Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Nyjer's woes

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nyjer Morgan hasn't been nearly the same player this year that he was last year.
ATLANTA -- Nyjer Morgan is hurting the Nationals more than he is helping them right now, there's no question about that. Whether it's his struggles to reach base (his OBP is .275 since May 16), his penchant for getting thrown out on the bases (11 caught stealings, seven pickoffs) or his poor decision-making in center field, Morgan is not helping the team or himself.

Two plays from last night's loss in particular drew the ire of Nats fans: the first-inning pickoff and the seventh-inning throw to the wrong base.

Though replays showed Morgan actually was safe on Tim Hudson's pickoff attempt, the fact remains he made yet another out on the basepaths. And even though he's actually improved his stolen base percentage -- he was successful only eight of 16 times through May 15 but has been successful eight of 11 times since then -- he still doesn't feel right on the bases.

Morgan believes one reason may be the transition he made from sliding headfirst to feet-first and back to headfirst again. The Nats told him to start going in feet-first this spring after he broke his hand last August. But Morgan clearly wasn't comfortable doing that, and it showed. His numbers have improved since he was told he could revert to his old form, but he still doesn't look like the Nyjer of old out there.

"I think getting off to that slow start and sliding with the feet first and everything kind of makes the caught stealings look worse than it is," Morgan said today. "I just had to make an adjustment there. And then yesterday, I thought I was safe [on the pickoff play], but he got me anyway and it cost us. Definitely it sucks, because I'm killing rallies, man. But like everybody in here, I've got to keep my head up. It's a tough time right now."

Asked today about the pickoff play, Jim Riggleman gave credit to Hudson for having "about as good a right-handed move as I've seen." But the manager also made it clear he's concerned about Morgan's overall baserunning issues.

"Out or safe, the issue is: We're missing something there with Nyjer's basestealing," Riggleman said. "Nyjer, never mind getting picked off, when he's going to second, he's so fast. When he's safe, it's been close. And when he's out, it's close. He's too fast for these plays to be close. We're looking at it. We're trying to figure out why he's getting out of there at first base not as quickly as he could. He's got a chance to be an elite basestealer. And when you're an elite basestealer, you flat-out take that base. It's not going to be that close."

Regardless, the Nationals feel like they can't just put up the red light on Morgan and prevent him from running altogether, because it's such a critical part of his game.

"What's the point of that?" Morgan said. "It would be like going from station to station. Then there's really no point in me being out there. I guess we've just got to clean it up. Start off with a new slate in the second half and go from there."

As for Morgan's ill-advised throw to third on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly -- which allowed the trailing runner to advance to second and eventually score himself -- Riggleman spoke to his center field last night about the error of his ways.

"It's a situation where it almost puts the exclamation point on what we know we're doing," Riggleman said. "Each guy is trying to do too much. It's an aggressive mistake. It's a mental mistake, but it's an aggressive mistake. He doesn't want to let that guy get to third base. 'I'm going to throw him out.' When the chances of doing that from where he was are pretty slim. ... That play was pretty typical of the way we've played lately."


Dave Nichols said...

"What's the point of that?" Morgan said. "It would be like going from station to station.
What's the point of not getting thrown out, Nyjer? Well, you see, when you don't get thrown out you have a chance to score runs.

Ernie said...

Mark -

Thanks for dedicating a post to Nyjer, especially after so much discussion has centered on him recently. I'm really enjoying your reporting and the entire nature of your site. It's exciting to see how your reporting is integrated with, yet still independent from, your readership. I've been putting it off for a while, but I'm making a contribution tonight to help support the operation. I hope the financial side of things is turning out to be something sustainable. Thanks again for all the hard work!

Dave said...

Good move, Ernie. Mark does the most thorough and independent reporting on this team of anybody in the press box.

Anonymous said...

Getting picked off first while not good is over shadowed by throwing to the wrong base. It was not the first time, I say fine him, make him buy dinner for the team ...... something that he will remember.

JayB said...

Morgan is right about one thing....."Then there's really no point in me being out there."

This guy is a fool....the numbers are not really as bad as they look?!?!....they are numbers dumb ass...they are exactly what they are....Idiot.

JayB said...

Oh and Mark,

Honestly who do you think would help the team more at this point. Harris and Kennedy or Orr and Maxwell. NOBODY SAID it WOULD FIX THE TEAM....It just needs to be done to stop the bleeding that is Harris pinch hitting and Kennedy errors......I take it you know that but are as frustrated with this team as we are?

Anonymous said...

Heh. JayB calling someone an idiot. Pot. Kettle. Black.

Sec3MySofa said...

What Ernie and Bert... errr, Dave, said.

How about some anonymous $25 contributions?

bobn said...

Bernadina in center...Morse in right...Morgan sits.

Souldrummer said...

For starters, we need to sit Nyjer against lefties. Bad as he's been, he brings next to no offense against lefties. Vs. left handed starters Nyjer is hitting .169/.250/.262 this year. Certainly leading him off against lefties is a self-inflicted wound. Careerwise he's only slightly better vs. lefty starter at .214/.312/.313. Whether he should be sat, shipped, or coached better, I don't think we're risking very much sitting a guy whose going to be somewhere between .512OPS and .625OPS when we have Bernadina to play CF and Morse to play RF against lefties. Sit him against lefties and see what the defense looks without him. If Bernadina surprises us by being better than he's been historically in CF, then do we start considering making more drastic changes like bringing up JMax to put in the mix as well.

Wombat-socho said...

Souldrummer, I think you're onto something there, except I'd go a step further and call up Maxwell to replace Harris. JMax's OPS is better than Willie's, and I'm sure he's just as good at riding the pine & being a late-inning defensive replacement. ;)

natsfan1a said...

Ernie and sec3, I think this link is still valid:


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