Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Has the real Nyjer Morgan returned?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nyjer Morgan is hitting .298 with 12 steals over his last 26 games.
Lost amid all the hubbub over Miss Iowa replacing Miss Universe on the mound last night was another impressive performance from Nyjer Morgan, who single-handedly scored the Nationals' first run.

Morgan led off the bottom of the first by singling, stealing second, stealing third and then scoring when Brian McCann's throw sailed into left field. It set the tone for the evening and it let everyone in the ballpark know the Nats weren't simply going to roll over and play dead because Strasburg had a stiff shoulder.

"I think him getting on base immediately picked the whole ballclub up," Jim Riggleman said.

This wasn't, however, a one-time anomaly for Morgan. For more than a month now, the man who served as the Nationals' biggest goat of the first half has resurrected himself with a prolonged performance that brings back memories of his fabulous 2009.

Over his last 26 games, dating back to that June 25 game in Baltimore when he robbed Corey Patterson of a home run, Morgan's numbers are impressive across the board. He's batting .298 (31-for-104). His on-base percentage is .345. He's notched 10 RBI, matching his output from his first 70 games this season. He's stolen 12 bases while getting caught only twice. And he's played significantly better defense than we saw back in May when he had a penchant for turning deep fly balls into inside-the-park home runs.

Is this stretch alone enough to convince you all is fine with Tony Plush and convince you he is the long-term answer in center field? Probably not. We need to see him sustain this kind of performance over a period longer than one month.

But Morgan has maintained all along he's a second-half player and has a knack for picking up his game after the All-Star break. So far, he's lived up to the reputation. And that has to be an encouraging sign for a Nationals club that could use some encouraging signs right now.


Nate said...

That's great, can we sign him to a split season contract and have him spend the first half of the season in AAA every year?

rogieshan said...

"Morgan has maintained all along he's a second-half player."

Translation: Shows up when the season is lost.

Bowdenball said...

A .345 OBP is really kinda uninspring for a leadoff guy, and I'm pretty sure his slugging percentage over that time frame is awful even for a leadoff guy. In fact, I bet that it would be awful even if you gave him credit for a double for each of those 12 singles plus SB and took away his hit when he got caught.

When even data that is hand-picked from a certain start date to make you look good doesn't make you look all that good, you're probably not very good.

He has looked much sharper in CF over the last few weeks, though. I only remember one ball I thought he should have gotten to that he didn't catch.

Anonymous said...

No. He's still a 5th OF'er that gets by because the Nationals are stuck with a manager not smart enough to reign him in on the basepaths or make him learn from his stupid mistakes.

Thus, the T-Plush show plays nightly as the team suffers from his play.


Tegwar said...

On a good team someone with Nyjer's limitations can be useful. Nyjer has no baseball instincts and is 29 and while he may get better his prime years are past him. If the Nationals could improve to where less is needed from Nyjer and he played LF and batted at the bottom of the order he could be useful. If the Nationals continue to think he is their future lead-off hitter and CF'er he will continue to disappoint. Also missed from yesterdays game is why not have Batista in the line up and Stammen in the bullpen where he will only need to go through the line up once or twice.

David Lint said...

Why not his last 25 games instead of 26, Mark?

Would that be due to the fact that over his last 25 he's only hitting .274/.324/.283/.607?

NatsJack in Florida said...

He still plays baseball with hockey player instincts. And he is still the absolute worst CF in the National League.

If he only plays well after the All-Star break then let him play in Syracuse till then.

Feel Wood said...

"Morgan has maintained all along he's a second-half player."

That's like having warning track power.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Cody Ross in Miami is available. Good arm, solid ball chaser, and can hit for some power.

Maybe they'd like Nyjer to team up with Emilio as a "speed" tandem.

Patman said...

Can't believe all the haters here. Let's evaluate his numbers at the end of the season and determine what - if any - role he plays on the team.

Mark Zuckerman said...

OK, you've all spoken and clearly you don't believe this recent hot streak is a precursor of long-term success for Morgan. That's why I posed the question.

HHover said...

I'm glad to see the improvement in #s at the plate and esp in fewer CS and PO.

