Nationals Swinging Big Sticks...If Only Run Support Meant Anything

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Nationals Swinging Big Sticks...If Only Run Support Meant Anything
(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Despite jersey misfortunes this season, the Washington Nationals haven’t been missing any O in 2009.

Peek at the offensive numbers for the Nats, and one might be surprised that have the worst grecord in baseball—and have for essentially the entire season

The Nationals find themselves in the upper half of the National League in most offensive statistical category—including third in batting average (.275) and fourth in slugging (.431).

A quick look through the lineup should leave the pitching staff wondering why it hasn't picked up more wins—outside of Jordan Zimmermann (2-1) and Shairon Martis (3-0).

 

1. Christian Guzman, SS

If not for a mid-April hamstring injury and his squad's disastrous season-to-date, Guzman's name would be on the tip of every NL fan’s tongue.

The long-time National has been a singles machine in 2009, finding himself with a better average (.392) than any other every-day player. Patience isn't particularly his strong point (zero walks in 79 at-bats), but he can spray the ball all over the field and beat out infield singles regularly.

 

2. Nick Johnson, 1B

Johnson doesn't bat with runners in scoring position often, and the power he flashed in his last full season with the Nationals (23 homers in 2006) hasn't returned. But if his teammates can get on base ahead of him, expect his low RBI totals (seven) to rise thanks to his .317 average.

If he stays healthy (BIG IF), Johnson should score plenty of runs with the guys who are batting behind him.

 

3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B

Zimmerman has avoided his typically slow start this season—or at least shortened it—thanks in no small part to having a big stick behind him in new Nationals OF Adam Dunn. The face of the franchise is batting .339 and slugging a .554—good for 18th in the NL for players with at least 65 at-bats.

Z is on pace for a career-best 29 home runs and 116 RBI. Oh yeah, he also holds a Major League-best 26-game hitting streak.

 

4. Adam Dunn, OF

The four hole has been weak for the Nationals since Johnson's 2006 season.

Not anymore.

The former Red leads the squad in on-base percentage (.445), slugging percentage (.582), home runs (seven), and RBI (24). Being able to pencil in your clean-up man—or anyone, for that matter—for 40 homers and 100 RBI is something the Nationals have never had. Alfonso Soriano came close in 2006, but fell five RBI short.

 

5. Elijah Dukes, OF

The Nationals typically don't get much production this deep in the lineup, but in 2009 they do.

Dukes has been strong at the plate in ’09, batting .296 with four homers and 19 RBI—good for third on the squad. Perhaps he's been texting opposing pitchers, "You dead, dawg," with a picture of his bat before games.

 

6. Austin Kearns, OF

Kearns sits third in extra-base hits for the Nationals (10). And while is batting average (.261) is not as strong as Manny Acta would like, he has been much better at the plate this year than in 2008, when he was just 17 points above the Mendoza line.

Acta has stuck by Kearns, playing him in 25 games. But it's not like the Nationals' bench is brimming with up-and-coming hitters. If Kearns can continue to give consistency at the plate, the Nationals will keep scoring runs with the best in the NL.

 

7. Jesus Flores, C

Surprisingly, Flores is tied for the team lead in triples, knocking in twice as many this season (two) as he had in his previous two seasons.

But the three-bagger isn't the only area where Flores is setting career bests. The young catcher is on pace to break his personal records in home runs, RBI, total bases, and walks while batting a career-best .314.

 

8. Anderson Hernandez, 2B

After spending some time in the No. 2 spot—and struggling—Hernandez is finding his way deep in the line-up. In the Nationals’ last seven games, the second baseman is batting a monstrous .389 with three RBI.

 

9. Pitchers

As much as they’ve struggled on the mound, they haven’t helped themselves out any at the plate. They have one hit among them.

Yes. One hit.

Oh. They also have drawn one walk.

 

Round up

So yes. The Nationals are getting on base and making their ways around the base paths. If the rest of the pitching rotation—and more importantly, the bullpen—can find its way behind Zimmerman and Martis, the Nationals might be in the hunt for fourth place in the NL East.

Hey. Everybody has to start somewhere.

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