After losing 2-1 and 1-0 on consecutive days, I imagine Jim Riggleman is ready to try just about anything to get some more offense. Here's an idea: give your best hitters more at bats and your worst hitters fewer.
Sounds pretty obvious, right? You would think. And yet 61 times this season, Riggleman has penciled in the regular player with the lowest wOBA on the team, Nyjer Morgan, in the first or second hole. And Cristian Guzman, the second-worst hitter by wOBA, has batted first or second 37 times.
Batting order doesn't have nearly as big an impact as some people would have you believe, and certainly rearranging the lineup card isn't going to turn the Nationals into the Yankees.
But batting order does have two concrete impacts. First, the guys who bat higher in the order get more plate appearances. Over the course of an entire season, you lose about 20 plate appearances for every spot a hitter is lowered in the batting order.
Second, the lead-off hitter always bats first in the first inning. That might be a little too obvious to mention, but really the point is that after the first inning, it's all a crapshoot. The lead-off man is no more likely to lead off an inning after the first inning than anyone else.
The Nationals, by hitting Guzman and Morgan up top--especially Morgan, with his dreadful .309 OBP--are achieving two things. They are taking at bats away from better hitters, and they are making it almost impossible for their three really good hitters--Zimmerman, Dunn, and Willingham--to ever hit together in the first inning.
The argument in favor of leading off Guzman and Morgan seems to be nothing more than the silly notion that skinny guys who play defense up the middle should hit 1-2.
The simple solution: send Morgan to the bottom of the order and move everyone else up one spot. I'd probably go Zimmerman, Dunn, Willingham, but you could do it in any order really and it would be better than what they're doing now.