Saturday, June 19, 2010

Want More Offense? Bat Zimmerman Second

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.


logan said...

I'd like to see Desmond get a chance in leadoff under this scenario. It's got to be better than singles-or-nothing Guzman and he's been clutch and has more energy.

JayB said...

Rizzo is going to fire Riggs at the end of the year. I hope we get a proven winning manger. Not a proven loser or a guy who has never done the job.....been there done that.

Anonymous said...

Ironic that you choose to post this on the one day that Nyjer Morgan is *not* the problem. Nyjer got a leadoff hit, might have been safe on the bunt (couldn't tell from where I was sitting in the stands) and drew a leadoff walk. He also had a stolen base (although probably not a smart one with 2 outs trying to get to 3rd). It's possible that with proper coaching, Nyjer Morgan is better than how awful he's been lately and I'm not ready to throw him under the bus yet.

Guzman, however, is holding the team captive or something. He's been slumping for awhile. His splits suggest that Adam Kennedy would be better than him against right handed pitching. And when he's not hitting well we still bat him 2nd! Truly a monstrosity of managerial FAIL sticking with him in the two spot this long.

Bench Guzman, play Kennedy, and bat Dunn 2nd. That would be my solution. Dunn seems to only hit solo shots anyway. Might as well give him a couple more chances a year to do it.

Nate said...

All Desmond's clutchness and energy has translated into a .299 on-base percentage, worse that Morgan or Guzman.

Deacon Drake said...

The problem is that the Nats do not have a true leadoff "batter". Guzman swings at everything and Morgan can't hit.

The smart play, especially against lefties, would be to bat Morgan 8th, pitch 9th (likely bunting anyway), and Guzman leadoff, followed by the Big 3.

Anonymous said...

Nyjer Morgan is a terrible baseball player. He does EVERYTHING badly. Cristian Guzman has long stretches where he swings like a high school girl softball player. When the top two guys in the order are just sucking chest wounds, nothing is going to happen.

Lead Dunn off. Why not?

Will said...

Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic...

It doesn't really matter where you put Zimm/Dunn/Willingham because there's no one on the team to drive them in if they do get on base. Aside from the trio, there are three players who are above average. The best being Mike Morse and his 43 plate appearances (the others are Pudge and Bernadina, and they're only slightly better than average).

Steven is right- maximize Zimm/Dunn/Hammer's PA's and bat them 1-2-3. Anything else is futile.