Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday morning leftovers

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Michael Morse has taken advantage of his increased playing time.

With all the attention on Stan Kasten's resignation announcement yesterday, plenty of other stuff fell through the cracks. So let's pick them up and run through some of the leftovers we didn't get to yesterday...

So much for the theory that everyone's favorite part-time player can't thrive in an everyday role. Morse has been in the Nationals' lineup in 23 of their last 25 games, and all he's done is hit .366 with eight doubles, four homers, 14 RBI, a .447 on-base percentage and a stout 1.081 OPS.

Baseball is a game of constant adjustments, and clearly Morse has managed to adjust to whatever pitchers were starting to do to him the more he played.

"It's a totally different game when you're playing every day," he said. "You're getting a lot of at-bats. They're learning how to pitch to you. You can make little adjustments during the game. But at the same time, you don't want to change your approach and feed into what
they're doing to you. I'm learning to deal with that right now."

For the season, Morse is now hitting .300 with 13 homers, 38 RBI, a .357 on-base percentage and an .887 OPS. Of course, he's only received 240 at-bats, not even half a season's worth. So you still can't completely project those numbers out and suggest they'd hold up over 600 at-bats.

Still, Morse has made a strong case to be looked at in a more substantial role in 2011. His fate will likely be tied to several factors -- whether Adam Dunn re-signs, whether Nyjer Morgan remains the everyday center fielder, whether the Nats feel the need to add another power bat -- but if nothing else, the Nationals can take comfort knowing they have a viable, in-house candidate for a regular job in Morse.

In his first start since early August, Detwiler allowed two runs and seven hits over six strong innings, earning only his second career win in the process. The left-hander didn't exactly dominate -- he didn't strike a single batter out, and his velocity is not where it should be -- but he perhaps made a more significant statement about his abilities because of that.

"He was pitching today," Jim Riggleman said. "He wasn't trying to blow the ball by anybody. He changed speeds good. He got groundballs when he needed to. And we made the plays for him."

Detwiler, now 1-2 with a 2.52 ERA in seven appearances (three starts), believes the velocity will be back at full strength next season after his start-again/stop-again 2010.

"I know I'm not throwing as hard right now as I will be in the future. I don't have everything in there, because I haven't had a full season," he said. "Really, moving the ball in and out was huge for me today."

Riggleman said Detwiler should get one more start before season's end, though the manager didn't reveal who would get bumped from the rotation, or if the Nats would simply go with a six-man starting staff the rest of the way.

Zimmerman was a late scratch from yesterday's lineup with a strained ribcage muscle. He said it's something that had been bothering him for a couple of days, though he couldn't pinpoint one at-bat or play where it was actually aggravated.

Look for the Nationals to be ultra-cautious with their star third baseman. Ribcage muscles are tricky things. One violent swing at the plate could lead to a serious injury. At this stage of the season, there's no real reason to take a chance of that happening.

So don't be surprised if Zimmerman sits out several more games before returning to the lineup.

The Florida instructional league schedule opened yesterday, with two notable developments: Bryce Harper, in the first professional ballgame of his career, went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts. Jesus Flores, in his first real game action since last season, went 1-for-2 and homered.

Mark DeCotis of Florida Today has the full story from Viera.


natsfan1a said...

As the audience was heard to say at a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening, "Leftovers again?!!" Sorry. Couldn't resist. :-)

Great game yesterday and fun to watch some sparkling defense, good pitching, and timely hitting.

Doc said...

Right now Morse is the best functioning OF that the Nats have. If they can't figure out how to use him, I'm sure that other teams could quite willingly figure it out for them!

Baring injury, Morse is probably gonna get better. We'd all like to see what he could do over a full season.

Suggestion: Trade Morgan (or let him find his own team), put Bernadina in Center (or pick up a fully funcitoning CF), and keep Willingham in LF. If this isn't obvious to Riggleman & Co., then they need to seek other careers.

Riggleman needs to get a grip on managing real talent, not the 'make believe' talent he deludes himself about Morgan.

natsfan1a said...

Crud. It was "Meatloaf again?!!"

I always mess up the punchlines...

Anonymous said...


