Jayson Werth Wasn't Exactly off Base: 5 Changes the Nats Need Now

Ryan C. SmithContributor IIIMay 29, 2011

Jayson Werth Wasn't Exactly off Base: 5 Changes the Nats Need Now

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    Most baseball fans know by now that Jayson Werth called his team out following Wednesday's game, the completion of a sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers, and that his attempt to clear things up was more about saving face than setting the record straight.

    "What was said, however it was said, what happened from there, where it was taken from there, that's way out of my control."

    He went on to say this, “I didn’t want to get into it, there’s more to it than that. If you want to start talking about it, we can talk about it. Why doesn’t Teddy get to win? There’s a lot of things. There’s a lot of things I said I had on my mind. There’s thing we need to change. It’s not just one thing. It’s not just two things. There’s some things that I see that are going on that need to be changed in order for us to win ballgames. That’s all. You guys write what you want to write. Whatever.”

    It is interesting that Werth got so defensive. The fact that he brushed it off by mentioning the Presidents race at Nationals Park jokingly seems as though he was trying to claw his way out of the mess he's made.

    Hopefully the negative attention he is receiving will die down and the Nationals can turn the corner and start to play better ball, but with the current roster, even with the return of Ryan Zimmerman around the corner, changes do need to be made. Werth wasn't wrong, and that seems to have gotten lost in this whole debacle.

    The Nationals are hitting .228 as a team, which ranks 29th in the league. They trail only the Padres in that category. This stat has to improve. The Nationals have to start hitting and producing in the clutch. They have hit just .227 with RISP, which ranks 20th among all 30 teams. The question is how can the Nationals do this without jeopardizing their future or ruining any team chemistry?

1. Release Matt Stairs

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    Matt Stairs is 43 years old. In 31 at-bats, Stairs is hitting just .097 and has yet to drive in a run. He also does not have a hit with RISP. The Nats would be better off spreading his at-bats elsewhere and calling up another pitcher to take the roster spot. 

2. Move Rick Ankiel Down in the Order

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    I don't know where Jim Riggleman got the notion that Rick Ankiel and his .245 average should do well in the 1 or 2 spots, but I hope that he soon realizes that batting Ankiel so high isn't worthwhile. Ankiel is hitting .211 in 19 games in the second spot, and went 0-4 with two Ks in the lead-off spot in today's loss to the Padres. Ankiel is hitting .259 in eight games in the sixth spot, though. I would suggest that, but hey, that is just me.

3. Start Taking BP Against Live Pitchers

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    It was mentioned a few weeks ago during one of the Nationals broadcasts that several RPs had to throw simulated games due to their limited workload. It is no secret that the Nationals are hitting like a AAAA team instead of a ML one. Taking live BP against pitchers who aren't getting much work couldn't hurt. I don't see this happening, especially after Strasburg's injury, but it could really help with the team's pitch recognition skills that are obviously lacking.

4. Stick with a More Consistent Batting Order

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    The Nationals order seems to change quite a bit, and that is understandable when your offense is sorely lacking. Now, this might not be the greatest option until Zimmerman and LaRoche return, but the Nationals need to find some level of consistency, as it will allow the players to relax. If the same guys are in the line-up on most days and some players are struggling to get on the field, then that will breed competition and competition is a good thing to have.

    Here is the line-up I'd like to see more of against RHP:

    1. Bernadina-CF L

    2. Desmond-SS R

    3. Nix-LF L

    4. Morse-1B R

    5. Werth-RF R

    6. Ramos-C R

    7. Espinosa-2B S

    8. Cora/Hairston/Bixler-3B ?

    9. Pitcher's Spot

5. Become Smarter on the Base Paths

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    The Nationals are 41-of-54 in stolen base attempts, but that doesn't mean that their base running is completely sound. Whether they were part of hit and runs or just decided to steal on their own, guys that have little to no speed like Mike Morse and Wilson Ramos shouldn't have five combined caught stealings with only one base swiped.

    The Nationals do have productive base runners, and this is more nitpicking, but it has gotten hard to watch guys being thrown out by a mile because they are slow, got a poor lead or both.