There is a great deal of consternation right now about the Washington Nationals and their offensive struggles.
Writers, commentators, bloggers and fans think the team’s offense is just not good enough to keep the team around .500—maybe a little better—until Stephen Strasburg finally arrives and saves the day.
But that is simply not the case.
Below is the Nationals’ most-used lineup for 2010. Take a look at the player’s offensive production when projected over the complete season.
CF—Nyjer Morgan: .242/.316/.339 24 2B—15 3B—0 HR—24 RBI
2B—Cristian Guzman: .321/.347/.403 21 2B—9 3B—0 HR—48 RBI
3B—Ryan Zimmerman: .299/.374/.571 38 2B—0 3B—32 HR—86 RBI
1B—Adam Dunn: .270/.379/.546 44 2B—6 3B—32 HR—80 RBI
LF—Josh Willingham: .275/.429/.529 22 2B—3 3B—32 HR—107 RBI
SS—Ian Desmond: .263/.314/.410 22 2B—6 3B—14 HR—80 RBI
C—Ivan Rodriguez: .325/.351/.439 27 2B—3 3B—3 HR—51 RBI
RF—Roger Bernadina: .241/.289/.410 14 2B—7 3B—6 HR—39 RBI
Nyjer Morgan has a career average of .291/.353/.381. There is no way he will finish the season this poorly. Expect him to have a sizzling summer and approach his career numbers by September.
Pudge Rodriguez is 38 and will no doubt end the season somewhere in the neighborhood of .260/.330/.440. Even though he will cool off, Rodriguez should still hit well enough to make him an offensive asset.
The only hole in the lineup is in right field where Justin Maxwell flunked terribly. Willie Harris hasn’t hit well since 2008. Roger Bernadina, after a remarkable five-game span, is returning to the real world.
Kevin Mench, who is Triple-A Syracuse’s every-day right fielder, is currently hitting .303/.373/.379 for the Chiefs with eight doubles, a home run, and 21 RBI.
Mench, 31, played seven seasons in the major leagues and has a 162-game career average of .269/.326/.460 with 21 homers and 76 RBI.
A right-handed batter, Mench hits lefties well. He, and perhaps Willie Harris, are the best options for the Nationals can right now unless they make a trade for a veteran right-fielder.
Six of the eight position players are providing the Nationals with satisfactory to above-average offense. A seventh (Morgan) will eventually hit to his potential, and sooner or later, the Nationals will fix the problem in right field.
From what I can tell, the Nationals struggle offensively because the team lacks timely hitting with runners in scoring position —and especially with two out.
I think the offense—with the exception of right-field—is certainly strong enough and the team’s middle-of-the-lineup sluggers (Zimmerman, Dunn, and Willingham) might be the best in the league right now.
A proven right fielder and the addition of Stephen Strasburg and Chien-Ming Wang to the starting rotation—and the reintroduction of Jason Marquis—make the Nationals a team that could contend for the National League wild card, at least from the periphery, until late into the season.
Let’s wait until John Lannan, Stephen Strasburg, Chien-Ming Wang, and Jason Marquis anchor the Nationals’ rotation before we worry about the team’s offense.
The Nationals would then find their fifth starter from a group that includes Livan Hernandez, Scott Olsen, Luis Atilano, Craig Stammen, and J.D. Martin and could use one or more of the remaining starters to nab a pretty good right fielder on the trade market.
This Nationals’ team will win 77-82 games in 2010, perhaps 85-88 if they find that veteran right fielder with a potent bat.
Man, this has been a fun season. Can you imagine how much more fun it will be once the final pieces of the puzzle finally fall into place?