Monday, May 13, 2013

Bench struggles hurting Nats

USA Today Sports Images
Chad Tracy is 8-for-44 as a pinch-hitter over the last calendar year.
The critical decision in yesterday's demoralizing loss to the Cubs — Davey Johnson pinch-hitting for Gio Gonzalez in the bottom of the seventh with his team ahead 1-0 — was a produce of the manager seeking an insurance run and trying to give his bullpen some breathing room.

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.

62 comments:

Harpo said...

There is no bench power. It didn't take 45 days of the season to figure that out. What you cant figure out is how Tracy still has a job. He hasn't hit a HR in a year! Matt Stares all over again.

JamesFan said...

This is a big problem and a major difference from last year. The bench needs to turn this around if the Nats are to have a great year.

Doc said...

Concerning Tracy's stats, someone in the manager's and/or GM's office wasn't paying attention when they re-signed him.

Bernadina's and TyMo's production is just as disturbing.

Probably a definite limit to how long a player can be an effective bench player.

Steady Eddie said...

Agreed, the Nats have never had a good experience hanging on to an aging PH too long. Time to release Tracy and bring up a vet from the minors (not a younger player as they can't adapt to the Show without more reps than you can give them). Maybe Micah Owings?

Section 135 said...

Sentimental contracts are a bad idea. Get rid of Chad. Replace him with a LH reliever. Replace Moore with Marrero in AAA. Problem solved.

SCNatsFan said...

Two things are for sure; if the bench continues then we won't be very successful (as these are also our fill in guys) and if they continue to put up these numbers changes will be made. I'm still amazed Tracy got extended when he did.

Harpo said...

TylerMo just needs to play every day in AAA and learn how to recognize sliders and curves again. He has options. Bring up Marrero and reassess. Doing nothing doesn't work. Cut Chad once Corey Brown is ready.

Get rid of Duke and Henry. If you believe Henry can pitch like he did in a 8-2 loss as in a 3-2 lead, your crazy.

BigCat said...

Hmmmm.....Marrero hitting over .300 with 7 hr's in Syracuse. Maybe a flip flop with Moore not a bad idea. Moore needs AB's.

Come a time when its time to hang em up. I think its time for Tracy

BigCat said...

There was a time when I thought Roger B could be a very serviceable big league hitter. But he should be added to the "ECK FACTOR" Players who have been ruined by lack of a professional hitting coach

BigCat said...

Look at this.....its pathetic

Espi .189
Solano .167
Moore .155
Tracy .139
Bernie .103
Laroche .211
Lombo A robust .228

How long can this man keep his job?

SCNatsFan said...

BigCat I'm no defender of Eck but the players are the ones doing the swinging; if you change hitting coaches it might be just to make a move. Still, with so many players continuing to flounder at the plate, perhaps a new voice in the ear of some of these guys would not hurt.

Plus it would be nice to see that lack of productivity can cost you your job in Natstown instead of getting you moved up in the batting order.

Doc said...

BigCat, Eckstein is only the coach.

It takes few other skills to be a good hitter, including the opportunity for daily reps.

Any of these guys on the bench would do well with an opportunity to do a month of playing in the minors.

Definitely agree about flipping TyMo with Marrero--except that the latter guy can't be put in the OF. Haven't checked the AAA stats on Cory Brown, but he has always seemed to be a good option to replace the Shark.

Now that Kobernus is putting in time in the 'Cuse OF, he could take over for Lombo.

mick said...

the shark off the bench has been valuable.

what really sucks this morning, besides the fact that we all know the Caps will lose tonight is that the Nats should be 1 up on Braves. we are lucky to be only 1 back. If this team continues to hit like they have we are looking at sub 500 road trip the next 11 games unless we can win 1-0 games. Storen really stunk yesterday, I am still mad after having slept on it

Unknown said...

They have to start hitting soon, right? All at the same time? Need a spark.

mick said...

Harpo said...
TylerMo just needs to play every day in AAA and learn how to recognize sliders and curves again. He has options. Bring up Marrero and reassess. Doing nothing doesn't work. Cut Chad once Corey Brown is ready.

Get rid of Duke and Henry. If you believe Henry can pitch like he did in a 8-2 loss as in a 3-2 lead, your crazy.

best post so far, I could not AGREE more. Duke simply is terrible and there is no nicer word. Henry is a bust, this is ridiculous to prolong it

Section 135 said...

Bernie is still valuable for defense and baserunning. Lombo is valuable as a utility infielder. Moore is the least valuable player in MLB in terms of WAR. Tracy is close to him. They need to go. Bring up Marerro and either a Loogy or Kobernus or Corey Brown when healthy

alexva said...

logical replacements:

Moore > Marrero
Tracy > Brown (on DL)
Bernadina > Perez
Duke > Bray

this road trip may be do or die for some in the left hand column

NatsJack in Florida said...