I agree with you that at this point Morse should be a no brainer penciled in regular for next year. Assuming Dunn is signed I'm a little concerned about having 3 below average defenders in the every day lineup.

An out of the box suggestion would be trading Willingham; there is a chance that his productivity will start declining and not be at par to the salary he will command.

Looking around the league there are several players looking for a new scenery and may be had for less than market value; Carlos Beltran is due to earn about $16 mil next year but I'm sure that the Mets would pay a hefty chunk of that salary (at least half)and you wouldn't have to give up much in return; Beltran will be in his walk year next year so look for him to put up big numbers. Another crazy idea is Matt Kemp; that would cost some talent but maybe he can be 'stolen'; both him and the Dodgers are pretty tired of each other.

Just some random thoughts,

Anonymous said...

Morse seems like a "cheaper", younger, healthier plug-in replacement for Josh Willingham in left field. Willingham was a bit like Morse before he came to the Nationals ... a player looking for a position ... originally a catcher in the Marlins system.

They probably could and should risk trading/packaging Willingham if it means getting a top of the rotation starter, a true ace. Its what they desperately need the most right now. Unfortunately, prospects like Derrick Norris might also have to be included. And pitching.

Doc said...

Yeah I agree there a OF players out there. Trading Willingham, for reasons stated, keeping Morse (his offense in RF is better than Morgan's in CF)and picking up a real CF should be a priority.

Can Carl Crawford play an acceptable CF? Beltran and Kemp; maybe some trading opportunities there??

Goooooooo Nats and Nats Fans!!!!

souldrummer said...

Don't believe Crawford is that good in CF. I'm a bit lazy to look it up for sure at

on Detwiler
The rotation at present is Zimmermann, Marquis, Livo, Lannan, and Maya. To me Detwiler starts at AAA unless Maya craters next year. He's the first man up from Syracuse. Nothing that I've seen from him so far suggests that he's got stuff that's far superior to the 4/5 guys in the rotation yet. If he's the answer the FO says he can be, he's got to show he can throw a few fastballs by people and get Ks from his curveball. Yesterday, he had a bunch of balls that were hit hard where his defense bailed him out. Nice to see Detwiler look like a major leaguer, but our rotation is not one I would want to go to battle with for 2011.

Anonymous said...

Good news about Jesus Flores playing in FL

Hope that he continues to get stronger over the winter

I look forward to seeing the Venezuelan (Ramos and Flores) and Cuban (Livo and Maya) batteries in Spring Training and beyond

.. and Strasburg & Zmmnn, too

Mark in Arlington

P. Cole said...

Whether it's Morgan or Bernadina in CF, we still need a real leadoff hitter. Espinosa probably isn't ready to fill that role, but we need somebody on base when Desmond, Zimm, and (hopefully) Dunn and Willingham come to the plate.

Crawford would be amazing, but there is no chance in hell he signs with the Nationals after the season he's had.

At this point, I think Nyjer Morgan is our best option for a leadoff hitter, assuming this year is an anomaly and his numbers improve next year.

Anonymous said...

Crawford will be overpriced because he is a FA; I see the Angels and the Red Sox going hard after him and if the Yankees don't win this year they will join the fray as well; we are talking Texiera money; I don't think he's worth it.

Throwing Derek Norris in a package for an ace is not a bad idea if Ramos is the man for the next 5+ years; I think you need more to pry a real ace such as Greinke. How about something like Lannan, Burgess and Norris for Greinke?

Anonymous said...


I agree with you on the leadoff hitter; as a matter of fact I think Desmond would also be better served batting 7th. The 1st 2 batters need to be OBP guys which we don't really have. With our current personnel I'd go:


The problem is that you have below average defense in left,right and 1B.

Anonymous said...

get morgan far away from this team

Anonymous said...

Bernadina should be our CF next season. Morgan has to go. Can't hit and is not baseball smart. Adios!

Doc said...

One last brief comment on Morse. Ladson quotes an un-named source(s) in the Nats' FO as saying that Morse has too long a swing, and is overmatched when batting against the oppositions best pitchers.

The latter statement is a crock! Against which pitchers, and in comparsion to whom. All hitters in the league are overmatched by some better pitchers to some degree. I bet the un-named fool couldn't come up with specific data.