That said, I still saw several of the kinds of lapses last night that have cost the Nats in the past and will in the future. There was a flyball to LF in the 8th inn where Willingham seemed to have the much easier bead on the ball. Nyjer ran over--fine, good to back him up--but raised his glove and nearly collided with Josh. In the 9th, he took an odd path to another flyball, first running laterally and then having to step on the gas to run back to get it.

He tries to bunt for a hit way too often, and the best thing you can say in his defense is that he doesn't have better odds of getting on another way. When he tried to do it las night, it turned out even worse than usual--it rolled most of the way to 1B.

These are problems of instinct and judgment, and they don't seem to change with Nyjer. And at this point in his career, they probably won't.

So I'm liking the temporary results but not kidding myself there's a fundamental change.

NatinBeantown said...

Only 3 teams in the NL are getting more than .335 OBP out of the leadoff spot, let alone out of guys that are plus defenders (as Morgan has been over the past month)

He's not a model leadoff hitter. But if we get real offensive production out of RF in 2011, than I'd take Morgan as leadoff (but it would be great to put him #8)

Anonymous said...

Nyjer should be a backup CF for Nats. They should put Bernadina in CF, Morse in RF, and Gonzalez at 2B. That lineup adds defense and adds offense. That would address what I find to be the biggest personnel waste of the season -- not playing Morse full time. He's a decent defender with a good arm, and an awesome bat!

Souldrummer said...

I think people dislike him because they feel that his playing time is out of proportion with his performance. Roger Bernadina and Mike Morse have exceeded expectations while Morgan has fallen short to this point. For better or for worse I have three guesses for why Nyjer gets a longer rope:
1) He helped Riggleman go from interim to permanent. Riggleman went aggressive and unleashed the Morgan terror on the basepaths during the second half of the year and set himself up as a 180 from wait and wait and wait and wait for the big inning Manny. Hard for Riggles to rein him in with stop signs or less playing time to a player he feels loyal to as a decent manager with strong player relations who wants to reward past greatness with a longer rope.

2) Benching Morgan is an admission of failure for GM Rizzo. During his first year as permanent, he wants to give himself every chance to look good instead of being the guy on the Diamondbacks who is widely panned for getting robbed on the Morgan deal.

3) They genuinely see him as a Juan Pierre type, streaky with Batting Average in Balls in Play (last night's dribbler up the middle's caught when Morgan's not lucky) but offering fair range in CF and a potential solid affordable position regular.

Now, I may not always agree with that, but that's the reason for why they remain loyal to Morgan and why it's an exercise in futility to endlessly harp on the guy and expect them to do something about it.

JaneB said...

I like his spunk. I like his joy in the game and the way it helps the rest of the team. He's better than any CF we've had since the Nats became the Nats. And last night, his aggressive base running broke open the game before from the first moments. I don't care if he's a second half guy. He's showing up now. He gave us reason to hope last year, too. Riggleman should have unleashed him (that being the theory I ascribe to) and now we are reaping the benefits.

Steve said...

Nyjer has tried my patience this season, but I'm with JaneB -- when Nyjer is on (which he seems to be for now) it shows throughout the team. Maybe I'm thrown off since I still remember seeing the zero-tool Lastings Milledge looking lost in CF. Nyjer looks like Willie Mays in comparison.

What we need is to see it for a whole season; we got only about 60 days of it last year and about 30 days so far this year.

Will said...

"Only 3 teams in the NL are getting more than .335 OBP out of the leadoff spot, let alone out of guys that are plus defenders (as Morgan has been over the past month)"

That is patently false.
1. Rafael Furcal (.382)
2. Rickie Weeks (.377)
3. Andres Torres (.371)
4. Kelly Johnson (.366)
5. Angel Pagan (.362)
6. Martin Prado (.358)
7. Jose Tabata (.344)
8. Brandon Phillips (.343)
9. Felipe Lopez (.342)


10. Chris Coghlan (.335)
11. Jimmy Rollins (.335)
12. Carlos Gonzalez (.335)

Do you often just make things up to support your point?

In addition, Furcal, Torres, Johnson, Pagan, Phillips, Rollins and Gonzalez are all considered plus-defenders, and are playing like it all season (not just for one month).

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