Love ready all this angst 37 games into the marathon that is MLB.

If you really want a laugh, read the post game thread on the Braves MLB site.

Rest assured, changes will occur, some for the better and some not so much.

That's why I love watching.

NatsLady said...

Stats for Week 6

http://ladyandthenats.blogspot.com/2013/05/nats-stats-week-6.html

Eugene in Oregon said...

While there's no question that the bench players are struggling, they're not the fundamental problem here. Add up all their pinch-hit ABs and you still haven't generated the ABs of a regular position player. The fundamental issue is that you've only got three (Messrs. Span, Harper, and Desmond) position players who are producing at anything resembling a normal pace. That said, the Nats were in a similar position last season about this and turned things around. I have no doubt that players like Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche will find their usual strokes. I am much less certain about Danny Espinosa (or, rather, he may have already found his usual stroke).

Eugene in Oregon said...

Sorry: 'about this time'...

SCNatsFan said...

Eugene while I agree I think it would be a huge boost for team morale if the bench stepped up once, just once, and won a game. Give the team some confidence it can win games late and not just be the team watching late leads disappear.

JD said...


Mick,

Eugene is 100% correct. The bench has been terrible but it's not all that important. The fact that Ryan Zimmerman is at -0.2 WAR in the middle of the lineup is much more problematic.

If you think that Marrero, Kobernus et. al are the answer then you will be disappointing.

I also think that taking Gio out yesterday was an egregious error by Davie. You just don't take out a pitcher who has allowed just 2 hits through 7 innings, just retired the Cubs 1,2,3 in the 7th and was sitting at 84 pitches.

JD said...


NatsJack,

I am a glass half full kind of guy but the team is clearly not clicking on all cylinders. I don't pretend to be an expert but from where I sit Davie is not having a good year so far.

If you must play Lombo or Bernadina or even Moore they should be at the bottom of the lineup not batting 2nd or in the middle of the lineup. There is nothing wrong with batting Harper 2nd while Werth heals. Someone noted that Span, Harper and Desmond have been the best hitters so far so let them come up as often as possible.

peric said...

Moore > Marrero

I like the idea since Marerro is more the Chad Tracy sub PH off the
bench type. And T-Mo needs to play everyday. But last year in June T-Mo hit .425 with 4 HRs and 3 doubles mostly off the bench. Davey likely remembers that. Its close to June.

Tracy > Brown (on DL)
Tracy > Will Rhymes.

Bernadina > Perez
Perez NOT a left-handed bat right? No power
Bernadina> Komatsu/Brown (DL)

Duke > Bray
Bray just barely arrived ... in H'Burg
Plus he doesn't do long relief spot-start.

Duke>Rosenbaum.

peric said...

Plus the bench was about right where it is now last season if you look at the stats. Except for the Shark who has done decidedly worse.

sjm308 said...

Agree with NatsJack - changes will occur and we are still in striking distance. We are coming up on 25% of the season. If the Redskins were 2-2 would people be jumping off buildings?

We have not played what I would call solid baseball yet. Starting pitching is trending toward solid. I am still not sure why we have Dukes and Henry pitching only in situations that honestly leaves us with a 5 man pen. That 2nd lefty would have been great in the 8th inning yesterday but hindsight is not fair to anyone.

I do think that if our bench continues its early trends during the West Coast trip, there could be moves made. There is really no slam dunk minor leaguer except Rendon who we all agree needs innings. I can understand Moore going down to get AB's but someone else pointed out that Marrero basically plays first and nothing else. Davey does not like to platoon so he would serve as a pinch hitter. If we move Tracy I guess Lombo would be the guy to play 3rd and I am not totally comfortable with that. Tracy actually makes the basic plays at 3rd as well as any sub. I guess what I am saying is that making any move will create other holes. I realize the bench is a huge negative. I have no answers and will be ok if they stand pat or make moves. Hate to not be as emphatic as others but I just don't feel it. My one move would be Dukes out and Bray in as soon as I am convinced he is throwing well.

I am seeing Bobby McFerrin tonight, hoping he will sing "Don't Worry Be Happy" and I can channel our Nationals!

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

If you must play Lombo or Bernadina or even Moore they should be at the bottom of the lineup not batting 2nd or in the middle of the lineup. There is nothing wrong with batting Harper 2nd while Werth heals. Someone noted that Span, Harper and Desmond have been the best hitters so far so let them come up as often as possible.

So just to clarify, you're suggesting

Span
Harper
Desmond
LaRoche
Zim
Ramos/Suzuki
Esinosa or Lombardozzi
Lombardozzi or Espinosa
Pitcher

Is that about right?

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

Lombardozzi in left, obviously, in that lineup, or else Tyler Moore if you're starting him instead.