As to the issue of too big a swing, Morse knows what he is doing with his bat. Without that 'big' swing he wouldn't have been able to hit that opposite field HR, on that outside pitch last night.

Supposedly batters with big swings can't hit down and in pitches. Check it out; Morse does that kind of stuff as well as Zim, who is the best on the team doing that (Pudge is a close 2nd.

The un-named source in the FO ought to take time away from eating hotdogs and drinking beer and find out what hitting can be all about--maybe rap with Eckstein occasionally.

ptindc said...

I think Espinosa would be fine in the leadoff spot. Being a switch hitter with power from both sides is a huge asset. He's done nothing in his stint so far that indicates to me that he won't be a good fit there. I also like the idea of Desmond in the 2 hole. Both spots would have power and speed, and the would also benefit from Zimmerman and Dunn batting behind them. I like Morse 5th and with Willingham, Pudge and Bernidina rounding out the top 8. I could swap Morse and Willingham, or Bernidina and Desmond.

Anonymous said...


The problem with Espinosa in the leadoff spot is OBP (.273); he was at around .335 in the minors but leadoff should be quite a bit higher.
Desmond's OPS is .316 which is also too low for the no. 2 spot IMO.

HHover said...

A couple of thoughts on Morse:

* I was among those hoping he'd get more playing time, and I think he's proven his value as a hitter. In terms of adjustments at the plate, I'd also point out that he's been drawing more walks lately--another positive change.

* That said, Morse is still a defensive liability--his UZR/150 is -23.9. That would be easier to stomach if the Nats didn't already have a weak OF across the board--Willingham is limited in his range; Bernadina has a strong arm but sub-par range; and Nyjer is ... Nyjer.

Faraz Shaikh said...

thanks HHover.

That's pretty much what I wanted to say earlier. I have looked up his defense at 1B (with very limited opportunities) is better than any other position. That being said having him, Hammer, and Bernie in OF is not really the best defensive / speedy OF that should be a part of a 'young' team.

Anonymous said...


I made the same point about the defense earlier; I don't see Morse, Willingham and Dunn in an every day lineup; too many holes. I was very surprised about the Bernadina comment based on his speed but I checked it out and he does indeed have limited range; he must not pick up the ball well off the bat.

If Dunn doesn't sign I would move Morse to first where he has had decent defensive numbers in the past and I would rebuild the outfield from a hitting and defensive perspective via trades.

NG said...

The Morse situation confirms that the Nationals are committed, rightly or wrongly, to player assessment through scouting and simply don't care about statistics and sabremetrics. I think as fans we have to accept that and get used to the good and bad.

For example, a "stats" organization would never have given John Lannan a chance to pitch in the majors, but the Nats scouts watched Lannan, saw a big league pitcher, gave him a chance and he succeeded. Perhaps more to the point, when Lannan was struggling this year, the stats people were all too quick to crow "We told you so, he stinks and this was inevitable" but the Nats scouts saw mechanical problems (which, of course, don't show up in xFIP or wOBA), sent him to Harrisburg to work on them, and Lannan came back and is as effective as ever.

Again, for better or worse, the same group of scouts that recognized Lannan's potential look at Morse and don't see an everyday player. There's a growing numbers case that suggests otherwise.

But we can't get guys like Morse without losing guys like Lannan.

Jim in MD said...

No one gets a better break on the ball (the one exception may have been the other night against the Astros) and covers more ground in center than J-Max. He's a smart (although sometimes clumsy) base runner, and is headed to winter ball where he will work on hitting the curve ball. If he succeeds, look out! The center field problem should be solved.

Anonymous said...


Sorry but any Major league organization in this day and age MUST do both. You can't ignore what the numbers tell you but it doesn't mean that the numbers can't change based on improvements in swings, pitching mechanics etc.

The modern baseball analyst does not preach that you throw away baseball teaching but what he does tell you is how to measure and evaluate performances objectively.

N. Cognito said...

The Nats do both, leaning towards the scouting analysis. Both have appropriate places in player evaluations.
Stats only tell you what - they don't tell you why.
Scouting is subject to normal human biases.

P. Cole said...

Bill Ladson doesn't know shit.

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