mighty disturbing stat for a player who was re-signed late last summer because the Nationals believed he would be able to come close to duplicating those numbers while serving as the club's primary bat off the bench.
If anything, Tracy's reputation was built on a strong first six weeks to the 2012 season. He's done almost nothing productive since then.
The same could be said for just about everyone else on the Nationals bench, a group that needs to get things together in a hurry.