Harpo said...

JD, thoughtful post but this isn't a Boys Club, and Tracy has to go and TylerMo is a good guy who will be back shortly, he just needs a few weeks to slow down and get hitting again. Marrero won't do any worse as a pinch hitter and a guy to give LaRoche a needed day off against a lefty pitcher.

Where you pinned the tail on the donkey is on Ryan Zimmerman. Those 2 errors pushed him into a negative WAR. Unlike Peric who thinks making all those unforced errors is acceptable if he is hitting well is wrong. This team can win it like the non-hitting but timely hitting Giants of 3 years ago based on great starting pitching and mistakeless baseball. I'm sure I'm sounding like others who have said this before. Zimm has to step up quickly and play like a Gold Glover and hit with some power or fess up to what is really wrong and go back on the DL and let Rendon play.

JD said...


sjm,

Duke is the least of our problems. The starting pitching has been so good that guys like Mattheus, Stammen have not gotten much work. If you want to analyze why we are only 3 games above .500 look no further than the fact that we trot out a lineup every day with 4 players at or below replacement level:

Zim -0.2
LaRoche -0.3
Espinosa 0.0
one or 2 of Lombo, Bernie, Moore.

You have to figure that Zim and LaRoche should break out soon and Werth will be back within a week.

Espi? - I don't know. I hear Rendon is really raking in AA.

JD said...


Sec3,

That's about right.

Harpo,

I don't disagree with your bench suggestions although I am not a big Marrero fan (still he has probably earned a callup). I just don't think that this is our biggest issue.

Harpo said...

"sjm308 said...

Agree with NatsJack - changes will occur"

That really isn't any great revealation. I don't know Rizzo but his history shows he is slow to react when he has to cut one of his own mistakes. He was quick when it was a Bowden guy like John Lannan. Why is Henry Rodriguez still here? Answer, Rizzo traded Willingham for him.

JD said...


Chad Tracy was supposed to be the left handed 'power' bat off the bench. Not necessarily hitting for a decent average but winning a couple of games with a late inning bomb. Davie has given him several starts, has used him in most critical pinch situations and has gotten nothing in return. When you go a year between home runs (and in the same span Gio has hit 2) it might be time to Matt Stairs him.

JD said...


Harpo,

Why is Henry relevant? he hasn't cost us any games this year, is not taking up a slot which could be filled by anyone currently in the minors.
With as good as our starting pitching is I would consider bringing up an extra bat (if there was someone wort bringing up).

Harpo said...

JD, I'm not a Marrero fan at all. He's nothing more than a stopgap for TylerMo to get his act together plus Marrero can't play any worse.

Harpo said...

JD, this team needs a lefty reliever who can work into this bullpen. Henry is just an extra body who cant be counted on in a stressful close game.

NatsLady said...

Go for the throat on these two bad teams (Dodgers, Padres). Get at least 5/7. Then, get Jayson back for the Giants series with that treacherous outfield.

Harpo said...

"JD said...

Chad Tracy was supposed to be the left handed 'power' bat off the bench. Not necessarily hitting for a decent average but winning a couple of games with a late inning bomb. Davie has given him several starts, has used him in most critical pinch situations and has gotten nothing in return. When you go a year between home runs (and in the same span Gio has hit 2) it might be time to Matt Stairs him."

Now we have some smart people who get it. Only problem is Corey Brown isn't ready to replace him. I think once CoBra is ready, bye bye Chad and bye bye Bafoon Squad.

Knoxville Nat said...

When the Nats extended Tracy last fall (or winter), did they sign him for one year or two? I seem to think it was a 2 year deal and I remember asking myself why would they do that instead of a 1 year deal. Maybe I'm wrong?

Joe Seamhead said...

I think that you're right about the 2 year deal, Knoxville.

Meanwhile, down on the farm, Ryan Perry continues to astound with horrible starts. IP 3.1, 10 hits, 7 earned runs. He's now 1-3 with a 7.15 ERA. Stick a fork in him.

Davis is still looking good with his RH relief work.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Harpo, you seem to have a lot of opinions. Are any of them original?

EmDash said...

Looks like Tracy's only signed for this year.

Harpo said...

"Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Harpo, you seem to have a lot of opinions. Are any of them original?"

Yah, I named the Baffoon Squad.

Joe Seamhead said...

EmDash, I stand corrected. Thanks. Like Knoxville, I thought I remembered a 2 year deal had been announce also, and like Knox, I also wondered why they would do that. Maybe Knox and I read that same incorrect report. Whatever, Chad has got to be near the end of his leash and they're going to have to eat whatever is left on the contract.

BxJaycobb said...

First, you really see the absence of Morse right now. I think the Nats know they made a mistake not keeping him on. With all the injuries sustained over the course of a season, the pinch-hitting opportunities every day in the NL, and days when LaRoche needs a blow for his back, or if there's a tough lefty starting, he would have gotten 300 ABs. Why is that "unfair" to him? He would have been the best bench bat in the majors. If you want to make a run at a title, you need to get real and make the following changes:

--Get a left-handed reliever. Why exactly are we willing to weaken ourselves by being the only contender this decade to have zero real lefties in the pen (Zach Duke is not a major league pitcher)?
--Make an Espi decision. He's far enough into his career to know that this is what he is. An atrocious, bottom 5 percentile major league hitter. Either teach Rendon second, and do something else about Ryan, or make a trade deadline move to get a non-rental, solid second basement. I know he's in our division...but how good would Chase Utley look. The Phils are shopping him already.)
--Now, who to trade as an asset? I would advocate putting Clip on the trading block. We could get something good for him, and he's headed on a downward track at this point I think and will be less valuable in a year or so, and we have enough depth for Matthews to share set-up duties with Drew.
--Get Ryan a sports psychologist, or work with him to change his motion. Or something. Because this doesn't work. Once we replace Danny with a real player at 2B, bring up Rendon and move Ryan if this is a permanent condition.
--I defended Eck last year when everyone wanted his head, but this is inadequate. A World Series pick that is hitting .225 in mid May. A change needs to be made.

JD said...


You can bring up Rosenbaum for Duke as long as you have no great expectations. This is not what is going to get us the pennant. Zim and LaRoche hitting like last year and Strasburg pitching like he did the 1st half of last year will.

SCNatsFan said...

I agree JD; if Duke is in the game then we have probably already lost, doesn't matter who is in there at that point. Leave Rosenbaum alone for insurance against a starter injury.

NatsLady said...

Eric, the same thing happened today. I put up the Nats Stats post, nothing. I put up the Injury Daze post and hour later, and it immediately showed up in the blogroll. For some reason the crawler likes the Injury Daze posts and doesn't like something about the Nats Stats posts. This has happened three weeks in a row. (Hadn't made a post since the Rizzo post on Friday before that). There has got to be something... something...

EmDash said...

I don't think the problem is necessarily just Duke; one mop-up guy is fine. It's having two guys they can't rely on in close games in Duke and H-Rod. With modern bullpen usage you really need at least six reliable guys, and ideally one of them a lefty. One of them has to go, and since the front office is so reluctant to give up on Henry...

Harpo said...

"SCNatsFan said...

I agree JD; if Duke is in the game then we have probably already lost, doesn't matter who is in there at that point. Leave Rosenbaum alone for insurance against a starter injury"

That is a typical fan reaction with a defeatist attitude. I saw the Nats up 9-0 against the Braves and lose.

Duke is terrible and also the Henry Roidriguez guy.

Read what EmDash wrote "two guys they can't rely on in close games in Duke and H-Rod"

Close to me is anything within 6 runs if its early in the game.

One time these Nats will surprise you and overtake a 6 run lead. I just saw a team against Minnesota do that over the weekend and win it in extra innings.

Knoxville Nat said...

RE Tracy and a two year contract....I stand corrected. Thanks EmDash.

Section 135 said...

I for one am glad Davey is gone next year. He has single handedly lost at least 3 games this year. His senility is really showing these days.

BigCat said...

I followed Marrero here in Potomac. Always liked how hard he worked and his professional approach at the plate. The injury and Moore exploding on the scene set him back immensely. Well, he just might be back. I think the Nats want to see more HR's out of him. Well, he's got 7 in 35 games. So we'll see

BigCat said...

I hate to say it, but I might be turning Perics way. I am just over ESpi. It seems like every time he comes up theres a man on third with one out and he can't get the man home. Then he swings like a high schooler at pitches bouncing or his achilles heel, the fastball in his eyes. lets see what little Rendon can do at 2B.

Did I say I agree with Peric? Ohhhh...I gotta go lie down

Pilchard said...

Agree with those that are more concerned with the poor performances of many of the everyday players (Espinosa, LaRoche, Zimmerman) and the re-curring injury issues with Werth and Zimmerman than the struggles with the bench players.

If Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche fail to play at an elite level, and Jason Werth misses substantial portion of the year whether Chad Tracy hits .150 or .250 is not going to matter.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

What's a bafoon? Sounds like a cross between a bagpipe and a bassoon...

Or a baboon and a griffin? Wow, that's a scary thought...

baseballswami said...

Sounds to me like two losses have made people a little edgy.

natsfan1a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
natsfan1a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
baseballswami said...

Ankiel is a Met!!!

JSLSais said...

You know even when we win, we don't dominate. We can't hit and really never have. When all is said and done our problem isn't really the BP or the bench guys, our problem is our inept offense and to add insult to injury our uncharacteristic error prone ball we have been playing.

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